Above all, Shannon Hanson sees his role on the Whitefish School Board as giving a voice to the students.
“What’s good for the student?” he said. “Because that’s why we’re there. That’s why the board is there, the administrators, the teachers, the community is there. We need to be there for our kids. Even though I don’t have any kids in the school district anymore, I still want to be an advocate for the kids.”
Hanson joined the school board in January filling out the term left vacant when then-trustee Dave Fern was elected to the Montana Legislature.
Hanson currently owns Computer Doctor just outside of Whitefish.
He is one of four people running for the three trustee positions up for election in May. Hanson served two previous terms on the school board before loosing his bid for re-election to the board in 2012. He was selected to serve as vice chairman of the board in his second term.
Both Hanson’s two sons and his wife are graduates of Whitefish schools, and he’s been living in the area for more than 30 years.
Hanson said helping to integrate technology in the classrooms and being an advocate for gifted and advanced students are areas he focused on during previous terms. He’s also proud of helping to fight against mandatory drug testing for all students in Whitefish schools.
Looking at the district’s current challenges, Hanson said getting a new, safer Muldown Elementary school built is priority No. 1.
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.
“I think that the grade school is a big ask, but it’s needed. One problem we face is that the school community does such a good job of putting a great face on our schools, that we can’t see them crumble,” he said. “The grade school is unsafe, frankly. I don’t have any kids in the school but I don’t want it to fall over either.”
While he’s not sure whether residents will vote for the levy to pay for the new school, Hanson noted the importance that Whitefish places on its schools.
“Whitefish is very supportive of their schools, they always have been, if they feel the need for something they’ll support it,” he said. “Frankly, education has moved enough in 50 years that even if the building is in perfect shape, functionally it probably doesn’t work.”
However, what he and other trustees feel about Muldown matters less than what the community thinks, he said, and it would be irresponsible not to vote to put the issue on a ballot for the people to decide.
“The responsible thing to do is say ‘OK, maybe we’re for it,’” he said. “We need to give it to the people.”
The election is on May 2, and absentee ballots are mailed out on April 12.