Thursday, July 18, 2024

Bigfork School District holds trustee election

| April 24, 2024 12:00 AM

Bigfork School District has one three-year term trustee position open representing the high school and Swan River School. 

Candidates are Dan Elwell and Carrie Garber.

The election is May 7.

Trustees are volunteers representing the public and are responsible for making decisions that impact how schools operate and are held accountable. Duties include but are not limited to setting achievement goals, reviewing and adopting policies, annual budgets and educational programs and managing the collective bargaining process.

The Daily Inter Lake contacted school board trustee candidates in contested elections. The biographical information included was provided by candidates and edited for spelling, punctuation and format.

Ballots must be received by a voter’s respective school district by Election Day and may be mailed or hand-delivered.

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

Dan Elwell (Incumbent)

Occupation: Section supervisor for the Montana Department of Transportation

Family: Wife of 22 years, Lori Elwell, and children Hailee, Wyatt, Naomi and Luke Elwell.

Education: High school diploma and numerous work-related trainings and certifications.

Background: Bigfork High School Board of Trustees (2018-present); Swan River School Board of Trustees (2012-2023, board chair for four years); Bigfork Fire Department Board of Trustees (2016-present, board chair for four years); Bigfork Fire Department volunteer (2012-2018); Bigfork Little Guy Wrestling volunteer coach (2014-present); Flathead Valley Little Guy volunteer football coach (six years); Bigfork Middle School volunteer football coach (two years); Bigfork Baseball volunteer coach (four years); Child Bridge Advisory Committee (two years); Licensed Montana foster care parent (nine years); Crossroads Christian Fellowship volunteer teacher in Newcomers Class (12 years); and Montana Department of Transportation Local 616 Union President (2022-present).

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? I want to continue to serve on the Bigfork Board to help ensure a quality education for all Bigfork students. My children have attended Swan River and Bigfork Schools their entire lives. Two are currently in high school, one is in middle school and one is in elementary school. I am proud of our schools and the quality faculty and staff that we employ. I want to see continued growth in educational opportunities that lead students to attend college and trade schools or equip them to enter directly into the local workforce. The school board should be in the business of supporting students and prioritizing education.

What is one of the top issues facing the school district you want to serve and how would you work to address it? I would like to see a wide spectrum of classes developed that range from remedial to advanced coursework. We tend to do really well teaching to the students in the middle, but could increase student retention if we challenged the students at the top, and further supported the students who are struggling. I feel that we are still facing academic and social repercussions from the time that was lost during Covid. I feel that this is most evident looking at delays in the math and science fields. We need to find a way to continue to close that gap. Years ago I strongly supported getting kids back to school with face to face instruction as soon as possible, and then I fought to get them mask-free. I want to serve on the board to help ensure we are never put in that position again. I also recognize that as a board member I am serving my constituents in the Swan River district. I want to honor their wishes, be fiscally responsible with their tax dollars, but fight to give our high school students the best education that they can have.

Carrie Garber

Occupation: Homemaker, small business owner Montana Jewel Naturals (organic, natural, body products and wellness classes).

Family: Spouse Daryl Garber, owner of Quality First Construction, and children Brayden, 13, and Colton, 12.

Education: Community College of the Air Force.

Background: Leadership training in the U.S. Air Force.

Why do you want to serve as a trustee? I am devoted to the well-being, success, and prosperity of all the students in the district as well as to the school. I am committed to serving my community by using my voice and my vote to make sound decisions that will be for the best interest of everyone living in the school district and to use the best resources available while keeping the taxpayer costs down. 

What is one of the top issues facing the school district you want to serve and how would you work to address it? Special education services and student mental health is an important issue that seems to get overlooked until it's too late. As a parent of a child with special needs (in special education services) I have experienced the frustration of trying to get an individualized education program for a child in need, then once obtained, realize that the accommodations are not being utilized in the classroom which lead to the failing grades as well as mental and social deterioration of students. If elected to the school board I will work diligently to hold SPED (special education) accountable to federal and state standards by requesting regular progress reports from the department to be on the school board agenda. I will also work to make more resources available to both schools and parents by utilizing organizations such as Montana Empowerment Center, as well as working to get more (free) training and classes for special education teachers and coordinators by way of my own professional resources which include local (Kalispell) neuro-development specialists and therapists who have already volunteered their time to teach and train teachers and staff.

    Carie Garber

    Dan Elwell