Kalispell Superintendent’s Contract Extended Through 2014

By Beacon Staff

The Kalispell school board agreed to extend the contract of its superintendent through 2014 at a meeting on Jan. 10.

Members of the Kalispell Public Schools Board of Trustees conducted an annual evaluation with Darlene Schottle, the School District 5 superintendent since 2003, and added a year to her contract, which was set to expire June 30, 2013. Schottle’s salary remains $115,985.

In an interview with the Beacon, Schottle outlined a few priorities she and the school board will be focusing on in 2012, including the possibility of presenting a new school levy to improve building and technology infrastructure across the district, reducing high school dropout rates and addressing overcrowding in the elementary schools.

Schottle said improving graduation rates at Kalispell’s two high schools is a “significant goal.” Statistics from 2010 showed roughly one in five kids who enter high school in District 5 fail to graduate in four years. Schottle would like the district to explore new ways to “make school meaningful for our students and keep them engaged” and that could include providing “new vocational and real-life opportunities” and online schooling options.

Another issue facing Kalispell schools is the growing number of elementary students. Near the beginning of the school year, the district was the equivalency of eight classrooms short for elementary students.

Schottle and the school board are working on an updated long-range facility plan. Board members are currently in the preliminary stages of discussing a couple possible levy options that could be presented to voters within the next year, Schottle said.

One option is an operational levy that could be used for any general needs within the district, Schottle said. Another option is a more specific levy, like a technology levy or a building and technology levy. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the district’s previous building and technology reserve levy in March 2011 for the second time in as many years. The levy would have aided facility upgrade needs across the district. As a result, roughly $180,000 has been taken out of the general fund to pay for district-wide demands this year, Schottle said.

Schottle said the current situation requires upgrades or potential expansion of district-wide facilities, such as a new kitchen. In 2010, voters approved the purchase of property to be used for a new elementary school kitchen, but the district has not had sufficient funds to complete it, Schottle said.

Schottle reflected on the impact a levy can have in helping maintain a healthy school system and wished she and others had further emphasized that impact in the past.

“I don’t think we told our story perhaps as well to our community members,” she said, adding, “We need to make sure that they see the schools as an integral part of community life. I think we need to share that story better.”

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