Let’s Help GFPS Trustees Spend More Time With Their Families



The reaction to Great Falls Public Schools Superintendent Tammy Lacey’s recent resignation was as one would expect, polarized. Some folks celebrated Lacy’s departure, and some, typically those “riding for the brand”, bemoaned what they believed was a significant loss to the District.

The dichotomy of Lacey’s tenure can be reduced to her actions, good and bad. On one hand she was the consummate salesperson for the District; she was everywhere. From basketball games to bar mitzvahs. It appears that is what she was hired to do, not to make strategic decisions, or engage in any long-range planning for the District. After all, she was an administrator and nothing more.

In the absence of Lacey, the District will go on, a new superintendent will be found, and with that, one has to ask if anything will change? Will the public play any role in the selection of Lacey’s replacement as some of our readers have suggested? Will the union push for someone from the same mold?

The process is already beginning:

“Tammy’s Top Ten for Tuesday September 18, 2018

The next Board meeting is on Monday, September 24 at 5:30 at the District Office Building, 1100 4th St. S. An agenda item of note includes decisions around advertising for the new superintendent to replace me after my retirement on June 30, 2019. The full agenda and supporting information will be posted on the afternoon of September 20 at this link: www.gfps.k12.mt.us/content/school-board.”

One issue that needs to be addressed is that of the proliferation of conflicts of interest at the school district. Montana law defines Ethical requirements for public officers and public employees as follows: MCA 2-2-105 (4),

One issue that needs to be addressed is that of the proliferation of conflicts of interest at the school district.

(4) When a public employee who is a member of a quasi-judicial board or commission or of a board, commission, or committee with rulemaking authority is required to take official action on a matter as to which the public employee has a conflict created by a personal or private interest that would directly give rise to an appearance of impropriety as to the public employee’s influence, benefit, or detriment in regard to the matter, the public employee shall disclose the interest creating the conflict prior to participating in the official action.

As an example of “giving rise to an appearance of impropriety as to the public employee’s influence” occurred at the August 22, 2011 meeting of the GFPS Board of Trustees; the award of a $150K architectural and engineering study of Great Falls High School. Laura Vukasin who is the president of a Great Falls bank and sits on the bank’s board of directors along with the principal of the local architectural firm which was awarded the contract. She not only voted in favor of the award, but also made the motion. It should also be noted that as president of the bank, she serves at the pleasure of the bank’s board of directors. Do you see an appearance of impropriety in this action?

Fast forward to the award of the architectural contract for the new Giant Springs Elementary School in 2017. Trustee Vukasin did the same thing. She voted to award a $1M+ contract to the same architectural firm.

On August 20, 2018, the school board voted to award the architectural contract for the new Longfellow Elementary School to the same architectural firm. Trustee Vukasin did not attend the August 20, 2018 meeting, but my guess is that she would have voted in favor just like she had done twice before.

(From the 8/20/18 minutes: “F. Committee Recommendation of Architect for the Longfellow Elementary School Project – Director of Business Operations Brian Patrick, reported that the previous Friday had been spent conducting interviews with the five architectural firms selected for interviews. He reported that the interview committee is recommending 36 L’Heureaux Page Werner (LPW) Architecture be awarded the architect contract for the Longfellow Elementary School project pending successful fee negotiations. Motion – Kim Skornogoski, Second – Teresa Schreiner, passed unanimously, to 40 approve L’Heureaux Page Werner (LPW) Architecture as the architect firm for the 41 Longfellow Elementary School project”)

Time for a change in the school board?

Trustee Vukasin is up for re-election next Spring and hopefully she will have the opportunity to spend more time with the grand-kids too.



Posted by Philip M. Faccenda

Philip M. Faccenda is an AIA award-winning architect and planner. He is the Editor-in-Chief of E-City Beat.

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