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Billings community comments on superintendent search, board welcomes new member

By David Jay,


BILLINGS - Major changes are ahead for Billings Public Schools, with redistricting plans launched and a decision that will impact hundreds of students.

The public joined in on the search process for a new superintendent while also welcoming a new board member during two meetings at the Lincoln Center on Monday night.

The firm conducting the superintendent search heard from the public about what the community wants in a new superintendent.

And the trustees held their regular meeting in the boardroom.

That meeting started off with the swearing-in of the newest trustee Dr. Roger Santala.

"Looking forward (to) the opportunity to learn enough to be a valuable trustee," Santala said before the meeting.

The board chose him last week to replace Mike Leo who resigned in November.

Santella says he's in it for the long term and understands some of the upcoming challenges for the board.

"With a new superintendent search going on and other issues about how to move forward for the district, I think that was an exciting opportunity and I thought I should take advantage of that," Santala said.

The board talked about the superintendent search to replace the retiring Greg Upham and the importance of hearing from the community.

"We want very much to know what this community is looking for in the next superintendent," Board Chair Scott McCulloch said. "We have challenges. We want to continue Career and Technical ed. We want to improve student scores. We want to build onto the things that we've been working on so far."

"The board wants and needs to hear from their constituency groups," Paige Fenton Hughes, G.R. Recruiting Associate, told a group of close to 15 at the Lincoln Center Auditorium.

That meeting provided a chance for the community to give input about what would make a good superintendent for School District 2.

"We're on a tight time frame," Fenton Hughes said. "So we're trying to get as much input as we can quickly."

Fenton Hughes is also a school administrator in Wyoming and has an understanding of the needs in Billings.

"Really great community," Fenton Hughes said. "So many good things are already happening and we're hoping just to build upon that."

The plan is to present the public comment to the board to help in the search.

"It's their search process," Fenton Hughes said about the board. "They tell us how they want to run it."

"The profile will be adopted for the next candidate and we'll go from there," McCulloch said.

The school board is also taking public comment on an online survey , until Jan. 26.

The superintendent search timeline shows an expectation that a finalist will be announced and a contract offered on April 10.

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