The Bozeman School Board voted Wednesday to hire two new elementary principals, promoting Robin Arnold from assistant principal to lead Morning Star School and selecting Casey Bertram of Kalispell to lead Hawthorne School.

“I’m thrilled,” Arnold said after the board voted 7-0 to approve both recommendations from Superintendent Rob Watson.

Bertram was hundreds of miles away – taking students on a field trip in Glacier National Park – but participated in the School Board meeting by conference call.

“I’m excited to join your team,” said Bertram, principal of Cornelius Hedges School, thanking the board for the offer. “I loved my time in Bozeman.”

Asked how she would help the Morning Star community heal after the contentious decision to take some neighborhoods out of its attendance area to reduce crowding, Arnold said she feels healing has already started. She said she and current Principal Tom Siegel have been listening to parents and reminding people of the big picture.

“We have a great education system in Bozeman,” Arnold tells parents. “You’re in the hands of people who are nurturing, caring and really want the best for your child, and if you partner with them, you can’t go wrong.”

Arnold thanked her “mentor,” Marilyn King, deputy superintendent, who gave her a hug.

Arnold will replace Siegel, whose family is moving to Denver. Bertram will fill a vacancy created by the promotion of Robin Miller to curriculum director.

Twenty-three people applied for the two openings, and four finalists were considered. The new principals start July 1.

Watson said he chose Bertram for his collaborative leadership style and “proven record of success.” People described Bertram as hardworking, visionary and student-centered. What persuaded him most, Watson said, was one person’s description of Bertram as one of the best school administrators they had worked with in 28 years.

Bertram was profiled in Education Northwest Magazine in 2011. It reported that despite 50 percent of “Hedges” students coming from low-family incomes, 100 percent of third- and fifth-graders tested at grade level or higher in reading and 90 percent in math. The U.S. Department of Education named it a Title I Distinguished School in 2010.

Bertram was one of the youngest principals in Montana when hired in 2007 at age 29. Before that, he was a fifth-grade teacher, dean of students and assistant principal in Kalispell. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Great Falls and master’s in education administration from the University of Phoenix.

Watson thanked Patti Harrison, Hawthorne’s interim principal this year, for maintaining the school’s “wonderful record of success.” She will return to teaching and coaching, administrators said.

Arnold, 51, has 20 years experience as a teacher and six as an administrator, working as Bozeman’s curriculum director and assistant principal for Morning Star and Emily Dickinson schools. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University, a teaching degree from Fresno State in California, and a master’s in education from Montana State University.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 582-2633.



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