With the election tomorrow and ballots already pouring in, I thought I’d try to explain why I believe Helena voters should retain Aidan Myhre and Cherche Prezeau, as well as add Libbi Lovshin to the School Board.
Before discussing the specifics of each candidate, I think it’s important to note one characteristic all of these candidates share: they are parents of children who currently attend Helena public schools. While their opponents have been running full banner ads and sending mailers about “putting parents back in charge” and listing being a mother as a qualification, neither Rush nor Renshaw has a son or daughter currently in our schools.[pullquote]Our students deserve fair-minded, critical leaders who believe in schools. Myhre, Prezeau and Lovshin are those leaders and deserve your votes.[/pullquote]
By itself, that doesn’t matter. I don’t think being a parent is the most important qualification for being a part of the School Board, but the way the Rush-Renshaw-Sticht team is running suggests something quite despicable: that somehow, their opponents aren’t parents and don’t represent “family values.” Given their commitment to the community, the schools, and their children, there is no doubt that Myhre, Prezeau, and Lovshin will oversee the school as professionals and parents. To run a campaign suggesting otherwise says a lot more about the opposition than it does about these three fine candidates.
In her presentation to Hometown Helena, Ms. Myhre listed strengths that accurately describes her time as a member of the Board: that she is more inclined to make decisions based on “facts than emotion” and that she believes making good decisions depends on listening to people. That fact-based decision making comes from background perfectly suited to the Board’s needs; with two decades of work in public affairs, Myhre understands the role of boards in good governance and effective oversight.
Her answer, when asked about the impact of poverty on graduation rates, demonstrated the approach she takes when making decisions. She understands that schools need to do a better job connecting students with marginal ties to the institution, providing a safe atmosphere, and promoting programs that teach the value of good education.
Myhre is a rational leader who asked tough questions of the District during last fall’s health curriculum debate and who helped make the document a better tool for our students to learn.
Her work in the past three years absolutely warrants a second term.
What impresses me most about Cherche Prezeau is her detailed knowledge about school programs and her commitment to reach all students. The fact that she listed being an advocate for all students, especially those who are at-risk and low-income, demonstrates that she has the right priorities to be retained on the Board.
Of all the candidates, Prezeau had the most impressive command of the programs that the District currently offers, effortlessly enumerating academies at HHS, Career Pathways, Academic Coaches, mentors, home visits,and small learning communities when asked about the best way to increase academic achievement. That level of knowledge is not only derived from three years of service on the Board, but from a passion about educational results for every child who learns in the District.
Prezeau should be retained on the Board because she will continue her commitment to increased graduation rates for all students. It’s going to take time—and continued effort and study—but Prezeau has earned the opportunity to continue her work.
Libbi Lovshin is running for a two-year term in the seat vacated by Trevor Wilkerson and deserves your support because of her professional background and enthusiasm for public schools.
Lovshin, who came to Helena in 1991, has a strong background in finance and accounting, including years as the finance director of the Lewis and Clark County Health Department. Given that perhaps the most important function of the Board is budget oversight, she will bring a welcome experienced perspective about budgeting in difficult financial times.
She’s also an enthusiastic supporter of the schools who comes from an education background and who has been on the Jefferson Parent Council. She’s spent a great deal of time in classrooms and knows firsthand that “one size fits all solutions” can’t solve the dropout rate or the other issues that plague this, and many other districts. Just as importantly, she believes in the promise of public education for all students, especially the promise of Helena schools.
Contrast that attitude with that of her opponent, Dr. Jeanne Sticht, who is “still undecided” about his support for the mill levy, and who, when asked to list the three best things about the Helena School District, could only come up with good teachers, the transportation system (?), and good “evaluation of nutrition (?!?).”
Lovshin will offer a fresh voice on the Board, combining critical analysis with optimism about our District and its students.
This election presents clear choices to voters: a dynamic group of experienced parents who care about and believe in public education against three candidates who seem much less certain about its future. Despite the claims of their opponents, Myhre, Prezeau and Lovshin are not rubber stamps for the District, unconcerned about community input and promoting a radical agenda. They are parents, professionals, and community leaders who have listened and will continue to listen to the whole community.
Finally, the nature of this campaign should be instructive. Myhre, Prezeau and Lovshin raised money from Helenans from all walks of life and ran positive, issue-oriented campaigns. Their opponents raised money from a few, ideologically driven opponents of public education angry about a single issue and ran a negative campaign that sunk into some fairly despicable territory.
Our students deserve fair-minded, critical leaders who believe in schools. Myhre, Prezeau and Lovshin are those leaders and deserve your votes.