In his 20-plus years in education, Todd Lengacher has played a variety of roles, including teacher, principal and dean.
His experience and ability to bring differing views together are what make him stand out as a candidate for the Whitefish School Board, he says.
“I think what I offer to the board is my experience and expertise in creating a vision and distilling it down to action steps, then facilitating the difficult conversations that are inevitably going to follow,” he told the Pilot. “I think one of the skills I practiced as an administrator was taking these apparently really different viewpoints and bringing them back to the fact that in the end, we all care about our little ones having an engaging, challenging, safe experience in schools.”
Lengacher is one of four people running for two spots on the board.
He is part of the math faculty at Flathead Valley Community College and is the Director of International Studies for the Putney School in Putney, Vermont, a student exchange program he oversees remotely.
He has worked as an educator in a variety of roles, including teacher, principal, assistant head of school, dean of students and has been an educator for more than 20 years. He received his bachelor’s and master’s in mathematics from Western Washington University. He has a daughter attending Muldown.
Lengacher says among other things, handling a change in superintendent is a top issue for the district right now. The current superintendent, Heather Davis Schmidt, has said she is seeking jobs elsewhere, but has not yet accepted a position at another district.
“It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when, so there’s that succession planning,” he said. “Humans like what they know, and I think there’s just a sense of uncertainty of whether she’ll leave in a week, in a year, two years, so I think there’s a priority in just doing well with the transition and selection of the next super and in the interim just giving the community the confidence that it’s all being managed well.”
There’s also the issue of declining test scores, which emerged as an issue after a report last fall showed decreases in test results over a three-year period across Whitefish Schools.
Lengacher says he’s reluctant to panic over the small, three-year sample size, but he thinks the scores are indicative of a need for a cohesive curriculum within the district.
“I’m a mathematician and a statistician, so part of my hesitancy right now is to know that the data we’re tracking is essentially on a three year trend,” he said. “There is data to support that even within Montana, that Whitefish scores are declining while scores at other schools in Montana are not.”
Looking at the district as a whole, Lengacher said the community and its passion for education is one of the biggest strengths.
“It’s a community that recognizes that education is a community effort rather than something that happens within four walls of the school.”
However, one weakness of the district — and all education systems now — is an ever-changing culture, he said.
“As schools, we are now needing to hold the responsibility of helping students develop resiliency as young people, because we now live in this culture of instant gratification around smartphones and iPads,” he said. “I think education is increasingly difficult because schools are being asked to take on many more roles than just teaching math and writing.”
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.