Kevin Black

Kevin Black

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Two candidates have filed to run for two trustee openings on the Bozeman School Board, and Thursday is the filing deadline for the May 5 school election.

Incumbent Greg Neil, 44, a partner in the First West insurance agency, has served on the school board for three years and is seeking a second term.

Kevin Black, 43, a commercial real estate agent with Gene Cook Real Estate, is running for the School Board for the first time.

Two seats on the eight-person board are up in this election. The school board oversees and sets policies for the fast-growing school district, its 7,100 students, 820 full-time employees and $95 million in spending. Trustees serve for three years without pay.

Heide Arneson, 59, who teaches aviation classes at Gallatin College, has served on the board for 12 years and decided not to seek a fifth term.

Black said Tuesday he decided to run because he has been active in the community many years, including service with the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce, Gallatin Lions Club and Gallatin Valley Tournament Committee that seeks to bring high school sports events to this area.

“I grew up in Bozeman, I’ve two kids in the school district,” Black said. “I feel there’s a lot of great things going on in the school district with a lot of great people. I want to support it in the best way I can.”

Black said he served nine years on the board of the Bozeman Schools Foundation, the nonprofit that raises money for the schools, and as chairman he was passionate about developing a strategic plan.

He also volunteered for many months on the high school Transition Committee, which made major recommendations about opening Bozeman’s second high school. He said he was proud of the decision on drawing attendance boundaries for the two schools, which was more data-driven than decisions about Gallatin High School’s new name, mascot and colors.

Black was asked about a potential conflict of interest that could come up when the school board has to decide in a few years where to build its ninth elementary school. Voters in 2018 approved buying land in two locations – on West Babcock near Davis Lane and in the Woodland Park subdivision near Four Corners, which Gene Cook Real Estate is developing. Black said if there were a conflict and it was in the best interests of the school district, he would be willing to recuse himself from that decision.

Black graduated from Bozeman High in 1995 and Montana State University with a degree in business administration in 1999. He managed the Wingate Inn for seven years, worked for a software company two years and for the Gene Cook company for 11 years.

He and his wife, Amanda, who works at the Comfort Inn, have two children, who attend Bozeman High and Sacajawea Middle School.

Neil, a 1993 Bozeman High graduate, said in January when announcing his run for re-election that he has enjoyed his three years on the board, though there’s a steep learning curve.

Neil said he’s proud of all the efforts to build new Gallatin High School.

He has served on the high school Transition Committee, and worked on committees that planned the upcoming redesign of Bozeman High and recommended building a new sports stadium, as more cost effective than renovating the old stadium.

“The Bozeman School District, I hold close to my heart,” Neil said. “I’m thankful I’ve been able to be a part of it.”

Neil and his wife, Kara, a physical therapist, have four children in the Bozeman schools.

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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