Ballot drop

As it stands, the three candidates for Missoula County Public Schools' board of trustees will be elected by acclamation.

Incumbents Heidi Kendall and Jennifer Newbold filed for the two open K-12 seats on the board. Facing no challengers, an MCPS board resolution approved last month will go into effect, electing them by acclamation and cancelling the May 2 trustee election for MCPS.

The same goes for the sole candidate for a high school seat representing the Seeley Lake region, Elliott Dugger, who lives in the Potomac valley.

Write-in candidates still have until 5 p.m. Thursday to file, however, and if any file for these seats, it would trigger an election.

Dugger is running for the seat vacated by Debbie Dupree's departure after 15 years on the board. The seat represents Seeley-Swan High, as well as the Clinton, Potomac, Sunset and Swan Valley districts.

He and his wife decided three years ago they wanted to make Montana their home, moving here from Georgia. They both have backgrounds in special education: she now teaches in Arlee, and he's now wrapping up his law degree at the University of Montana after a 20-year teaching career.

"One of the things that drew me out here — besides the fact that my wife and I traveled this part of the world a little while and I fell in love with Montana almost instantly — was the education clause in the state constitution," Dugger said. "It's a very strong clause, and a responsibility that the people of Montana have taken upon themselves to educate their children."

He wants to see education get back on track after what he saw as a failure of No Child Left Behind being a "one size fits all product."

"I think that's where public trust comes into play," he said. "It broke down because of that."

Change happens at the local level, he said, which is why he wants to serve on the school board.

"Education was always intended to be locally controlled," he said. "We need to listen to parents and children about what they want to do with their lives. It's only at the local level where the rubber meets the road, when you're sitting in that school can you really get in tune with what that looks like for that community."


The only local school board race with challengers so far will be in Frenchtown, with four people on the ballot for two seats.

Incumbents Evan Jordan and Teresa Teagle filed, as did challengers Bryce Simpson and Lauren Atkin.

By the filing deadline Thursday, no one had filed for two seats on the Alberton school board, two seats on the Florence school board, or the sole open seat on the DeSmet school board.

Throughout Missoula County, several incumbents want to retain their seats:

  • Tom McLaughlin and Rich Thornock filed again for the two open seats on the Hellgate Elementary board.
  • Brandon Wright filed again for his seat on the Lolo board.
  • Wendy Forgey and Lisa Koetter filed for the two seats on the Arlee board.
  • Ryan Ludemann filed for one of the two open seats on the Bonner board.
  • Bill Paulson filed for the open seat on the Woodman board.
  • Jennifer Long and Bob Carter filed for the two three-year seats on the Target Range board. 
  • Todd Johnson filed for one of the two seats on the Seeley Lake board.

Incumbent Kelsey Ployhar and another candidate, Steven VanGrinsven, filed for the two open seats on the Potomac board.

Incumbent Ann Halverson and candidate Doug Kopp filed for the two seats on the Clinton board.

Ann Lowder filed for the one-year term on the Target Range board.

Laura Nygard-Russell filed for the two-year seat on the Sunset board, and Juanita Vero filed for the three-year seat.

James Demarest Boyd filed for one of the two seats on the Swan board.

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Reporter for the Missoulian