Helena School District Superintendent Dr. Bruce Messinger is one of three finalists for a similar position in Boulder, Colo.
Messinger, 54, has been superintendent in Helena since 1998 and says his compelling reasons for seeking the Colorado job are family in the area and an opportunity to grow professionally.
“I’ve said to myself in recent years that if the right opportunity came along I would look,” he told the Independent Record Friday morning.
Before accepting the position here, Messinger worked in Greeley, Colo., for 11 years as a principal and deputy superintendent. Greeley is about 50 miles from Boulder. He started his career as an elementary schoolteacher in Nebraska, where he obtained a doctorate in administrative curriculum and instruction from the University of Nebraska.
“I’m familiar with this area,” he said. “This is a great opportunity in a significant district with new challenges. It’s a good opportunity for me professionally, and I have family there and in western Nebraska so there is personal appeal too. It’s not just any job.”
Messinger interviews for the position on Thursday. If he is offered the job and accepts, the Helena School District will be forced to quickly develop an interim plan because Keith Meyer, its assistant superintendent, recently announced his retirement.
In a letter to Helena School Board trustees, Messinger wrote that he initiated the application process for the position in the Boulder Valley School District in February and last weekend was notified he was one of three finalists. He said he’ll travel to Colorado next week to participate in interviews with community members, staff and the board of education. He wrote that he had mixed feelings about pursuing the position because he enjoys his work here, but that he would look forward to the challenges.
The Boulder Valley District has 29,000 students in 55 schools, which is more than three times the size of Helena’s 8,200 students in 16 schools. Messinger said he expects to hear about their final decision around the second week of May. If hired, he would begin the new position in early July.
Messinger’s base salary in Helena is $121,742 with additional benefits valued at $44,045. The range for the Boulder position is $200,000 to $260,000 plus health benefits and pension, according to a spokesperson for that district.
Board Chairman Michael O’Neil says it’s premature to say for sure what will transpire over the coming months, even though Messinger is an “outstanding candidate.”
O’Neil admits, however, that it would be good for the district to take some precautionary measures. If Messinger is offered and accepts the position, the board would immediately develop a transition plan, he said.
“We would also rely on Dr. Messinger to provide expertise,” he added.
One option could be to identify an interim superintendent before doing a full search.
“It’s a key position and it’s prudent to take time for recruiting,” he said.
O’Neil said the district won’t look to replace Meyer at this time as there are too many unknowns, including school funding.
“It may be very much part of the solution, but right now things are little open,” he added.
The news of Messinger’s candidacy comes just before the school board election May 3, where Helena residents will be voting on three open positions for school board as well as a levy for slightly increased taxes.
Two positions are open for three-year seats. Those candidates are Brittany Renshaw, Barbara Rush, Cherche Prezeau (incumbent) and Aidan Myhre (incumbent). Libbi Lovshin and Jeanne Sticht are vying for the one open two-year seat.
Voters will also decide on whether to provide $417,000 additional tax revenue. The increases would be $247,000 for the elementary district and $170,000 for the high schools, which would mean an increase of $4.54 and $2.50 a year, respectively, per $100,000 of taxable property value.
Reporter Alana Listoe: firstname.lastname@example.org or 447-4081