Four seek board seats, district floats levy in election

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Whitefish School District voters head to the polls on May 2 to select three School Board trustees and vote on an operations levy.

Incumbents Heather Vrentas and Shannon Hanson are running for re-election to the school board. Newcomers Katie Clarke and Catherine Catina are also seeking spots on the board.

All four candidates differ in background and experience, but all said constructing a new Muldown Elementary School building to replace the current aging building should be the district’s No. 1 priority.

Vrentas was first elected in 2011 and is seeking her third term on the board. Vrentas has lived in Whitefish for more than two decades and is the general manager of Montana Coffee Traders.

She says she’s running again to finish the work she helped start, such as finding a solution for the decaying Muldown Elementary School building and the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship.

Hanson was selected in January to fill an open seat on the board left when Dave Fern resigned. Hanson has served two previous terms on the board before losing his re-election bid in 2012. He was selected to serve as vice chairman of the board in his second term. He has lived in the area for more than 30 years and owns the Computer Doctor. In previous terms, Hanson is most proud of his work to help integrate technology in the classrooms and being an advocate for gifted and advanced students.

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. Clarke was also a director on the hospital foundation board at Marcus Daly Hospital in Hamilton. For Clarke, the school board is a place where her skillset, namely marketing and education, collide.

Catina works as a nurse at the Kalispell Veteran’s Clinic and also served for 26 years as a colonel in the U.S. Army. Catina says hasty decisions and trying to do too much are problems the school board needs to address, having tried to develop new projects like the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship too fast while other problems, like Muldown, still exist.

Also on the ballot is a $230,000 mill levy to make up for budgetary shortfalls in the district. Without the levy, the elementary district faces a $67,000 shortfall and the school district as a whole is expected to have a shortfall of $160,000.

If approved, the levy would increase annual taxes on a home with a value of $200,000 by about $12.18 per year.

Polls are open at the District Board Room in Whitefish Middle School from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters can also stop in the district office between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and vote absentee prior to noon on May 1. On Election Day, voters can drop off absentee ballots until 8 p.m.

Voters can register the day of the election, but it needs to be done with the Flathead County Election Department and bring proof of registration to the polling place to vote.

For full profiles of each candidate, visit www.whitefishpilot.com.

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