School Board Candidate Profiles: Going, Skornogoski, Tankink & Wight

Editor’s Note: As part of our 2018 Election Year coverage we are here presenting more in our candidate profiles series. So far four of the six candidates running for the Great Falls Public Schools Board of Trustees have responded to our request for profiles. They are, in alphabetical order, Barbara Going, Kim Skornogoski, Judy Tankink and Laura Wight. We will publish the other responses as they are submitted.

Barbara Going

Barbara Going

I am Barbara Going, a senior citizen, who desires to serve as a Trustee on the GFPS Board.

I am running for the school board at this time because I believe that it is important for people with traditional values to be willing to speak up, new thoughts and different voices.

Term limits for any decision making body of elected officers is important to help the community’s views be heard.  Since there are no incumbents in this election new voices will be added to the board so this is an  important election.

My experience includes a double major in Elementary Education and Speech Pathology having used both degrees in several states. For the past seven years I have volunteered to assist in the “reading intervention” class at East Middle School. I am qualified, have a analytical mind, am a good listener and am not afraid to speak.

My husband and I are retired small business owners.  We raised four children who graduated from Great Falls High, grandparents of five. I have attended school board meetings, was selected for a citizens district budget committee, have attended community budget meetings and many community meetings on the past bond issues.  My experience with groups has been at a national and state level with our business and the women’s group through our church. For the past seven years,  I have served on our Neighborhood Council and as a Hospice volunteer.

Would I be the best candidate?  I would try to represent the values of the middle class citizens in our city, the concerns of the students, teachers and parents. God asks for our availability, He provides the ability. I would appreciate your support. There will be new voices on the board. It may be the right time to be heard.

Kim Skornogoski

Kim Skornogoski

As the mom of a Sunnyside kindergartner, I am in our schools every day. As a Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer, I mentor students in our schools every week. Through my daily job at United Way of Cascade County, I work with school employees to advance critical Graduation Matters goals that touch students at every age.

I’m a fifth-generation Montanan, who has lived in Great Falls for 20 years. My 14 years as a Great Falls Tribune reporter taught me to ask questions and to listen – two skills that have served me well in my initial months on the school board.

For example, when it was time to consider a school levy, I listened to concerns about school spending and asked questions. I reached out to the Office of Public Instruction’s data office to get per student spending numbers for every school in the state.

I learned that Great Falls not only spends less than all other AA schools, but we are in the bottom 10 percent of all schools when we look at our total budget compared to the number of students we serve. Great Falls spends about $2,000 less per student than the state average and as much as $4,130 less than other AA schools.

Yet our kids must compete against those other Montana students for jobs and scholarships. And I hear often from local business owners who are frustrated trying to find quality employees. The answer is to invest smartly in education. Our schools have terrific technical programs and allow students to graduate with specialized diplomas that reflect the skills and knowledge they developed in welding, construction and other trades.

I applied for an open seat on the school board, and I’m running to retain that seat because I want our community to be a better place. I want to see Great Falls grow and move forward. When we invest in education, we are building a better workforce, we are arming future business leaders with the skills they need to succeed.

Most importantly, my involvement for the last six years with the Graduation Matters initiative has given me the opportunity to listen to students who have barriers in their lives that are hard to imagine. I hope to advocate not just for my daughter but for every student.

Judy Tankink

Judy Tankink

I was born and raised in Great Falls and attended GFPS. In 2013, I retired from an engineering firm as a secretary. For approximately 17 years, I worked as a secretary for Great Falls Public Schools in several departments: Accounts Payable, Title 1 Reading Center, Mountain View Elementary, Data Processing, and Human Resources receiving numerous promotions and “Good Apple” awards during my tenure at GFPS. This background has enabled me to be aware of what we can do to continue to provide a great learning experience for our children while being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers.

GFPS needs diversity of thought.  I bring a unique background and set of experiences which will result in a diversity of thought that GFPS School Board is currently lacking.  As a fiscal conservative, I will work with the board to make the best decisions for our children and for the community. I will fulfill that responsibility with fidelity. A trustee’s greatest concern must be the educational welfare and safety of the students attending GFPS.

School Board Term Limits: I believe there should be term limits for school board members.

Live-Stream and Archive School Board Meetings: Not everyone can attend a school board meeting, but that doesn’t mean that that people aren’t interested or concerned about what’s going on at GFPS. It’s time that GFPS provided this opportunity for working parents and taxpayers.

School Bond/School Levy: The result is more taxes! Taxpayers approved almost $99 Million Bond in 2016. According to GFPS, “The increase in taxes for the entire $98,858,785 proposed bond levy on a $100,000 “market valued” home is estimated at approximately $68.74/year or $5.73/month for 20 years.”

The language on the ballot for the current levy request states, “Passage of this levy will increase your taxes on a home of $100,000 by approximately $13.28.” It’s important to remember that levies never expire. They will always be on your taxes.

I believe in Zero-based budgeting. Zero-base budgeting (ZBB) is a budgeting process that asks departments to build a budget from the ground up, starting from zero. It is a decision-making process based on imagining yourself back at the point before particular decisions were made, and free to make those decisions with the knowledge that you now have. School Board members are not elected to be rubber stampers for the administration!

Common Core Testing: The Common Core State Standards have led to an increased emphasis on standardized test performance while de-emphasizing good teaching. Parents should be notified that they have the right to opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing that reflects the Common Core standards.  Furthermore, parents should not be bullied or demonized if they make that choice for their children.

Laura Wight

Laura Wight

Thank you to E-City Beat for your interest in and coverage of the School Board Trustee elections in Great Falls. I am running for School Board Trustee to have the opportunity to use my professional expertise and personal experience to represent the ‘public good’ and the multiple constituent groups in our community through service to public education.  I do not approach the School Board Trustee candidacy with a set individual agenda.

I am the best candidate for the three-year seat for several reasons.  I am a Montana native and lifetime public educator.  I have taught for 17 years at the college level in various capacities.  I currently work as the Director of Library Services at Great Falls College MSU and also teach the Introduction to Education course (preparing future teachers) as an adjunct faculty member.  I am knowledgeable in Federal education policy, Montana state curriculum standards and local GFPS District policy.  Throughout my career, I have nurtured a lifetime passion for public education.  The purpose of public education is to provide universal access to free education.  Public education should ‘level the playing field’ and guarantee equal opportunities for all children.  It should prepare our future citizens academically for college or to enter the workforce.  Through public education we are preparing children to be economically self-sufficient critical thinkers and to participate effectively as citizens in a democratic society.

I also feel I am the best candidate because I am a parent and community advocate.  I am a product of public education and have four children in public elementary, middle and high schools in Great Falls. Over the years, I have gained a wealth of experience talking and collaborating with teachers, advocating for my children in the schools and working to bring awareness to the community on the benefits of public education.  My husband and I are proud to call Great Falls home and are active advocates for the city on multiple fronts. I have also served as a parent officer on the Lincoln Elementary PTA for the last four years.

Lastly, I feel I am the best candidate because I believe the role of the local school board is to provide leadership in working with the community to craft a shared mission and vision for its schools that reflects the whole community. The school board has a responsibility to keep a finger on the pulse of education needs in the community as it evolves. This is done through consistent communication, active listening, participation in activities and events and maintaining a mutual respect with students, families, employees and all members of the community. Good public education is a collaborative between teachers, parents, administrators and taxpayers. GFPS District facilities, resources and employees are public assets and the Board must be a responsible steward of public resources.  School Board members should be visible and involved in community events, attend school activities and functions and advocate for the public schools.

Reader interactions

5 Replies to “School Board Candidate Profiles: Going, Skornogoski, Tankink & Wight”

  1. Wow. All good candidates. We’re lucky. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to do it.


  2. Laura Wight wrote, “Through public education we are preparing children to be economically self-sufficient critical thinkers and to participate effectively as citizens in a democratic society.”

    If only that were true, but indeed it is not. Our public schools haven’t taught critical thinking for quite some time. And when the Common Core BS took over, things only got worse. From what I’ve seen, the only “critical thinkers” emerging from US public schools are not the result of the schools, but instead are motivated and encouraged to do so by involved parents who themselves are critical thinkers.

    Locally, I object to the way GFPS conducts business (cronyism). I object to GFPS treating taxpayers as an open checkbook with no thought to accountability. I object to GFPS choosing to ignore some questions from taxpayers.

    And now GFPS proposes another levy, mainly, it appears, because of poorly negotiated contracts that kowtow to the teachers union. We, the taxpayers, will pay the price. My husband and I had our health insurance premiums double and we have to cover the increase ourselves. We don’t get to ask taxpayers for more money.

    Learn to tighten your belt GFPS, like the rest of us.


  3. Aside from one candidate, the others sound like machines, programmed to say what they think people want to hear. I too, feel that the GFPS should live well within the budget given to them. When I checked this morning as I got ready for work, I did not see the letters “ATM” on my forehead.


  4. J. C. Kantorowicz April 25, 2018 at 5:48 AM

    I have known Judy Tankink for many years and found her to be intelligent, engaged and a tireless worker on any project she tackles. The depth of her experience is unequaled by most of the other candidates. Please have no hesitation in placing your confidence in Judy Tankink!

    Barbara Going has been engaged in the community for years with a quiet, intelligent determination to speak the truth and provide common sense to our government. Her support of the Constitution and grasp of the economic reality of this community is a necessary addition to the School Board.

    When you cast your vote for School Board Trustees….. You will make the best choice supporting Tankink and Going!


  5. Diane Stinger May 7, 2018 at 12:43 PM

    Great candidates. Thanks to each of them for being willing to serve on the school board. Educating our children is the most important thing we can do to prepare them for the very, very complicated world they are growing in. While substitute teaching in Great Falls I have found every teacher I have encountered to be dedicated professionals who work hard every day to make learning possible for every student. I am impressed at the critical thinking skills being taught in Language Arts and Math at every level. Children are challenged to refer back to what they have read to answer questions and develop problem solving and analytical skills. Math concepts are introduced early and repeated over and over, so that mastery can be achieved. Great Falls children are well served in our schools and well served by these very thoughtful candidates who are concerned enough to be willing to devote some time to keeping it that way. What sort of community could we call ourselves if we do not support educating our children to the very best of our and their ability? Children are most heavily influenced by their parents; this is as it should be. Schools offer children, and families, valuable additional tools for learning, growing, understanding, and meeting the challenges they will face as adults. Children and families can use the tools offered, or not. We MUST provide a quality, free, public education or risk winding up as a third world country where only those parents who can afford to buy it can educate their children, or only boys are allowed an education, or only religious education from one source is available. Vote for one of these good people, and support the school levy. Provide the materials for teaching/learning and pay the professionals who so ably dedicate their days to our childrens’ education what they are worth.


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