Shannon O'Brien

This is a hopeful time for so many of our students. The future is bright as graduation nears and families beam with pride, anticipating their child walking across that stage. As a legislator, a former classroom teacher and the mom of a high school student, though, I must admit I worry. Are we doing enough to make sure all our students have the opportunities they deserve? That is why I’m running to be your next State Superintendent of Schools.

We’ve essentially abandoned our schools in the last eight years under the current state leadership. Now more than ever, we need effective and competent leadership to regain the ground that has been lost. We can do better, we must do better.

Montana deserves an Office of Public Instruction that is responsive – to the needs of the legislature and the profession, yes, but most of all to Montana’s children. No matter what, you can count on me to put students at the center of each decision we make; to answer your calls and to make calls myself to get you the answers you need; and to work productively with local school boards, state boards, and higher education to restore the system of quality public education our constitution promises.

We have serious concerns in our state affecting public education. We must address the teacher shortage crisis without lowering our standards for teaching as a profession. We must address the mental health issues in our schools because they affect not just student learning but student safety. Every child deserves a safe school with an effective teacher in the classroom.

We must recognize that the same housing shortages and sky-rocketing property taxes that make these times tough for working Montanans also make it tough to dedicate the resources needed to repair, restore, and reinvent public education in the 21st century.

You can count on me to work with both sides of the aisle to pass and implement the laws needed to address those issues. Ask any legislator who has worked with me in the house or senate: I’m not interested in throwing bricks. I’m interested in building with them.

We will rebuild the Office of Public Instruction to be the resource for support, collaboration, professional growth, and transformation it once was. Using the relationships I have made across the aisle and around the state, we will bring Montanans back together to solve these big problems through respectful, sincere, and thoughtful collaboration.

And although the problems are daunting and the work will be tough, we must never forget to celebrate what we do in our public schools, what we have always done: We welcome frightened little 5-year-olds to kindergartens (and parents!)  throughout this state and then watch them walk across a stage 13 years later, full of the confidence and hope that skill, knowledge, and ability bring.

While graduates send their mortar boards flying, parents silently congratulate each other, and the rest of us exchange smiles that say, “We did that. As a state, we made this happen.”

That moment makes tough work rewarding. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to it. I would be honored to serve you and to do everything I can to nurture, develop and celebrate our children’s success.