MASS School Board of the Year Award

The purpose of the award is to recognize and focus attention on the dedicated and ethical service rendered by school boards to the children of Montana.  Nominations for the MASS School Board of the Year may be submitted by any Montana Superintendent of Schools.  A committee reviews the applications and selects up to two (2) Outstanding School Boards in Montana.  
 

2021 Award Recipients

School boards from Big Sky and Kalispell were recognized as recipients of the Montana Association of School Superintendent (MASS) Honor School Boards of the Year.  The award honors the dedicated and ethical service rendered by school boards to the children of Montana and recognizes the accomplishments of school boards in the areas of board policy, infrastructure for learning and teaching, and innovative educational programs.  MASS selects two outstanding school boards annually that represent excellence in these areas.

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Big Sky School District superintendent, Mr. Dustin Shipman, stated in his nomination letter that the Big Sky Board of Trustees is unique in many ways including commitment, which is evident in the longevity of a core group of trustees who are serving in their second, third, and even their fourth term on the board. 

For the past three years, the board has worked tirelessly on policy related to graduation requirements and a tiered system for our graduates. None of this has been an easy task as they balance rigorous programming for everyone with career and technical education, internships and differing paths for students to postsecondary outcomes.  In the past seven years, the school community has supported over $34 million in bonding to expand the campus to keep up with the ever-growing district. The board has always been and continues to be committed to high academic standards, highly individual educational opportunities, internships in the community, global thinking and clear paths to post-secondary opportunities for students.  This commitment spurred the first partnership of its kind in Montana by joining forces with Habitat for Humanity of Gallatin Valley to build employee housing on the campus.

Through the pandemic, the board has governed with stamina, thoughtfulness, trust, transparency, and grace.  They have listened to constituent feedback and made decisions for the well-being of the staff, students, and community.  While occasionally met with resistance, the trustees have stood solid in their decisions, both popular and unpopular.  

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The Kalispell Public Schools (KPS) Board of Trustees was nominated for the MASS Honor Schoool Board of the Year Award by the district superintendent, Mr. Micah Hill.  In his nomination letter, Mr. Hill stated that the board continues to relentlessly pursue excellence in education and strives to serve their constitutional commitment to “develop the full potential of every child.”  The continued growth of Kalispell Public Schools has required the board to hire additional staff and to promote bonds for the construction of new buildings, renovations, and additions to existing structures.  The board has carefully considered how those designs and intentions impact the delivery of education and have worked with stakeholders to create educational spaces that are flexible and conducive to promoting learning.

One of the board’s proudest accomplishments recently was their efforts to develop a comprehensive system of support that focuses on the academic and social emotional health of students and the professional development and emotional health of staff.  They have incorporated the Kalispell Educator Excellence Program (KEEP) that offers a two-year mentor and induction program to all new teachers in the district. The primary goal of KEEP is to ensure that no staff member leaves KPS for lack of support.

During the pandemic, the board prioritized in-person learning but also supported and encouraged a remote education model that served nearly 800 students K-12.  They did not invest in programs and online software subscriptions, but instead hired the necessary staff to ensure that, while remote, educators were connecting daily with children of the district.

This year, KPS will be working with the community to develop its next strategic plan and will be looking at recent legislative changes that pave the way to think about school in new ways – where proficiency isn’t just garnered through seat-time and where blended models of education can be considered for the future.