Voters will pick two new trustees to serve on Butte School District No. 1's elementary Board of Trustees in a May 7 election.
That's because both of the current trustees, J.P Gallagher and Kelly Howery, declined to file re-election paperwork with county Clerk and Recorder Sally Hollis by the late March deadline.
Gallagher and Howery's replacements will serve for the next three years, during what will likely be a crucial period for the district as it looks to spend a $35-million bond aimed at improving district elementary schools and East Middle School.
The candidates are Christy Zimpel, a registered nurse with Highlands Hospice; Kelly Lee, a firefighter with the Butte-Silver Bow Fire Department; and Quinton Queer, the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 41 training center coordinator.
Zimpel says her decision to run for one of the elementary trustee seats came from her two kids, who are at East Middle School and Whittier Elementary School, and from the value she places on education.
Zimpel is a clinical manager and registered nurse with Highlands Hospice. She believes her leadership skills and experience in nursing will help her find reasonable solutions for problems that may arise within Butte public elementary schools.
“Nursing is ever changing. You play a different role every day, and you have to help people get through the constant change,” Zimpel said. “I would like to sit down to talk with students and administrators about what they want and open conversations to find solutions that work.”
And Zimpel has a few things she’d like to address right off the bat if she’s elected to the board. She said she’s heard from other parents and her own kids that many students feel they don’t have enough time to eat their lunch and that they come home hungry most days after school.
“Being a nurse, it’s hard to scarf down my lunch in 15 minutes, so it’s hard to imagine kids being able to do that,” Zimpel said, noting her kids often come home with half of their lunches uneaten. “I’d like to look into other options and things the district has tried.”
Zimpel also said she feels her experience as a student can help her relate to students in the Butte public schools. She’s working toward a Master’s of Science and Nursing for Leadership Management degree online, and she said she knows what it’s like to be in the local students’ shoes.
“Education is important, so we need to make sure students get every possible opportunity available to succeed,” Zimpel said.
Kelly Lee, another candidate running for an elementary trustee seat, expressed a similar passion.
“I’m from Butte, and I went through the public school system and received a good education,” Lee said. “I want to make sure the kids now and the kids in the future have the same opportunities that I had.”
Lee, who has been a firefighter for the Butte-Silver Bow Fire Department for over 10 years, has two elementary students in the public school district. He said he doesn’t have any issues he’d like to address right away but is motivated to help out the less fortunate.
“As a firefighter, you go into a lot of different places and see kids not in the best environments. It breaks my heart sometimes,” Lee said. “I just want to help kids get a good education so they can further their life.”
Outside of his mission to support Butte public education, Lee said he feels it’s important to be involved in community in general — and it shows. Lee is on the Butte Civic Center’s board of directors, the president of Mile High Little League baseball, and the vice president of the local firefighter’s union.
“Growing up, my parents helped with everything. … Now I have the opportunity to give,” Lee said.
Like Lee and Zimpel, Quinton Queer is also a Butte native with two kids enrolled in the local public school system. But Queer’s motivations to run for a trustee seat are a little different.
Queer has been the training coordinator for the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 41 union for nearly five years. In that role, he oversees all of the specialized training offered by the union to its members. He said his union has a great relationship with the public school district but that he would like to be on the school board to help ensure local people are put to work on the $35-million bond project.
Queer also said he’d like to see continued support from the public school district for vocational training. He said the local 41 union often hires people from other Montana cities or states because there are no local applicants.
“I think schools need to change from pushing every kid toward college,” Queer said, noting that he thinks that’s starting to happen. “Historically, kids are pushed toward vocational training as a backup plan, but I think it’s just as, if not more, important than a college degree.”
If Queer is elected to the board of trustees, he feels he can advocate for both local tradespeople and for students interested in receiving a vocational education after high school. Queer also says he feels students receiving this education can help boost the local economy.
“If guys and girls pursue jobs in all trades out of (high) school, it can help keep them home and keep their money here,” Queer said.
Queer, Lee, and Zimpel all said they don’t plan on actively campaigning for the May school board election.
The May ballot was also supposed to include candidates for the two-year high school trustee seat up for re-election, but no one filed paperwork to run for the board position.
According to Dennis Clague, business administrator for Butte School District No. 1, the district will put a notice in the paper after the May election to inform people the high school seat is open. Anyone interested and qualified will be asked to submit a letter of interest, Clague said, and the Board of Trustees will interview and select one of the interested candidates.
Anaconda School District No. 10 will no longer hold its planned school board election for May 7 because the two incumbent trustees up for re-election, Jaime Valentini and Blake Hempstead, were the only two who filed to run.