Butte Superintendent Linda Reksten, the first of four finalists vying for the school superintendent’s job in Helena, spent Monday meeting with community groups, talking with administrators and being interviewed by trustees.
The day-long process will look the same for each candidate with Keith Meyer, interim superintendent undergoing the same process today; Kent Kultgen, Stevensville superintendent on Wednesday; and Daniel Snowberger, an assistant superintendent in Colorado on Thursday.
Candidates are meeting with student groups at Helena and Capital high schools, with the teachers association and central office administrators. There are two community meet-and-greets each day — one at 1:45 p.m., moderated by Mignon Waterman and another at 3:15 p.m. at the Front Street Learning Center.
More than 20 people attended the first community meeting where Reksten said as she toured Helena’s high schools she noticed that they have similar problems as Butte High School.
“There is no place for kids to hang out,” she said, noting there is not enough space for students to eat lunch and the physical designs of the buildings create safety issues.
Communication, she said, is an important aspect of her current job. Reksten said the key is to always find middle ground. “It takes time, but that’s where the answers are,” she said.
Reksten has looked at Helena’s test score data, she told the community members, and there is a trouble area in reading with students coming from economically challenged homes and she said that math is a sore spot here.
Improving those scores means bringing all the professionals together, she said.
“Developing leaders into better leaders is mission critical,” Reksten said. “I would involve as many people as I can.”
She added however, that it’s less about the leader and more about the people who are led because those are people who will play long-term roles in improving student performance.
Reksten is a Montana native who graduated from Flathead High School. She holds a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a doctorate. She began her educational career as a middle school science teacher. She taught science at the elementary-school level and chemistry to high schoolers.
Her longest stay at a job was from 1986 to 2003 in Burbank, Calif., where she worked as an elementary principal. During that time the school went from a low-performing status for student achievement to high performing and was recognized by President George Bush in 2003.
She says over her career she’s worked passionately to improve student academic achievement in every position she’s held. She says that happens by working collaboratively.
“As a leader, it was important to first build trust and communication with administrators in Butte in order to tackle the complex challenges the district faces,” she wrote in her cover letter to the hiring firm.
Reksten says there have been plenty of times throughout her career she’s had to “eat crow.”
It’s through those mistakes she finds the opportunity to find a new approach to issues. She said those experiences have been her “best teachers.”
The board is scheduled to meet Friday at 4 p.m. at Front Street Learning Center to take public comments and choose the next superintendent.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or email@example.com