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Arlee Superintendent named Western Region Superintendent of the Year

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ARLEE — The Western Montana Association of School Superintendents (WMASS) recently named Arlee Superintendent Mike Perry the Western Region Superintendent of the Year. 

Serving his second year as superintendent, Perry has been very involved in local education as a past School Administrators of Montana (SAM) President, past SAM President-Elect, WMASS Delegate Assembly representative, and even sitting on Montana’s national AASA Governing Board. Perry was recognized for “outstanding leadership and for providing exceptional learning opportunities for students and staff,” according to WMASS.  

Perry was awarded the honor in a surprise ceremony in the new Arlee High School gym by past WMASS President Scott Kinney of Superior Schools, President Jason Sargent of St. Ignatius Schools, and 2021 WMASS Superintendent of the Year Dale Olinger of Lolo Schools. 

“It means a little bit more to be recognized by your peers,” Perry said of the honor. “We have such great superintendents in the state alone, but especially in the west. I was very surprised.”  

Perry called the experience good for self-reflection, helping him to look back on the things he’s worked on. One of the key actions that won Perry the distinction was securing a $4 million Impact Aid grant to build a new third through sixth grade building for local students. 

Impact Aid is a federal program that provides funds to every school with federal land in their district. However, they also have a limited amount of funds set aside for special projects, including emergency construction, for which schools can apply. A tight competition, it was a notable achievement to be issued the grant.

“Nationwide, they only gave out $17 million, and we got $4 million of it here in Arlee,” Perry explained.

Arlee schools will still need to run a bond and Perry hopes that will happen in November. It will take a combination of bond funds and the Impact Aid funds to actually get construction going in the current building market. Perry hopes prices will have settled down by then as well. “Hopefully we can afford to build what the kids need,” he said. 

In the meantime, Perry has other improvement projects underway to keep elevating Arlee schools as much as he can. “It’s going to be a busy summer,” Perry laughed. 

One of the larger projects will be starting this week, a science room renovation with an H-vac system and fume hood installation, something none of their science rooms have had before. “Hopefully students can be a bit more hands-on in science class than they have been in the past,” Perry said of the project. 

Another large part of the summer will be reviewing the previous school year. Perry will examine what worked in the schools and what is in need of improvement. They plan to make adjustments where needed to make next school year the best it can be. 

“We’ve got to do what’s best for our kids,” Perry stated simply. 

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