April 30, 2014 | Volume 101 / Number 18

Glasgow School Board: Meet The Candidates

2014 Election

School board elections will take place on Tuesday, May 6. You can vote at the school district office in Glasgow at 200 7th St. N. The polls in Glasgow will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For other area elections, call your school district office to check for polling times and places.

Each of the four Glasgow School Board candidates were asked four questions for this report. They could provide personal background and state why they were interested in being a trustee, what their main focus on the district might be, and what might make them the best choice for the position.

Their responses are listed here in alphabetical order.

Suzanne Billingsley

I was born and raised in Malta. I moved to Glasgow in 1994 to come back up to the Hi-Line. I am a registered nurse, working at Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital. I met my husband, Scott, when I moved here. We have lived in Glasgow most of our married lives, with a short time in Fairview before coming back home. Scott and I have two children who are in the seventh grade in Glasgow and my stepson is graduating from college this May in Butte.

My primary reason for running for the Glasgow School Board is my belief that parents need to be on the board. I think boards should be a representation of the community and the organization they serve. Right now there is not a member on the board who has children in the school system.

I don’t have an individual agenda for the school district. I believe the focus of the Glasgow School District is the students who attend school here.

I have previously served one term on the school board. I feel this gives me a good starting point to build my knowledge of the school board process. As a parent I would bring a view point to the board which is based on being directly involved with the schools through my children.

Simply, I hope to serve the community of Glasgow by being a member of the Glasgow School Board.

John Daggett

My wife Sheri and I have lived in the Glasgow community since 1991. We were both born and raised in Montana. I have been Project Manager at Fort Peck Dam with the Army Corps of Engineers since 2004. I was Project Engineer at Fort Peck prior to that. Before coming to Glasgow, I was a Facility Manager at two dams in Wyoming. In all, I have been a manager and supervisor for 26 years. I have been a Practicing Civil Engineer since 1979 when I graduated from Montana State University in Bozeman.

Sheri and I have three children and all three have gone through school in Glasgow. Josie and Billy have graduated and Ed is currently a junior. Our involvement with the Glasgow school system has been through our three children and all of the many activities, clubs, and sports they were and are participating in through the school. Both Josie and Billy have graduated from college.

I have decided to run for the Glasgow School Board because I felt I had a civic responsibility to do so. Last year voters passed a major bond issue authorizing the construction of a new elementary school, an addition on the East Side School and modifications at the high school including a new kitchen. With my experience in operation, maintenance, construction, supervising employees and dealing with the public, I think I could help the board in decisions regarding the construction and the use of the new facilities. Hopefully, my involvement as a school board member would be a benefit to the school district and the students who attend Glasgow Public Schools.

As stated earlier, my main focus would be the building projects. However, I also want to remain focused on the current day to day operations. These projects have a huge impact on current operations of the schools and I hope that I could help everyone involved.

I think communication is very important in both the building projects and the day to day operation of the schools. With so much going on, it is a challenge at times to keep everyone informed that needs to be informed and get input from them. I feel that I have gained experience over the years dealing with employees and the public and that I will be able to help the School District in this area.

I will leave it to the voters on whether or not I am a good choice for the position on the school board. I think I offer a different background that may be a benefit to the community and school district.

Patt Etchart

My husband and I are both graduates of Glasgow High School and have lived in Valley County most of our lives. Following graduation from the University of Montana I worked as a Social Worker for several years in Lewis and Clark and Missoula Counties, returning to Glasgow in 1975 with my husband Don Robertson. Don was killed in a sailing accident in 1982 leaving me to raise our son Jake.

The following year I married Joe Etchart and together we had three children, John, Alexa and Christen. Over 21 years our children were enrolled in the Glasgow Public School system. They participated in almost everything the district had to offer, from academics to resource, sports, music, drama, clubs and activities. They completed their education in Glasgow, graduating with honors, fond memories and life-long friends.

All of my adult life I have been involved in community activities having served on countless boards, state and local, private and nonprofit, in many capacities including leadership. Professionally I was trained to develop non-profit programs and had the privilege of initiating Hi-Line Home programs, the Milk River Activity Center, the first Milk River Group Home, along with other similar programs throughout Eastern Montana. For the past 25 years I have been an active volunteer and board member of the Fort Peck Fine Arts Council serving as Executive Director for 6 years.

Serving the past three years on the school board has been very interesting and educational and if re-elected I would have the opportunity to see some of the projects, initiated during this time, through to completion. Continuity on the board for the building project is important in understanding why decisions were made and what commitments must be honored. It has been many years since the policies of the District have been reviewed and updated. Thus the policy committee formed by Superintendent Connors is important work of which I have been a part, diligently working through the policy manual. Many might consider this tedious but I enjoy it and think that it is an important contribution to the district.

Now that my children are no longer actively involved in the school district I have the time to give back to the system that has served my entire family very well. Our administrators and teachers are very committed professional educators who provide the best education possible for our kids. Teaching our children is one of the most important jobs in our society and as a school board trustee I strive to support the employees of the district in order to provide the healthy work environment essential for quality education.

The most important issue facing the school district is how to provide a high quality, well- rounded education in the increasingly difficult funding environment. The board must be diligent in managing the budget carefully to fund all areas of a balanced education. Improving communication between all who are concerned about and involved in education is very important to me as a school board member. We will probably never get to a point where we are perfect at this but we must continually try to think of others first and how they feel before we act.

We must be open and honest with each other and supportive of all students and activities. As an elected representative of the public I will listen to any concerns, answer questions to the best of my ability, and guide you to the proper person or procedure to deal with your matter. I will work as a team member on the board, respecting my fellow trustees and all of the employees of the district.

My extensive board service and training over the years was very valuable in preparing me to be a school board member. Over the past three years I have learned a great deal about board policy, educational laws and theories and believe that I am very well prepared to continue as a contributing member of the board. The relationships I have developed with the district staff, the construction personnel and many educational groups will allow me to be more effective in another term. I understand the board process and realize how important it is to respect one another and to work cooperatively toward the common goal. It has been a privilege to serve the community as a trustee; I take the responsibility very seriously and will continue to do my best to be open-minded and fair to all.

David Irving

I was born and raised in Glasgow, third generation. I graduated with the GHS Class of 1970. I hold three degrees: undergraduate degree in history from Jamestown College and a master’s degree in politics from Durham University in England. I received my JD from University of Notre Dame Law School.

I have acquired professional skills in my general practice as an attorney for over 30 years with an office in Glasgow. My litigation practice includes school law and with experience representing all sides: teachers, parents, school boards, students, administrators, support staff, and so forth. Recently I’ve been hired to settle disputes as a mediator.

I’ve served as a trustee the last nine years, two as chairman. In my experience with the Glasgow School District, I’ve attended workshops, seminars and training both as an attorney and as a trustee.

My son, Jeff, graduated from Glasgow High School in 2011, so I have several years’ experience as a parent in this district. Being a parent has been invaluable in order to become familiar with the teaching staff as well as coaches and others in the community who’ve helped children through the education process. I continue to rely upon that knowledge and those relationships.

I’ve served on several boards, including the Reds Legion Baseball Board and the Glasgow Rec Board, and I’ve provided advice as general counsel to many others. I’ve been active with the Fort Peck Theatre for many years.

I believe this is a critical time for the Glasgow School District. We will go through great change over the next couple years. Last year was an unprecedented year – the board filled over twenty employment positions. Presently, the district is remodeling two of its buildings and is building a new elementary school. We’re also moving the junior high school students and staff to the Eastside School. In the fall of 2015, 50 percent of our staff and students will enter the New Irle School.

Three of the present five board trustees have served one term or less on the board. I believe that with my experience and skills I can help make this period of transition a success.

The Class of 1970 was one of the first to go through the Irle School. During my first term, the Board was warned of the deficiencies at the Irle School. At my suggestion, a planning committee was formed. With 12 others from the community, and together with the superintendent I worked with JGA Architects to develop possible solutions from 2007 through May 2008 we developed options and a master plan that included moving the junior high students out of the high school. After seven years, I would appreciate the opportunity to make those plans become a reality.

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