Teachers' committee opts for experience

When it comes to electing school board members, there's no substitute for experience. At least that's the view of a committee representing teachers in the Missoula County Public Schools District.

The Missoula Unified Political Action Committee for Education announced Wednesday that it is endorsing Jenda Cummings and Barb Seekins for the two open elementary seats in the May 2 school board elections. Seekins and Cummings are involved in a four-way battle with Olan "Bubba" Alsup and Colleen Rogers for the two three-year terms on the MCPS Board.

"Both Jenda and Barb are experienced and have a good knowledge of the budget," said Nancy Fritz, the president of the Missoula Education Association. "And they see teachers as the most important part of the school system."

Cummings served on the school board from 1996 to 1999, before failing in her first bid for re-election last spring.

Seekins has served on the school board for three years and is seeking a second term.

Neither Alsup nor Rogers has school board experience. Both are involved in their first bid for public office.

The teachers' committee is made up of representatives from both the elementary and high school portions of the district. Each year, the committee makes endorsements in the MCPS Board race based on interviews with the candidates.

Fritz said one of the focal points of this year's interview session was the need for the board to develop better working relationships with each other. She said both Seekins and Cummings expressed a desire to mend fences on the often divided board.

"Jenda's experience, Jenda's knowledge of the budget and Jenda's ability to be a peacemaker" all were factors considered by the committee in making the endorsement, Fritz said.

As for Seekins, Fritz said committee members believe she has "shown a lot of growth" during her three years on the board. "Barb Seekins is very much a teachers' advocate," Fritz said. "She understands that what goes on in the classrooms is important."

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