Friday, July 19, 2024

2022 school board candidate profiles

Daily Inter Lake | April 22, 2022 12:00 PM

Editor's note: The Daily Inter Lake reached out to school board candidates asking them to participate in filling out a bio. Below is information supplied by candidates and was edited for punctuation and format.


Bigfork has two three-year terms open. Candidates are: incumbents Zack Anderson and Aaron Parish, Roger Ball and Christina Relyea.

The district office is located at 600 Commerce St., Bigfork. Call 406-837-7400 for more information.

• Name: Zack Anderson (incumbent)

Occupation: Bricklayer by trade, self-employed, masonry contractor in Bigfork.

Family: Wife, Sally Anderson; children, Ashley Anderson, a 2020 Bigfork High School graduate and Angus Anderson, a Bigfork High School sophomore.

Education: Bigfork High School diploma, 1991; Montana State University, Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering Technology, 1996.

Background/experience: Serves on advisory boards for Kalispell Airport Association and Montana/Eastern Washington Masonry Promotion Group; current Bigfork School District school board trustee.

Why are you running? Interested in continuing to offer my time on this board for the betterment of the common good. Bigfork School District has a great staff and because of them our school has great things to offer our students and I see a bright future ahead.

• Name: Roger Ball

Occupation: Retired with more than 50 years of experience in education.

Family: Wife, Kati Ball, married 50 years; two adult children, David Ball and Charlie Ball.

Education: Graduated in 1971 from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education with an emphasis on social sciences; in 1981, earned a Master of Arts in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Arizona; post-graduate studies at the University of Arizona in school administration and business management and was certified as a school superintendent.

Background/experience: Tucson Unified School District #1 — 16 years teaching junior high, 14 years teaching high school, coached four varsity sports; 15 years teaching General Education Diploma and adult basic education classes (eighth grade) with the Arizona Department of Corrections; Bigfork special needs substitute and teacher aide; five years liberal arts faculty with Salish Kootenai College in Pablo; retired 2021.

Why are you running? Desire to work with parents and administration to ensure the best learning opportunity for all grade levels utilizing web technology, provide safe and nurturing atmosphere for all abilities, and reward faculty for accomplishments creating a great school K-12 system. Improve academics with accelerated post-secondary University of Montana and Missoula College online offerings, class and club participation in local fairs and shows, promote local professional mentoring, encourage career skills via school announcements and offer seniors opportunities to tour state higher education sites.

• Name: Christina Relyea

Occupation: Natural resources professor and Honors Program director at Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC).

Family: Son, Dale Relyea, a Bigfork High School student.

Education: Bachelor of Science degree, University of Arkansas; Master of Science degree, University of Central Arkansas; Ph.D., Idaho State University.

Background/experience: Served two terms as a Bigfork School District trustee; former high school teacher; current FVCC professor and Honors Program director; member of National Collegiate Honors Council two-year college board; active member of Bigfork Community United Methodist Church, chair of staff/parish relations committee.

Why are you running? I deeply believe that equal access to quality public education is at the core of what makes our country so great and I have dedicated my career to this ideal. A healthy school equals a healthy community and when given the skills to succeed the possibilities for each child are endless.

Columbia Falls

Columbia Falls has two three-year terms open in the elementary district. Candidates are: incumbent Heather D. Mumby, Justin Cheff, Corydon Albrecht, David Shaffer, Alice W. Biel and Jessica Bostock.

The district office is located at 501 Sixth Ave. W. Call 406-892-6550 for more information.

• Name: Justin Cheff

Occupation: Locomotive engineer for BNSF Railway; previously worked for a logging and construction business.

Family: Wife, Jenni; children, Connor, a senior at Columbia Falls High School (CFHS), Sadie, a freshman at CFHS and Kensley, a seventh-grader at Columbia Falls Jr. High.

Education: Graduated from CFHS in 1994; attended North Idaho College, FVCC, and Montana State University.

Background/experience: I am currently serving as a board member for the Columbia Falls summer swim team. I have coached baseball, youth softball, basketball (boys and girls), and youth football. I am also a current member of the Columbia Falls Booster Club. I have been an instructor lead rules facilitator for BNSF, instructing and testing railroad operating rules for conductors, engineers and switchmen, a position I was elected to by my peers. I am also an Assistant Local Chairman for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Division 499. From these experiences, I believe I am ready and able to serve our schools as a board member.

Why are you running? With the recent growth in our community, I want to be a part of, and have a voice in, the direction of our schools. It’s our duty and obligation to our students to prepare them for the next step, whether that’s preparing for the next grade, college, or to enter the workforce.

• Name: Corydon Albrecht

Occupation: Small business owner, C2 Enterprises LLC, an architectural design company in Columbia Falls; ski instructor at Whitefish Mountain Resort, certified through the Professional Ski Instructors Association.

Family: Wife and two sons.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in environmental design, Montana State University – Bozeman; Master’s degree in business, specializing in project management, Capella University. After college, joined the Army as a helicopter pilot and became an instructor pilot, 13 years of service with Honorable Discharge in 2015.

Background/experience: I have been involved in the profession of instruction since 1997 in multiple jobs and locations, including some internationally. The programs that I have been a part of include military, government contracts and civilian where the program consisted of as few as five members to as many as 300. I spent most of my time in the teaching or instructional phase of the projects which has allowed me to gain knowledge and experience in multi-cultural environments and schools. My education experience with a MBA in Project Management along with my personal experience managing construction and design projects will help in my contributions to the school board as a trustee when dealing with grants, loans, expansion projects, etc. All of which have a direct impact on the entire community in the from of taxes which are highly influenced by the projects and programs designated by the school board for education. Also serves as a volunteer on school field trips, with Columbia Falls Baseball, and coaching soccer programs, Previously Flathead Rapids and currently NSC Montana.

Why are you running? I am running for school board to volunteer my time and experience to help improve education in the community so that we are planning for current and future generations’ educational success. Additionally, I am running for the school board to provide a voice for the community on projects, programs, expansions that would affect the taxes and financial situations of the community. The goal is to balance the gain from increased educational opportunities with the needs and financial situation of the area.

• Name: Alice W. Biel

Occupation: Writer-editor with the National Park Service.

Family: Husband, Mark, married for 19 years; daughter, Abbey, a Columbia Falls High School student.

Education: Ph.D. in geography from the University of Colorado.

Background/experience: I was a trustee and then vice-chair for School District 8 in 2011-2012; I had to resign when we moved into SD 6. At West Glacier, I also maintained the school’s website, created its social media, and played music for Missoula Children’s Theatre performances. Until Covid hit, I volunteered at the junior high with the Writing Coaches of Montana program.

Why are you running? As a taxpayer and parent, I believe we need people on the board who are focused on getting our students the resources they need for success — not partisan politics. I also think we need people who aren’t afraid to ask questions and consider things from multiple points of view — but always through the lens of what’s best for the students.

• Name: Jessica Bostock

Occupation: Mother and director of advocacy for students with special needs and disabilities within the Columbia Falls PRIE chapter.

Family: Husband, Joe, married for 14 years; four sons, who attend two of the Columbia Falls campuses.

Education: Pursued a nursing degree with an emphasis on holistic medicine.

Background/experience: Being the oldest of four children and the only girl in my family, I was born to lead. My husband, Joe, and I have been married for 14 years. We both grew up in Texas and moved to Montana as soon as we could because we wanted to raise our four boys here. Our family has a passion for giving back to the community. My husband and I both served on a volunteer fire department as well as the board for many years.

Why are you running? As a mother of four boys, my intent is to bring a positive conservative voice with Christian values that will give the students of SD 6 a strong pro-American educational foundation which includes successful athletic, arts and vocational programs. I would like to forge strong, positive relationships among parents, teachers, administrators and the community that would build cohesive partnerships through mutual respect and open communication which starts with hearing the parent’s concerns while validating their importance to the overall success of ourstudents.

• Name: Heather D. Mumby (incumbent)

Occupation: Business manager and district clerk for Cayuse Prairie School.

Family: Husband, Josh Molzhon; son, Zane, a Glacier Gateway fifth-grader.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Seattle University, 1991; Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Colorado Technical University, 2008.

Background/experience: As an employee of another school district, I have a unique understanding of how schools are able to work within the confines of the state and federal regulations. Since I have a working knowledge of school finance, school law and human resources, I am able to jump in and use my expertise to benefit our district. Having a son in fifth grade, I also understand the challenges students and parents face on a daily basis trying to balance education, family and social life. Being on the board the last three years has given me the depth and knowledge that will enable me to continue to provide a common-sense approach to how we educate our children.

Why are you running? If I am re-elected I will continue to be an advocate for our students, parents, and staff without having a personal agenda! I want to focus on what we can do for our students to help them become successful and productive members of our community.

Helena Flats

Helena Flats has one three-year term open. Candidates are Brian Ek and Marcus Blue.

The school is located at 1000 Helena Flats Road. Call 406-257-2301 for more information.

• Name: Brian Ek

Occupation: Owner and operator of X Fur and Bone.

Family: Wife, Meche Ek; children, Sidney Ek, a seventh-grader, Matthias Ek, a fourth-grader.

Education: Graduate of Flathead High School and FVCC.

Background/experience: I am a disabled combat veteran dedicated to my children and their classmates. A regular volunteer for the school.

Why are you running? I need to serve as a trustee as the children of Helena Flats are not being provided with a curriculum. It is time for SD 15 to do their job.

• Name: Marcus Blue

Occupation: Machinist at Applied Materials.

Family: Wife, Jessica; daughter, Hannah.

Education: George County High School.

Background/experience: I’m a calm and level-headed father. I spent 10 years in a supervisory role in the oil fields training and mentoring young men. I highly value education. I always strived to help others become the best versions of themselves that they could be. I’m a longtime resident of Flathead county and my daughter is a seventh-generation Montanan.

Why are you running? My only goal is to help provide the best possible educational experience for the children of our little community.

Kalispell Public Schools

The central administration office is located at 233 First Ave. E. Call 406-751-3412 for more information.

Elementary District

Kalispell has two three-year terms open representing the elementary district. Candidates are: incumbent Ursula Wilde, Dana Bennett, Steven R. Biggs and Jennifer Sevier.

• Name: Dana Bennett

Occupation: Homemaker; co-owns Glacier Green Cross Dispensary with her husband; substitute teacher in Kalispell Public Schools for three years; worked at Kid Kare for Logan Health Hospital; taught fitness classes at the Logan Health Hospital; taught gymnastics for Flathead Gymnastics Academy.

Family: Husband, Carl Bennett; daughter, Faith, a Glacier High School freshman; a 10-month-old son, Westen.

Education: Degree from Northern Illinois University, studied fashion, nutrition, and consumer sciences; certified personal trainer fitness instructor through AFAA.

Background/experience: Been involved with School District 5 for four years either subbing or seeing my child being in the school district. Having the opportunity to speak with teachers, students and parents on the regular. Being a part of Glacier high School Booster club, my daughter Faith is active a player on the Montana Northwest Volleyball Club team which has given me a voice to speak to others.

Why are you running? I see the need for ethical and responsible leadership that are in line with Montana’s values.

• Name: Dr. Steven R. Biggs

Occupation: Chiropractic physician.

Family: Spouse, Paula Biggs; children, Megan Biggs, Olivia, quadruplets Peyton, Mason and Walker who attend Glacier High School.

Education: Doctor of Chiropractic and Doctor of Medicine degrees; practicing under chiropractic licensure.

Why are you running? I want to serve as an SD 5 trustee to have a greater input into the educational and extracurricular experience for my children and the students of this community.

• Name: Jennifer Sevier

Occupation: Outreach and communications specialist at The Nurturing Center.

Family: Six children, Isabeau, 27, Connor, 25, Cain, 22, Saxton, 18, Dorian, 15, Julien, 8.

Education: Degree in early childhood education.

Background/experience: I grew up in the Flathead and now have children of my own that I am watching go through our schools from kindergarten through graduation, so am very familiar with our school system. I have been on workgroups for kindergarten transition and family engagement, been on the PTO for Russell Elementary, facilitated training to educators, and I am the current board president of The Montana Association for the Education of Young Children. I participate in many community events like Plates and Play and Week of the Young Child and look for ways to collaborate in the community to make everyone thrive.

Why are you running? I would love to be a school board trustee because as someone that has grown up and is now raising a family in the Flathead Valley, I have seen firsthand the pros and cons of our system. I believe there are changes that can be made to make our families feel more welcome, our students feel more heard, and our community more involved.

• Name: Ursula Wilde (incumbent)

Occupation: Primarily a stay-at-home mom; also remodels and manages properties for the family business; formerly a ballet teacher at Noble Dance.

Family: Husband, Chauncey Wilde; children, Rylin Wilde, a junior at Flathead High School and Jasper Wilde, a seventh-grader at Kalispell Middle School.

Education: Graduated from Flathead High School, 2001; Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees from FVCC.

Background/experience: I approach my position on the board from the perspective of a life-long resident of Kalispell, an FHS graduate, and a parent of KPS students. I have always strove to be an active member of my community by volunteering: leading a parent/kids group called Parent Share, volunteering in my kid’s classrooms, coaching recreational soccer teams, and being an FVCC ambassador.

Why are you running? My goal as a trustee is to help SD 5 maintain balance between student, employee, and community needs in order to best support the growth, education, and success of its students. I believe that time and effort put into children is time well spent, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to support so many of Kalispell’s kids.

High School District

In the high school district, there is one three-year term open representing Kila and Somers-Lakeside. Candidates are incumbent Mark Kornick and Lloyd Bondy.

• Name: Lloyd Bondy

Occupation: Business owner/tree removal and wildfire defensible space inspections and mitigation.

Family: Wife, Tina, married for 20 years; twin 16-year-old girls, Megan and Madeline, both sophomores at Glacier High School.

Education: Completed two years of college; taken many classes in leadership and management during my 10 years in the US Air Force and during my time as a firefighter in Nevada.

Background/experience: I have spent many years as a volunteer with various children’s and special needs programs: Special Olympics, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Challenge Alaska to name a few. Much of what I have done with these organizations is in the area of management and logistics which is where I believe my experience will be most useful on the school board.

Why are you running? I want to serve because I believe we have a great school district and I’d like to do my part by bringing fresh energy and ideas to the district. Children are the future and nothing is more important than their education!

• Name: Mark Kornick (incumbent)

Occupation: Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks hatchery manager, Flathead Lake Salmon Hatchery, Somers, and Rose Creek Hatchery, Bigfork.

Family: Wife, Beth; children, Escher and Lilah, both graduates of Somers-Lakeside and Flathead High School.

Education: Great Falls schools, Montana State University, Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Management, 1990.

Background/experience: Intimate professional experience in multiple budget sources and appropriation thereof including various federal, state and grant monies working in three agencies across three states. Committee involvement in my field, professional organizations and school board terms have thoroughly proven the importance of informed decision making through community (public, parent) direction, expert opinion (teachers, administration), and ultimately in an open, transparent forum. I have made education a priority in my professional career to make learning a joy for kids of any age when I get the privilege to interact with students in my work with fisheries and wildlife over the last 31 years.

Why are you running? I believe in the greatness that is being realized in the enviable diverse educational experience we in the Kalispell area public schools are a part of and would love to continue the momentum I have felt as we face inevitable change. The strategic planning process that SD 5 is working towards completion is addressing our future needs as it relates to a changing community in growth and workforce needs, classroom space yes, but how we actively serve the students best as individual people with varied learning approaches and experiences will ensure opportunity in this world. I am excited to continue to be part of that work.


Marion has two three-year terms open. Candidates are: incumbent Kami Johnson, Robin Brist and Evelina Tarshiko.

The school is located at 205 Gopher Lane. Call 406-854-2333 for more information.

• Name: Kami Johnson (incumbent)

Occupation: Self-employed as an esthetician for 23 years.

Family: Husband and two sons.

Education: Moorpark College, associate degree.

Background/experience: I have been a part of the PTO at our school for five years. I have also served as a volunteer for the PTO at my son’s previous school for many years prior to living here in Marion.

Why are you running? I want to continue to serve as a board trustee because I believe every child has the right to a phenomenal public school education and I think it is up to us as community members to volunteer when needed to make sure that happens.

Name: Evelina Tarshikov

Occupation: Home dialysis nurse.

Family: Husband, Alex, and five children, three of which are in school and two little ones.

Education: Associate of Science in Nursing degree from Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Background/experince: I have been a Sunday school teacher in my 20s and am involved in my kids life at home. At my current job I teach and guide the patients to determine what is best for them. I believe the school and community will benefit with a nurse board member.

Why are you running? To be part of the community and be involved in my kids life.

Smith Valley

Two three-year terms open. Candidates are incumbent Rand Norby, Rick Glewwe II, Joshua Hunt, Jason Preble and Lee Yandl.

The School is located at 2901 U.S. 2 W. Call 406-756-4535 for more information.

• Name: Rick Glewwe II

Occupation: Real estate consultant and service provider.

Family: Wife, Sarah Ann; children, Kayden, Taylor, Faith and Bailey.

Education: Some college.

Background/experience: For community involvement and organizational leadership, I have been on hiring committees for a nonprofit, leadership teams in large nonprofit organizations and churches working more specifically in the areas with youth, family, and community focus. I have overseen a department and programming overseeing 300-400 children from birth to sixth grade, 100 volunteers, and six-15 interns and several paid staff overseeing locations. For analysis, I have also worked in real estate analysis as an appraiser, Realtor, and general contractor.

Why are you running? Community and parent involvement is a large factor in the success of our schools and families in our community raising the next generation to be a light, a part, and contributors to our community and society. I desire to serve in any way possible by thinking outside the box and coming up with creative ways to help make this a greater part of the valley that we all desire it to be.

• Name: Rand Norby (incumbent)

Occupation: Retired after working in the construction and building industry as a construction worker and as a salesman for Cardinal True Value Hardware.

Family: Two adult children and grandchildren, who attend Smith Valley School.

Background/experience: Flathead Valley native; Smith Valley School trustee from 1996-2000 and from 2019-2022; assistant Bambino baseball coach; also coached Rotary basketball.

Why are you running? I have experience with a building background and would like to serve the community to the best of my ability.

• Name: Jason Preble

Occupation: Glacier Bancorp, chief operating officer

Family: Wife, Jennifer; children, Courtney and Russell, who attend Smith Valley

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and minor in mathematics from Rocky Mountain College, Billings.

Background/experience: I have previously served on a couple of community and business boards including serving as past president of Yellowstone Valley Cycling Club.

Why are you running? Growing up in Montana, faith, family and education were a cornerstone for my development. I will work to ensure that our kids have the best possible education cornerstone for their development as well.

• Name: Lee Yandl

Occupation: Manager of Total Garage Solutions; licensed fly fishing guide.

Family: Wife, Courtney, married since 2015; son, LJ, 2.

Education: Associate degree in criminal forensic technology.

Background/experience: My background consists in the security field. I am a combat veteran of the wars in Iraq where I was a 19D Cavalry scout team leader. I have also spent years in armed security and as a government contractor in the security/protection fields. I spent two years working in two different high schools as a campus safety officer that gave me current issues that our schools are facing in today’s economy as well real-world experience in the education system. I grew up in a middle-class blue-collar family where my mother was an elementary teacher and my father headed up the math department as a high school mathematics teacher.

Why are you running? This answer is quite simple to me based on my childhood and work experience, I have seen what can happen in big cities where parents are losing their input and where small-town traditional values are overpowered by individuals who can scream louder or have the numbers to make these ineffective changes. I want to prevent that from ever happening in our community.


Three three-year terms open. Candidates are: John L. Byers, Scott Simonson, Kristen Darling, Kimberly Eisenlohr, Carrie Eklund, Leif Hallstrom, Matt Shaffer and Lane C. Smyth.

The administrative office is located at 315 School Addition Road in Somers. Call 406-857-3661 for more information.

• Name: John L. Byers

Occupation: Manager of the Unified Communications department for Siemens Corporation; more than 28 years of experience developing business technology roadmaps, service lifecycle planning, implementing technology projects, developing product requirements, managing a team of 11 engineers, and analyzing support strategies and processes to facilitate improved operations and efficiency.

Education: Flathead High School graduate, 1990; Clover Park Technical College graduate 1992; numerous certifications in project management, HP-ITIL, and Cisco Systems.

Background/experience: Working for various communications and software companies throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to work on projects all over the globe. These projects have not only given me experience with managing large budgets, but also managing a global team, and running global projects

Why are you running? My goal as a school board trustee is to advocate for every student to have the most positive and high-quality educational experience possible.

• Name: Kimberly Eisenlohr

Occupation: Co-owns and operates Eisenlohr Enterprises Inc. with her husband, works as the bookkeeper; emergency medical technician (EMT) and nine-year veteran with Lakeside Ambulance.

Family: Married with three adult children who attended Somers-Lakeside School District; four grandchildren.

Education: Degree in theology in Christian education; certified EMT in Montana.

Background/experience: I was a part-time employee of Somers School District from 1997-2004. I was a substitute teacher and an aide. I served on the Parent Teacher Association board as treasurer from 1998 to 1999. I served on the West Shore Community Library board as secretary for two years from 2010 to 2012. Currently, I serve on the Tamarack Woods Homeowners Association as secretary. I have served in this position since 2013.

Why are you running? With my experience as both a part-time employee and a parent with Somers School District, I believe I can put that knowledge and experience to excellent use on behalf of the students and staff of Lakeside Elementary and Somers Middle School. I would be honored to serve as a representative of the families and employees of District 29.

• Name: Carrie Eklund

Occupation: Engineer and farmer.

Family: Husband, Scott Eklund; children, Oliver, 11, Nolan, 9, and Miles, 7, all three attend Somers-Lakeside District 29 schools.

Education: Master’s degree in education from Montana State University; Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Molecular Biology from Tulane University.

Background/experience: I have been involved in leadership activities from high school onward including presidencies of collegiate engineering organizations and executive responsibilities in a small consulting firm of about 60 employees. After completing our Peace Corps service, my husband and I moved back to Montana to support the family farm. I taught math at Bigfork High School before staying home with my children. My husband and I now own and operate the family farm in central Montana which requires constant flexibility, community partnerships, and problem-solving. As an engineer, I have supervised teams of employees and navigated intense client relationships and technical projects. My experiences have taught me compassion, respect for diverse opinions, and the value of working together to solve complex problems.

Why are you running? I believe very strongly in community service and I would be honored if the community placed their trust in me to serve the school district as a trustee. I believe my experience can benefit the district by enabling me to execute the fiscal and constitutional responsibilities of a school board trustee while continuing to listen and support the students, parents, teachers, and administrators of Lakeside and Somers.

• Name: Matt Shaffer

Occupation: Executive Officer in the United States Forest Service.

Family: Wife, who works at Somers Middle School; two sons who attend Somers Middle School and Lakeside Elementary.

Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in forestry from the University of Montana; trained facilitator with extensive project and program management training; project management certification.

Background/experience: As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I served in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 where I gained a unique appreciation for our public schools after seeing the limited educational opportunities Iraqi children had at that time.

I have experience serving on boards from my time spent as a Homeowner Association president. Finally, I have spent the last 11 years working in land management agencies across the western United States working with communities to gather, respond to, and incorporate public input on proposed actions.

Why are you running? While working for a land management agency guided by Gifford Pinchot’s belief of the greatest good for the greatest number, I have learned the value of a public institution, funded by the public, serving the greatest number of people in the public. I understand the value of working with different perspectives and know the importance of listening and dedication to a greater good.

West Valley

Two three-year terms and a one-year term open. Candidates are: incumbent Marilyn Hedstrom, Meghan Brester, Brent Councilor, Stefanie Hanson and Jeff Meredith.

The school is located at 2290 Farm to Market Road. Call 406-755-7239 for more information.

Name: Marilyn Hedstrom (incumbent)

Occupation: Dairy farmer, Hedstrom Dairy/Kalispell Kreamery.

Family: Husband, Bill; adult children Helen Lyford, Anna Bold, Mary Tuck and Joseph; four grandchildren who attend West Valley School.

Education: Carroll College, Helena. Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Chemistry with a teaching endorsement.

Background/experience: Three years experience on the West Valley school board; substitute teacher for more than 13 years; raised four very diverse kids; business office manager of the family farm.

Why are you running? West Valley school is facing many challenges with bursting enrollment, a potential new school building, a new superintendent, and school board chairman.

I hope to use my background and board experience to provide calm, stable, reasonable leadership for the next three years.

• Name: Meghan Brester

Occupation: I am a small business owner; dairy farm owner.

Family: Husband, Scott Brester; two children, a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old who attended West Valley School for several years.

Education: Graduated from Flathead High School and attended FVCC.

Background: Fourth-generation Montanan.

Why are you running? I am running for the school board because I want to help communicate the needs of the community and the parents to the school as well as communicate the needs of the educators to the parent and community. We need to work together for the students.

• Name: Stefanie Hanson

Occupation: Broker and owner of Beckman’s Real Estate.

Family: Husband, Jason Hanson, married for 12 years; two children, a kindergartener and second-grader at West Valley School.

Education: Bachelor of Science degree; Flathead High School graduate.

Background/experience: I am an active member on the West Valley PTO and I attend all the West Valley School board meetings. Professionally, I am currently president-elect on the Northwest Montana Association of Realtors MLS board and the Northwest Montana Association of Realtors Government Affairs board.

Why are you running? We currently have two children, a 6-year-old and 8-year-old, in West Valley School and continuing quality public education is very important to us as a family. I would like to focus on transparent communication with all the children, parents, families, teachers, staff, and admin of west valley so we can figure out what families are needing/wanting and what teachers are needing/wanting so we can collaborate to support one another.

• Name: Jeff Meredith

Occupation: Investment officer, Glacier Bancorp Inc., 17 Years.

Family: Wife, Katie; children, Jack, 10, PJ, 8, Luke, 5, Emily, 3.

Education: Flathead High School; University of Montana.

Background/experience: Parent of two West Valley students with two more starting school in the next few years. Extensive experience in municipal and school district financial analysis and bond funding. Past board president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flathead County. Current board member of the Montana Board of Investments which manages state and local government funds and TRS/PERS pension assets.

Why are you running? West Valley is an incredible school which is facing significant changes in the near future with the departure of superintendent Cal Ketchum and the continued enrollment growth driving the need for a new school. My focus is to ensure these changes are made in a manner that maintains the high quality of education and student experience that the parents/teachers/community of West Valley expect.


Two three-year terms open. Candidates are: incumbents Elizabeth Pitman and Darcy Schellinger, Bobee J. Hyland, Leanette Kearns and Jenny Paatalo.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 600 Second Street E. Call 406-862-8643 for more information.

• Name: Dr. Bobee J. Hyland

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom, former dentist.

Family: Married; four children, ages 5-14.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Gustavus Adolphus College; Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Minnesota, School of Dentistry.

Background/experience: I have extensive business experience dealing with budgets, personnel and scheduling and have held many volunteer roles in the community, where working as a team is essential for success. Current North Valley Search and Rescue volunteer; former CEO and CFO of multiple dental offices; former president and VP of Austin Youth Hockey Association; former assistant high school hockey coach, former volunteer EMT; and former volunteer firefighter. Aside from the above, I believe my most pertinent experience is that of being a mother in the midst of raising school-aged children. My children will be attending school in the Whitefish District for the next 13 consecutive years, and I will have a child in every school in the District for the next five.

Why are you running? Children are the future of our country, and I believe it is essential for their success to provide them with a solid educational foundation that is instruction-based and not agenda-driven. Parental input is crucial, should be encouraged, valued, and not ignored, and we need to elect leaders who will empower parents while protecting the innocence of our children.

• Name: Leanette Kearns

Occupation: Server, parent.

Family: Two children, ages 3 and 6.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Italian Studies minor, Stanford University, 2008.

Background/experience: I am an experienced mediator/peacemaker. I served as a mediator, trainer, and board member with the Harvard Mediation Program. I also have experience in leading and implementing after-school programming for middle school students in Boston and Portland. I have two children, one of which attends Muldown. I am currently leading a Girl Scout troop of Daisies and am a board member for the Center for Restorative Youth Justice.

Why are you running? I am invested in the community of Whitefish and am eager to help steward us through the changes and challenges we are facing. I have the skills and experience required to help guide our district in a way that serves the diverse needs of our students and their families.

• Name: Jenny Paatalo

Occupation: Stay-at-home mother.

Family: Husband, married for 15 years; two children, who attend Whitefish Middle School, and a fourth child due this month.

Education: Graduated from high school in Hood River, Oregon in 1996; studied music at Cornish College in Seattle and political science through Oregon State University; general classes at various community colleges.

Background/experience: I initiated the school board recall effort this past fall when I discovered that the current school board had misrepresented facts surrounding a “masking” survey to a large group of families and school employees last summer. The result of these misrepresentations resulted in an abuse of the public’s participation in the decision-making process. Two months after the recall was approved by the county attorney and the Flathead elections clerk and recorder, the approval was rescinded. With winter fast approaching, we decided to postpone a renewed submission to the district clerk until this spring. The mask mandate was lifted in January so we decided to abandon the filing of a new recall petition.

Why are you running? Policymakers must resist the inclination of imposing their own personal and political preferences and must scrutinize all sources of data and information to flesh out political agendas and biases (ideological constructs) which tend to subjugate members of the community rather than provide everyone in the community with an equal chance to participate. My goal is to provide creative solutions that will honor and protect everyone’s personal and political beliefs, with an objective of preventing any inadvertent tiered class systems from becoming embedded within any enacted policy.

• Name: Elizabeth Pitman (incumbent)

Occupation: Veterinarian at Alpine Animal Hospital in Whitefish.

Education: Graduated from Whitefish High School, 2002; bachelor of arts degree, University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington; Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, 2012.

Background/experience: Born and raised in Whitefish. I have served four months as a school trustee. Using my science and educational background, I have mentored students by providing “shadowing” experiences in the veterinary field and volunteering annually for Expanding Your Horizons, a national STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) event to introduce girls to careers and role models in their communities. As an accomplished soccer player, I have helped local soccer teams by assisting in coaching.

Why are you running? I received an excellent education in the Whitefish school system that prepared me for success in college and graduate school Now, my hope is to participate as an appreciative and committed community member to ensure that Whitefish School District continues to offer each student the same opportunity to reach their potential.

• Name: Darcy Schellinger (incumbent)

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom; previously worked in agriculture, mortgage and commercial lending.

Family: Husband, Kyle; two children, a daughter, who is a seventh-grader at Whitefish Middle School, and a son, who is a fourth-grader at Muldown Elementary.

Education: Attended public schools in Billings; obtained a business finance degree from Montana State University in Bozeman.

Background/experience: Current vice chair for Whitefish School District School board. Prior to becoming a trustee I actively attended Whitefish School District board meetings and work sessions. Volunteer at Muldown Elementary. I previously served on the Whitefish Rotary, Children’s House Montessori and Flathead Youth Home boards.

Why are you running? In spite of the adversity we have faced, I am committed to championing our students and the talented professionals in our district so they can continually flourish mentally and academically. During my term our reading and maths scores went up and the majority of our students are involved in clubs and sports; however, we also need to continue to focus on our mental health services.