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Meet the candidates for the Big Sky School District Board of Trustees

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The current election includes voting on two open seats on the Big Sky School District Board of Trustees. One seat holds a three-year term and the other has a two-year term. There are two people vying for the three-year spot: Stacy Ossorio and Matt Dodd. Three are in the running for the two-year seat: Maren Dunn, Scott Hammond and Seth Barker.

EBS sent each candidate a series of questions about why they want to serve on the school board and their top priority. Take a read and get to know the local candidates and remember to cast your vote by May 2.

Stacy Ossorio

What’s your occupation?

I have been a real estate broker and community volunteer for the last 30 years. 

How long have you lived in Big Sky? Do you have any children in the district, if so what grades?

I have three children all of whom went to the Ophir School graduating from the 8th grade. I was a parent there for 13 consecutive years and at the time focused my volunteer energies and time on the OSC (the parent organization at the time).

What qualifies you to sit on the Big Sky School District Board of Trustees?

I have always been an advocate of educational opportunities for all kids in Big Sky. I started Stepping Stones Preschool with Mary Wheeler in 1994 as there was no program for preschoolers at that time. The goal was for all children to enter Kindergarten with the same preparation. We raised money for scholarships if needed. No child was left out.

I have been a Trustee for 7 years, I am thoughtful, familiar with the processes, and have no agenda other than to provide the best and safest educational opportunities possible for all children and their families in the district.

If elected, what’s your top priority for the district?

My first priority is to ensure that all students have access to challenging and quality educational opportunities so that they are prepared to launch their lives and be successful in whatever path they choose after graduation.

My second priority is to provide a voice for the nonschool voters and district members, to ensure that school facilities are available to the whole community, providing worthy programming and facilities. When completed the school campus will provide community-wide opportunities and access for sports, such as indoor pickleball, basketball, and walking track, to adult education classes and other needs to be identified by users.

In sum Big Sky deserves a school that the entire community can be proud of, providing opportunities to students and community members alike. 

Matt Dodd

What’s your occupation?

I am the founder and lead attorney with Dodd Law Firm, P.C. We have offices in Big Sky, Bozeman, and Livingston where we help folks with “real people law” — assisting with personal injury, criminal, and divorce/custody cases.

How long have you lived in Big Sky? Do you have students in the district, if so what grades?

I lived (mostly winters) in Big Sky from 2000 to 2013 working as a ski instructor and a variety of other jobs. In 2013, I moved back with my wife, Ashley, and two young children, Piper and Jasper. After starting with the Big Sky School District in kindergarten, Piper is just finishing up seventh grade, and Jasper is about to finish fourth.

What qualifies you to sit on the Big Sky School District Board of Trustees?

While there are many qualified folks who could sit on our Board of Trustees, my background, in the school and out, makes me a good fit for the school, its teachers and staff, and the students.

From my early days in Big Sky, I bought into the community and the people that make it work. In the early 2000s, I substituted for a number of the teachers at Ophir when they needed a personal health (or ski) day. During our time working at the Resort, my wife and I (along with a great group of ski and snowboard instructor friends) started Kidski, a nonprofit dedicated to building self-esteem, social awareness, and a love and concern of the outdoor environment in under-privileged area youth.

When I finished law school, I served as a member of the board (and later, president of the board), for Morningstar Learning Center from 2014-2018. During that time, I used my legal background (and a lot of community support) to negotiate for the purchase of the lot next door to ensure Morningstar had room to grow, to supervise the build of the infant center to allow Morningstar to serve more families, and to advocate for (and dig the holes to install) stop signs and lower speed limits throughout the South Fork and West Fork neighborhoods.

Since 2018, I have served as a trustee for the Big Sky Fire District, supporting the men and women of the department through the appointment of a new Chief and the expansion of the leadership team, arguing before the Resort Tax Board for additional funding of our growing department, and working with local developers to ensure they take the Fire Department’s needs into consideration as Big Sky continues to grow.

In the midst of all this, I have served on nearly a half dozen HOA boards, provided representation to many folks throughout our community, and done my best to raise two children alongside my wife. It does not hurt that my family are in and around the school nearly every day. My children ride the bus, attend school, and participate in sports and its scholastic offerings. My wife, Ashley, has worked four days a week in the district’s lunch program for the last five years, regularly serves as a guest teacher, and leads the community theatre efforts at the WMPAC. And Alanah Griffith and I have coached the Lone Peak Mock Trial team the last four years.

If elected, what’s your top priority for the district?

Teacher and staff retention is the biggest challenge I see for the district. Our bus drivers pick up our kids every morning, our teachers spend hours of their day with our children, and our staff feeds them, cleans up after them, and protects them throughout the day. Without this amazing pool of folks (some who have been with the school for decades) our school cannot thrive, and our kids cannot learn. Our teachers and staff must know that we have their backs and that we are doing all we can to protect their ability to live and thrive in our community. Each board member should be advocating for housing opportunities, appropriate pay, continuing ed opportunities, mental health support, and community connections to nurture the folks who are nurturing our children.

Maren Dunn

What’s your occupation?

My occupation is physician. I’m a family doctor at Big Sky Medical Center. 

How long have you lived in Big Sky? Do you have any children in the district, if so what grades?

I was in Big Sky periodically from 2004 to 2008 working under Dr. Daniels at the Medical Clinic of Big Sky. In 2011 I moved here permanently and opened my own practice, Gallatin Family Medicine. My daughter was born in 2013, she’s in 3rd grade at Ophir. 

What qualifies you to sit on the Big Sky School District Board of Trustees?

I have watched Big Sky children and the BSSD school grow and develop over the past 11 years. It’s been an impressive trajectory! I’d like the opportunity to help continue this growth that will continue to put our children on the educational map with other children from big cities. 

I feel qualified to serve as a BSSD board member because I have been on the Board of Directors for Morningstar Learning Center for 8 years, almost 3 of which as President and one as VP. My years as President were 2019-2022 – the Pandemic years. The challenges we on the Board faced were unprecedented. Looking back, I’m impressed by the way we led MLC and overcame huge obstacles. The daycare/preschool stayed open as one of very few businesses that served front line workers. It was day-to-day and week-to-week efforts of all involved to keep the doors open and the lights on. I learned how well this community supports its families as we navigated financial difficulties and have managed the necessary functional growth of Morningstar since the pandemic subsided. I have great respect and understanding for the complexities of childhood learning and its diverse needs. Our community deserves to have its children educated and offered options for extracurricular activities that propel them into bright futures. I’d like the opportunity continue in this capacity. 

If elected, what’s your top priority for the district?

Top priorities for our district are: Work on retaining teachers through improved pay and adequate housing. 

Supporting new educational opportunities such as what is to come with the new STEM building as well as continuing to diversify our extracurricular activities. The addition of baseball and track & field as well as boosting the arts are examples of recent growth in this area. 

Scott Hammond

What’s your occupation?

Property management and development.

How long have you lived in Big Sky? Do you have any students in the district, and if so, what grades?

I moved here in the winter of ‘94/’95. My daughter graduated in ‘21. And my son graduates in a couple of weeks.

What qualifies you to sit on the Big Sky School District Board of Trustees?

I’m somebody who’s interested in education and interested in kids having a positive experience at the school district.

If elected, what’s your top priority for the district?

Outside of teaching and education, to see the school expanding into its new facilities in a positive manner. The school has concentrated heavily for last 10 years on stringent and really impressive academics, i.e. the International Baccalaureate program. And that’s something to be proud of.

But there’s been some efforts of late and the additions at the school and some strategic relationships outside of the school that can allow for some vocational studies that are that are more concerned with the fact that the trades out in the world are in need of lots of bodies. And also to be aware that not everybody has to go on to a four year college that there’s some other opportunities out there that high school education, and elementary and high school education that people should consider not necessarily shun.

One thing that is lost sight of is that Big Sky’s full of wealthy second homeowners. There’s a lot parents who are white-collar oriented. But one thing that should never be underestimated about Big Sky is that there’s thousands of men and women every day in the trades in our community, building the community. It’s a massive, massive part of our economy. Our kids shouldn’t be removed from that. The hopefully soon to be approved additions aren’t putting in welding shops and vocational shops and woodworking shops and automotive shops. I wish it were but it’s being discussed now more than ever before.

Seth Barker

What’s your occupation?

Big Sky Fire Department Deputy Chief of Operations for 22 years.

How long have you lived in Big Sky? Do you have any students in the district, and if so, what grades?

I’ve been living in Big Sky for 22 years and I have a junior, 17-year-old Logan Barker and I have an eighth grader, Liam Barker, who’s 13.

What qualifies you to sit on the Big Sky School District Board of Trustees?

So I think, you know, being part of the Big Sky Fire Department that is governed by a volunteer board that rules over our fire chief. It’s very important to me to see that servant leadership with our board that volunteers an exponential amount of time to make sure that our fire department is steered in the right direction. So, it’s time for me to get back to the community and be part of another board with an activity which I’m very passionate about, which is the school board.

The school board is a very big piece of me and my culture, because my entire family is involved in education—from my father, to my mother-in-law, my brother and my sister-in-law are all part of the education system as high school teachers, elementary teachers, guidance counselors, and principals of their organizations back East. So, I know how important it is to be a school board member as part of the community and I want to give back as part of the system.

If elected, what’s your top priority for the district?

My top priority for the district is giving back to the teachers. I think the teachers are very underestimated portion of our community. And I really want to promote and celebrate the teachers and the work they do. So, I want to make sure that I’m an advocate for the teachers coming from the background that my entire family are teachers, have been teachers for the last 30 years, it’s a community that I grew up in, so I really want to celebrate their job, their resources, their benefits and the work that they do.

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