Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Whitefish Schools’ Dave Means honored as Superintendent of the Year

Whitefish Pilot | July 5, 2023 1:00 AM

Whitefish School District Superintendent Dave Means assumed the role at one of the most challenging times for schools across the world.

In early March 2020, Means was named the interim superintendent for Whitefish after a search to hire a new permanent superintendent failed. Means at the time had 16 years of experience working in the district as the director of education services.

Just weeks later after taking the interim role of superintendent, schools in the valley and across the country shut their doors due to the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. Means was tasked with navigating his new role while leading the school district through the pandemic.

Though the pandemic has mostly subsided and schools are back to operating normally, Means has learned and adjusted a lot in the role. He says recently the challenges and opportunities have shifted to the rapidly increasing enrollment and continuing to serve each student individually, which he and the entire staff is committed to.

“Over the years I think what we’ve been seeing is we’ve been responding to the pandemic, but most recently just the enrollment growth has been a challenge but an opportunity for us also to expand our offerings to students,” he told the Pilot in a recent interview. “I think we’re seeing a lot of growth in academic areas and growth in program areas for our students.”

Because of his leadership, he was recently selected as the Northwest Montana Association of School Superintendents (NWMASS) regional Superintendent of the Year. The NWMASS is a group of regional superintendents that work collaboratively together to improve schools across the region.

“We are honored to have Dave represent the great work and leadership happening in schools throughout northwest Montana and around the state,” said Laurie Barron, NWMASS president and Superintendent of Evergreen School District. “His kind demeanor, extensive experience, vast knowledge and collaborative nature have impacted not only his school district but our entire region.”

The Montana Association of School Superintendents (MASS), in collaboration with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), annually recognizes and rewards outstanding leadership in the superintendency. According to a press release, this program seeks to honor strong Montana school district leaders who work successfully with their learning communities to provide the highest quality education possible.

The 2024 Montana Superintendent of the Year — chosen from the nine regional superintendents of the year from across the state — will be announced in Helena in October and will go on to compete for the National Superintendent of the Year.

“I work with superintendents in this valley that are part of the (NWMASS) — just an amazing group of professionals,” Means said. “We’ve worked so hard together if you think through the past few years, through navigating some of the challenges and all the opportunities, I was just really honored to even be thought of for the award.”

Means credits the district’s administrators, staff, families and the community as a whole for the success Whitefish Schools have had in recent years. The district has ways of working collaboratively including using multi-tiered systems of support and professional learning communities that keep the district proactively improving.

Means says they have a motto — “Together Helping Each Student Succeed” — and he believes the district is successful in this while continuing to progress as well.

“I’m a firm believer that we’re all learners and we’re continuing to learn together,” he said. “I think every year I’m learning something new and we want to take that view as a district as well. We look at the continuous improvement models that we follow and look to improve all the time.”

Moving forward, the district has much to navigate as enrollment continues to grow and the district expands its offerings. Means says the future is bright in Whitefish and they will continue to work together to navigate upcoming challenges.

“We’re seeking that growth for each student, data-driven decisions and safe and welcoming schools. We will continue to strive for those,” he said.

As a leader, Means says he works to improve in those areas as well and it has been exciting to be a part of the process.

The Whitefish School Board also agrees with Means’ leadership style and believes he will continue to move the district forward in a positive direction.

“Dave is a collaborative leader,” Darcy Schellinger, chair of the WSD Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “He’s calm, conscientious, and committed to Whitefish students, faculty, and staff. He has empowered those around him to help move the district forward in so many ways. I am grateful his peers recognize his dynamic leadership style and contributions to our community with this award.”