Whitefish School superintendents pass the torch

| June 24, 2020 1:00 AM

Editor’s Note: Whitefish School District Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt is leaving this summer and Interim Superintendent Dave Means is taking over the position. During this transition, they have written a message to the community.

Heather Davis Schmidt

Goodbye! For the past five years, I have been honored to serve as Superintendent of Whitefish Schools. The support of the Whitefish community is exemplary. The quality of our educators — superb. I will always cherish the opportunity I’ve been given to serve all children.

But wow — it sure has been a wild ride! Beyond the cyber attacks and potential hate rallies that have directly affected our small town, the world has also changed dramatically. It seems like we have been constantly facing big, contentious issues, whether it has been school shootings across the nation, or the security we will place in our own schools.

In all my meetings though, not once did a potential pandemic get mentioned!

But with the challenges we have faced, there is so much good that has come out of it. Whitefish is now considered one of the state leaders for safety and security in schools. All of our schools have undergone physical transformations and our staff is some of the most highly trained for handling unanticipated emergencies.

Our K-12 social emotional learning curriculum — the best way to create safe schools — has also had some remarkable outcomes. Creating this culture of kindness is a genuine reflection of our caring community. As a public education system, we have a responsibility to teach our children to treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of their circumstances.

Would we have grown so much without all of these challenges? With the quick shift to remote learning, we have all gained new technology skills. You never wish for adversity, but our lives will be forever changed in positive ways too, despite the challenges. We have all certainly demonstrated our ability to be nimble and flexible, responding to the needs we have been faced with.

My final message? Be kind. I believe that the best way to move through each day is to show each other support and caring.

I will miss you. But the school district will be in great hands under Dave’s leadership. I know that he will lead with a growth mindset — and a steady hand.

Dave Means

Hello! I am excited about the opportunity to serve our students, families, and staff — supporting all of them as we continue to move forward and build upon the excellence of education we have in Whitefish.

As Heather has shared and talked about — and as I reflect on the COVID-19 crisis — we have certainly become more nimble and flexible in our efforts to educate students. That is the silver lining that will enable us to continue to provide innovative educational opportunities moving forward.

As we look at education in the future, we will have increased opportunities to provide education in ways that are increasingly flexible and supportive of students and their unique needs. We have come together in ways that we didn’t anticipate in terms of being supportive of one another — for staff, families, and students.

We have listened to each other and have been able to do that from a distance. In many cases I think we have listened to each other more closely in these distant times, and more effectively. As a community I think we have been able to increase our ability to understand one another and be more creative in our thinking. This active listening will only continue to help us on this path of serving families and students in an uncertain future.

My own message as I begin this new role? We are all in this together, let’s work together, be kind to each other and collaborate with one another to continue to build upon the exceptional educational system and programs we have in Whitefish.

Right now our teams are analyzing how remote learning has worked well for some and not as well for others. While we are still unsure what we will face for the next school year, we do know that it will likely not be “normal.” But I do know that there will be new ways to help and educate students no matter what we face.

In uncertain times we will continue to communicate with our school community and look for opportunities to share new ideas and build upon previous success. We expect that by the middle of July we will have an update for families and by Aug. 3 we will have more firm news on what the “new normal” will look like for our schools.

Until then, as the future continues to unfold before our eyes, have a great summer. I am happy to be working with you all.