A New Superintendent for the Helena School District

It would appear the Helena School District will be looking for a new superintendent almost immediately. From the Snohomish School District web page:

The School Board held a special meeting this morning to continue the superintendent candidate discussion during an executive session. Following the executive session, during an open meeting, it was decided by a vote of 5-0 to select Kent Kultgen for the position of Superintendent of Snohomish School District, effective July 1, 2016. Dr. Kultgen comes to us from Montana, where he has 25 years in education, the last 14 as a superintendent. The Board anticipates approving a three-year contract with Dr. Kultgen at the regular Board meeting on April 13, 2016.

Update: As I was writing, Dr. Kultgen notified the HSD staff via e-mail that he had accepted the Snohomish position.

It seemed obvious that Superintendent Kultgen would be leaving soon, after this space broke the news that he had applied for another position in Walla Walla, Washington. We wish him the best of luck in his new position.

The opening does create some interesting challenges for the Helena School District, to be sure. The timing isn’t ideal to begin a broad search for a replacement. When Kultgen himself was hired, he was chosen on March 21, after a lengthy search and interview process. While there will certainly be qualified applicants interested in the job, earlier notice always provides for a better field of candidates.

Kultgen’s departure also comes in the midst of School Board elections that seem, in part, to offer a referendum on the more controversial element of his tenure in the District, the bond that failed to pass over the objections of a deeply divided community.

Another concern is that the District implemented a policy under Kultgen that would seem to limit the pool of potential internal, interim candidates for the job. Back in 2013, when Capital High School was seeking to replace its principal mid-year, new District policy prohibited the current assistant principal at CHS from both serving as the interim principal and applying for the permanent job. According to the Independent Record then, Dr. Kultgen issued a staff memo outlining the reasons it was inappropriate for an interim candidate to be considered for a permanent position, including the arguments that the policy “provides the best opportunity for a large pool of qualified applicants” and allowing an interim candidate to apply “immediately divides the staff and community between those who want that person to be hired and those who don’t.”

That policy, if upheld in this case, could certainly limit either the field of potential interim superintendents and applicants for the permanent position.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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