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Area schools welcome new staff


August 30, 2018

With Sanders County students returning for school, districts are welcoming new staff in their ranks.

Plains School saw a slew of retirements and one departure, leaving many empty positions to fill. Dixon School had no turnover and retained all their educators from the previous year. Thompson Falls School District’s new staff were featured in last week’s issue of The Ledger.

Plains superintendent Thom Chisholm said things went well filling their vacant positions.

“We had all the teaching positions filled before the end of the school year, and all but one of the para-professional vacancies,” said Chisholm, adding that this was the largest crop of new hires he’s seen in the district, as one or two new hires is standard. “We were able to breathe easy about hiring over the summer.”

The Horsemen and Trotters greeted six new teachers on the first day of school. Kindergarteners will have first-year teacher Danielle Walker guiding them through the school year. Walker is from Drummond and attended University of Montana (UM) for her teaching degree.

New to Plains, but not to teaching, is first grade teacher Wendy Tulloch, who was a student in the Hot Springs School District. First-year teacher Lindsey McGee was also educated at UM and Gonzaga and will take on second grade. Paige Fickler, who graduated from UM-Western, will start her first teaching job in fifth grade. George Sherwood is another Western grad and has accepted the seventh and eighth grade science and history teaching gig. Sherwood will also teach elementary physical education and high school weight lifting, as well as spending his evenings as an assistant football coach. Evelyn Miller transferred from teaching in Libby. The former Logger will instruct seventh and eighth grade English, as well as freshman and junior English classes.

Plains also hired two para-professionals to add to their team. Cindy Gumm and Catharane Elliott will work K-12, as well as filling where appropriate to assist the school’s operations. Plains School District also welcomed their new district secretary, Devon Holland. Her degrees are in marketing and interpersonal communications, which Chisholm said is a perfect fit for the face of the administration.

In the Hot Springs School District, superintendent Mike Perry said the first day of school was a success and was already enjoying the new teacher faces in the classrooms. Taking on the agriculture class is Justin Wright. Fresh from Montana State University and summer training in teaching welding, Wright offers dual elective enrollment in welding and the start up of the school’s first Future Farmers of America program (FFA). Family Consumer Science is now taught by Brenda Haase, who was living in Clark Fork and teaching in Sandpoint before relocating to Hot Springs for the school year. Melissa Martin transferred from teaching in St. Regis to educate in English and Spanish. Her husband is with the police department in Hot Springs and the new teaching job has eliminated their long commute from their former residence in Plains. With over 30 years of experience, Bonnie Franklin is back in the education saddle having taken on the K-12 Special Ed vacancy in the district. New hire Susan Hunter was a student teacher in the district last year and will be the junior high English and math teacher, as well as working in elementary interventions.

Hot Springs also had some shuffling of existing staff. Renee Dalton has switched from teaching the upper grades, landing in the fourth-grade classroom for this school year. Math teacher Mindy Leichtnam has taken on art. And long-time assistant cook, Shae Jeffries has moved into the head cook position.

Noxon has welcomed new staff to the Red Devil ranks. At the top of the hires is new superintendent Mike Ehinger, who spent five years in the same position at Reed Point, Montana. He also taught math at Terry and Lambert, Montana, for quite some time. He brings 10 years of experience in accounting and tax software as well. Twenty-six-year Noxon School employee Rhonda Horner has taken on the principal role. Horner was the district librarian and Title 1 director previously, and worked with 4-H and the Parent Teacher Organization. Horner said her favorite sport is reading but would say volleyball if told reading is not a sport.

Leaving her many years with Flathead’s Department on Aging, Kathi Kallis was welcomed as the district’s new business manager. Talented musician Leanna Klaus was a para-professional in the school last year, as well as the school’s go-to music accompanist. Klaus has now taken an elementary teaching position. Eight-year Noxon resident and three-year junior high basketball coach Kaela Burgess is now a full-time elementary teacher.


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