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Retiring Superintendent Finishes Out Crucial Period for Whitefish
House continues advocacy for improved high school
Whitefish School District Superintendent Jerry House
WHITEFISH – After Whitefish School District Superintendent Jerry House announced his retirement this fall, he knew what to do next: get right back to work.

House, in his 11th year as superintendent, has until June 30 before his retirement takes effect. While he’ll stay busy with his usual day-to-day affairs in the meantime, House must also address ongoing funding questions and plans for a new high school. At a critical time for the district, House has no plans to rest.

“Like I told the staff, I’m not going to be a lame duck,” House, 67, said. “There’s business to do.”

House’s career in education has spanned 40 years, beginning in Washington and now finishing in Montana. Before becoming an administrator, he taught English and social studies and coached a variety of sports, including wrestling for 14 years and baseball for nearly 20.

Since taking over as superintendent in Whitefish, House has overseen a period of great transition, spurred by a population boom and marked by efforts to update the district’s school facilities.

Whitefish Middle School underwent a major renovation and, made possible by millions of dollars in private donations, its auditorium was transformed into an elite performing arts theater.

In 2008, House was selected as the state’s superintendent of the year by the School Administrators of Montana.

“That was a super, super honor,” House said.

House has also been an advocate for a new or renovated high school. Voters shot down a $10.4 million bond in 2003 and a $21.5 million bond in 2008 for the high school, but House has continued to place high priority on improving or replacing the antiquated facility.

In August, a design and planning team led by Steeplechase Development Advisors unveiled three proposals for a high school facility, ranging in degrees of new construction and renovation of existing space. Planners are now collecting public feedback with the intention of taking the findings to a school board meeting on Nov. 9, Bayard Dominick of Steeplechase said.

After the board reviews the input, planners will continue working toward the eventual goal of winnowing the three proposals down to one. Dominick said House is active in the planning process.

“He’s been an integral part of every meeting we’ve had,” Dominick said. “He’s been the primary conduit between us and the school board.”

House’s feelings on finding a way to improve the high school have remained the same for years – it must be done.

“The high school needs it desperately,” he said.

The next superintendent, House said, will inherit a dedicated and quality lineup of educators and administrators. When the district’s foundation is strong, House said, much of the battle has already been won for the superintendent.

“We really have some outstanding teachers and administrators,” he said. “I try to teach, ‘There’s no one person, it’s the system.’ People come and go but the system stays in place.”

“It’s a sweet spot,” he added, referring to the Whitefish superintendent post.

Even in retirement, House’s educational work may not be finished. He said he’s looked into possible consultant work and has received a couple of offers. But he still intends to enjoy the fruits of retirement. There will be plenty of fishing, golfing and family time.

“My wife (Deb) won’t let me in the house 24 hours a day,” House said. “She’s been my best friend through this educational experience for 40 years.”
 
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