Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Mark Flatau, who has overseen the district during a period of expansive growth in both enrollment and facility upgrades, has announced that he’ll retire at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
In a letter to families and staff, Flatau said he was confident in his decision, although it comes with “mixed emotions.” He has been at the helm of the district since 2014, replacing Darlene Schottle, who had served as superintendent for the previous 11 years. His last day will be June 30, 2020.
Entering his sixth year in the district, Flatau said his tenure has been among the “most rewarding” years of his 43-year career in education, including 15 as a superintendent.
“Rest assured, I will remain KPS #1 fan and supporter knowing that ‘Kalispell Public Schools is the best place to live, learn and work,’” Flatau wrote in his letter.
Flatau came to the Flathead from the Cle Elum-Roslyn School District in Washington, where he was superintendent for nine years. Prior to that, he spent the majority of his education career — 26 years — in a variety of roles in the North Mason School District of western Washington, where he was a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent.
Flatau believes the timing for retirement is right for several reasons, including the district’s construction projects wrapping up in 2020. A $54 million bond package approved by voters in 2016 launched construction across the district, including the new Rankin Elementary School and a thorough makeover of Flathead High School, among numerous other projects either completed or nearing completion within the next year.
Flatau also says the district currently has an “excellent” stable of administrators who will make the transition smooth. Furthermore, he’s ready to devote more time to family, with his daughter, her husband and three kids moving to Kalispell next summer.
“The (grandkids) will be very active in lots of different activities,” he said in an interview. “The oldest will be a freshman — that’s hard to imagine. Part of me just doesn’t want to miss out on any of those things.”
Flatau added that his son, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, is moving from the East Coast to Las Vegas, which is a short flight away. Flatau and his wife, Gayle, will continue living in Kalispell and remain active in the community. He’s also not overlooking his final year.
“My goal is to make it the best year ever,” he said.
Flatau made the announcement now to give the district ample time to find his replacement, a move lauded by Kalispell’s public school board chair, Lance Isaak, who said it “allows us to advertise and recruit for this important position early in the school year and attract the best candidates possible.” The board plans to select a search consultant in the coming weeks and begin developing the details and timeline of the hiring process.
“We congratulate Mr. Flatau on his upcoming retirement and thank him for his exemplary service,” Isaak said.
Flatau said he’s proud of the district’s ability to manage growth and “most importantly the ability to pass our $54 million-plus bond for renovations and improvements to our facilities.”
“We’re really just very grateful for that,” he said. “It was a team effort in getting that passed.”
He also said he was proud of the district for “continuing to build on the excellence that Kalispell Public Schools represents and stands for” and its “outstanding staff and amazing graduates.”
“When they walk across that stage, that represents 12 or 13 years of formal education for those kids,” he said. “We graduate some of the best in the nation, no doubt in my mind.”