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Bellin joins incumbent Cummings on school board

Missoula County voters Tuesday picked one newcomer and one board veteran to fill two open seats on the Missoula County Public Schools' elementary board.

Carol Bellin, 49, and incumbent Jenda Cummings, 49, were the top two vote-getters in a race with three candidates. Bellin will replace Barb Seekins, a six-year veteran on the board who did not seek re-election. Cummings will return for a third term.

Cummings received 2,348 votes; Bellin garnered 2,331 votes; and Peter A. Mitchell, 54, a first-time candidate, received 1,798 votes.

"I'm really excited about winning a seat on the board," Bellin said. "I guess I'm most grateful to the voters who did turn out. And I'm especially grateful for their voting in the mill levies which will make it a little easier to face such challenging financial times."

"Missoula has come through again as it has so many times, showing its priority is education first," she said. "I wish our state legislature would get that message as well."

Bellin is project coordinator at Women's Opportunity and Resource Development Inc. and has worked 20 years in nonprofit administration and program management.

Her goals are to protect the district's high quality education by supporting teachers, sustaining neighborhood schools and tackling the district budget with hard work and creativity, she said.

She supports the district developing and implementing a long-term facilities plan that efficiently uses district resources and includes consolidating administration buildings. She also has stated the district may need to redraw some school boundaries or plan to reopen some closed schools.

She has supported keeping Prescott School open, saying she has concerns about moving Prescott's fifth-grade to Rattlesnake Middle School. She also is worried about how Lowell Elementary students will arrive at Rattlesnake in sixth grade, a year after a fifth-grade class has become established.

Incumbent Jenda Cummings was also pleased to see the levies pass Tuesday and to win another three-year term on the board.

"I'm delighted," Cummings said. "You just never know about elections and you don't ever want to take anything for granted."

Cummings thanked Mitchell for throwing his hat in the ring.

"I hope he stays active in the district," she said. "I think he has a lot to contribute."

Cummings said she looks forward to working with Bellin and welcomed her to the board.

"It's nice to go in with the levies passing," she added.

Cummings, a former journalist and now stay-at-home mom, sought a third term to continue serving at a job she views as a privilege and an opportunity to give back to the Missoula community. Her top concerns are maintaining a high quality education in the face of continued budget cuts, she said.

She supports a long-range plan for the budget, facilities and program delivery. She also supports the middle school model and expressed concern about possible interest in returning to K-8 schools.

She said she encourages increased parent and community involvement in schools.

Reporter Jane Rider can be reached at 523-5298 or at jrider@missoulian.com

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