Polson School Board: Four vie for three seats

Apr. 25—The Polson School District has three trustee seats open in the elementary district. Since incumbent Steven "Shane" Orien is running unopposed in the high school district, that election was cancelled and he will be elected by acclamation.

Incumbents Alan Anderson and Tony Muzquiz have filed for reelection in the elementary district, as has former trustee Tim McGinnis, who returned to the school board last fall when he was asked to fill the remainder of John Mercer's term. Kathleen "Kit" Collins is also vying for a seat.

Muzquiz did not return our requests for information by press time.

Alan Anderson

As a lifelong resident of Polson and a Polson School District board trustee for the last decade, Anderson writes that he's seen many positive changes during his tenure with the education system and school district.

"I've always been a huge advocate for the education of our youth as they are the future of not only our local communities but our great state of Montana and the United States of America," he says.

He believes he has the drive and experience to help "our school district keep growing and to do what is in best interest for all of our youth as well as our parents and community members."

Anderson notes that school district funding "is easily one of the biggest issues that we will continue to face going forward."

"Education funding continues to be slashed at the state level pushing more and more of the funding burden onto local taxpayers who are already at or beyond the limit of affordability in Polson School District," he writes.

While there are no easy solutions to the issue, he promises if reelected to "continue to work hard to keep the tax burden for our local tax payers as low as possible without compromising the quality of education that we need to be offering our students for their future success."

Kathleen "Kit" Collins

A former educator, Collins taught biology, environmental science and advanced placement classes in both disciplines at Lakenheath High School RAF in Suffolk, England, until her retirement.

"I have a personal interest in public education and a desire to continue to contribute where I can," she writes. "I believe that children are our greatest resource and that every child is deserving of an excellent education."

Collins writes that her experience as a teacher and as a parent has taught her the importance of clear expectations and not losing sight of the goal."It has given me a balanced perspective on the importance of collaboration in determining methods that encourage success for every student."

In addition, she writes that her life experience "has taught me that being part of a diverse community inspires creativity, demands critical thinking, and encourages empathy."

Collins says the 2024-2027 Strategic Action Plan recently adopted by the school board "is a testament to the high standards and clear objectives aimed at addressing the challenges of the future."

She enumerates Issues facing the district as declining student attendance in the wake of the COVID pandemic; adapting to and utilizing advancing technology to enhance the education process "but not allowing it to become a distraction that hinders student learning"; and preparing students for the future in a rapidly changing world.

"These issues and others as they arise will require a proactive approach and the collective abilities and talents of all stakeholders," she writes.

Tim McGinnis

Tim McGinnis served nearly a decade on the board (2012-2021) and was asked to return last fall when incumbent John Mercer stepped down. He says that he originally sought a seat on the Polson School Board as a means of giving back to a community that had supported his two restaurants and other business ventures while providing a quality education for both of his daughters.

"That still holds true today," he writes.

He notes that the Polson School District is a complex organization with an annual budget that exceeds $19 million and employs more than 350 people.

"It is extremely rewarding to be part of this organization," and support its mission to provide "a safe, thriving and dynamic educational environment that teams with families and the community to inspire self-directed learners in an interconnected world."

"I hope that my life and business experience can help the district accomplish that," he writes.

McGinnis appreciates the community's generosity in passing two bond issues last spring, "which have greatly helped with many of the challenges the district faced in recent years."

He notes that school funding will always pose a challenge and requires constant monitoring, due to changes in revenue, many of which are out of the district's control.

"The primary job of a trustee is to see that taxpayers' money is accounted for and well spent," he writes.

Student absenteeism is also a pervasive issue, and the district "needs to continue to find ways to interact with, and support the students and families to insure the highest attendance level possible."

Finding new ways to support the district's dedicated and knowledgeable staff is also a priority, he writes.

McGinnis notes that he's working with the staff to develop an economics class that emphasizes personal finance. "It is my belief that our graduates must be financially literate to thrive in today's world," he writes.

"Our schools are so important," he concludes. "Please take the time to vote."