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School trustee ballots due in county election office May 7

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
The Western News | April 30, 2024 7:00 AM

Ballots have been mailed to Lincoln County voters for school trustee elections in Libby, Troy and Eureka.

The elections are mail-in only. Ballots must be returned to the county Election Office by 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 7. Ballots may be returned to the Election Office in Libby at 418 Mineral Avenue, county Sheriff’s Office in Libby at 512 California Avenue. The zip code is Libby is 59923.

Ballots may also be returned to Eureka Dispatch at 855 US Highway 93 North, Eureka, MT, 59917, and to the Troy Police Department at 301 North 3rd St., Troy, MT, 59935.

Libby has four candidates for three, three-year terms. Troy has three candidates for two, three-year terms and Eureka has two, three-year seats for Eureka High School/Elementary School. Eureka also has one seat available for Trego at Eureka High School.

In Libby, there are two incumbents who have filed to run and two newcomers. 

The incumbents are Bobbiegene Zimmerman and Robert E. Delmas. The new candidates are Roberta McCanse and Katie Benjamin.

In Troy, incumbent Carol Parsons filed to run. She’ll be opposed by Mark Radzwion and Lawrence Dolezal. 

Some districts won’t have elections because not enough candidates filed to run. Those that did file were selected by acclimation. They include Fortine, McCormick and Yaak.

Fortine had openings for one, three-year seat and one, two-year seat. They will be filled by Kevin Talcott and Alan J. Erwert.

McCormick’s three-year seat will be filled by Veronica D. Langton

In the Yaak, Pamela Fuqua won by acclimation, claiming a three-year seat.

In response to reader interest, The Western News emailed three questions to candidates in Libby and Troy, seeking answers about their qualifications and how they may address issues in each school.

In Libby, Delmas replied and in Troy, Parsons replied. Their answers can be found below.

Libby

ROBERT DELMAS

Do you have any ideas on how to improve teacher retention?

Teacher retention is and has been a big deal within our community. We have had some great teachers who are retiring after long careers and attracting new teachers to our community is challenging due to the rural area and high housing costs. Our beginning teacher pay is commensurate with other Montana areas and our superintendent and principals are doing the best they can to recruit strong candidates. All teachers, who I feel are pillars of our community, should be making more; but school budgets are tight. Teachers are consistently asked to do more with less and the job is not getting any easier. One of the biggest things we can do as a school board is to make sure that new and established teachers feel they are valued for all that they do for our kids and are being heard when difficult issues arise. We have some great teachers in Libby who truly care about our youth and some younger teachers who we need and want to stick around.  

What are your plans to reduce school violence?

My number one concern is keeping our kids in a safe school environment with students able to learn and teachers able to teach. I believe we are lucky to live in a safe, beautiful, rural community where school violence is relatively minimal. That being said, it is never acceptable and we have experienced some increases in behavioral issues of late, most are minor but some are more concerning and require immediate action. The superintendent, principals and board have been tracking this closely and are also reviewing our disciplinary policies to see if they are still valid and working to detour unwanted behaviors. There are several committees in place, some of which include parents and community leaders for their input. The schools also have a strong relationship with Libby Police Department, Lincoln County Sheriff's Office and our Fire Department who do routine walk throughs and stop by on a regular basis. 

What are your qualifications to serve as a trustee?

I am just ending a three-year term as school trustee. It has been a very positive and humbling learning experience. I believe strongly in public service and serving the community where we live and my wife was raised. I was a municipal and wildland firefighter for 32 years and have a degree in English with a Secondary Teaching Credential. I intended to teach but ultimately decided to stick with firefighting. My wife and I have two children, one graduated last year and the other is a freshman at Libby High School, so I appreciate being involved. All that being said, I try to do what is right, look at both sides of an issue, give input and make the best informed decision I can. To me it’s all about our kids and getting them to reach their goals and potential as they grow into adults.  

Troy

CAROL PARSONS

Do you have any ideas on how to improve teacher retention?

As a retired Troy teacher, I believe that by improving the education experience for both teachers and students it will help us retain dedicated, well trained and motivated teachers. Our teachers are looking for a better work/school balance. As an incumbent school trustee, I supported a mixed five-day/ four-day school calendar. I feel that when teachers feel supported, empowered and trusted by school leadership then a team approach becomes effective for building a healthy school environment and therefore improves student achievement. Providing professional development opportunities helps our teachers to grow in their skills and serve our students in meaningful ways.

Recruiting well qualified teachers to come to a small rural district with affordable housing limitations has been a challenge for our district. We have invested in the Grow-a-Teacher program which assists paraprofessionals in the district to gain the college credits and qualifications to become our future teachers therefore capitalizing on our local talent. 

Plans to deal with drug and alcohol use by students?

 As a volunteer for Unite for Youth, and a Community Outreach work group member of the Spring Up Troy, I am working diligently on programs and opportunities that engage youth and families in meaningful ways. We sponsored and worked with the sheriff's department and Northwest Task Force to present a Troy Community Fentanyl Workshop in March and the Hidden in Plain Site traveling teen bedroom that brings community awareness of current drug trends that was debuted at the Troy 5K Fun Run on April 28. We are presently coordinating with the Troy Public Schools to introduce effective drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention programs such as the Botvin LifeSkills to grades 6-10. We will be hosting an interactive table at the Troy High School Wellness Fair on May 8 and at 2 p.m. that same day, staff and students will be viewing  Screenagers - Next Chapter which we sponsored. Together, they will learn more about the impact of high stress, anxiety, and depression on young people and discover ways we can all work together to improve teen mental health.

Your qualifications to serve as a trustee?

I am seeking re-election for a second term as your board trustee. My three children graduated from Troy High School and I presently have a granddaughter in Troy Public Schools. As a retired Troy teacher with nearly 30 years of experience with the district, I feel I am well qualified for the position. I have the essential skills for leadership on the school board and background knowledge that has been helpful in making decisions. I strive to represent the parents, teachers and most importantly the students of our district. I have dedicated many years to the youth of this community and my heart has always been what is best for my students.

    Carol Parsons