Written by Herald-News
Six people, including two incumbents are running for two school board position in Poplar.
Incumbents James DeHerrera and Doug Mar-ottek are challenged by Thomas Brown, Don Moran, Ken Norgaard and Emerson Young.
The Herald-News sent questionnaires to every candidate. They did not all respond.
Why did you declare yourself a candidate for the school board?
Brown: I would like to see a representative on the school board to address the needs of students, staff and the work force in the district. I would like to see all staff and faculty work together without any bickering. I would like to see staff and faculty supporting the educational needs and the athletic programs of the district. I would address the needs of the school district and make some changes for a positive outcome.
Norgaard: I declared myself a candidate for the simple reason of beginning to rebuild a school that both Ivan Small and Dr. Cook had left behind. Before he left we had a school district that was self-sufficient, and had all the right staff in all the right places, and I will do all that I can to get the Poplar School District back to its reputable self.
What do you hope to accomplish as a school board member?
Brown: Be a good listener and get all the fact to make a positive decision for each issue the school district bring forth. I may make some mistakes once but will try not to make them twice. I tend to learn by my mistakes.
Norgaard: As a district we need to find a way to attract administrators both principals and superintendents alike that are willing to stay committed for more than a year. If we are going to make a run at rebuilding our school we need individuals who are willing to get to know the community and will put in the time. Far too often teachers and administrators come to Poplar and see it as an opportunity to build up their resume so that they can apply elsewhere.
What do you see as being the major issues?
Brown: Communication. It seems to be the down fall of decisions being made without looking at the long term outcomes. Decisions are being made at the drop of a hat without discussing what the real problems are in the school district. Why have long term goals (strategic plan) in place for the district to follow but changes are made for a short term decisions.
Norgaard: The major issue I addressed in question 2 dealing with attracting strong administrators. Next, we need to find a way to attract high quality teachers that are willing commit themselves to the district for longer than just a few years. Also, another big concern for not just Poplar, but schools everywhere is budget cuts. I know that in the past Poplar had one of the highest class B reserve funds in the state of Montana peaking at 9 million, I would be worried to know what the reserve fund sits at now. Lastly, we need to figure out a plan that encourages community members to acquire a CDL to help out or local bus routes. Currently we are grossly understaffed on bus drivers to transport our students to and from school.
What areas of the school system do you feel are the most in need of improvement? How would you address those areas?
Brown: Every year Poplar Middle and High School are very low in the Annual Yearly Progress reports. I would like to know why and make corrective modifications to the educational goals with help from the faculty/staff and the Office of Public Instruction. At time I have seen the district make budget cuts in programs because we don’t like or understand the programs. Some of these programs being cut are the programs OPI said we should be working with and not getting rid of them will not solve anything.
Norgaard: I think perhaps the discipline and attendance/tardy policy needs to be addressed or maybe simply tweaked in certain areas. From listening to the community and members of the school there seems to be a growing problem of bullying in the schools. This is most certainly an area that is in need of some improvement, because currently there is no school policy or curriculum set up to address these issues. The tribes have stepped up and done a nice job of implement a no bully policy, and I think it is time the school joins forces in an attempt to get bullying out of our schools.
What areas do you feel have the most and least needs for spending by the school district?
Brown: Working with federal grants at time we had to spend allocated funds before the end of each grant year. The district is has made each building supervisors come up with a budget for each year based on need, goals and objectives. I hear from building staff members spending district funds but have no budget for this year as of today. How are they to know how much to spend or what areas of highest need.
Norgaard: First and foremost the district needs to find a way of hiring more counselors. Our school is currently far to understaffed in this area to reach the needs of all our students. Next we need to continue to support and spend money on keeping up with today’s technology. We are extremely fortunate to have the ample amounts of technology in our buildings, and I would like to see it stay that way. Our students are entering into a new world, one far more advanced than what we the “‘70s” kids grew up in. As far as least needs for spending that is hard to determine where we need to cut back on without seeing where were at with the budget.
If any programs need to be cut in the future due to a budget shortfall, what would you cut first, second and third?
Brown: If staff did their job we shouldn’t have to hire outside resources to come into the school to do their job for them. Construction for staff housing I always thought we were in Education. We should put the focus on making AYP first. If we have money hidden away within the district for a rainy day great let’s build some homes for staff until then focus on educational/staff/faculty needs.
Norgaard: This is a difficult question and one that I hope doesn’t need to be addressed in the future. Rather than focusing on where I would make cuts, I think the school district and the board need to figure out avenues to generate more money for the district.
Do you feel staffing levels among certified and non-certified staff are adequate? Too high? Too low?
Brown: I know the faculty and staff have the potential to do a good job to make the school programs achieve a higher level of learning for our students. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge our staff for doing a good and treat them with respect for a job well done.
Norgaard: Yes, to my knowledge staffing seems adequate, except in the counseling department.
Are you a retired or past employee of the school district? How has that prepared you to serve on the school board?
Brown: I was an employee for almost 17 year as the Safe & Drug Free, Center for Substance Abuse & Prevention (CSAP), Radio Station Manager, Bilingual Education, and Indian Education Director. I have ended my employment with the Poplar School about 16 months ago. I believe my work experience and ethics will help me make positive decision on issues within the school district if elected. I have served on several educational boards such as Montana Indian Education Association Board of Directors, National Association Bilingual Education Association, Ft. Peck Housing Board of Directors, Ft. Peck Community College Board of Directors and Montana Advisory Council on Indian Education. With your support I would like to put my work experience to use for the Poplar School District Board.
Norgaard: I have never been employed through the school, but I have previously served 15 years as a board member. This has prepared me more than enough to be qualified to serve on the board once again. I have a lot of pride for our home town of Poplar and especially when dealing with our school. I believe that with the right group of people we can get the Poplar School District back on track and headed in the direction it needs to be going.