Flathead interim allowed to apply for principal

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Interim Flathead High School Principal Michele Paine will be able to apply for the principal position when it opens in January.

The decision was formalized at a Kalispell Public Schools board of trustees meeting Dec. 12.

It was previously understood by the school board that prior to naming Paine as the interim, the interim would not apply for the principal position amid some trustees’ concerns that it would limit the pool of candidates under the possible perception the interim would be “an automatic shoe-in.” In the past, interim agreements have specified the person could not apply for the permanent position.

Paine was named interim principal for the 2017-18 school year in July after a hiring committee’s first selection to replace former principal Peter Fusaro fell through and its second choice turned down the position. Paine moved up from her position as an assistant principal at Flathead.

“I felt it was important to put myself out there as the interim principal for Flathead High School under any conditions. There had been discussion prior to the final decision on July 11 about any interim principal being eligible to apply,” Paine said. “I felt since that was out there, and I knew the situation we were in, I stated at the time I would not apply for the permanent position.”

Since that time, Paine said she has reconsidered her stance and felt the stipulation should be re-evaluated after reviewing board meeting minutes where the issue was discussed, in addition to looking at hiring processes of other school administrators within the district and in other school districts.

“I am here to ask the board to be given the opportunity to be able to compete as a principal candidate in a hiring process that is consistent and transparent. I feel that the greater Flathead High School community has experienced progress in my first five months in the job. I feel really good about the progress that we have made and the motion carried forward through these months,” Paine said.

Trustee Mark Kornick said it showed dedication and devotion on Paine’s part to accept the interim position despite the stipulation in order to provide continuity in leadership.

“I know there’s arguments that having the interim be able to apply for a position may thwart others from wanting to apply because there may be an advantage to being interim. That’s possible, but I think anyone that really wants that job and thinks they deserve that job though is going to apply for it regardless,” Kornick said.

He then made a motion to allow Paine to apply when the position opened, which was seconded.

Trustee Joe Brenneman raised concerns about the legality of voting against the motion.

“I don’t think we as a board can keep anyone who has the credentials from applying for the position. The problem with me is more a matter of integrity and the appearance that, in the interest of helping the candidacy for ... the interim position a promise was made about not applying for a position presumably in good faith and now that is being withdrawn. That’s a matter of integrity to me,” Brenneman said.

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

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