Search begins for new Col. Falls school leader

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The Columbia Falls School District has begun advertising the position of superintendent.

Application requirements for the position are posted online at www.mtsba.org. The salary listed for the position is $105,000 (which is negotiable based on experience) plus benefits. The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. Jan. 10.

Approximately 2,100 students are enrolled in the district, which employs about 325 staff members. The district includes two elementary schools, a junior high and high school.

Current Superintendent Michael Nicosia announced his retirement in May after 19 years with the district and 30 years total as a superintendent. His last day is June 27.

“I’ve been at it for awhile,” Nicosia said.

This year Nicosia offered to work for a smaller salary to save money for a district that has faced annual budget cuts.

His salary this year was $31,150 — significantly less than his previous salary of $119,500.

“It’s my — and my family’s — small statement of appreciation for everything the school district and community has done for our family,” Nicosia said.

Nicosia is noted for having the second longest tenure among Montana superintendents, according to The Hungry Horse News.

Nicosia gave a succinct description of his leadership philosophy Tuesday.

“I’ve always tried to be consistent, fair and predictable,” Nicosia said.

The Columbia Falls School District underwent many changes during his leadership, including building a new junior high in 2001.

“That was a really smooth process,” Nicosia said. “It went very well and came under bid.”

The district has also faced more than a decade of budget cuts due to enrollment declines that eventually led to the closure of Canyon Elementary School in Hungry Horse in 2011.

Nicosia has also been a proponent of education funding reform on a state level. He instigated several education funding improvements through a successful 2002 lawsuit against the state and the formation of the Montana Quality Education Coalition.

The coalition formed to help Columbia Falls and other schools districts seek equitable and permanent state funding for Montana’s public schools. Successful lawsuits against the state and other efforts led to funding formula revisions pertaining to inflation and districts with declining enrollment. Payments for quality educators and American Indian Education for all, among others, also were added.

Nicosia said the organization came out of a meeting of regional administrators.

“It came out of a desire to fight for a predictable, consistent and adequate funding system,” Nicosia said, but added that he didn’t want to take credit.

In retirement he is looking forward taking time off and spending it with his family. He plans to keep in contact with the district where his two daughters currently attend high school. He also has a son who graduated from the high school last year.

“I’ll have some time to spend afternoons watching ‘Happy Days,’ and ‘Gunsmoke,’” Nicosia said.

For more information about the position, visit www.mtsba.org or contact Karla Smerker, Montana School Boards Association director of administrative services at 442-2180 or ksmerker@mtsba.org.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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