A ton of work is needed to prepare for opening Bozeman’s second high school, and so the School Board voted Friday to have Erica Schnee help coordinate transition planning over the next school year.
Schnee, 43, has been one of Bozeman High School’s three assistant principals for the past three years.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” Schnee said Friday. “It’s a little daunting when I look at the list of things that have to be done.”
Schnee, named 2018 assistant principal of the year by the Montana Association of Secondary School Principals, said she wants to make it a “positive and collaborative” experience for students, the high school staff and whole community.
Trustees voted 6-0 to approve Superintendent Rob Watson’s plan to shuffle high school administrators to prepare for opening the second high school in the fall of 2020.
Watson also named Randy VanDyk, assistant principal at Chief Joseph Middle School, to take over as an assistant principal at Bozeman High. He will replace Andy Maheras, who is leaving to take a superintendent-principal’s job in the Kalispell area. It hasn’t yet been decided whether VanDyk will take on Maheras’ responsibilities for the Bridger Charter Academy.
Watson plans to hire a temporary assistant principal to fill Schnee’s position next year. Her assignment to work on second high school planning will be for one year only. Meanwhile, Katie Laslovich will continue as an assistant principal at Bozeman High, and Jerry Reisig will continue as activities director.
“This looks like a really good plan,” said Trustee Gary Lusin.
It feels like the school district is “building the plane as we’re flying it,” Watson said.
Watson has a long list of tasks that must be accomplished in the next 18 months. They include drawing attendance boundaries, planning communications, academics and budgets, and deciding which two or three grades of students will move into the new school in its first year (seniors will be allowed to finish at Bozeman High).
Committees of parents, teachers and students will work on issues like drawing boundaries, naming the new school and choosing a mascot and school colors.
Watson said he plans to advertise to hire a new high school principal in December and then hire the second principal to work for one school year, 2019-2020, before the new school opens.
He added that Bozeman High Principal Kevin Conwell does a “wonderful job” and they will discuss whether Conwell should stay at Bozeman High or become principal of the new school.
Once the second high school opens, each school is expected to have 1,200 to 1,500 students, one principal and two assistant principals.
To pay for Schnee to serve as “transition administrator” next school year and a second full-time high school principal the year after, Watson plans to use some money from the $125 million bond issue that voters passed last year to build the second high school and modernize Bozeman High.
Schnee said one challenge in the transition is that teachers are really concerned about who will end up teaching where, and whether both schools will be able to offer the same variety of courses that students enjoy now.
At Bozeman High, she has been working as the liaison between the staff and architects during planning for the second high school. She has also been in charge of the complicated master schedule of classes.
Born in Bozeman, Schnee is a 1992 Bozeman High graduate and 1998 Montana State University graduate. She taught for eight years in Colorado before returning to Bozeman to teach social studies 12 years ago.
In addition to serving as a sponsor for student council and the Model U.N. club, Schnee has helped make Bozeman High famous. She posted videos online of a mallard duck mother and ducklings waddling from the school’s courtyard through the hallway and out the front doors. She said last year’s video got 4 million views.
“I just happened to be in the right place,” she said.