For Katie Clarke, serving on the Whitefish School Board would mean being in a position where her biggest strengths intersect.
With a master’s in curriculum and instruction, Clarke understands what happens in the classroom and the thinking behind it. With career experience in marketing, and currently pursuing a doctorate degree in communication, Clarke said she also understands how to facilitate communication between the community and schools.
“I have a heart for kids and I just want to see kids have every opportunity they possibly can,” she said. “I want to help and I feel like I have the skills to do so.”
Clarke is one of four people running for the three trustee positions on the school board up for election in May. This is her first time seeking the spot in Whitefish.
Clarke, husband Mitch Marzo and their two daughters — both attend Muldown Elementary School — moved to Whitefish last year from Hamilton, partly because of the opportunities offered by the school district.
“I think it’s a great school district, and that’s one of the reasons we came here. I think it has a really forward thinking mission and some new and innovative ways of learning and teaching, and the teachers are really passionate and knowledgeable,” she said.
Clarke has a variety of experience in education, first teaching marketing and DECA in the Cherry Creek School District in Colorado before teaching strategic communication at Hawaii Pacific University. She also taught at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and volunteered in the Corvallis School District. Outside of education, Clarke also served as a director on the hospital foundation board at Marcus Daly Hospital in Hamilton.
As Clarke says the most urgent issue for the district is figuring out what to do with the deteriorating Muldown Elementary school.
The Muldown task force recently recommended 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 to pay for the project.
Clarke said she supports building a new school and putting a levy to a vote in the fall. For her, strong schools and a strong town go hand in hand.
“I really believe schools are an important part of our economy today, but it’s also where we build our economy for tomorrow,” she said. “So I believe it’s a place worth investing into.”
Informing people in Whitefish about the state of the current building is key to raising awareness of the daily problems teachers face in the school, she said.
“I think that’s just going to come down to communicating what the school needs and also what the community needs,” Clarke said. “I think that as long as everyone knows what’s happening people will support and champion what’s best for everyone.”
Clarke said education is a passion of hers, and she enjoys exploring innovative new ideas about different ways to effectively teach students.
“I think I’m a nerd. I love education, I really do. I’m all about real, hands on learning, because I think students love it and so do their adult mentors,” she said. “I’m passionate about that in a dorky kind of way.”
The election is on May 2, and absentee ballots mailed out on April 12.