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The recently elected Bozeman School Board trustees are focused on the upcoming superintendent search and summer plans to reassess COVID-19 policies and plans in the district.

The three incumbents and one newcomer won the school board election on May 4 and said they are ready to jump into the tasks ahead, including maintaining strong relationships throughout the district and larger Bozeman community.

Chairperson Sandy Wilson and Trustees Douglas Fischer and Gary Lusin all won their reelection bids. Lei-Anna Bertelsen, who has a 30-year education history, won her first term. Wilson was the only candidate to file for the high school district seat, while eight candidates vied for the other three seats.

“The voters gave Bozeman a good school board,” said Fischer, who is entering his third term as a trustee. “… The community gave us a board that is focused on its mission of making sure every child can succeed.”

The approaches from each trustee might differ but, Fischer said, the members all have the common goal of ensuring students’ success in education.

The four recently elected trustees said they’d all focus on launching the search for a permanent superintendent and reconvening the COVID-19 task force this summer as preparations begin for the next school year.

A school board committee, which included Wilson and Lusin, recently updated the superintendent job description and leadership profile.

Wilson said the next two superintendent search tasks are to update the contract and change the candidate evaluation tool to more closely align with the job description so board’s “expectations are measurable.”

The goal is to have much of it done this summer before the district launches a nation-wide search, so “anyone applying or who gets to the interview process, they know exactly what we’re looking for,” Wilson said.

Lusin agreed there was more work to do and said it was important for the job description and other assessment tools to be updated in a way that “represents the job of the superintendent in our district as it exists now and what the board expects it to be in the future.”

Selecting a candidate who understands the needs of the district will be important, Bertelsen said.

“We fell down a little bit there in our previous efforts,” Fishcer said of the superintendent search. “… We bought ourselves some time to conduct an open and comprehensive search for a permanent superintendent.”

The COVID-19 task force, which was held in November 2020, will reconvene this summer to look at data from the last year and discuss what education should look like for fall 2021.

The recently elected trustees said they’re looking forward to hearing what comes from that consensus process.

“We have a year that’s winding down that was like no other year,” Bertelsen said, adding it will be important to look at what should be carried forward from this last year and ways to improve on learning for next school year.

“I fully expect us to be back in full-time in the fall but what precautions do we need to take,” Fischer said. “I want to hear from the task force in that.”

In addition to those two priorities, trustees said they’re always looking to enhance communication in the district and build strong connections, especially after an election that saw increased candidates and a focus on politics in a historically nonpartisan election.

“Voters said they want trustees that don’t bring an agenda, they don’t want to inject partisanship,” Fischer said. “… It was a surprisingly political fight for a nonpartisan race.”

Lusin, who has been on the board for the last 16 years, said it was the most political elections he’s been involved in.

“The election demonstrates that the vast majority of the public was attune to what’s gone on in the past year and was paying attention to what’s needed in the district and voted accordingly,” Lusin said. “But the public trust is something that is a continuous process in the district.”

The candidates said they saw their role on the board as nonpartisan.

“I feel strongly that our board should not be politicized,” Wilson said.

Bertelsen, the newest member on the board, said it was a privilege to be elected and she would carry that forward to build trust in the community. With 12 years of teaching experience in the district, she also said she was looking forward to bringing that classroom perspective into board discussions.

Wilson, who is the lone high school only district board members, said she was also planning to do outreach to the rural elementary districts on what her role is and how she can be a voice for them within BSD7.

She said she’s looking at “how can I communicate to the parents and families and also to the tax payers and community-at-large in those rural communities.”

The four trustees are scheduled to be sworn in at the next school board meeting on May 17, and the whole board will vote on the chair and vice-chair positions.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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