Marguerite Kaminski says she sees a disconnect between administrators who run Whitefish Schools and the teachers within them, which is why she’s running for a spot on the Whitefish School Board.
“There is an air of intimidation between top administration and staff,” Kaminski told the Pilot. “Teachers are afraid to speak up. They drive education, so maybe their input is needed more. Maybe they shouldn’t be afraid to provide their input.”
Kaminski joined the board in 2015 after an unsuccessful bid for a trustee position the year before. Kaminski is formerly an attorney, business owner, active duty United States Air Force Procurement Officer and currently works as a boat inspector during the summers. She has also worked as a snowboard instructor, swim instructor, lifeguard, referee, served as a soccer and basketball coach, classroom volunteer, reading mentor, and substitute teacher. She has a bachelor’s in economics from the University of New Hampshire, and a master’s in business administration and juris doctor degree from the University of New Mexico. She’s had five children graduate from Whitefish Schools.
She lost her bid for re-election to the school board last year. This spring she’s one of four vying for two spots on the board.
As she sees it, that disconnect is one of the top issues facing the school district, as well as an adherence to administrators’ agendas.
Kaminski says some of the decisions being made at the board and administrative level have long-term consequences that aren’t being considered, such as the evolution of what once was a small greenhouse project for the high school into the $2.7 million Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship.
“It could’ve been a $75,000 greenhouse,” she said. “I don’t know how we’re going to pay for that sustainability center operations and maintenance, there’s a couple of positions associated with that, and that just cuts into the budget. And the budget is already so skinny anyway, because the teachers’ salaries take up an awful lot of that budget.”
As test scores have declined in the district over a three-year period, Kaminski said it’s an indication that standards have dropped.
“All I’ve heard, because I haven’t read the empirical data, is that across the board it’s going down,” she said. “I think a test does indicate where you’re at knowledge-wise. It doesn’t mean that the people get the best scores are the smartest people, but there’s a basic standard you have to meet, and I think our standards have gone down quite a bit.”
The teachers are the strength of the district, she says.
“They have a heck of a good group of teachers that they’ve had for years. When you look at the people they’ve had, tremendous people that care about the kids,” she said. “They’re the core.”
As far as weaknesses go, Kaminski points to the disconnect between administration and teachers, as well as large class sizes at Muldown Elementary School and a decrease in physical education within the schools.
If elected, Kaminski said she brings a healthy skepticism and curiosity to the board, which is essential in decision making.
“The board needs people who are willing to speak up and ask questions, research the cost versus benefits of proposed and existing programs in all regards, not just price-wise but holistically,” she said. “I bring thinkable thoughts to the board, and I think that needs to be taught in the schools. Don’t be afraid to let your thoughts come out, whether it’s on the board, in the classroom, amongst the teachers or administrators. Just get it out there and be more honest with everything.”
Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 7 at the Whitefish Middle School located at 600 E. Second St.