Pam Wright, principal at Smith Elementary School, is moving to Pittsburgh for a year sometime this summer but she plans to return to the Treasure State.

The Helena School Board approved an unpaid leave of absence for Wright for the upcoming school year, which means she’s guaranteed an administrative position in the district when she returns for the 2013-2014 school year.

Wright said the move for her and her family is because of a job opportunity for her husband.

“I love Helena,” she said. “It’s been a great community and the school district has been great to my family. We have really strong ties here.”

Wright said she’s viewing the temporary change in scenery as an opportunity to learn something new. She said she’s looking forward to seeing what education looks like in a different setting.

“My plan is to be involved in some way in education,” she said on Friday.

Superintendent Keith Meyer said an administrator taking a leave doesn’t happen very often and can’t recall one in his 14 years in the central office. But, he supported Wright’s request because of the quality of her work.

“I’d like to have her skills back as a building administrator,” he said. “I did not want her to think she needed to resign.”

Meyer said he supports the work she’s done and the team she’s built at Smith, 2320 5th Ave.

This is Wright’s fifth year with the Helena School District and at Smith, but she’s been an educator in Idaho, Virginia, and Missoula before coming here.

“This is a job that I really enjoy and each year I’ve enjoyed it more because of the staff and families that are supportive,” she said. “I don’t worry about this school because there are so many good things in place.”

Meyer said any administrative decisions about positions won’t be made until a new superintendent is named. But that doesn’t mean waiting until July to name a replacement principal is the plan either.

“Some decisions will be how we look at reductions during the budget process,” he said.

The district is facing a $433,000 budget shortfall.

“What we do know is Smith will need an administrator,” Meyer said.

The prime hiring season for teachers, according to Meyer, is between spring break and May.

He said the goal is to have all staff identified and in place by Memorial Day.

Reporter Alana Listoe:

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