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New Bigfork superintendent brings 24 years of education experience

by HILARY MATHESON
Daily Inter Lake | September 6, 2021 12:00 AM

Tom Stack is excited for the school bell to ring in the first day of school of his first year as superintendent of the Bigfork School District.

Stack has 24 years of experience in education, including nine in his previous position as superintendent of the Clinton School District, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade.

What drew him to the Bigfork superintendent job was the opportunity to work in a larger, K-12 school district.

"It combined all my experiences together," said Stack, who spent eight years as principal of Ronan High School before working in Clinton.

Coming from a family of educators — his grandmother taught for 42 years and his mother worked in education for 37 years — Stack's career path might have seemed predictable. But it took him several years to land on that path. As an undergraduate at the University of Montana, he decided to combine his love of the outdoors and biology in pursuing a bachelor's degree.

"My undergraduate degree was in wildlife biology," he said. "And then I did concrete work for seven years."

Teaching was never far from his mind, and after those seven years laying concrete, he said, "I decided to give it a shot."

Still passionate about science, Stack took a position teaching biology, chemistry, physics and earth science in Hot Springs.

"I just wanted to teach and coach," he said.

After a few years, however, Stack was determined to hone his leadership skills and become an administrator, so he returned to the University of Montana to obtain a master's degree in educational leadership.

"After three years of teaching, I had an opportunity to take a position in Power, Montana, as a K-12 principal/activities director. I was 30 years old when I took that job," he said. "It's just kind of where things took me."

"You have an opportunity to be involved in all aspects of education — from instruction, to curriculum, to finance, to supervision [and] leadership," he added.

With about 952 students enrolled in the Bigfork School District, Stack said he hopes to be as involved in the day-to-day operations of schools as he was in his previous positions in smaller districts.

"I like to be hands-on, be involved in supporting kids in schools," he said.

Starting another year during an evolving pandemic, Stack said clear communication will be key.

"I am a firm believer if we have issues that we need to address, we address them head-on," he said.

Stack's two-year contract started July 1, and he's been busy getting acquainted with staff and the way the district operates.

"The last couple months have been fast and furious … understanding what things are going really well, what we need to continue to keep on moving forward with, and opportunities to adjust some things if they need to be adjusted," he said.

With Flathead Lake a stone's throw away, Stack also has spent time recreating before the start of what will likely be a busy year.

"I like to hunt, fish, boating, golfing and spending time with family," including his wife Tobie, he said.

"I'm just excited to be here," he said. "I'm excited to get the kids back into class."

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 406-758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.