On July 19, 2021, the GFPS Board unanimously decided to recommend Nathan Reiff to fill the vacant Trustee position until the next election due to the death of Jan Cahill. He is the seventh member of the Board of Trustees. Mr. Reiff, along with his colleagues, has the very important task of providing “governance over the District to ensure that students shall have ample opportunity to achieve their individual and collective learning needs.”
When asked several questions, including what prompted him to run for the school board, Nathan graciously responded. The questions and his responses are below.
Our Great Falls schools are an essential part of what makes Great Falls such a great place to live. I am at the point in my life where I have the time to give back, and the school board is a valuable way to contribute to our community. Businesses need great students coming out of our schools and young families choose to move or stay here based on the school system’s strength. I wanted to have the opportunity to contribute to continuing the school’s legacy.
2. As a new board member, how are you feeling so far and what do you hope to accomplish this year in your role?
It has been a busy start to the year with important decisions on school safety and how to best serve our students and keep them learning in person. It has been challenging with the many competing concerns from parents about what is the best strategy to meet those goals. I hope to continue to learn from the community and keep the lines of communication open. It is also important to use the one-time money we have been given wisely, so we can come out of this time stronger and ready to continue to excel as a school system.
3. The district has taken on three goals for the 2021-22 school year: reengagement, reintegration, and remediation. How do you think the district has done with re-engaging/reintegrating students and staff into the school setting for the 2021-22 school year? What evidence have you seen that shows the district is working towards those goals?
So far, the school has done a great job with these goals. It has been tough for teachers, administrators, and staff. Managing the ongoing pandemic and focusing on these goals has been challenging, and the whole system has done a good job. The school is reaching out to those students who were absent or fell behind. They offered extended summer school options and have been offering tutoring to students on Saturdays. This is a long-term problem that will need attention for the next few years, at least, and the administration has done a great job starting the work. The uptick in attendance shows proof of reengagement. The other goals will require more time to assess.
4. What successes have you had so far as a new board member?
In the first few months, most of my goal has been to listen and learn. I have gained a lot of insight into the school system. Listening will allow me to accomplish more as I move forward. We have done a lot of listening to the concerns of the community. Though we have had to make decisions not everyone agreed with, we have worked to make sure everyone has been heard.
5.What challenges have you had so far this year?
The surge in Covid cases has created a challenge for creating the best learning environment for students. It has been difficult because most of us hoped to be done with the pandemic and moving forward. That has not been the case, and it has been hard to re-establish some of the measures we had in place last year. The politicization of the science has made that even more difficult. Finding the best way to create an environment that best serves students, teachers, and administration has been difficult. I have appreciated the focus of the administration on the safety and well-being of all who interact with the school system.
6. What do you want the Great Falls community to know most about Great Falls Public Schools?
The community has a great school system. The cabinet is doing a good job of focusing on core principles of learning while keeping the whole student in mind. The care for students’ wellbeing, as well as their learning outcomes, is the prime focus of all of our school employees. We are also making important decisions about how to spend one-time money in a manner that benefits the system in the long term and helps to make our students and the school system stronger as we emerge from these challenging few years. The school system is a key to a great community. I am excited about the educational opportunities we can and do provide for our students.
As stated by Mr. Reiff, he has had a very busy fall. We wish him the very best in the remaining months of school while he continues to learn, listen, and support GFPS as an important member of the board.