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New School Board Members Look to Future

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Next school year, Missoula parents will see some new faces at school board meetings.

Five new board of trustees members will now work with six existing members on Missoula's educational system.

MCPS Superintendent Alex Apostle said it is unusual to have five new board members unseat incumbents during one election, and he says the controversy surrounding his recent 13% pay raise could have been a factor in this election.

However, Apostle said Missoula voters always focus on the importance of a good education for their kids when filling out their ballots.

"And my intent, as it has been throughout my career, is to bring people together," Apostle said.

Apostle said it's he and the board members' job moving forward to strengthen Missoula's school system.

"We're all are here for one purpose -- to provide the very best education for our students," he said.

And some of the new board members are already looking forward to making some changes on the school board.

Diane Lorenzen said she's aware many community members would like to have more opportunities for public comment on issues in their school districts.

She said in the past, much of the discussion on issues takes place at committee meetings, rather than at public school board meetings.

"I'd like to see no decisions made at the meetings, to bring the issues forward to the board meetings, inform the other members, have a public conversation and then vote," Lorenzen said.

Lorenzen added, oftentimes school officials can underestimate the public's ability to comprehend important issues, and even how the school board works.

She said, "The public needs to know which board member voted which way, otherwise the only way they can make change is to unseat the entire board at once."

"A lot of the voters in our district wanted change, and so… change is what happened," Joe Toth said, a former MCPS Board of Trustees member.

Toth said although he lost his seat on the board in the election, he's still very pleased the two technology levies were passed because the county's schools were in need of the upgrades.

"I hope that we don't take too much time to get caught up to speed on all the new folks, because we've got a lot of inertia moving ahead now on some really positive programs for the district," Toth said.

Toth said he's proud of the school board's contributions to Missoula's education system over the past nine years while he's served.

He recently retired from the Missoula City Fire Department and plans to travel with his wife.

Apostle said he and the board members will have their first meetings this month in preparation for the upcoming school year.

For more information about the new trustees and their upcoming meetings, click here.

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