Business people, school principals swap jobs for day

On Tuesday morning, bank president Keith Cook learned about the business of

Of The Gazette Staff

In the afternoon, Cindy Holtz, principal at Broadwater Elementary got an education in
Both said they were glad for the opportunity to spend some time in the other person’s
Cook, president of First Interstate Bank in Billings, and Holtz shadowed each other for a day in a program
designed to develop a partnership between business and education. The "Principal for a Day" program, part of
the "Celebrate Billings" campaign, paired 31 Billings educators with business people and government officials.

The goal of "Celebrate Billings," a collaborative
community effort, is making the city a better place to
live and work.
Holtz and Cook started the day in an Individualized
Education Plan conference with a parent at the school
and ended it in a loan committee meeting at the bank.
In between, the two traded questions and answers, as
well as duties as tour guide, teacher and attentive
After the early morning meeting, Cook wanted to
know more about the school. A total of 375 students,
with 54 percent of the students who come from
low-income families, Holtz said.
"We’ve got a highly transient population," she
As many as 30 to 40 percent of the school’s
students will move in and out of the school in a year,
Holtz said.
How can students succeed against those
obstacles, Cook asked.
"I think the real strength of the school is our staff,"
Holtz said. "Some teachers have been here 10 to 12
years and some just two years. So we have depth and dimension to our staff."
At 9 a.m., Holtz took Cook to kindergarten teacher Melanie McCulloch’s room, where Cook read a story.
Then Cook and Holtz toured the school’s the classrooms, and Cook fielded questions from the students.
"How many stories is the First Interstate Bank," a third-grader in Michelle Degner’s class wanted to know.
"There are 18 stories," Cook said.
"How big is the vault where you keep the cash?" another student asked.
"About the size of this room," Cook said.
"How much money is in the bank?" a student said.
"On a regular day-to-day basis, we have about $8 million," Cook said.
"Wow," the kids said.
After the tour, Cook watched Roxanne Fogerty’s fifth-graders rehearse three short plays they plan to perform
later in the week. Then Cook joined Holtz in the cafeteria for lunch, where he ate a hamburger and chatted with
students who sat near him at the table.
After lunch, Cook shot hoops on the playground, then he and Holtz went to the tall downtown bank.
Holtz noted that Cook’s second-floor office was twice as big as hers, and featured a private bathroom.
"I think the view out his window is a little nicer than mine, too," she said.
After checking his e-mail and phone messages, Cook talked about First Interstate Bank. He went over
about everything from the bank’s board to its financial assets and its many departments.
Cook gave Holtz a tour which included a scenic view from the top floor, as well as a look at the inside of the
bank vault.
Cook also introduced Holtz to many employees at the bank who explained their jobs. Holtz learned about
investments, trusts, loans, marketing and a program that teaches kids about taking care of their money.
Toward the end of the day, both said they had learned a lot.
"Kids in school today will someday be running our businesses and our country," Cook said. "What the
teachers do is far more important than what we do here."
Holtz said the depth and breadth of work done at the bank "is mind boggling. And the training and the talent
these people have to do these functions is amazing."
Cook said the experience changed him.
"I’ll go on doing what I do here every day, but with a renewed sense of what part our educational system
plays in our community," he said.
Gazette Publisher Mike Gulledge, who helped develop the idea of the school-business exchange, said
Tuesday he was struck by the delivery of education at McKinley Elementary where he spent the morning.
"There is no wasted space," Gulledge said, commenting that even a former closet is used for teaching. "It
is a learning environment for all different types of situations and I was really impressed."
Dave Irion, former School District 2 administrator and now executive director of the St. Vincent Foundation,
is co-chair of the Celebrate Billings committee that organized the day.
"After a day like this, people have a much better appreciation of all the elements that come together in a
community to make a community work," Irion said.

Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises

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