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School board meeting packs Linderman library

POLSON — The library at Linderman Elementary School was jam packed on Jan. 11 for the Polson School Board meeting. School district employees, administrators, parents and community members gathered at the meeting for a chance to speak their piece on proposed administrative changes for the remainder of the 2009-2010 school year. 

The temporary plan was to move Polson Middle School (PMS) Assistant Principal Tom DiGiallonardo to Linderman. Cherry Valley Principal Elaine Meeks would have been the K-4 principal. Cherie Stobie, who was York’s recommendation to replace him, would have gone to PMS. 

At the beginning of the 5 p.m. meeting, Superintendent David Whitesell read a statement.

“ … The new challenge (to the district) involves replacing a building administrator in the middle of the school year. … The old challenge … is concentrated in the fact that we have four distinct districts within one.” Whitesell said. “These four districts, though they do good within their individual scopes, don’t see the K-12 child. The journey our children take from kindergarten through high school had to be seamless — seamless in curriculum, seamless in policy and void of turf warfare over resources, resources like the administrative talents we have now.”

“But I have also been listening,” Whitesell said. “This past week I have attended two separate staff meeting regarding these issues, one with the middle school staff and one with the Linderman and Cherry Valley combined staff. I have also been listening to the board, the community, the administrators and Jake Block … former superintendent.”

Whitesell said, continuing, “ … I gave one of the administrators scheduled to move my word that if he or she absolutely did not want to move, I would not make them. This was the case, and I am a man of my word.”

Finishing his statement, Whitesell said,” … starting Jan. 25, Cherie Stobie will stay in Linderman, Elaine Meeks will stay at Cherry Valley and Tom DiGiallonardo will stay at the middle school. …”

Whitesell received a round of applause.

Parents, former students and community members as well as school district staff were then given an opportunity to voice their opinion. A sampling included:

Polson High School graduate E. J. Hammer spoke about growing up without a father. Hammer said Mr. D. (Tom DiGiallonardo) came to PMS when Hammer was a 6th grader and was like a father figure for Hammer. 

Dr. Kelly Bagnell said she thought the staff looked at the administrative changes as permanent. She also questioned why Steve York was leaving after building a house in Polson to retire in. 

Bagnell also said middle school kids “don’t need that much change, they need … boundaries.”

In part of Trustee Vernon Finley’s remarks, he said we’re doing the students a disservice by not teaching them to accept change. 

“If every administrator in this district rotated, it couldn’t help but make it (the district) stronger,” Finley said.

Commenting on the worry that the schools are four different districts, PMS 7th grade science teacher Lynn Kelly said she had been teaching in the district for 33 years. 

“… We’re not isolated, we’re busy,” Kelly said.

Susan Stuber, a paraprofessional from Cherry Valley, said, “ … I just want us to start focusing on the kids.”

Linderman teacher Mary Larson gave credit to the district staff for their professionalism and said, “We make it work all the time.”    

When no one else wanted to speak, about an hour and 15 minutes later, Polson School Board Chair Mark Russell declared a recess.

After the 15-minute recess, PMS teacher Clay Herring and student Shannon McGinnis presented a short clip from PNN (Polson News Network). Taught by Herring, McGinnis and her fellow students produce a 30-minute segment of interviews and news from PMS. Herring said the segments are shown on SKC TV.

Cherry Valley Principal Elaine Meeks and teachers Molly Billedeaux, Gail Burghardt, and Keryl Lozar spoke about the Kootenai language program district wide. In Cherry Valley, the program began in 1993. The group plans to develop curriculum and eventually lesson plans based on the Kootenai calendar.

During the superintendent’s report portion of the agenda, Whitesell said School District #23 received 23 completed applications for the high school principal position advertised. After a paper screening, four candidates were selected for interviews. The candidates are Rob Hankins, Jim Howard, Thom Peck and Tom Wissink.

Hankins is the current Superintendent of the Sun River Valley School District in Simms. Hankins has five years experience as a high school principal and one year experience as Superintendent.

Howard is currently the 7 – 12 Principal at Fort Benton. He has seven years experience as high school principal.

Peck is the currently the 6 – 12 Principal in Three Forks.  He has four years experience as high school assistant principal and eight years experience as high school principal.

Wissink is currently the high school assistant principal in Oshkosh North High School in Oshkosh, Wis. Wissink has three years experience as high school dean of students and three years experience as high school assistant principal.

Meet and greets are scheduled for the Polson High School Library for Hankins and Howard on Wednesday, Jan. 13 at  3:30 p.m. and for Peck and Wissink on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 3:30 p.m.

In other district business, Whitesell said he had visited with people throughout the district about Quaglia as well as discussed the issue at the December administrative team meeting. Consensus was that the district not finish this last year with Quaglia. 

Athletic Director Scott Wilson reported on the six issues to be voted on at the Montana High School Association.

Other business included:

• Polson Classified Education Association negotiations are scheduled for Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. at the District Administration Office.

• Claims for Dec. of 2009 were approved unanimously

• The high school and elementary personnel reports were approved.

The next regularly scheduled school board meeting will be held on Feb. 8 at 5 p.m. in the District Conference Room.

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