BILLINGS – After a few whirlwind days, Billings School District 2’s new superintendent says he’s excited and ready to tackle his new job.
Helena Assistant Superintendent Greg Upham accepted the job Thursday, after the district’s first choice, Dr. Ross Kasun, declined the day before, saying he did not want to relocate from his home state of New Jersey.
Upham said Friday he didn’t have to think long about taking the job. He and Kasun were the two finalists identified by the Billings Board of Trustees.
He said he’s impressed with Billings schools and wants to continue the work that retiring Superintendent Terry Bouck started. Bouck is leaving to launch a bid for the Montana state senate.
Among those areas are enhanced security safety measures across the district, Upham said.
Upham said there’s a fine balance between ensuring safety and avoiding creating unnecessary fear.
“That you build a safe, welcoming environment through relationships where students feel safe to come forward, and say anything that’s bothering them, and/or parents. That’s the most effective safe schools initiative that you could have. So I’m very comfortable with the work that Superintendent Bouck has done. And I actually met with him yesterday before I left Billings that was one of the major topics, about what Billings was doing moving forward,” Upham said.
He added that he wants the high schools to help students transition into the “real: world, but in order to gain public support – a connection to the community is key.
“I’m just excited to get down to Billings and meet people and have a chance to listen to the initiatives that are in the district. I know what most of them are but I just look forward to meeting people,” Upham said. “Where we’ve made a mistake as a system is simply that the senior year is a year of completion. It’s not a year of completion. It’s a year of transition. No longer can a K12 education feed a family. Those days are gone. Our students have to think past that and our parents have to think past that. And if we can help students dip their toe in the water, if you will. In the eleventh and twelfth grade I think we are going to see a whole new paradigm shift as to the relevance of an individuals education moving forward.”