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Three vie for two trustee seats

| April 27, 2005 12:00 AM

By STEVE KADEL Western News Reporter

Three candidates will vie for two positions on the Libby School Board in the May 3 election.

Duaine Schultz will challenge incumbents Kate Huntsberger and Teri Kelly with the top two vote-getters receiving three-year terms.

Huntsberger, a state adult protection social worker, is completing her first year on the board. She was named to the trustee position to fill a vacancy.

Huntsberger said she decided to apply for the open seat to prevent the district from having to hold an election, which would have cost $3,000. She is running for a full term to help maintain what she called an outstanding district.

"I'm very interested in education. Libby has been good to my family, and I'd like to see the programs continue."

Huntsberger favors an increase in teacher salaries, saying Libby is not as competitive as it should be in attracting top educators.

"I'd also like to see funding for the unfunded programs - theater, tennis, soccer," she said.

Libby public schools probably will continue to decline in enrollment in coming years, which presents a funding dilemma, Huntsberger said. She believes a major challenge will be maintaining programs that are currently in place.

Kelly, an adult case manager for Western Montana Mental Health, has been a school board member for five and a half years. She currently serves as chairwoman.

Kelly was named to fill a vacancy on the board, served six months, and was elected to fill the remaining two years. She was re-elected to a full term three years ago.

Although acknowledging that new blood can be important, Kelly said the board also needs long-time members to provide perspective on issues.

"It's important to have longevity and consistency on your board," she said. "You gain experience by doing the work. It's taken me a long time to learn the ins and outs of it, and now I can be effective."

Kelly said she hopes the district can offer educational opportunities that go beyond traditional curriculum topics such as reading, writing and arithmetic. However, she said adding drama or other extras is costly.

"We have to get really creative in how we offer other opportunities," she said, pointing to participation by Central School students in developing Lincoln County's Geographical Information System as an example.

Kelly agrees with Huntsberger that offering competitive salaries is critical to attracting and keeping top teachers. She mentioned talented staff members - from secretaries and other classified employees to teachers and administrators - as the district's strength.

"We have people who love what they do and who value education," Kelly said.

Schultz is traveling outside the U.S. and could not be reached for an interview. However, campaign releases outline his priorities for the school district.

"I believe in providing on-campus security for our students, including drug and alcohol awareness and counseling. I believe in making good, solid financial decisions that are in the best interest of those paying the bill - the taxpayer."

Schultz supports adequate funding for schools and "realization of maximum benefit for dollars spent," according to a campaign flyer. He also favors increasing building maintenance to protect taxpayer investments, as well as more public input at school board meetings.