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Oct 18, 2011 10:27 AM by Amanda Venegas

Tensions rise at School Board meeting - vote on new interim supt. process

BILLINGS - Tension was in the air Monday night as the Billings School Board discussed the process for selecting an interim superintendent. The board was set to meet Tuesday night to learn more or even possibly make a decision on hiring an out of state consulting firm to help with their search, but trustees quickly changed their minds.

It all started when the trustees focused on how to find an interim superintendent to replace fired Superintendent Keith Beeman. Former trustee Karen Moses addressed the board saying there needed to be a leadership change, so trustees could move forward.

The two trustees charged with leading the interim superintendent process, Travis Kemp and Connie Wardell, explained it was a difficult process.
Wardell said it was important to pick an out of state consulting firm who knew what they were doing. But trustees expressed their frustration with the cost of that process and a lack of involvement and information from the public.

After heated discussion, the board decided to come up with a new process. On a vote of five to four, trustees decided to advertise the interim position regionally for two weeks. Trustees say they need someone in place to help the district. In the meantime, they will work on a process to finding a permanent superintendent.

At times the discussion, became quite heated and the noticeable tension of the past few weeks was present once again.

Another big topic of the board meeting was early enrollment numbers. Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and Learning Gail Surwill presented preliminary results to trustees, which will be official in February. The data showed there has been tremendous growth in kindergarten through sixth grade. The district grew 323 students this year. One of the shocking statistics was the fact that 30 kindergarten classes are over class accreditation standards of 20 students per teacher. Surwill pointed out that some of the class sizes were over by just one student. However, she says, the district has made strides this year to respond to classroom sizes and has hired 14 part-time instructional aides. That was not done in the previous school year, even with growth, Surwill said.

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