Local Election Guide - Potomac School District #11

Voter Information: There are two candidates each running for one, three-year term and one, one-year term trustee positions for the Potomac School District #11. Candidates' responses were based on the following questions:

• Biography

• Qualifying experience

• Why do you want to be a trustee?

• What challenges do you see facing Potomac School and the Board?

• Are there things you would like to see changed or addressed at the school or with the board?

• If so, how would you address them?

Ballots for the Potomac School District #11 were mailed April 14 to all registered voters in School District #11. The Missoula County Elections Office encourages voters to mail their ballot with plenty of time to meet the May 4 deadline, postmarks not accepted. They can also drop them off at the Potomac-Greenough Community Center from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. or other locations listed here https://www.seeleylake.com/home/customer_files/article_documents/ballot_drop.pdf

For more information visit the Missoula County Elections Office (https://www.missoulacounty.us/government/administration/elections-office) or call 406-258-4751.

Kyle Kelley - 3 year term

I've owned a home in the Potomac Valley for the last 13 years that I share with my wife and two children. I've had the good privilege of working in the Blackfoot Valley for the last 17 years where I manage a large working cattle and bison ranch. I lucked out and chose a career that feels like a hobby!

When I'm not at the ranch, I enjoy being in the mountains, on the lakes and with the wildlife of Montana. My children could likely be grouped into the wildlife category as well. They are both students at Potomac and are my best ranch hands!

I am a graduate of MSU, Northern and have served on many committee groups throughout the Blackfoot. Most of those committees have been wildlife, soil health, fire management, irrigation efficiency, land conservation-based committees. However, I understand and value a leader's ability to listen to understand and to implement community driven change.

I recognize the need in small rural communities for community members to serve on various boards. There are many community members through the years who have donated their time and I figure most folks should at some point. I believe in the near future the school board will be looking at issues such as student population growth and associated expenses, the sunsetting of grant funding, as well as closing the gap from COVID implications. The board should make these decisions but they first need to be lead by the staff and community's input and response.

I can't speak for certain as to how I would address these issues until I've been trained and informed as a board member and heard the input of all involved parties. I can speak to the fact that I am a patient listener that understands finances and how to make smart short-term and long-term decisions. There is no population that I am more invested in than our young people. It would be a privilege to volunteer the time to serve on the school board.

Melissa Kirkham - 3 year term

Hello! My name is Melissa Kirkham. I moved to the Potomac area two years ago. I grew up in Montana and simply adore life here from hunting and fishing to gardening and canning our own food.

We have a little farm with horses, cows, chickens, ducks, geese, pigs and goats. I am a wife and mother of four girls, who all attend Potomac School. I attended college first receiving an Associates Degree in Psychology, then a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and finally a Master of Science in Industrial and Organizational Psychology with Applied Research.

My interest in a position on the school board is to be more actively involved in the choices made for the children at the school. I find it frustrating to hear that people with no children attending the school or no educational background in teaching are on the boards for schools making choices for our children with no vested interest. My children are not someone's hobby, they are my life. Just as every parent of a child at Potomac School likely feels.

Some of the challenges being faced are masks and health concerns. It should be the choice of the parent to determine what their child is or is not required to do. Basic safety and health measures should always be in place, however, it is our constitutional right to parent our children.

I would like to see people on the board with a vested interest in the children and the school - people that are actually impacted by the choices made and not just a community member with an opinion. I would like to participate to be sure that the parents of Potomac children have a voice at the school board meetings. After all, without the parents, there would be no children and thus no need for a school in Potomac.

Let the parents have a voice in the future of our children and every child at Potomac School.

Jayme Fairfield - 1 year term

I'm Jayme Fairfield. I moved to Potomac five years ago and immediately connected with the people and values in this community. Married for 29 years, my husband Mike and I have two adult daughters. Kori is a UM graduate in Microbiology and Jenna is a current Griz in nursing. Mike is a retired fire department captain and now serves as a volunteer firefighter with the Greenough/Potomac Volunteer Fire Department. My hobbies range from tending to my chickens and vegetable garden to sewing, quilting and cooking. I also love the outdoors including fishing, hunting, camping, hiking and kayaking.

I work as a transportation marketing consultant for architecture/engineering firms. Since moving to Potomac, I work from my home office. My work focus is committing to accurate, reliable information, as well as being resourceful and imaginative. Getting to know the practitioners I work with and how each works best helps me gather the needed information to effectively communicate with clients through proposals, presentations and collateral.

I learned this critical importance of relationships and carefully listening to others' needs during my work with children as a preschool teacher and after school program director at the elementary level. I embrace that each child is unique, has unique needs and no one size fits all. I believe education has guidelines and standards that must be followed and there also needs to be enough flexibility to meet every child's learning style and level.

I received my bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education (Child Development and Family Studies) in 1991. During and just after college, I worked as a preschool teacher, after school program teacher and then after school program director for the YMCA at an elementary school. I gained valuable experience about curriculum, family education programs, program compliance with state standards, how far a budget dollar can go (or not go), the joy of working closely with children and their families and a myriad of other challenges (and some very difficult challenges).

I also applied my education and teaching experience when raising my own two daughters. This enforced my belief that no two children are alike-that each is unique and needs to be raised and educated specifically for their own needs. Both my girls have grown into productive, responsible citizens.

Additionally, I will also apply my business experience to my role as a trustee on the School Board-getting to know the school staff, Board members and parents so that I better understand all needs. I will ask the necessary questions, listen to all input and vote with informed decisions.

I want to serve my community but also use my education, parenting background, business experience and unbiased approach to help provide the best possible education for the children and families in the community I love so much.

The school is the heart of our community, as it is the heart of any rural community and a child thrives and succeeds with love and a good education. It comes full circle.

Since my children are grown and I do not currently have children in Potomac School, I will serve as an unbiased trustee.

Currently, there are so many uncertainties happening in this country and world, which create a fragile line between being a kid and facing harsh realities at an all too early age. The school staff and Board can work together to make sure that kids can still be innocent kids but also be prepared to face all circumstances without constant fear. The students need to continue learning and thriving in an environment free of political narrative and bias. The school staff and Board can create this vision with an approach that is flexible and adaptable no matter what the future brings.

Since studying early childhood education, working in the education field and raising two daughters, I have always felt that parents are the primary teachers of a child. That means that parents' voices are important.

I will help the Board create a positive, open environment for productive communications (even when the topics are difficult). This will lead to decisions that put the education and well-being of our community's children and families first.

Tom Petersen - 1 year term

My name is Tom Petersen. I have been living in Potomac since 2018. My wife and I came to Montana after two years in New Zealand via Juneau, Alaska. While we were in New Zealand, we looked at a world map to decide where we should settle next with our kids. We choose Montana and Missoula County and fell in love with Potomac. I've been living and working in the US for 10 years before I finally became a US citizen, in the fall of 2019.

I have been blessed with many lives or careers, if you will. I spent eight years in the Army Special Forces, prior to entering the University and then the Corporate World. I have served in many roles within Executive Management including CAO, Human Resources and Project Management. I also had the opportunity to work in the Caribbean, in the Dive industry for a number of years. I have lived in more than 7 different countries and traveled all over the world. Now I'm a cabinetmaker and a craftsman and live in an amazing place - Potomac, Montana.

Most of my jobs have been people focused and involved mentorship, teaching, education and leadership of many peoples from different backgrounds, nationalities, all walks of life. This has given me an understanding of the importance of education and its impact on a person's future.

I have seen the result of a quality education that fosters critical thinking and independent analysis. I have also seen the opposite, the result of poor education that only teaches kids what to think but not to think for themselves or constantly question and inquire about the world around them. This educational background and inheritance presents itself in many ways. Most importantly in the way people handle challenges, how they interpret information and how they reach decisions. Education is paramount in fostering critical thinking skills and ability to communicate through challenges and disagreements.

I would like to help ensure Potomac School continues to provide an education to our kids where focus is on teaching our kids how to become critical thinkers and gives them the strongest educational foundation, we (and WE is the keyword, not DC or Missoula) can provide for them.

Education is key but education is many things. It's the basics of reading and writing, math and science. Education is learning to read texts that can be interpreted in different ways, learning to ask questions. Education is learning how to articulate your opinions and discuss them with an open mind. Education is to receive push back on your opinions too and to help you get better at articulating yourself. It is the role of an educational institution to facilitate this – NOT to teach what to read and what not to read. It's not the educational institution role to act as a controller but to be a facilitator, therein lies the hard part.

We want our school to be around for a long time. We want our school to be the center of the community where our kids can learn how to be good stewards of our society and our community. We want to keep our school financially sound and healthy. I commend the board that has done a stellar job of keeping the school open.

COVID. Yes, I kind of have to address this. COVID – it came, we saw it and we better understand it now. With the data available for those who want to acknowledge it, we know that kids are very low risk. Therefore, I believe, it's time to make an active plan moving forward more decisively with opening our schools back to normal – no mask and sports again. Unfortunately, we are part of Missoula County, who does seem to believe we do not have the ability to make this decision on our own. The board needs to find a way to address this actively.

I will be a committed and active member of the board, dedicated to serve the future of this community, who are our children. I will be dedicated to the cause of ensuring the best opportunities for our kids to ensure their growth and development and of course freedom of choice and opportunity. Thank You


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