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Incumbents retain seats on GFPS Board of Trustees

Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS)
Posted at 4:44 PM, May 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-04 19:48:26-04

More than 24 hours after polls closed, the Cascade County Clerk & Recorder's office released results in the election for Great Falls Public School Board of Trustees.

With more than 34,000 votes cast, the three incumbents - Bill Bronson, Kim Skornogoski, and Amie Thompson - won re-relection, outpacing challengers Rodney Meyers and Tony Rosales.

  • Amie Thompson: 7,996
  • Bill Bronson: 7,833
  • Kim Skornogoski: 7,773
  • Rodney Meyers: 3,620
  • Tony Rosales: 3,346

Bronson said the result sends a clear message that the public believes the Great Falls public school system is on the right track.
"They recognize, like we do, that there are issues and problems with our young people today. But they also recognize that we see that also and we're trying to tackle those problems with practical solutions that make sense for everybody,” Bronson said.

"We're not caught up in these national debates where people outside our community are trying to raise issues that have absolutely no relevance whatsoever to Great Falls, Montana. And I hope that that's the message that we were getting, is that we agree with you. We like what you're trying to do. We're willing to help you out, too, as a community,” he continued.

Bill Bronson

The re-elected board members agree the greatest challenge of their past three-year term was navigating the short-term effects of the COVID pandemic. The challenge of the next three years is dealing with the long-term effects, such as making sure the learning gap is closed, providing resources for student well-being and ensuring the district is on good footing when federal relief COVID relief runs out.

“Obviously the COVID pandemic impacted our students, both their mental health, but also their academic performance. So the next three years, we need to kind of dig ourselves out of that hole,” Skornogoski said. "But we also have the additional challenge of the federal COVID dollars that really helped helped us weather the storm that those dollars are sunsetting. So how do we continue to address the challenges without that additional federal support?"

At times during the run up to Tuesday’s elections, the candidates and issues themselves were overshadowed by the election process. It started with an unexpected move from an all-mail ballot to a polling place vote and was exacerbated by a lack of clear communication from Clerk & Recorder Sandra Merchant to GFPS administration after Merchant took office in January.

The Great Falls Public Library Board of Trustees announced it will conduct an "emergency meeting" on Friday May 5th at noon. The agenda will include a discussion of election legal strategy and possible board action.
“It's certainly been a roller coaster. But I think the fact that the results were really decisive, I think that helps us move forward as a district,” Skornogoski said. "Certainly, our school superintendent (Tom Moore) and our business officer (Brian Patrick) really had to spend a lot of time going above and beyond to make sure that we were communicating and to really provide resources, which is understandable for a new person coming in. It would have been great to approach the election as a collaboration and try to work together to overcome the challenges. That didn't always happen.”

Kim Skornogoski

It’s not the last time the school district will work with the county to hold an election, and they plan to make sure these issues are resolved for future ballots and initiatives.

"My colleagues and I will be asking a lot of questions about this as we go forward because by law we are going before the voters in this community every single year, whether it's a trustee election or whether it's the possibility that we will be asking the community to offer us some more financial assistance through an additional levy,” Bronson said. "We have to do that. That's the way that we operate under our system in Montana. And I want to be able to assure voters that when we do that, we have that smooth and painless process that we've had in the past. We didn't have that this time. And so, we're going to be asking a lot of questions about why we couldn't do it this time.”

The results of the election cannot be certified until the Board of Trustees completes a canvas sometime in the next two weeks.


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