Paine named interim principal at Flathead

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Michele Paine was named interim principal for Flathead High School for the 2017-18 school year following a Kalispell Public Schools Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday.

Paine moves up from her position as assistant principal at Flathead.

“I am excited to serve as principal for the upcoming school year at Flathead High School. As was the case 10-12 years ago in the Kalispell School District, we are in the midst of great change,” Paine said. “A new elementary school with new boundaries within the FHS community, substantial construction projects on the FHS campus, and the loss of Peter Fusaro as a 19-year fixture on the FHS admin team all contribute to this evolution. It didn’t help to have the FHS principal position in limbo until last night, but we are grateful to finally be moving forward.”

Paine was one of four finalists initially interviewed for the principal position in May following former principal Peter Fusaro’s resignation, however a hiring committee recommended an Idaho administrator, John Blackman, to replace Fusaro.

Before Blackman took on official duties on July 1, he withdrew his acceptance of the position on June 21 following plagiarism allegations related to an introductory letter emailed to staff. When the committee’s second choice turned down the position trustees went back to the drawing board.

Despite the first day of school fast approaching on Aug. 30, trustees tasked administrators to lay out a few options on how to move forward with the pros and cons presented to them Tuesday.

The options included a co-principal approach — dividing duties among the three current principals — or selecting an interim principal either internally or externally.

“Change is difficult for all of us, but I am confident that the administrative team can work to anchor our students and staff in the solid foundation of FHS, embrace the new changes, and reach new heights as a school,” Paine said. “I will need minimal time to get to know the intricacies of the school, so I can jump right in and get to work. I think this is critical for us, especially in light of recent circumstances.”

Paine highlighted several goals for the coming school year.

“My goals for the year include strengthening relationships among staff, ensuring a seamless transition through the construction phases, increasing opportunities for collaborative work around curriculum and instruction, and helping staff understand and utilize data and resources to meet the needs of students,” Paine said. “The Flathead culture is one of support and innovation, and I am proud of the diverse opportunities, creative thinking, and unique qualities found within our school.”

Paine started working at Flathead in 1999 as a reading specialist. She was a kindergarten- through 12th-grade language arts facilitator for the district from 2005 to 2011 before returning to Flathead as an assistant principal.

In 2015-16, she was the recipient of the Montana Association of Secondary School Principals Assistant Principal of the Year Award, nominated by Fusaro.

Flathead, the valley’s largest high school, is set to undergo an approximately $18.2 million expansion and renovation as part of a $28.8 million high school district bond.

Paine’s assistant principal position is anticipated to be filled. In January 2018, the Flathead principal position is anticipated to be re-posted to provide time for candidates to apply.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or

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