Seeley Lake School District No. 34 Trustee & General Levy
Local Election Guide
April 16, 2020
Voter Information: There are five candidates for the two open SLE School Board trustee positions. The sixth candidate Jody "Doc" Welter will fill the two-year position since he ran unopposed. Candidates are listed below in the order the filed for election.
Candidates' responses were based on the following questions:
• Qualifying experience
• Why do you want to be a trustee?
• What challenges do you see in the near future?
• Are there things you would like to see changed on the board or at SLE?
• What issue(s) would you address if elected?
Ballots for the Seeley Lake School District Trustee and General Fund Levy were mailed April 15 to all registered voters in School District No. 34. The Missoula County Elections Office encourages voters to mail their ballot with plenty of time to meet the May 5 deadline, postmarks not accepted. There will be a drive-through ballot drop off at SLE on May 5.
For more information or to register by April 27 visit the Missoula County Elections Office (https://www.missoulacounty.us/government/administration/elections-office) or call 406-258-4751.
General Fund Levy Vote For/Against:
Tax Increase: Passing the General Fund levy would increase Seeley Lake Elementary's budget authority for future years by $5,471.63. District #34 taxpayers would see and increase of approximately $0.84/year for a $100,000 home and $1.62/year for a $200,000 home.
Why the need? SLE Superintendent Daniel Schrock said the need is glaring. The poor test scores data on the SBAC test, the key standardized test taken by the third – eighth grade students, demonstrated the lack of academic proficiency, especially in the areas of special education for the middle school students. The Office of Public Instruction targeted SLE for improvement in the area of special education due to the test scores from 2018-2019 in the bottom five percent of the state.
"The reason to pass this levy is that it will raise our budget authority to be proactive with significant staffing needs with respect to special education and raising objective test score data," wrote Schrock in an email. "If it does not pass, we lose the budget authority to spend our maximum budget authority in the areas that need improvement and likely our test scores and academic performance continues to suffer."
Schrock continued to explain that adequate staffing with respect to special education and curriculum takes resources. Due to the increases in salaries and health insurance, Schrock added without the budget authority they lose the ability to maintain services.
"In essence we have to do more with less and it is apparent in the objective test scores of our school," wrote Schrock. "Even going beyond middle school education, the entire school needs to raise the bar in providing an education where more of our students are proficient or advanced as opposed to not making sufficient academic progress."
Vote for 2, 3-year trustee positions on the SLE School Board
Ryan Dunster:I am a Seeley Lake Resident Deputy / School Resource Officer and have lived here for a year and a half. I transferred to the area after serving as a patrol deputy in the lower Missoula County area for a little over six years. I am married and have three children, all attending Seeley Lake Elementary. We enjoy the community activities throughout the year and love getting out into the outdoors.
I attended the Montana Sheriff and Peace Officer Association quarterly meetings for approximately five years as a guest. I ran for a board chair in June 2018 and am currently in my second year. I serve on the search and rescue committee and am a liaison with the state search and rescue. I have also attended the Camp Paxson Youth Camp for four years as a camp counselor.
I visit the school often for the job and to create a positive relationship with the kids and their families. I also get to visit with the staff from time to time so I get to see what keeps the school going. I recently observed some decisions where I felt they weren't the best decisions for what was in the kids' best interest.
Every school has issues to face on a yearly basis. I don't believe that I, alone, would be able to fix everything. However, regardless of the issue, the children's best interest should always be the #1 priority. I believe that too many recent decisions that were voted on were more personal than practical.
I believe experience is important. I also believe that some people stay too long and they lose sight of the big picture. The bottom line is for the children's sake, we need a new school board. If not, me, please vote in new members!
Kathleen (Kathy) M. Teague:I recently retired from Seeley Lake Elementary School this past June. I worked there for almost 33 and a half years. I started there as the District Clerk. I worked in that role for 11 and a half years and changed to an instructional aide after I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. I had two small children at the time and wanted to be with them more. As an instructional aide, I began as the Title One Aide and later transferred to special education where I spent most of my time.
I have lived in Seeley Lake for almost 35 years this summer. I am married to Andy Teague for 31 years and have three children. They are Rose in Washington with granddaughter Ellie, Andrea in Montana with grandson Jace and Dallas at home. I like to sew, cook (when I am ambitious), container garden and enjoy my three dogs Belle, Dixie and Gemma. My absolute favorite holiday is Christmas.
As the District Clerk, I experienced and became familiar with many procedures, board policy and school law. School trustees have a responsibility to the taxpayers, the community, the students and to its employees. I feel there is a need to bring back those responsibilities in an unbiased, objective manner that benefits these groups. The biggest challenge in doing this is to bridge the divide between the community and the school.
I am for open forums, community input, transparency by the board and the goal of what we do here is for the sole benefit of giving the children of Seeley Lake the best possible education our budget constraints allow. One very important thing to me is that as a board we adhere to policies set forth by the board, adopt new and significant policies as needed, be provided with research before making decisions, follow laws and any public contracts the district enters into.
I truly would like to see the camaraderie between staff and between staff and community change to a positive, educational and nurturing environment for all students.
William R. Campbell:My name is William R. Campbell and I'm 80 years old. I've lived in Seeley Lake for 31 years. My education includes: Bachelor of Science from Bradley University in Business Administration; graduate work at Northwestern University in Business Paper Publishing and Masters of Arts from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in religion. I served in the US Marine Corps and was honorably discharge with the rank of E4. My work history includes: Three years with Scott Paper Company in sales and area management; seven years as salesman/sales manager/marketing director and 20 years as an entrepreneur building and selling three separate companies in the advertising and publishing business. In my career I took a business publication from #3 rank nationally to #1 rank, wrote articles nationally for leading business publications and gave national speeches on advertising. I retired in 1989. Outside of work I've been active in the community through church, family and marriage counseling ministry, promotion of original golf course stock and member of Seeley Lake Lions Club.
Since my retirement I have served in a number of board positions: Mission Bible Fellowship (both on the Deacon and the Elder Boards); Board of the Timber Heritage Foundation; and Lions Club board while serving as club secretary. I have for many years been active working with children through the church's Vacation Bible School and have also done family counseling with various community children. I have a granddaughter and a daughter-in-law who are currently teachers, and I was, for many years, married to a teacher. I have both compassion and understanding for the challenges they face.
Recent events in the community have led me to the belief that communication between the Seeley Lake community and its school board needs improvement. Additionally, experience on various boards and running several businesses has given me an ability to cut to the heart of important issues and bring a much-needed focus to the table.
I believe a part of the communications challenge ahead is making the Seeley Lake community feel that they have an active voice in what happens in their grade school. From a fundraising perspective it is important for residents to understand that, unlike the high school (which is a part of Missoula County and thus shares funds raised with Missoula schools) all funds raised for the elementary school goes directly to the Seeley Lake school. Improved communication and a greater focus are the two things that I feel I might bring to the table.
Other than the two issues I have already mentioned I have nothing to add. I would only point out that improved communication is a huge issue, which affects many different areas. I have two family members that are in special education. At a recent meeting I perceived that the system here may be somewhat overloaded.
Kristina Shields: My name is Kristina Shields. I have been a Seeley Lake resident since 2006. I was born and raised in Missoula. I graduated from Big Sky High School in 2002.
I have worked in customer service since I was in high school. I worked at Kenworth Sales for over a year. Then I was offered a job at Interstate Detroit Diesel. I worked there for almost a year and I was offered another job at Northern Energy Propane where I worked until we moved to Seeley.
I moved to Seeley Lake with my now husband Ben Shields so he could help with the family business Clearwater Towing. I am a stay at home mom to four amazing kids, three boys and one daughter. I am lucky to stay home and raise my children. I am happy I decided to move here because this is an amazing place to raise your children.
I enjoy driving in our beautiful mountains and spending time with family and friends. I enjoy volunteering in my boys' classrooms when I can. All three of my boys go to SLE and my daughter will start there soon.
I have applied to be on the school board because I would like to see some new faces with fresh ideas on the board. I feel sometimes we get too comfortable and get stuck in our ideas and can't move forward. Our community and schools are ever changing and we need to get some fresh ideas out there. I have said since I even thought about applying that I am there for the kids.
Thanks for your time.
Ryen Neudecker - Incumbent: I grew up in Montana and our family moved to Seeley Lake in 2009. Our two children are currently in first and third grade at SLE. I work for Trout Unlimited on fisheries restoration work and I enjoy biking, fishing, hunting, hiking, skiing and lake time.
I've been on the school board since 2017 and have tried to learn more about Montana's education system and have spent many hours volunteering in the school. I try to be approachable, open-minded, friendly and professional.
In this past year especially, I've had to make some tough, controversial decisions but I made those with the best interest of the school, staff, kids and community in mind and will continue to do so. With my "day job," I have worked under a volunteer board for the past 15 years.
When I applied in 2017, I did so in memory of my grandmother who told me that to feel a part of a community, you have to get involved. I believe a school is the heart of the community and when I walked into SLE years ago, the first thing I read was "Our Kids Are Worth Whatever It Takes." I have so much respect for our staff and the time and heart they pour into our school. I feel very passionate about making sure they have the support to do their jobs and raise the bar for our kids' future.
Looking ahead, it is imperative that we are very creative and resourceful with funding opportunities to support our school and staff (building infrastructure and academic tools such as trainings, curriculum and data to support our educational decisions). The division within staff members at SLE has continued to grow and is something that needs to be addressed.
From the board perspective, we need to strike the right balance with not overseeing the day to day happenings at the school, but yet being engaged and informed enough to know how things are working. In the past, several issues were not directly addressed and that led to gaps and missed opportunities that have negatively affected our kids, staff and budgets.
I would like board members to have the opportunity for more trainings to understand our role and be more involved with school budgets. Setting clear goals and expectations with our next superintendent will also be important. I'd also like to see improved communication from the school so more are aware of extra-curricular activities and opportunities to contribute.
Raising kids in a small-town has so much appeal and I believe we have more opportunities in this setting to set our school apart, especially being surrounded by all of this natural beauty and community members that want to lend their time and/or knowledge. Looking for opportunities and funding sources to continue to support our preschool and Outdoor Education Programs, in combination with having the academic tools to support our teachers and guide them in the most important work there is-teaching our children, is what I will focus on.
Vote for 1, 2-year trustee positions on the SLE School Board - This will not appear on the ballot
Jody "Doc" Welter (will fill the two-year term on the board by acclimation and will not appear on the ballot): My family homesteaded in and around Plentywood, Mont. (where my parents were born) back in the early 1900's. I have always called Montana home. I attended schools in Havre and Glasgow. After graduating from Plentywood High School, I joined the Navy. I returned to Montana and graduated from the University of Montana with a bachelor's degree in Microbiology.
After working at the University of Texas Medical School as a research associate, I returned to the University of Montana and received my teaching license in science education. I taught in schools around the United States for 13 years and then earned my master's degree in educational leadership from Jones International University in Denver, Colo. I worked as an assistant principal for nine years in Winnemucca, Nev. before becoming the principal of a K – 12 combined school in McDermitt, Nev. I retired to Seeley Lake in July, 2018.
My wife is a licensed social worker and is completing her master's degree to become a licensed clinical social worker. We have two dogs, we love kayaking, rafting and everything Montana.
I want to be a trustee on the school board simply because I want to use my experience and education to help kids become successful in life.
Many of the students attending Seeley Lake Elementary are behind their peers nationally in both Math and English Language Arts. With the disruption of traditional instruction due to the pandemic, these disparities will likely become worse. Teachers will need resources (teaching materials and equipment, professional development, administrative support) in order to help their students catch up to their peers.
Since I am new to the SLE district, I have a lot to learn. One thing I know is that with a new superintendent/principal coming on board, he will need a lot of support from the school board.
Some areas that I would like to provide assistance for the school include addressing the achievement gap, supporting at-risk students and families and providing high quality professional development to support teacher instruction.