In support of a second high school for Bozeman

By: Scott Wilson
27 April 2017

School elections are upon us, and ballots are now in the hands of community members in Bozeman, MT. Among this year’s topics are trustee elections, operating levies, and the request for a second high school with work to be completed on the existing one. Full disclosure: CTA stands to gain work from the approval of a high school bond. However, I share the following information not as President of this firm but as a member of the Bozeman community myself.

I support the initiatives because I consider them an investment in the future of Bozeman. I’d like to know we are setting the youth of Gallatin County up to succeed, and providing the District with the resources it needs to make it happen.

Robert Watson, Superintendent for Bozeman School District #7, sent out the following note which lays out great information regarding the measures in play, and links to resources for further research. I encourage my fellow Bozemanites to read up on the issue, make informed decisions, and please ensure your ballots are in the hands of the Gallatin County Election Office — remember they can be hand delivered — by this Tuesday, May 2.

What will it mean for Bozeman to have two high schools? What will it do to our community? In speaking with various community groups over the past few months, these questions have come up many times. For some, there is a clear vision of what our community will look like with two high schools. For others, that vision of the future is not as clear. For a community that has only ever known one school, it is understandable that people may have concerns. And perhaps the unknown has some second guessing our decision to move forward with our plans.

Last year we spent a considerable amount of time working with an advisory committee to examine several options to accommodate future enrollment growth at our high school. While lots of great ideas were discussed, the committee consensus matched what we were hearing from our community — build a second comprehensive high school and create two great schools for our future students. As we were debating last year, I remember hearing a sense of fear about what this decision would mean for our community. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

Working on faith and hope, a programming committee has developed a plan to build a second high school and finish some renovation to the existing high school. We have presented this plan to our voters because we believe it is a realistic plan for the future growth of our community. In just a few [days] we will know if our plan has been approved.

In thinking about this process, I like to believe we are writing a great story for our community. Perhaps even a story that will be shared with future generations. In the end, it will be a story that includes several ups and downs, plot twists, and interesting debates. It will be analyzed by many, and some will reflect on what we did right and what we could have done differently.

However, we are not at the end — we are still writing this story. And being in the middle can be scary because we cannot predict the ending. However, we are not the first community to have this experience.

Just [last week], the Flathead Beacon published a wonderful article that told the story of the transformation in Kalispell ten years ago. I would encourage you to read this as I believe you will find many similarities to our experience. Reading about others who have gone through this type of transformation can provide comfort in the unknown. Here is the link to the article.

A final note as you talk with others, please remind them to cast their vote. It is important that all voters return their ballots and provide their voice to this important decision. Please tell your friends and neighbors they need to mail their ballots to the county election office before May 2. Thanks for passing on this message.

Here are a few great links with more information about this important election:

  • General information about the election: LINK
  • Online calculator to determine individual tax impact: LINK
  • Information about the operation levies: LINK
  • Information specific to the high school proposal: LINK
  • Great student produced video with thoughts from students: LINK

Thanks for reading!

Robert J. Watson, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Bozeman School District #7
Bozeman, MT

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