Philipsburg Schools gets a ‘Nice’ fit with new Superintendent
Photo by Annabelle Locke
PHILIPSBURG – Philipsburg School was on a search for a new Superintendent this summer and the candidate they hired looks like a pretty nice fit.
Brent Nice that is.
Nice is a former teach/administrator in several districts around Washington and Montana, eventually landing in Judith Gap just before coming to Philipsburg.
But Nice possesses a wealth of experience that goes well beyond the classroom, having served in the military off and off since his graduation from high school in 1982. From repairing teletype machines to acting in a combat role as a turret gunner and truck commander on a Humvee in a Scout Recon platoon, Nice has seen and experienced a lot.
“Our original mission was to monitor mosques to see if the Imams were inciting people to riot or help the insurgents,” recalled Nice. “But I realized later that average, everyday Iraqis were just trying to live their lives. Kids would surround us when we were in town and people would bring us out trays of black tea in fancy cups. It really gave you a sense of gentility and an understanding of why we were there.
“I saw a young boy scrounge to find part of a pad of notebook paper and it was amazing to see how much it meant to him. I worked with the high school I taught at to get backpacks of supplies sent over so they would have their own materials, because the teachers were selling off their supplies to make money.”
“From what I’ve experienced in teaching, arts are a pretty critical component in developing well rounded students. ... building the arts program up a little more down the road is definitely on my radar. There are kids out there that tend to get marginalized, especially in smaller communities like this."
~ Brent Nice
Nice’s desire to serve kids in an educational format may have intensified right there as he re-entered the teaching field once he left the military.
Having been in his office just a few weeks, he now looks to get ready for the coming school year which will start next week.
“The board gave me direction,” Nice observed, “but I think I have a pretty good ability to read situations.
“At times the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Sometimes it may be between students and teachers or maybe inter-school, but I think it all starts with the administration and the teachers. One of my big tenets is relationship building. I know that as the new administrator it is imperative is that I build trust.”
Nice said that being firm but fair and not acting as a politician with empty promises is how he’ll start.
“I like to visit classrooms while they’re teaching,” he continued. “Not to break things up, but to give teachers confidence in what they’re doing. I’m not there to micromanage but to serve and help them. It also lets kids know that I’m in the halls and an approachable person.”
One part of the student population that Nice has a heart for are the under served kids – the ones that in a smaller school may not fit into the traditional or popular molds.
“I want to act as a guide and a mentor,” he said. “I’ve seen what an authoritarian system does and that may have worked back in our day, but kids are a lot more thoughtful today and we have to recognize and celebrate that.
“From what I’ve experienced in teaching, arts are a pretty critical component in developing well rounded students. They get to see how everything gets put together from math, science, technology. In this first year I’ll be seeing how I can fit into the system to make it better. But building the arts program up a little more down the road is definitely on my radar. There are kids out there that tend to get marginalized, especially in smaller communities like this. They get labeled because they don’t fit into the traditional mold.
“Those kids are so fun to talk to. I’ve always enjoyed them because they function intellectually at a different level because they think about things the ordinary kid doesn’t and that makes them fascinating.
"I think it’s important to address that and enrich their lives just as much as the other students.”
Nice and the rest of Philipsburg Schools will hit the ground running Wednesday, August 25th.