Nick Polumbus says he’s running for a third term on the Whitefish School Board to see existing projects, like the new Muldown Elementary School, through.
“That’s important to me, for a number of reasons,” he told the Pilot. “Obviously it’s a new facility and it’s taxpayer money so I want to make sure it gets done right on a lot of levels, but I also think we’re in an interesting time in the district right now and with six years of experience I think of I’ve got a lot to add and it’s not the right time to step away.”
Polumbus is one of four candidates and the only incumbent vying for two positions on the board.
He’s served on the board since 2013 and currently serves as the board chair. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s of business administration from the University of Colorado and moved to Whitefish in 2007 to become the Director of Marketing and Sales at Whitefish Mountain Resort. He and his wife, Kim, have three boys in Whitefish Schools.
As he sees it, finishing Muldown and developing a clear and aligned curriculum district-wide are two of the top issues facing the school district right now. The district is currently just over a year from opening the new $26.5 million elementary school, which voters approved in October of 2017.
Likewise, declining test scores need to be evaluated, he says, and are indicative of other needs within schools.
Concerns arose among parents, administration and board members last fall after a report on Star testing and assessment data showed a slight decrease over the past three years.
“I think it’s absolutely data we need to consider for sure. Not just because it’s a measurement, but because people look at that, and they make decisions on where they want their kids to go to school or what the district is going to do for their children. It matters from that perspective and we want our kids to achieve, no doubt about that,” he said. “I think you can’t just look at a test score and start making decisions. You start peeling back that onion and it’s got a lot of layers.”
Looking at the district as a whole, Polumbus said the biggest strength are the people who work within Whitefish Schools.
“I think we have a high quality, dedicated staff,” he said. “At the end of the day, any organization boils down to the people in it, and I think the people in the district are absolutely its strength and I think we need to get people on the same page and pulling in the same direction, and that’s the challenge.”
As to the district’s biggest weaknesses, Polumbus pointed to the growing number of students with special needs at a time when the schools are receiving limited funds to help those programs.
“I think it’s a challenge for sure, because our population of students with special needs is growing and we know it’s not just us, it’s across the country. And while that’s growing, it’s important that those students get the same treatment and opportunities as everybody else, and we’re getting less funding to get that done,” he said. “So we’ve got to find ways to get around that and continue to support that group.”
As a candidate, Polumbus says experience is what sets him apart from the others running for the board.
“I think six years of experience goes a long way. Every single day I step into a meeting or on district grounds, I learn something new — still six years later — and I’ve learned a lot in that time. I think I bring a fairly clear, level headed approach to decision making. I take pride in that, and I think people respond well to that.”
Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 7 at the Whitefish Middle School located at 600 E. Second St.