Giving a voice to Whitefish teachers’ concerns is why Cate Catina says she’s running for the Whitefish School Board.
“I’m running because I want to see more for the kids, make it more about what the kids need and what the teachers need for the kids,” Catina said. “It’s not a political thing for me, but it’s how to set these kids up for success.”
Catina is one of four people running for three open school board positions to be filled in May.
Catina and her family have lived in Whitefish for the last five years after moving from northern Virginia. She has worked at the Kalispell Veteran’s Clinic for the last two years and was recently awarded the DAISY Award, a national award given to outstanding nurses. She also served for 26 years as a colonel in the U.S. Army.
Her son, Travis, is a senior and her daughter, Becca, is a junior at Whitefish High School.
Catina said she’s concerned that the school board moves too fast and makes bigger changes than are always necessary, especially when taxpayers are asked to contribute more money to projects.
“I think we’ve tried to do too much too fast. I think you can be on a fast moving train, but building this high school, then raising the money to get the sustainability center that’s not funded for very long,” she said, “I don’t think that was in the best interest of our school district. I don’t think that was fiscally responsible.”
A new Whitefish High School building opened in 2014 and the school district expects to break ground this spring on the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship, a multi-use outdoor learning center that is being constructed using private donations.
“I think when you have an operational and building levy already, to add more is asking a lot of the residents of Whitefish. I don’t know that paying more gives you a better opportunity for better education,” she added.
While Catina said she supports building a new Muldown Elementary school, she’s not optimistic about a bond being passed in an October election.
The Muldown task force recently selected the $26.5 million construction of a new school while retaining parts of the current building and is passing that recommendation on to the school board next month. A bond issue would be put before taxpayers in October.
However, she said the school has reached a point where fixing up individual parts no longer makes much sense.
“You can’t continue to put Band-Aids over bullet holes, and I think Muldown is a bullet hole.”
Catina also expressed concern with the transparency of decisions made by the school board, saying too often it feels like the community doesn’t hear about what’s going on until a choice has already been made.
“As a community member I feel like you learn things and it’s almost too late to facilitate change, to go to community forums and special sessions and open boards,” she said.
Though she can be critical of some decisions made concerning the school district, Catina is quick to note that both her kids have benefited greatly from their time in the Whitefish School District.
“I don’t ever want anybody to think I don’t think Whitefish is a good school, but I think it can be a great school if we put our effort behind the teachers that are in the trenches that see what these kids need to succeed,” she said.
The election is on May 2, and absentee ballots are mailed out on April 12.