Helena school board candidates take part in online forum

Helena Public Schools
Posted at 9:44 PM, Apr 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 18:55:51-04

HELENA — In less than a month, voters in the Helena School District will elect three school board trustees. On Monday, the League of Women Voters of the Helena Area, YWCA Helena and Montana Women Vote invited the candidates to make their case to voters at an online forum.

Eight candidates have filed in this year’s school board elections. Two incumbents are running for reelection, while a third – Libby Goldes – is not seeking another term.

Five of the candidates took part in Monday’s forum, which was held over Zoom:

  • Lois Fitzpatrick is a former library director and professor emeritus at Carroll College. She said she wants to take a close look at the school district’s budget and make the school board more involved with the decision-making process at the Montana Legislature.
  • Siobhan Hathhorn, an incumbent trustee, is a former HSD teacher and principal at Cascade Public Schools. She wants to emphasize academic excellence – with a focus on helping all students grow – and work on addressing the district’s facility needs.
  • Kalli Kind previously worked as Helena Public Schools’ facilities director. She said she wants to make sure all decisions – particularly in the budget – are focused on what’s best for students, and she wants to do more to recruit and retain high-quality educators.
  • John McEwen, an incumbent trustee, is a former public-sector analyst and manager. He said he wants to give employees the resources they need, and to take a close look at what can be done with the district’s facilities going forward.
  • Kay Satre is a professor of English at Carroll College. She said she wants to address the learning loss and stresses that came out of COVID-19, as well as improving communication, particularly between the district and families.

Jen Gursky, executive director of YWCA Helena, moderated the forum. Besides their priorities and plans, candidates also answered questions on several current educational issues – including challenges to library books, the role of race in history curriculum and teacher licensing standards.

Three school board candidates were not in attendance: Robert Durrant, Matt Gorecki and Greg Guthrie. A representative from the League of Women Voters said Monday that Durrant and Guthrie declined to participate in the forum, and Gorecki had not responded to their invitation.

The Lewis and Clark Library has posted a recording of the entire 90-minute forum on Youtube.

The school election will be held entirely by mail ballot. Ballots will go out to registered voters in the Helena School District next Monday, April 18. They must be returned by May 3.

Also on the ballot, district voters will consider two proposed levies: $160,032 for Helena elementary schools and $291,836 for high schools.