Kalispell School Board Candidate Interview: Heidi Hickethier

Hickethier is the director of the Immanuel Foundation, the nonprofit organization of the Immanuel Lutheran Communities in Kalispell, and is a former employee of Flathead Valley Community College and the Kalispell Public Schools.

By Denali Sagner

Flathead Beacon: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Heidi Hickethier: My name is Heidi Hickethier and I am a native Montanan living in Kalispell for the past 24 years. My amazing husband, Don Hickethier, and I have been married for 30 years, and we have two extremely talented daughters. I hold a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) from Western Governor’s University and Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Communications from the University of Montana Western. I have a servant’s heart and have always held professional positions that made me feel like I was contributing to the greater good.  

Currently I am the Director of the Immanuel Foundation and raise funds to support Immanuel Living’s efforts to provide safe, vibrant homes for low-income seniors.  

Before coming to the Immanuel Foundation I worked at the Flathead Valley Community College, where I was the Director of Foundation Development. I helped secure donations to support student scholarships, programs, and capital projects. 

Before joining the FVCC team, I worked at Kalispell Public Schools in a number of different capacities. 

FB: What is your relationship to the Kalispell Public Schools? 

HH: I served Kalispell Public Schools in a number of different capacities. Most importantly, I am a mother of two daughters who successfully graduated from KPS. I was the PTO president at Russell Elementary, an Office Manager at Edgerton Elementary, the Executive Assistant to a former Superintendent, and ultimately worked in the finance department at Kalispell Public Schools.   

FB: Why are you running for school board?  

HH: As an empty nester I would love the opportunity to give back to the school system that gave so much to our family. The collective opportunities KPS offered helped our daughters become the successful citizens they are today.  

FB: What are some positive elements of the Kalispell Public Schools you’d like to see continued as a school board trustee? 

HH: I believe KPS provides many opportunities for a wide variety of students. I would like to support the efforts of teachers, staff, and administrators who believe that one size does not fit all students. Through a wide lens I have seen first-hand the way the district helps students be all they can be. I want to be a part of that for our future generations.  

FB: What are some things you’d like to change about the district as a trustee? 

As a new trustee I feel it is important not to have an agenda. I believe in listening, working with others to create and enhance stellar opportunities for students, and using my skillset to serve as part of something bigger than myself.  

FB: Alongside school districts across Montana, the Kalispell Public Schools have faced considerable financial challenges this year. Depending on the fate of upcoming levies, the district is set to face a budget deficit between $1.3 million and $3.1 million. What do you see as the best path forward as the district navigates financial challenges? 

HH: Many school districts and families are facing considerable financial challenges today. We are a community that pulls together in times of need. Hopefully we can pass the upcoming levies for kids. What a way to invest in our kids, who hold the future of our community in their hands. I also believe if we work hard on creating a solid budget with built in contingencies we can help minimize any potential deficits. Making sure we have good enrollment projections for incoming revenue and a firm grasp on upcoming expenditures will help determine next steps. As a new trustee stepping in, I look forward to learning more about the work already completed by KPS committees around these financial challenges, and I will lend my expertise in budget and finance to address issues. I also look forward to learning how we can advocate for better school funding at the state level.  

FB: KPS over the past few years has focused on personalized competency-based education (PCBE) and work-based learning as methods to create individualized educational opportunities for students. What do you think the role of PCBE and career-focused education should be in students’ learning? 

HH: During my KPS work experience, I witnessed teachers, staff, and administrators go above and beyond to make sure students had every chance to realize their best potential. No two students were alike. Each had different academic, social, and behavioral needs. PCBE is an exciting approach to address individual needs and interests of students while preparing them for a promising future.     

FB: What experience / skills do you have that would make you an effective school board trustee? 

HH: My experience in a variety of KPS positions combined with business and nonprofit work will allow me to effectively serve as a trustee. I am a mother of KPS graduates, I listen well, I work well with others, and I want to give back in a positive way. I look forward to being part of something bigger than myself so our students can realize their potential, no matter their gifts.