News & Features

Kalispell School Board Approves Flathead Principal Hire, Property Acquisition

Hedges Elementary principal Natalie Miller bids farewell after nine years

The Kalispell Public Schools Board of Trustees approved the hiring of new principals at Flathead High School and Hedges Elementary while also purchasing new property for parking needs.

John Blackman, who was recommended by a 16-person selection committee, was formally hired as the next principal at Flathead by unanimous decision at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Blackman will replace Peter Fusaro, who has served 20 years at the high school, including the last 11 as principal. Fusaro is stepping down to fill a new position at Flathead Valley Community College as director of the Trades and Industrial Arts Department.

Blackman is the current assistant superintendent and human resources director at Blaine County School District in Hailey, Idaho. Blackman emerged as the top choice out of four finalists who interviewed last week for the top administrative position at Flathead.

Blackman will begin serving as principal on July 1 and receive an annual salary of $110,977.

The school board also approved the hire of a new principal at Hedges Elementary School. Brent Benkelman will replace Natalie Miller, who is stepping down after nine years. Miller has accepted a new position in Texas. Benkelman is the outgoing principal at West Valley School.

“It has been an honor to work with a team of educators who believe in and feel this congruent commitment,” she wrote in an online farewell message. “Kalispell’s School District #5 has provided me with an extended family who consistently supported me and authentically believed in me before I believe in myself. Throughout the last nine years, I have been provided with the skills, guidance, and the foundation to lead and inspire others to have the ultimate grit to ensure a positive impact for students to strive for academic, behavioral, and social success.”

The school board also unanimously approved the acquisition of property next to Flathead High School for additional parking in the future. The board approved using $150,000 from the approved high school bond to purchase the property at 730 Fifth Ave. E. The property, which is owned by Ivan and Connie Lorentzen and Bill and Sue Schottelkorb, features two rental homes equaling a combined total of roughly 1,200 square feet.

School district officials said the purchase price was fair market value. The funds were part of last October’s $28.76 million bond request for renovations and improvements in the high school district. The new property will be used for additional parking near the high school, which has caused congestion issues in the past.