Darcy Schellinger’s motivation behind seeking a spot on the Whitefish School Board is to be the change she and other parents want to see in the schools.
“I think a lot of things have been overlooked in the past, and I think we need to make the daily experience for our kids better. Test scores are falling, morale is down, and we need to figure out a way to make that change,” Schellinger told the Pilot. “If you want to see what the future looks like, look into the past, and if you don’t like the past, then let’s change it. And I want to be that change.”
Schellinger is one of four running for two seats on the board.
A third-generation Montanan from Billings, she received her bachelor’s degree in business finance from Montana State University and has worked as an agriculture, mortgage and commercial lender in places like New Orleans, Idaho and Nevada. She has two kids in Muldown Elementary.
Student achievement is the biggest focus for Schellinger, and she points to declining test scores as an indication that something is wrong within the schools.
Concerns arose among parents, administration and board members last fall after a report on Star testing and assessment data showed a slight decrease over the past three years.
“Test scores have been falling for the last three years. They just realized it this year. So we have a school board, a superintendent and a curriculum director — someone in that realm should’ve noticed it,” Schellinger said. “When they are falling as drastically as they are for the last three years, I do think it says there are bigger issues that are going on that I think they’re trying to rectify on the district side and I want to be part of that.”
Likewise, Schellinger says a weakness of the district is a lack of communication between different levels within the schools.
“I think the board wants to discuss only things that are positive, and not look at any negative information. So I think it’s important to be open and honest about that communication, whether it’s positive or negative. Effectively the school is a business, and you can’t run a business without established, measurable goals and a time and a place to look at those to see how you’re doing,” she said.
Creating those measurable goals and time for reflection is part of Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt’s strategic plan for the next six years.
Schellinger said she’s happy to see the plan coming together, and said she and other parents have helped spur that movement.
“Part of that has come from us parents saying, ‘This is a problem.’ And I want to get on the board to ensure that continues and what we started as a parent, grassroots effort this fall gets put into motion,” she said.
As to the district’s strengths, Schellinger said it’s the teachers.
“I think if we didn’t have the amazing teachers that we have, our kids would be really suffering right now,” she said.
If she’s elected, Schellinger said she’ll bring a sensible way of thinking to the board.
She’s also eager to learn and research new topics and bring that knowledge to board discussions.
“I think I bring a lot of logic and common sense. I do my due diligence, I take time to reflect on what’s going on, and already this year I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching the issues that are going on in our school and I’m not even on the school board, I’m just a parent who was concerned,” she said.
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.