RANCHESTER — The Sheridan County School District 1 Board of Trustees named Tongue River Middle School principal Pete Kilbride as its new superintendent Monday. The SCSD1 board interviewed three candidates for the position earlier this month but didn’t think any of them were the right fit.
At the behest of district administrators, the SCSD1 board interviewed Kilbride April 13 and offered him the position, which he verbally accepted. Kilbride officially begins his new position July 1.
Kilbride has been TRMS principal since 2014 and joined the district as a counselor at Tongue River High School in 2006. He grew up in Grenora, North Dakota, and graduated from the University of North Dakota. He loved the coziness of small towns so much that while searching for jobs after college, Kilbride only applied to towns with a population of less than 1,000.
He began his teaching career in 1990 in Long Creek, Oregon, a logging town in the eastern part of the state. Kilbride then moved to Laramie High School, where he was a social studies teacher from 1994 to 2003 and guidance counselor from 2003 until 2006.
Kilbride talked with The Sheridan Press Tuesday afternoon about accepting the new job, growing up in a small town, his career and future plans for the school district.
Press: When did the board ask you to come in for an interview?
Kilbride: Friday morning.
Press: Did that catch you off-guard?
Kilbride: It did. The big hope was that they’d be comfortable with one of the three candidates they had chosen to bring in, and when it wasn’t clear-cut, that’s when I think they started looking at what else they could do.
Press: What was that moment like, when they actually offered you the job?
Kilbride: It was certainly intense. The superintendency is not something I have aspired to in my educational career. I’ve never looked at it and went, “When I’m done with education, that’s where I want to be.” It wasn’t until the start of this whole process when a lot of people were telling me, “Pete, you’d make a great superintendent. You’d be great in that position.” Then I started thinking maybe down the road that wouldn’t be a bad thing.
But I did not apply for the position when it was open because I absolutely love middle school. That’s why I didn’t look into the (Tongue River) High School principal position when it opened up, (either).
Press: What was the weekend like for you?
Kilbride: I didn’t sleep a whole lot; stomach was tied up in knots for sure, but I also felt like I was really led to do this. I’m one of those (people) that has to be pushed into those leadership positions. I always feel like there’s somebody better out there at it, and so I don’t go seeking them.
But I’ve had 28 years in education. I don’t know if I’d be more ready with 29 or 30 years than I am right now. I would’ve never said yes had our district not been in the position it is right now. We’re in a very good place, and so that’s what made me more comfortable to be able to say yes.
Press: What do the next two and a half months look like for you?
Kilbride: The number one priority at this point will be finding my own replacement here at the middle school. We’ll have to look at that, and truly I just want to finish out being the middle school principal. I still have teacher evaluations to finish up here in the next two weeks. I’m in the middle of creating a schedule for next year. (Current superintendent) Marty Kobza is in charge until June 30. He’ll work closely with me over the next couple months if there’s something to talk about.
Press: What brought you to Sheridan County in 2006?
Kilbride: Two years prior I had been up at Eatons’ Ranch working with (state educators) rewriting assessments. I’d never been up in this part of the country and I took a motorcycle ride and ended up in Dayton. It felt like my hometown.
So I actually talked with Sue Belish, who was the (SCSD1) superintendent at the time, and she said, “Well, we’ll have a counseling position opening here probably in two years. Keep us in mind and we’ll keep you in mind.” Sure enough, two years later, the opening came up.
Press: What is it about small towns that appeals to you so much?
Kilbride: It’s a community deal and the school is the center of the community. I just love that fact. I love the fact that everybody knows each other. And you live in a glass house, which isn’t always the best position to be in, but I don’t mind that. I love the fact that people look out for one another. When you go to the ball games, the whole community is there, whether they have kids playing or not. It’s kind of the social hub of any community, and that’s what I love. There’s just something very comfortable about small towns.
Press: In this new position, what’s something you’re looking forward to?
Kilbride: I would say getting to work with both sides of the district really does excite me. Once a month, we have cohort days where we work with our counterpart on the other side of the district, so my science teacher works with the Big Horn Middle School science teacher and we look at curriculum and assessments. (BHMS principal Richard Welch and I) get together and the last time I was over there, I said, “Rich, I love walking down the hall and being able to listen to your teachers teach and just seeing something different.”
So I would love to see some exchanges where we have science teachers swap for a day and let them teach each other’s kids and get a new perspective. And let’s do that as building administrators (as well). I just think there’s so much to learn from one another.
Press: Conversely, what are you most worried about?
Kilbride: Budgets. With the continuing decline in revenue, that’s certainly an area of concern. We haven’t given our teachers a raise in five years. That’s been really, really tough. And we’ve cut staff and we’ve gotten down to the point where it’s like, ‘I don’t know how much more we can cut and still continue to do an equitable job.’ Those are tough conversations.