Election season is coming earlier than usual to Billings with School District 2 Board of Trustees elections on May 3.
The School Board is made up of nine representatives in various districts. They oversee the big picture of the Billings School District by managing the budget, approving the curriculum, and working with the staff on individualized school needs.
With a mail-in-only election, ballots are mailed out on April 13, and must be returned to the Yellowstone County Elections Office via mail or dropped off before May 3. Additionally, regular voter registration ended on April 4, and to register one must go to the elections office to register before noon on May 2.
There are four different seats up for election in Zones 3, 4, 5, and 7. In Zone 3, the candidates are Shannon Johnson and Teresa Larsen. In Zone 4, the candidates are incumbent Zack Terakedis and Chad Nelson. In Zone 5, the candidates are incumbent Scott McCulloch, Kayla Ladson, and Kirsten Gilfeather. In Zone 7, the candidates are incumbent Brian Yates and John VonLangen.
This is the first time since 2015 that the school board has actually had a contested election. All three incumbents were appointed to their current positions. The exigence behind this need to contest the school board seats–masks.
The group “Make Masks Optional” has fought to end mandatory masking in the school district. Although mandatory masking has ended in Billings schools, the group continues to have a presence in the upcoming elections. They have sponsored four candidates, including Shannon Johnson, Kirsten Gilfeather, Chad Nelson, and John VonLangen.
The rhetoric matches that of national political issues. Candidates are focusing on issues of parental involvement, eliminating critical race theory, superintendent accountability, and limiting wasteful spending.
The other major endorsement in this race is the Billings Education Association, the local teachers union, which has sponsored Scott McCulloch, Brian Yates, Teresa Larsen, and Zack Terakedis.
As college students, we are at a rare point in our lives in which we recently graduated high school and are old enough to vote. This gives us an understanding of what actual issues face high schoolers and the opportunity to change the school for the better. Therefore, It is encouraged to stay informed and vote in these elections.