Educational Leadership Excellence Award

The Educational Leadership Excellence Award was established in October of 2000.  Every autumn, the faculty within the Department of Educational Leadership convenes to reflect upon the accomplishment of past graduates who have made significant contributions to education through their vision and action.  Outstanding alumni are nominated and subsequently chosen by the faculty as recipients of the Educational Leadership Excellence Award.  Each October, the recipient is honored at the Montana Conference of Education Leadership (MCEL) where they are publicly recognized by educational leaders from across Montana. 

Educational Leadership Excellence Award Recipients

Join us at the MCEL Alumni Reception to hear who is the 2020 recipient of the Educational Leadership Excellence Award!

  • WHAT: MCEL Alumni Reception
  • When: TBA
  • Where: TBA | Missoula, MT


Dennis Parman is currently the executive director of the Montana Rural Education Association. With more than 35 years of public education experience, Parman has been the deputy superintendent of schools with the Montana Office of Public Instruction, a principal in Cut Bank, superintendent in Shelby and Havre, and on the Governing Board of the Montana Digital Academy. He received his master's degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Montana.


Dr. Sandra Boham is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and is currently the president of Salish Kootenai College where she was previously vice president of academic affairs. Boham graduated from the University of Montana in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in sociology, earned a master's in adult and higher education from Montana State University in 1991, and completed her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Montana in 2014.

Rob Watson is currently the Superintendent of Missoula Country Public Schools. Prior to that, Watson had been working as the Bozeman School District superintendent for 7 years. Prior to that, Watson was the principal of Bozeman High School from 2009 to 2012, the principal of Sentinel High School from 2005 to 2009, and the principal of Rattlesnake Elementary School and C.S. Porter Middle School. In October 2018, Watson had been named by his peers on the Montana Association of School Superintendents as Montana's school   superintendent of the year. Planning for a second high school and passing the bond along with educational initiatives were just a few of Watson's major accomplishments during his superintendent career in Bozeman.

A school administrator for more than 25 years, Montana principal David N. Wick believes that the principal has the greatest impact on school culture. Because of this outlook, he has dedicated his career to not only his students and faculty but also to his colleagues in education. He steps into his latest leadership role of NAESP president starting Aug. 1, 2019.

“In developing and building positive relationships with all members of the school community, the principal can communicate high expectations, develop an inclusive environment, and motivate all to strive to be their best,” says Wick, principal and director of elementary education at Columbia Falls Junior High School in Columbia Falls, Montana. “While being a principal is a difficult job, I find it to be rewarding and fulfilling, and I respect the many roles of the principal. I am humbled and honored to serve fellow principals in my role with NAESP.”


July 2019, Volume 42, Issue 11 | Communicator

The superintendent of Troy Public Schools and Troy High School principal was honored with The
Educational Leadership Excellence Award last week. Every year in October since 2000, Phyllis J.
Washington College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Montana hosts the
Montana Conference of Education Leadership, where they honor an “outstanding” past graduate
who’s made significant contributions to education through their vision and action.This year, that
awardee was Dr. Jacob Francom, who’s worked at Troy Public Schools for the past six years. “It’s
not just an honor for me it’s an honor for Troy Public Schools and the work that they do,”
Francom said. Francom admitted that he was surprised to receive the award, standing in a room
full of professors and other alumni he admired. “Everytime I go I hear the people that are awarded,
I’m always, ‘Those people are amazing. I want to be more like them,” Francom said. Dr. Patty Kero,
associate professor at the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Services, was
one of the faculty who presented the award. Kero and Francom have known each for around six
years. “I think he’s made a significant contribution through educational leadership,” Kero said. “He
has this knack of really being able to identify talented people and being able to work with their
talents.” According to Kero, she’s visited Troy Public Schools around 10 times in the past two
years. During those visits, she witnessed that Francom is a great mentor for students and teachers,
hiring quality professionals and caring deeply for the families of the students in the school. In his
prepared speech, Francom outlined some of the improvements his team and he have made through
the years in Troy, including setting goals, being courageous, making difficult decisions, forging
ahead and working as a team. Francom also took the opportunity to thank members of his
administrative team.“Diane Rewerts, Christina Schertel, and Keith Haggerty, our administrative team
are outstanding,” Francom said in his speech. “I have never worked with such great people who
are so dedicated to kids and their community. You have given yourselves to the betterment of
others and your work is exemplary. You made me want to be a better person and leader.”
Francom also thanked his wife, Jill Francom, who, he said, is the “most important person in [his] life.”

October 25, 2016 at 7:21 am | By BETHANY ROLFSON/The Western News

Randy Cline is currently the Superintendent of Frenchtown School District in Montana.  He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Education with majors in History and Social Science, as well as a minor in English from Northern Montana College in 1978.  Randy completed his Master's Degree in School Administration and Supervision at the University of Montana in 1993.  Prior to serving as Superintendent of Frenchtown School District, Mr. Cline was the District Superintendent of Whitehall School District, Principal of Whitehall High School, and Teacher at Colstrip and Huntley Project High Schools.  Randy has been recognized numerous times for his outstanding service to Montana schools, including being awarded the titles of Montana Superintendent of the Year in 2013-2014 and Regional Superintendent of the Year in 2012-2013.  Recently, Randy has led the Frenchtown School District in significant expansion as well as fostered improvement in the quality of education for the district’s students.  Mr. Cline, an exemplary leader, has remained proactive, positive, and progressive in the face of adversity.

Tammy Lacey is currently the Superintendent of Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS).  She is a native of Great Falls, where she graduated from C. M. Russell High School.   She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Montana in 1985, she went back to Great Falls to teach 1st and 3rd grades.  After 5 years in the classroom she was selected as the District’s first ever Teacher on Special Assignment which is a model that still exists today.  During those 5 years, Tammy completed her Master’s degree from the University of Montana in Educational Leadership.  At the too young age of 28, Fairfield Public Schools hired Tammy as their K-8 principal, athletic director, special education director, technology director, etc.  To this day, Tammy has the utmost respect for rural administrators and the many hats they wear.  Due to her efforts in furthering technology and academic achievement in Fairfield, she was selected as Montana’s Principal of the Year by the Montana Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals.  Accepting that honor in Washington DC is one of the highlights of Tammy’s career.

After 8 years in that position, she returned to Great Falls as the principal of Loy Elementary where she had the opportunity to work with two very important populations:  the dependents of Malmstrom Air Force Base and the complete continuum of students with special needs.  Working with the military and the district’s most physically and intellectually challenged students and their parents gave Tammy great satisfaction at the end of many hard days.  During that time, she served her colleagues as the Federal Relations Director of MAEMSP which provided her the opportunity to advocate at the federal level for educational issues that affect all of Montana’s children.  She enjoyed being on the Board of Directors of MAEMSP and counts the many colleagues that she served with as some of the most dedicated professionals that she knows.  Always believing in lifelong learning, Tammy completed the Superintendent’s Endorsement at the University of Montana while at Loy.

In 1997, she was appointed as the Director of Human Resources for Great Falls Public Schools.  This position provided many opportunities to demonstrate leadership as the complexities involved with having 1400 employees are many.  Having previously only worked on the instructional side of a school district, this position gave Tammy an in-depth view of the business side of a district.  Those two skill-sets combined led her to apply and be selected as the 10th superintendent of Great Falls Public Schools.

Tammy not only serves the students of Great Falls but she also continues to serve all Montanans through her work as chair of the Certification Standards and Practices Advisory Council, as a member of the Montana Council on Educational Opportunity for Military Children and of the Montana College and Career Standards Commission.  Locally, she serves on the Board of Directors of the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce, the City County Health Department and the Great Falls Development Authority.  She is also a member of the Great Falls Lions Club.

In this 30th year as an educator in Montana, Tammy is thankful for an incredible team to include her Cabinet members and dedicated trustees.  She looks forward to the many celebrations and challenges each day brings.  Besides spending time in schools and at community events, Tammy enjoys golfing, skiing, reading, spending time with family and friends and being a UM Griz fan.

2013 Recipient: Dr. Lynette Chandler

Mike is a fourth generation Montanan and Missoula native.  After graduating from The U of MT with a BA in English, Mike Magone began his teaching career at Columbia Falls Junior High, teaching language arts from 1983-85 and coaching boys basketball at CFHS.  He thereafter attended law school at The U of MT, graduating in 1988 and practicing law in Kalispell for two years.  Missing the world of education, he returned to teaching, at Columbia Falls High School, where he taught English and started a Street Law program from 1990-95.  During that time, he obtained his principal’s endorsement from The U of MT School of Ed.  From 1995 to 1997 he served as the Lincoln County High School Principal before returning to Missoula as the Target Range School District Superintendent until 2004.  He has served as the Lolo School District Superintendent since that time, also earning his Ed. D. from The U of MT School of Ed in 2007.

Mike’s path in education has been diverse and adventurous, but always focused on improving education in Montana for Montana’s kids and educators.  On the one hand researching, writing about and providing professional development for teachers and administrators in school law at local and state-wide levels; on the other hand focusing heavily on school improvement in all areas, especially through establishing processes that serve as long term and successful mechanisms for effective and culture-owned change.  In 2008, after co-authoring an international journal article on Indian Education for All, he was fortunate to be invited to guest lecture for a doctoral program at the University of Lincoln in England, and has been honored to guest lecture, adjunct teach, and assist at the U of MT College of Ed from time to time.  Among his various school related activities, he serves on the boards of Education Northwest, the Montana School Group Insurance Authority (MSGIA), the Missoula Area Special Education Cooperative and the Missoula Area Curriculum Consortium.

Mike is a continual learner and adventurer, loving to travel and meet people near and far, studying the outdoors, history and culture, and continually gaining perspective.

Shel Hanser is an outstanding educator. His numerous accomplishments and exceptional leadership have made him a more than worthy recipient of the Educational Leadership Excellence Award. Shel has devoted his life to education, sixteen years both in the classroom and as a building principal.

In 2002, Shel went to work as Principal of Billings Central High School.  He was the fourth principal in four years and inherited a school looking for leadership. In his second year, Shel began to see positive results from the professional, academic, and behavioral standards he implemented for staff and students.   Ownership grew in students and parents; staff turnover diminished. The attitude at Billings Central evolved every year and by Shel’s fifth year people were asking, "what can we do for the school?”

Since 2007, the school has realized improvement in all arenas: ACT scores are on a continuous upward trend, ITED scores rank in the 90th percentile,  90 percent of the 10th grade students score proficient or advanced in the MontCas Assessment, and seven out of ten students take at least one Advanced Placement class, the Montana High School Association awarded Billings Central two Academic Excellence Awards and Billings Central has received the Siemens Award for Math and Science Performance and has been named one of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the nation. Billings Central now boasts an extracurricular participation rate of 85 percent. The students of Billings Central have won 22 Divisional Titles and 16 State Titles in MHSA activities. 

While the success of Billings Central High School cannot be attributed to any one person, the importance of the leadership and influence of Shel Hanser cannot be overlooked.  As Bennis and Nanus noted, “The factor that empowers the work force and ultimately determines which organizations succeed or fail is the leadership of those organizations.”  Billings Central High School is fortunate to be led by Shel Hanser.

Dr. Dan Zorn is in his 26th year as a Montana educator.  He is presently in his 12th year as the Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Kalispell, Montana.  Prior to this he served for five years as the elementary school principal in Cut Bank, Montana.  Dan also spent 8 years as an elementary teacher and coach in the Whitefish public schools and 1 year as a 3rd grade teacher in the Fort Benton Schools.  During his tenure in the Kalispell Schools his primary responsibilities have been in the area of curriculum and instruction and his past duties have also included time as the Kalispell School’s director of personnel.   Dan is a 1980 graduate of Shelby High School, earned his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Northern Montana College in 1984, received his master’s degree in School Administration from the University of Montana in 1992, and in the Spring of 2010 was awarded a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Montana.

Dan is married to Anne Marie who teaches 3rd grade in the Evergreen Schools.  He is also the father of 4 children: Christina is a 21 year old senior at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio.  She is a Social Science Education major and a member of Cedarville’s softball team.  Jaimee is a 19 year old freshman at Oregon State University beginning her work towards becoming a physical therapist.  John is a 16 year old junior at Flathead High School and Stephen is a 13 year old 8th grader at Kalispell Middle School.  Dan comes from a family of educators, many also graduates of The University of Montana’s School of Education.  He is the son of Dr. Dale Zorn and Marlene Zorn both former longtime school administrators in Montana and graduates of The University of Montana.  His sister, Wendy Ihde, a University of Montana graduate, is the Curriculum Director in Corvallis.  Bob, his brother, is an educator teaching in the Reno Public Schools.  Dan also has a niece and nephew who are Montana educators both of whom are recent graduates from The University of Montana’s School of Education.

2009 Recipient: Dr. Margaret Campbell

Kris Kuehn originated from Columbus Montana where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and Secondary Education (1991) and his Masters’ Degree in Education Leadership (2001) from the University of Montana.  Kris has dedicated sixteen years to Education in several capacities.  He served as a Junior High and High School Science teacher in Opheim, Montana for seven years before he accepted the role as the Superintendent/Principal at Opheim Schools.   Kris moved to Malta, Montana two years later where he held the same position as Superintendent/Principal at the Highwood K-12 School.   Highwood’s proximity to Helena allowed Kris the opportunity to engage at the State education level by lobbying the legislature and serving on Statewide Education Committees.

Kris is responsible for the operation of the Malta School District, including the fiscal planning and budgeting, facilities oversight, and long-term strategy planning with the Board of Trustees and community.  He represents the Malta School District to external organizations such as the Northeast Montana Administrators Association, serves as President of the Board of Directors of the Montana Rural Education Association for the past four years, is a member of The Malta Area chamber of commerce and Agriculture, and has been a mentor to numerous beginning school administrators, a program sponsored by the University of Montana and the School Administrator’s of Montana.

Kris continues his contribution of excellence in education.  He is active in youth coaching and a father of two.  Kris and his family are Montana natives and reside in rural Montana.

2007 Recipient: Mike Cutler
2006 Recipient: Dr. Tim Skinner
2005 Recipient: Dr. Mary Sheehy Moe

Dave Shreeve completed a B.S. in Education in 1980, majoring in Industrial Arts at the University of Montana-Missoula. His Master of Arts in Educational Leadership was awarded in 1999 at Montana State University-Bozeman.

Dave taught Industrial Arts and coached numerous sports at Hot Springs, Montana, before joining the faculty of Frank Brattin Middle School at Colstrip, Monana in 1981. During his career at Colstrip, Dave served in a wide variety of duties. He taught Industrial Arts, coached a wide variety of sports and advised many activities, including school play director. In 1986 Dave become the Activities Administrator for Colstrip Public Schools and during the 1998-99 school year he served as Dean of Students. In 1999 he became the Principal of Colstrip High School before moving to his present position as Superintendent of Forsyth Public Schools in Forsyth, Montana.

His honors include South Central Athletic Director of the year in 1992, Montana State Athletic Director of the Year in 1994. The National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association honored Dave with the "State Award of Merit" in 1994. Other prestigious awards include: National Federation Citation of Excellence, 1996, and the Montana High School Association Meritorious Service Award in 1999. In 2004-05 Dave was the recipient of the University of Montana Educational Leadership Excellence Award.

Dave Shreeve has been a dedicated and tireless leader during his career. He has served as President of the South Central Athletic Directors Association, President of the Montana Interscholastic Athletic Activities Association, Region 8 Director/Representative of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Board, a member of the Montana High School Association Board of Control, Montana Class A President, MASSP Regional President and President of the Montana Class B Southeastern District.

2003 Recipient: Dr. Don Orlich

Dr. Thomas A. Miller has worked with early adolescents in the middle school setting for the past twenty years as a language arts teacher, school counselor, school psychologist, coordinator of special education, and in the last seven years, as principal for Corvallis Middle School.

Under Tom's leadership, Corvallis Middle School received the Blue Ribbon School Award recognizing the school as a national school of excellence for middle schools. This is only one example of Tom's many positive influences on Montana education.

Tom is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. He has been a member of Phi Delta Kappa since 1998. Tom is a member of the National Middle School Association and various administration and curriculum professional organizations.

Dr. Miller received his Bachelors degree in 1972 from Akron University, and thi M.Ed. in 1974 from Kent State University. In 1995, he received his Ed.D. from the University of Montana.

Tom has been married to Anna, a school psychologist for thirty years. They have a daughter, Ivy who is in her second year at the University of Hawaii and a son, Jasper, a ninth grade high school student.

In 1979 Tom bought a timber sale, logged house logs and built his own log home. He owned a natural food store in Hamilton for eight years.

Tom's next career goal is to be a major league centerfielder!

Dr. Joseph F. McDonald is the founder and president of Salish Kootenai College. Salish Kootenai College is a tribal college located on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. It is the mission of Salish Kootenai College to serve American Indian people throughout the United States. It is a college that incorporates Indian culture into its teaching and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for American Indian people.

In addition to serving as president of Salish Kootenai College, Dr. McDonald serves on the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges' Commission on Colleges and on September 7, 1999 was appointed a member of the President's Board on Advisor's on Tribal College and Universities. He is currently the Board Trustee Chair of the American Indian College Fund and the past president of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium Board of Directors. McDonald has served on several state, tribal and national educational organization boards, including the Ford Foundation, and the Carnegie Foundation.

Dr. McDonald was born in St. Ignatius, Montana on the Flathead Indian Reservation. He is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe. McDonald received an associate degree in education from Western Montana College in 1953 and a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Montana in 1958. In 1965 McDonald received his M.S. degree from the University of Montana and Ed.D. degree in 1981. HE has worded as a high school principal and assistant superintendent from 1968 through 1976 in Ronan, Montana and created the first Native American Studies program in Montana Public Schools. He then began laying the foundation for Salish Kootenai College and has served as its president since 1978. Dr. McDonald also served on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council from 1974 to 1982.

Joe received the Montana Ambassadors "Michael P. Malone" , educator of the Year Award of 2000, "For outstanding contributions to the economy and well being of the State of Montana through entrepreneurial vision and courage." Joe delivered The Knapp Memorial Lecture which challenges the National USDA Cooperative Extension to build effective partnerships with American Indian communities through the work for the Land Grant Colleges. In 1999, the Lee Newspapers named him as one of Montana's one hundred most influential people of the 1900's. In 1998 the U.S. Department of the Interior honored Joe, "In recognition and appreciation of his unfailing dedication and superior leadership in support of the creation and implementation of President's Executive Order 13021 of Tribal Colleges and Universities". In 1996 he was awarded the Montana Governor's Humanity Award.

Dr. McDonald holds honorary doctorate degrees from Gonzaga University in Washington State and Montana State University and was named distinguished alum of Western Montana College. He and his wife Sherri, live in Ronan, Montana.

2000 Recipient: Dr. Don Freshour
2000 Recipient: Dr. Bruce Whitehead
2000 Recipient: Dave Puyear