Pachyderm Club quizzes MCPS board candidates on variety of issues

2013-05-04T07:00:00Z 2013-05-07T07:00:51Z Pachyderm Club quizzes MCPS board candidates on variety of issues

Five of nine Missoula County school board candidates spent Friday afternoon in the hot seat at the Five Valleys Pachyderm Club.

For about 50 minutes, the candidates answered a diverse array of questions concerning everything from the time commitment of the job to how to get more free-enterprise classes in the schools.

Taking the turn at the microphone were incumbents Scott Bixler and Joe Toth and newcomer Diane Lorenzen, who are running for one of three open seats with full three-year terms.

Rose Dickson and Scott Todd, who are both vying for the one-year elementary school seat, also participated in the event.

All of the candidates expressed support of the Missoula County Public Schools technology levies, as the funding will cover only the replacement of existing equipment, and all agreed on the need for better communication between the board, administration and the community.

Before answering questions, each candidate had two minutes to explain why they want to be a trustee for Missoula County Public Schools.

Responding in alphabetical order, Bixler used the time to show the depth of his knowledge about the district and why the technology levies need support by providing answers to a quiz he printed up and supplied to the audience of 20 people.

Among the factoids Bixler’s quiz provided:

MCPS has more than 3,700 computers and 588 printers that are replaced every five to six years, he said. The number of states that scored higher than Montana eighth-graders in reading is zero, average composite ACT score for Missoula 11th-graders is 23.1 while the national average is 21.1, and 49.1 percent of MCPS elementary students qualify for free and reduced lunches.

Lorenzen explained she has served on other school boards in the state and enjoys the work. Her priorities are ensuring the district is frugal with its money, and has a sensible spending plan in place should the technology levies pass.

Toth said after nine years on the board and helping the district move forward, he wants that good work to continue. He’s particularly proud of the work that has increased graduation rates and reduced dropout rates. He also would continue his work championing the arts and music programs.

Dickson, who graduated from Big Sky High School in 2010 and is an education major at the University of Montana, said she would bring a fresh perspective to the board. She believes some groups within the district have been well served by the board’s decisions, but she is concerned that others have been left out. She want to make sure “everyone feels they have a place and their needs are being met.”

Todd, who has served 11 weeks on the board after being appointed in February to the remainder of a term left open by a trustee resignation, said he’s learned a lot so far and is excited to continue on the board. Improving communication with the community is critical, as MCPS does not do a good job talking about the great things it does achieve with students and staff.


When asked about the role of parents in the education of children, all of the candidates agreed parents play a critical role.

All encouraged more parent involvement. Lorenzen separated herself from the pack by stating that the school day is just one part of a child’s day and that it is important for parents to be ready and prepared to teach and inspire students after school.

Concerns about the Common Core standards were raised by the audience, and the candidates all said that because Montana has adopted the curriculum, there’s no turning back from its demands.

Bixler said it’s a great idea like No Child Left Behind, and it will take money and energy to make it work effectively.

Toth said because it specifically addresses what students know and what they need to know, it will be a good thing. Because it requires computer testing throughout the district by 2015, the need for the technology levy and working bandwidth and computers is critical.

Todd said that although Common Core will be implemented in the fall and the state Legislature has adopted it, he’s hoping the MCPS district won’t have to buy a bunch of new textbooks. On some level he is supportive of the data-collecting nature of the curriculum.

Dickson expressed a concern that in general, students are buried in homework, and she would like for students to have homework that truly matters and is not busy work.

Lorenzen said she didn’t know much about Common Core, but believes the district should protect kids from all the testing it will require. She believes the district should do the minimal testing to comply with the requirements in order for students’ education to not be disrupted.

The objective of the Friday event was to provide information so that voters could make decisions about the candidates, said Susan Muralt, president of the Pachyderm Club.

Absent from the candidate forum were Michael Beers and Julie Tompkins, who are running for a seat to represent the high school district for three years. Drake Lemm and Ann Wake, who are running for the Lolo, Woodman, Desmet three-year seat to represent the high school district, also were absent.

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. The_Boneshackler
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    The_Boneshackler - May 04, 2013 9:34 pm
    Painting with a broad brush takes effort.
  2. Run - A- Mook
    Report Abuse
    Run - A- Mook - May 04, 2013 7:47 pm
    you are in rare form today
  3. libertarian
    Report Abuse
    libertarian - May 04, 2013 12:31 pm
    The schools will still get our money, even when this issue fails. With SB 175 the schools will get more money, and the admin costs will continue to increase. Just look at all the other taxes, the property owners pays. It's no wonder so e people are forced to sell because of these taxes and fees. Computers should be a budget item, not something that the property owners are asked to pay for. This time vote no!
  4. The_Boneshackler
    Report Abuse
    The_Boneshackler - May 04, 2013 12:06 pm
    Why do the candidates even care what the party of old, white, Big Government, Constitution-hating (except for the 2nd Amendment) Christian extremist, Oligarch apologists think? These are the folks who drool at the prospect of turning over control of our educational system to the Wall Street banking cartels and the anti-science American Taliban.
  5. Got concrete
    Report Abuse
    Got concrete - May 04, 2013 9:03 am
    My wife was at this forum. These new candidates won't change your opinion, walter12.
  6. Run - A- Mook
    Report Abuse
    Run - A- Mook - May 04, 2013 8:38 am
  7. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - May 04, 2013 7:59 am
    Walter do you have any experience with the schools here? Or around the country? Are you buying in to the Glen Beck dogma ( sounds like you are. I went to school at the Univerity of Montana at a later age and found it a wonderful experience where I was taught to think independently and to consider ALL SIDES of an issue. Education is not left or right and there are both in the education system. The idea is to have independent and well informed students and citizens. If you want to call the truths surrounding global warming a "leftist" idea, so be it. Global warming and the results of carbon emission ( this is science and based on FACTS so do not want to overload any conservative brain cells here), are going to effect us no matter what political party or philosophy you embrace. The problem with conservative thinking is that it closes off the introduction of new ideas to students. It snubs common sense thinking when it comes to sex education, something students are going to do in high school no matter what political party they belong to ( usually none at that point) and worst of all to conservatives, heaven forbid if we should introduce other religious concepts other than their rigid Judeo Christian dogma. If it does not agree with the rigid and backward standards of conservative thinking ( not that all conservative ideas are bad) then it is leftist. it is ridiculous. Many right wing nuts here also complain about teachers pensions and then being off in the summer concept of what hours are involved in teaching, the lesson plans done in the evening after school and the planning and summer school things done in the summer. These idiots even resent that. No, the problem is right wing conservative rigidity and name calling rather than trying to find middle ground. Just look at the way your Tea Party ideas have shut down the government. Doing that to our children and not giving them the right to learn and grow without that dogma is basically child abuse in my opinion and you creeps ought to be ashamed that you can not see that simple fact.
  8. Run - A- Mook
    Report Abuse
    Run - A- Mook - May 04, 2013 7:24 am
    off subject.
    Hey Missoulian, where is the cartoon of the obummercare
    train wreck, that you had in the hard copy of the missoulian
    this past week. You know, the one with the train setting in
    a river/lake and all of the demoRATS abandoning it? "Rats"
    are what you showed. Maybe on 2nd. thought, you figured
    it did not meet your guidelines for lift-wing civil dialogue????
  9. walter12
    Report Abuse
    walter12 - May 04, 2013 6:57 am
    Ever since the end of the Vietnam War in and around 1971/72, the American Public School system has become a home for leftists of that day and it has continued right through today. From the professors at the universities to the teachers and administration in the public high schools, liberals (leftists) progressives have become the dominant force in the schools. They dictate policy and subject matter and provide for a daily lesson in leftist propaganda for the children. This fact is well know throughout the country now. MCPS and its board is no different. Some of its staff and Board are hard core leftists. This is what must be dealt with on a daily basis at the schools.
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