Great things are happening in Montana's public schools every day of the school year. The following are a few of the items profiling the great work of Montana's public schools that have appeared in Montana news media.  By clicking on a link, the reader is taken away from the MTSBA website.  Any payment required to access a particular website is the sole responsibility of the individual reader.  Articles and opinions appearing on this page do not necessarily reflect the policies, positions, opinions or views of the MTSBA Directors or staff.

April 2024 Great News


National German Exam touts Billings' West High students as best in the nation

Billings West High students are some of the best German language-learners in the nation. Every year for the last three years a West student has nabbed a spot to travel to Germany for three weeks on scholarship - current senior Lola Sheridan accomplished the feat last year, and senior Hudson Wyss, the year prior. This year, sophomore Johanna Smith will go for the three weeks, with 37 other top-ranking students from across the country. German teacher Paul Asleson starts a lesson in the popular language program at West High School. The class has students winning awards and trips to Germany. "Less than 50 students qualify nationally, and the fact that we have three who are currently still West High students is incredible," West High School German teacher Paul Asleson said. "My colleagues and I pour so much into the program. So, to see these results, it gives us validation in what we're doing-we're elevating students to the highest level."


Shelf Life: Big Sky High art exhibit and 'Trashformations' at Missoula Public Library

On May 2 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the spectrUM Discovery Area on Level Two of the library enjoy a special First Friday event for Big Sky High School's Climate Art Exhibition. Join us for special treats from Big Sky High School's culinary students and featured music by their jazz band.


Montana students signing up for public charter schools

Students already are signing up to attend Montana's new public charter schools - the Board of Public Education approved a whopping 19 of them this year, and more are on the way. Doug Reisig, with the Montana Quality Education Coalition, said more applications will be submitted this summer to the Montana Board of Public Education. "It's an exciting development for Montana education and for us to meet the needs of students in Montana," Reisig said this week. In Billings Public Schools, Superintendent Erwin Garcia said the largest district in the state is opening three new schools, and the new law that allowed them to be created ensures districts can be competitive and stay "at the edge of innovation." Just one of the schools has drawn 85 students so far.


Bozeman High debate team to hold fundraiser to fund travel to nationals, Tanzania

Students and teachers from Bozeman High School are welcomed at an airport in Mwanza, Tanzania on a previous trip abroad. The Bozeman High School Speech and Debate Team is holding its third annual fundraiser to help pay the team's travel expenses to a national tournament and travel to teach a debate workshop to Tanzanian students. Hawkers Make History will feature speech and debate performances from students and a jazz ensemble of team members. Team coach Adam Thane, an English teacher at the school, said there will also be a Q&A with Bozeman High alumnus Judge Sidney Thomas, a U.S. circuit judge and former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


New Three Forks High journalism program publishes 'Paw'dcast' and school newsletter

A new journalism program at Three Forks High School is wrapping up its first year after starting a podcast and a newsletter to report on school happenings. The class only has seven students right now and has been hard at work to track down news stories to share with their community. Earlier this month, students began posting episodes for their "ThreeForks Paw'dcast," which is available on Spotify. So far, the short episodes feature things like interviews with student athletes. The class also publishes a newsletter called "The Pack Quarterly," which is sent to members of the community.


Billings Public Schools introduce electric buses to fleet, aim to better quality of life

Billings Public Schools held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Billings Career Center in honor of its introduction of eight electric buses to its school bus fleet on Monday. "We are carrying the most precious cargo on the road," said John Mckinney, a school bus driver with First Student Incorporated. The introduction of the electric vehicles was funded after Montana's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) won a settlement with Volkswagen. "When you know better, you have to do better," said Superintendent Erwin Garcia with Billings Public Schools.


First Student Announces on Earth Day Deployment of First Electric School Buses in Montana

First Student, the leading operator of electric school buses in North America, is transforming the way students in Billings Public Schools (BPS) in Montana are transported to and from school. The company is deploying eight new electric school buses in Billings, delivering an innovative, sustainable and cleaner transportation solution to better serve the district, its families and the community. "Electric school buses are revolutionizing the bus ride for students, and First Student is proud to be paving the way for a greener school transportation system for Billings Public Schools," said First Student Head of Electrification Kevin Matthews. "Every EV that is deployed has an immediate impact on reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality and creating a healthier environment for students and communities. We appreciate the district's support and partnership in adopting a forward-thinking approach to transportation that prioritizes sustainability, efficiency and safety."


Photos: Electric school buses unveiled Monday

Billings Public Schools and First Student show off the district's first electric school buses during a ceremony on Earth Day Monday afternoon. First Student is deploying eight electric buses this week with a commitment to transition 30,000 diesel buses to electric by 2035.


Hamilton students put science knowledge on display at Envirothon showcase

The Hamilton High School Envirothon Team recently held a showcase night sponsored by the Bitterroot Climate Action Group. Two Envirothon Teams of five students each and one alternate, all female this year, gave oral presentations on "Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Future" followed by question-and-answer sessions and time for audience feedback. Advisor Marie Antonioli called the showcase "a huge success."


Superintendent Rex Weltz: Vigilante Parade celebrates its 100th anniversary

It's hard to believe we're only two weeks out from the 100th anniversary of the Vigilante Parade on Friday, May 3. No spoiler alerts here, but I can say that our students are working hard to make this year's parade worthy of a centennial celebration. Special thanks to the Montana Historical Society, which teamed up with the journalists of "The Nugget" student newspaper at Helena High to create a list of history-based themes to help inspire this year's floats. Our former Bengal and Bruin parade participants may enjoy checking out their ideas, which are on our website at


Montana students get an up-close look at trades industries

An initiative driven by the Superintendent of Public Instruction was at the forefront in Central Montana on Thursday, April 18, 2024. More than 500 7th through 12th grade students from around north central Montana left the comforts of their classrooms for a chance to explore career pathways for Montana Ready Trades Day. The program focused on technical education with an emphasis on agriculture, business, health care, industrial technology and family consumer sciences. Montana Ready is designed to help students be ready for college, career and community. "So everything from not just their technical skills, but the soft skills that employers need to make a quality employee once they get finally into the workforce," said Montana Ready Coordinator Mary Heller.


Valley View Elementary School hosts flag dedication ceremony

The Great Falls Association of Realtors donated a large US flag to Valley View Elementary School on Thursday as part of their flag project. "This is our 40th year of being a non-for-profit in our community; we donated this flag today for Valley View and our goal is to donate a flag to every elementary school by the end of 2024 in Great Falls, Montana," said Zac Griffin, CEO of the Great Falls Association of Realtors. The non-profit is aiming to raise awareness in honoring what the flag symbolizes for the community. Students at Valley View are learning the importance of freedom and courage and expressed what they have learned in the flag dedication ceremony.


Corvallis Future Farmers of America named 'Program of the Year'

Corvallis High School Future Farmers of America was named the 2024-2025 "Program of the Year" at the 94th Montana State FFA Convention. CHS Agricultural Educator and FFA Adviser Neela Hammerstein said the award is an honor for every CHS FFA member as it represents their hard work and dedication. "This award is unlike any other we have won in the past because it truly is something every student can hang their hat on," Hammerstein said. "Our fair projects, our nationals' teams, our fundraiser, our service, classroom labs and field trips - everything we do in Corvallis FFA is summarized in this award. That's what makes it so special."  The honor is even more meaningful because it comes from FFA peers, she said.


People hear a Taste of Jazz at Havre High

Havre's Friends of Music Thursday again held its Taste of Jazz fundraiser, with Havre High School band and choir students joined by the Montana State University-Northern Community Orchestra for a night of jazz, refreshments, pie and cake. Friends of Music President Samm Nimmick said the night was a success, with more than $9,500 raised and some donations still coming in, more than $1,000 more than last year. Students were among the audience during the performances serving the food and refreshments. Nimmick said Friends of Music provides scholarships at the event each year, with $500 scholarships this year going to Havre High seniors Boyle, Devin Kovacich, Marlee Thivierge and Grey Brady. She added that the funds raised will be used to support music eduction in Havre Public Schools, with Friends in the process of revising its bylaws to support the programs in the entire school district, not just Havre High.


Darby school's SkillsUSA team sees success at state conference; Biesiot named administrator of the year

The Darby SkillsUSA team dominated in 18 different competitions at the "No Limits" state competition March 24-27 in Helena. Advisor Courtney Bennett said Darby took 18 students and competed in 18 different competitions. "We placed in the top three in 16 of those events," Bennett said. "We also had Tanner Shavers elected as a SkillsUSA Montana state officer. Eleven Darby students will be fundraising and traveling to Atlanta, Georgia, in June to compete at nationals." At the state competition, the Darby SkillsUSA team placed first in chapter display, middle school pin design, high school pin design, middle school job skill demonstration, middle school prepared speech, crime scene investigation, first aid/CPR, and middle school T-shirt design.


Sixth graders experience career options in Helena

Helena Public Schools' "6th Grade Career Exploration Experience" finished its final day on April 9, showing middle schoolers career options in Helena. The second day of the district's event included sixth graders from C.R. Anderson Middle School going to different locations around Helena to experience different careers. One of those locations was St. Peter's hospital, where they learned about areas within the hospital they may not have known about. LaKya, a student from C.R. Anderson, said the experience was more fun than they expected.


Columbia Falls Boys and Girls Club moves into former school

The Boys and Girls Club in Columbia Falls has moved into a new location at the former Glacier Gateway Elementary School. Through the generosity of the building owner and a new nonprofit, the club will lease the upper floor of the spacious building, doubling the club's capacity and moving it out of the old church that had been home for years, but has seen better days. Freedom Bank President Don Bennett and other community members recently formed a new nonprofit, the Columbia Falls Kids Foundation, which is a 501(c)3 corporation. Building owner Mick Ruis and his wife, Wendy, are in the process of donating the former elementary school building to the foundation. Ruis originally bought the building on Fourth Avenue West for $550,000 in 2021 from the Columbia Falls School District. At that time, he planned on renovating it for senior and teacher housing.


Corvallis to partner with military program, other agencies, for charter school program

Public education in Montana may look very different in the coming years, thanks to the approval of charter schools by the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI). The Corvallis School District was approved for two new charter schools starting next fall. The new programs will offer families more school choice while preparing students to make an educated career decision. The two programs under Rise Charter of Corvallis are a distance academy and a pathways academy.


A figure of speech - Flathead High School teacher named Speech Coach of the Year, Flathead High School teacher wins coach of the year, reflects on season

To say it's been a whirlwind year for Flathead High School speech and debate head coach and English teacher Shannon O'Donnell is an understatement. O'Donnell still seemed to be on cloud nine during an interview in her classroom Tuesday - coming down from what she describes as a "Cinderella win" at the Class AA State Tournament in January. In March, her peers selected her for the AA Steve Reardon Speech Coach of the Year award at the Montana Forensic Educators Association and Montana High School Association Coaches Conference. O'Donnell is the second coach in Montana to win the award three times. Fellow coach, Susan Dykhuizen, was also nominated for the award.


Hundreds of MT students compete in statewide science fair

Gillian Honzel, a junior at Big Sky High School in Missoula, has long wondered whether the huckleberries her family picks every summer have the same antioxidant content when she eats them fresh versus when she takes them out of the freezer months or even years later. These musings from her home kitchen led her to devote much of the last few months to a science project that would answer this very question. "I know they taste good," Honzel said. "But I wanted to see if they had as many antioxidants. I learned they have some, but not the same amount."


Flathead High speech and debate member wins Student of the Year

Flathead High School senior Rachel Ottman received top accolades, being named the 2024 Student of the Year for the Montana West District of the National Speech and Debate Association. To be considered for the award, coaches in each district of the National Speech and Debate Association are invited to nominate a graduating senior, "Who best represents the tenets of the association's Code of Honor: humility, equity, integrity, respect, leadership, and service," according to the association. Ottman was honored to be selected for the award by a committee of coaches who select a winner each year.


Foundation names Middle School Educator of the Year

Taylor Ferda is the recipient of the Kalispell Education Foundation's 2024 Middle School Educator of the Year award. Ferda, social studies department head and teacher at Kalispell Middle School, was selected by a student board from among 143 nominations submitted by students, parents, staff and community members. During the selection process, teachers' names were separated from their nominations to allow students to focus on a nominee's actions, commitment to students and leadership. In addition to teaching, Ferda coaches middle school track and field and cross country with his wife, Marie.


Big Timber students compete at Academic Olympics in Bozeman

Schools from across Montana traveled to MSU-Bozeman March 13 to compete in the Academic Olympics, including students from Sweet Grass County High School. Thirty-one schools ranging all class sizes competed. Fourteen students made up three teams from Big Timber. The team of Zoey Aller, Roman Wagner, John Hasbrook, and Abbi McManamen made it to the 11th round.


Students get silly during celebration for Read-a-thon and Penny Wars at West School

Not every principal would agree to be duct-taped to the wall and have students shoot silly string at them. But that's just what happened last week at West School. West School principal Bethany Fuchs played it cool with a big smile on her face when first grade students who collected the most pennies in the Penny War fundraiser for the PTA duct taped her to the wall. Students lined up and were each given a length of duct tape to tape Fuchs to the wall in the school gym while other students chanted, "Tape her up." It was a fun way to celebrate student achievement and support at the West School assembly on March 27. Several PTA moms were on hand to help out, including Bethany Haan who organized the Penny War fundraiser and Janeil Anderson, president of the Laurel Elementary PTA, who talked Fuchs into participating in the fun celebration.


Forsyth school business manager earns elite certification

The Forsyth Schools Business Manager, Stacy Montgomery, recently completed the Montana Certified School Business Official coursework and certification process. The program includes 120 hours of coursework along with certification tests in topics relative to school business management. With this certification, Stacy joins an elite group of school business professionals across the state. On behalf of the Montana Association of School Business Officials, Rita Huck, the business manager/district clerk for Huntley Project Schools, presented Stacy with her certificate during the March school board meeting.


Forsyth FCCLA students attend leadership conference in Bozeman, MT

Annika Sorenson, Brynna Schacht, Abigayle Fay, and Ryleigh Seleg from Forsyth High School FCCLA attended the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) 2024 State Leadership Conference (SLC) in Bozeman, MT March 14-15, 2024. FCCLA's 2024 SLC drew over 575 members, advisers, and supporters from across the state with opportunities for personal development, career exploration, and community service. The event was made possible through a sponsorship by the Montana State University College of Education, Health and Human Development. Throughout SLC, attendees participated in a variety of activities. The keynote speaker was Cody Byrns and workshop session presenters Included Chef Eduardo Garcia of Montana Mex, Campgrounds of America CEO/President and former Montana FCCLA State President Toby O'Rourke, and Brooklynn Gross of FCCLA's Leadership Training Team.


Sundberg connects kids to education and community

Students and staff want Tamara Sundberg to be recognized for her efforts at Columbia Falls High School.  "She provides hope for people, and I think that's probably the biggest thing that she does so well…," Columbia Falls High School Principal Jon Konen said of Sundberg. Students like to go to her to learn what resources are available to them. Sundberg, the school district's Student and Family Advocate Coordinator and high school MTSS Intervention and Homeless Liaison, has been with the district since 2018. The position did not exist before she arrived, and its original goal was to provide resources for upperclassmen to make sure they graduated and provide an academic plan for incoming freshmen. Now, Sundberg is the glue that holds together a myriad of programs designed to decrease barriers to education and build a community that students actively want to be a part of.


Bright lights greet Browning High School Choir members at Carnegie Hall

The answer to the age-old joke, how do I get to Carnegie Hall, is, of course, practice! And for two seniors, three freshmen and a trio of sophomores from Browning High School, the proof was in a whirlwind trip to New York City and a place in the National Concerts at that famed national venue. "It all feels so surreal, that this extraordinary thing occurred just but a few days ago," remarked BHS Choir Director Adrian Wagner. "There were many weeks and months of preparation and work, and it's hard to believe it's all over." While the trip itself was a journey of an epic nature, making it all possible was the result of months of fund raising and community organizing.


Shakespeare at Ekalaka Public Schools

Born from aspirations to bring the timeless tales of William Shakespeare directly to rural and under-served communities, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks has been enriching the lives of people in Montana for fifty-two seasons. Montana Shakes! was created in 2008 and is the only Shakespearean elementary school theater program designed for rural communities.


Plains students collaborate on storytime program

A mixture of computer science, reading and storytelling took place last week with kindergarten, second, third and seventh grade students at the Plains elementary school. Kati Mitchell, the school's business and computer science teacher, organized this year's children's stories program with the help of second-grade teacher Cindy Gumm, third-grade teacher Rhonda Leeper and kindergarten teacher Danielle Crowe. Each of the stories were written and computer generated by the eight seventh-grader groups. Also on hand, was longtime volunteer Bill Beck, who stops by the school each week to read with the students. Beck is also involved in a program that donates dictionaries to all the third graders.

Plains students organize Super Senior Prom

Plain's school students outdid themselves on the decorations for the first Super Senior Prom that took place in the gymnasium last Wednesday. What better way to honor the valley's senior citizens than to celebrate with them during an afternoon of fun, socializing, dancing and snacking? The idea of having an event to honor area senior citizens was first envisioned by Plains School Superintendent Kathleen Walsh. The plan blossomed into including help from student council members, teachers, aides and both kindergarten classes. Invitations went out community wide, including the Plains Senior Center and the long-term care facility at Clark Fork Valley Hospital.


Electric bus charging station OK'd

During the Monday evening Thompson Falls Zoning Committee meeting, Mosher Transportation owner John Mosher requested a zoning variance for a proposed electric bus charging station on his current school bus barn location. Mosher Transportation is in the process of applying for grant money to acquire 11 electric school buses. Completing the grant application requires that all federal, state and local regulations be in compliance.  The Zoning Committee gave Mosher a conditional variance to proceed with their grant application, but have not voted on the final variance approval.


Mineral County Community Foundation awards scholarships

The Mineral County Community Foundation last month made decisions on its 2024 scholarship awards. Students from all three school districts applied and the board chose to award all seven applicants. The scholarships of $2,000, awarded to three students with exemplary community volunteerism, were awarded to Owen Doyle and Lanie Crabb from Superior, and Brooke Filek from St. Regis.  Four scholarships of $1,000 were awarded to Chloe Williams, Jason Merrill, Micah Acker from Superior, and Lacey Zimmerman from Alberton. Selections are made based on community service, leadership qualities, scholastic achievement, extracurricular activities and overall character. 


AI story-telling app engages students

Choteau Public School's first and seventh graders in March stretched their creative writing chops as they experimented with a software application that used artificial intelligence (AI) to help them develop and illustrate short stories. Software engineers and entrepreneurs Andy Rowse and Jack Whitehouse of Bozeman, founders of the startup Wordwise Learning, brought their Tall Tale Club app to first graders in Heather McCartney-Duty's classroom and seventh graders in Will Dewey's English language arts classroom. They offered the teachers a crash-course in using the app on March 7 and then rolled out the app in the classrooms on March 8. Their visit to Choteau aimed to get feedback from teachers that will inform adjustments to the beta application to make it more useful and efficient.


Jefferson County schools prepare for HB203 transfers

Of the 125 education bills passed during the Montana Legislature's 2023 session, House Bill 203, which will allow parents to freely enroll their children into any public school district adjacent to the one they're living in, is causing Jefferson County schools to more carefully articulate their transfer policies in anticipation of upcoming enrollment changes for the next academic year. Montana City School, the largest in Jefferson County, adopted such changes at its most recent March board meeting, and Clancy Elementary intends to convene its policy committee this June. 

Montana BPA 2024 State Leadership Conference

The 2024 Montana BPA State Leadership Conference was held in Billings on March 12-15. One thousand three hundred and thirty-five students and local chapter advisors from the middle level and secondary level attended in a spirit of friendship and goodwill. BPA Montana Association assisted the members through participation in the areas of competitive events, leadership, community development, and professionalism. Students from 101 Montana schools demonstrated their knowledge in business and technological skills and abilities in 93 different competitive events from within the five core assessment areas of Finance, Business Administration, Management Information Systems, Digital Communication & Design, Management, Marketing & Communication and Health Administration. Montana BPA was pleased to donate $10,000 to Special Olympics Montana as their state-wide philanthropic organization. Our Lincoln BPA chapters raised $300 for the organization.

'It's not about teaching Hamlet': Golden Apple highlights Billings educators

Six educators from across the Bilings school district were awarded with a Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Education on Tuesday. "They're in early. They're staying late," said Lynn Jensen, an organizer with the Golden Apple program. "They give so much of their own personal time. It's not just an eight-to-four job with two months off in the summer." One of those educators was Shea Mangold, an English teacher at Billings Senior High School.

'Pure entertainment': High schoolers prep for annual talent show this weekend

Students from Bozeman and Gallatin High Schools are gearing up for the return of an annual two-night talent show this weekend. Bozeman Night Live, one of the school district's biggest fundraisers for its music programs, will start at 7 p.m. on April 5 and 6 in the Willson Auditorium. As of Tuesday, there are still plenty of seats available, with online prices ranging from $12 to $20 per seat depending on the section. At an April 1 dress rehearsal - one of several planned for the student performers throughout the week - students took turns practicing a variety of acts for the friendly competition.

Sweet Grass County could be a model for energy efficiency efforts in schools

The federal government is giving out more than $4 billion to lower greenhouse gas emissions. State officials have written a grant proposal that includes funding for energy efficiency in schools. MTPR's Ellis Juhlin visited one high school that's already done this kind of work.

March 2024 Great News


Belgrade School District completes solar project at elementary school

A Belgrade elementary school receives a large upgrade of new 50-kilowatt solar panels to help offset energy costs,. The panels are installed at Ridge View Elementary School and can produce the equivalent energy of over six houses in one year. It's expected to offset the school's energy cost by around 20% to 25%. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation awarded the Belgrade School District a $115,046 grant in 2021 to cover the cost of installing the solar panels. District staff say this is a big deal not only for the elementary school, but district wide.


Belgrade finishes grant-funded solar project at Ridge View

Belgrade School District finished outfitting one of its school buildings with solar panels this month, a project that was paid for by a state grant. People driving past Ridge View Elementary School can now see an array of solar panels on the building's roof. The panels are 50 kilowatts, which is enough to power more than six homes in a year, a district press release said. The solar project could help offset the building's energy usage by more than 20%, facilities director LeRoy Lundell said.


Sweet Grass County could be a model for energy efficiency efforts in schools

Along I-90 between Bozeman and Billings, a field of solar panels borders the interstate under the backdrop of the Crazy Mountains. Those panels help power Sweet Grass County High School for its 160 students. "Here's our solar panels. They're next to the interstate. It's a 50 kilowatt ground-mount system," says Sam Spector. Spector is the school facilities manager. He started doing energy upgrades almost a decade ago like retrofitting lights in the gym, optimizing heating and ventilation systems and he oversaw the solar panel installation in 2020. "That solar array right now is producing 25% of our consumption needs." Spector says the school consumes the same amount of energy as around 45 houses, so it's a big utility bill. Inside the school, he walked through the hallways, pointing out LED bulbs that reduce lighting energy use by 90%, and a timer knob that automatically turns off the exhaust hood in a cooking class. From changes big and small, he's whittled away at the school's energy consumption. "All the energy efficiency upgrades we're saving based on the prices. And where we were, we're saving $48,000 a year. So that's an extra teacher," Spector says.


North Star Schools students win gold in state-wide conference.

The Family Career and Community Leaders of America held their 2024 State Leadership Conference in Bozeman recently, and in attendance this time around were seven students from North Star Schools. Ashleigh Barrett, Ecko Fraser, Quincy McCormick, Madelyn Myers, Svannah Schaumloeffel, Quinn Trueax, and Jordan VanWechel were among the 575 members in attendance this year. While at the conference these students competed in career-oriented events, with some students taking home gold ranking in the event management and food innovation competitions, moving on to represent North Star in the National Leadership Conference in Seattle this July.


21 electric buses headed to Bitterroot Valley schools

Twenty-one new electric school buses will soon be transporting students in the Bitterroot Valley thanks to a bus grant, and a willingness to take a risk and make a commitment. Mike Krout, owner of Majestic Bus Services, provides transportation for seven school districts in Montana including Hamilton, Victor and Florence. He will receive 11 electric school buses in Hamilton on Aug. 15 and 10 in Florence in the spring of 2025. He said having electric school buses is exciting and "there will be all sorts of positive hoopla about it." "What's exciting are the green energy ideas and also these new buses will come with full lap/shoulder belts for the kids, which is a new safety thing," Krout said. "They'll come with improved audio/video systems and all brand-new surveillance systems. They will be the safest buses out there coming to these communities."


Neither mainstream nor charter: Hutterite schools chase fair education

When Lona Running Wolf started working with Hutterite schools, she was struck by what she saw unfolding on the colonies. She felt it was reminiscent of what transpired among her own community, the Blackfeet Nation. She saw a group with rich culture and language traditions that, she felt, risked being disenfranchised, bit by bit, by a system designed without their specific needs and history in mind. "I was one of those people that, you know, believed the stereotypes of Hutterites," Running Wolf said. "I just didn't realize the similarities between the disparities we have both faced. I told them, 'I don't want what happened to us and our language to happen to you guys.'" Running Wolf oversaw American Indian Student Achievement at the Office of Public Instruction before she became an educational consultant with a focus on instruction support. She's dedicated much of her career to building programs that use language and culture lessons to help students from different backgrounds learn more. Her hope, she says, is that this type of structure leads to increased success and prevents students' identities from being diminished.


Billings Public Schools offer 'KinderReady to help preschoolers for an easy transition to Montana schools

Billings Public Schools are now offering an opportunity for kindergarteners to start their learning early and be more prepared through their new "KinderReady" early literacy intervention program. In 2023, the Montana Legislature felt the need to make a way for early learning programs when they passed House Bill 352, providing Montana school districts the opportunity to offer early literacy intervention. Rhonda King, an Interventionist at McKinley Elementary, said that early intervention is helpful in making an easier transition into Montana schools. 


North Star students attend FCCLA leadership conference in Bozeman

FCCLA's 2024 conference drew more than 575 members, advisers, and supporters from across the state with opportunities for personal development, career exploration, and community service. The event was made possible through a sponsorship by the Montana State University College of Education, Health and Human Development. Throughout the conference, attendees participated in a variety of activities. The keynote speaker was motivational speaker, entertainer, author and minister Cody Byrns, and workshop session presenters Included Chef Eduardo Garcia of Montana Mex, Campgrounds of America CEO/President and former Montana FCCLA State President Toby O'Rourke and Brooklynn Gross of FCCLA's Leadership Training Team.


Magic City Fly Fishers teach Rose Park students how to tie files

Magic City Fly Fishers Director Patrick McNelly teaches Rose Park Elementary School students how to tie flies during the club's two-week-long workshop at the school. Each winter, the Magic City Fly Fishers rotate between local schools and teach two-week-long courses on tying flies. The club aims to support conservation by getting kids outside and into nature.


A 'Common Grounds' partnership brews up opportunity for Billings students

retty soon, high school students in Billings will have the chance to gain hands-on experience and accreditation in culinary and business education by running and maintaining a coffee shop located in the St. John's United Gainan Commons, in downtown Billings. The program is part of an effort to expand Billings School District 2's longtime partnership with St. John's Lutheran Ministries. SD2 trustees approved the endeavor during their board meeting Monday. "We're looking at getting students into the St. John's facility to have experiences similar to the greenhouse partnership," BPS Career Outreach Director Bo Bruinsma said.


Disabilities advocate speaks to Broadwater Elementary students in Helena

Broadwater Elementary School hosted a disabilities advocate on Thursday who spoke to a second grade class about the importance of understanding disabilities during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Theresa Gardner, 49, spoke to Gabe Furshong's class, where students prepared questions and had an opportunity to learn about disabilities. Gardner was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy at 15 months old and said she has never let he disability define her. Growing up, she faced bullying from other students in her classes, but did not let it get to her and understood that she was born that way. This is for people to be aware and learn about disabilities, Furshong said to the class. In 1977, Furshong's father taught Gardner in preschool at 3 years old in 1977. She graduated from Helena High School in 1994.


Dyslexic students in Billings Public Schools will join national program

Stacker compiled a list of the best school districts in Montana using rankings from Niche. Niche ranks school districts based on a variety of criteria including academics (SAT/ACT scores and state proficiency tests), teacher salaries, expenses per student, and access to extracurricular activities. Billings' elementary school students who struggle with dyslexia and other reading disabilities, will have more help to keep up with their peers by transitioning from learning to read, to reading to learn. Billings Public Schools' trustees voted unanimously this week to partner with the American Institute of Research to utilize its dyslexia service and participate in a research study within the district's elementary schools starting next fall. BPS will be one of three school districts in the nation to participate in the study, K-5 Director of School Leadership Kim Anthony said.


Seniors at Helena high schools receive scholarships for volunteer work

Seniors from Capital and Helena high schools were awarded scholarships for their volunteer work through the Youth Serve Montana Scholarships program. Across the state, seniors are offered an opportunity to acquire the scholarship during each fall semester. The students are awarded their scholarships in two groups. The first group requires students to volunteer between 50 hours and 99 hours for a $1,000 scholarship and the second group of awardees served 100 hours or more for a $1,500 scholarship. The seniors in Helena who received the scholarships for $1,000 are Deven Birkeland from Capital High School and Ryan Maus from Helena High School. Seniors who received the $1,500 scholarship for serving 100 hours or more are Kylee Gardipee and Qayl Kujala from Helena High School, and Philip Patten from Capital High School.


Little kids, big questions - and dinosaurs!

We're doing something a little different for this episode. After a year of taking questions from our adult listeners across Montana and beyond, The Big Why team thought it would be fun to see what kids are curious about. Our journey on this first episode of 'The Little Why' starts in Ms. Baroch-Wallin's third-grade classroom at Daly Elementary School in Hamilton. Our Community Engagement Specialist Katy Wade and I visited the class for the first time in mid-October. The room was plastered with colorful artwork, drawings and words of encouragement, coats and backpacks hung from hooks on the back wall and lurking in the corner.


High school students cook up 5-star meals at 2024 Montana ProStart invitational

Caeser salad, blackened shrimp, steak with root vegetables, and tanghulu-that's what the Laurel High School team of culinary students cooked up for the ProStart culinary arts competition at Montana State University. "We're cooking a three-course meal in an hour. And we don't have any electricity. So we only have camping stoves, water, and ice," says Raylea Brown, a Junior at Laurel High School competing in the Montana ProStart competition.


Joliet Public School students win Congressional App Challenge for Montana's 2nd District

When they were in middle school, freshmen high school students Bailey Shettel, Madigan Sullivan, and Jade Forsman came up with an idea for an app to help in finding possible water contamination throughout Montana. The app, called "Know H20," allows users to report and study on what they see are concerning areas where contaminated water could exist. "Joliet is a small area with wells all around our population, so we thought it would be good for people whose job it is to check to have a GPS to find sources for where there could be contamination of water," said Shettel.


Miles City and Bozeman schools receive national award

Two Montana schools received the 2023-2024 National Distinguished School Award: Anderson 7-8 School in Bozeman and Garfield Elementary School in Miles City. The National Distinguished School Program has 3 categories, Anderson received the award for Category 1 and Garfield received the award for category 2. Category 1 is for schools exhibiting exceptional student performance and academic growth, and Category 2 schools have closed the achievement gap between student groups, according to the NDS Program.


Havre High Winter Guard performs a showcase

Havre High Winter Guard performed for a crowd Thursday evening in the high school auditorium. The Winter Guard has five members, senior Megan Boyle, juniors Jalia Haley, Julian Nast and Ashlyn Schmidt and sophomore Paige Anderson. The Montana State University Bobcat Color Guard was in attendance to support and cheer on the Winter Guard for their performances. "I should give credit, these kids are very talented," Advisor Serena Dawson said. "... Our captain and our other more seasoned guard have been coaching the beginners the basics and eventually evolving into their performances. The captain took on a lot of the choreography."


Belgrade High serves up savory repeat victory at culinary competition

Family members were on the edges of their seats watching culinary students from Belgrade High School in the final moments of a cooking competition. There were just 10 seconds left, and the team had one final dish - the entree - that wasn't on the platter yet. People anxiously watching joined in counting down the final seconds. Just as the timer hit zero, the students rushed to carry the plates over for presentation. A collective sigh of relief was quickly followed by applause for the high schoolers' hard work.


In Hardin, students weigh future with Army recruiters

HARDIN - Walking 48 miles in 48 hours isn't easy, especially if you're carrying a 35-pound rucksack. It's what two soldiers from Billings Army and Army Reserve Recruitment are trying to do over the next three days at several area high schools, with the goal of showing how the military has strengthened them. Their first stop Monday was Hardin High School, hoping to tap into Montana's Native American population.

Billings students ready for early college school, district may extend application deadline

The registration deadline may be extended for the Billings Early College School.The early college is one of three public charter schools coming to Billings next year, providing students the opportunity to earn both their high school diploma and college credits.


High school students descend on MSU for statewide culinary competition

Teams of Montana high schoolers will test their skills in a cooking competition judged at Gallatin College this Thursday for a chance to compete at a national event. The 2024 Montana ProStart Invitational is part of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation's effort to attract future food service professionals and develop their skills. The event, which is open to the public, will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 14 in Hannon Hall on Montana State University's campus.


Homeless students to find help with district's new Family Resource Center

Billings Public Schools' new Family Resource Center, to be housed in the basement of the Lincoln Center downtown, will open for service in April. Using grant money, BPS has established the center as a more centralized resource for the district's growing number of students experiencing homelessness. The Family Resource Center will act as a connection between students, their families and outside community resources, and provide basic and emergency needs for students in need. "The ultimate goal is to keep students attending school regularly and ensure their needs are met, so they are able to focus and achieve in school," said BPS spokeswoman Melanie Willardson. BPS has historically provided supplies and resources for students in need utilizing a homeless student liaison and school pantries throughout the district. The recorded number of homeless students in BPS has risen from 457 in the 2019/2020 school year, to 567 in the 2022/2023 school year.


Stevi fifth grader wins Ravalli County Spelling Bee; State Bee Saturday

Eighteen students in grades 3-8 tried to calm their nerves and concentrate on winning the Ravalli County Spelling Bee on Tuesday while on stage, and using a microphone, in the Hamilton Middle School Auditorium. The contest rounds took 45 minutes, with Stevensville Middle School fifth-grade student Neil Hancock winning first place, and Corvallis Middle School sixth-grade student Brennan Schneider securing runner up. Hancock and Schneider each received a medal. Stevensville fifth-grade student Neil Hancock, right, won first place in the Ravalli County Spelling Bee. Corvallis Middle School sixth-grader Brennan Schneider, left, was runner up. Both advance to the 57th Annual Treasure State Spelling Bee in Bozeman on Saturday, March 9.


Carter County Spelling Bee and Geography Bee winners

Keli Melton took 1st in the spelling bee, Waylon Wilson 2nd, Joby Owen 3rd, Tylinn Thomas 4th, and Vera Strub and Ayla Yates tied for 5th.


Fun and games fill final day of Love to Read program.

Plain's Elementary School students last week received recognition and prizes for their participation in the Love to Read program. The day's celebration included fun games and a chance to find out who are the better basketball players, students or teachers. This is the first year a student-staff basketball game has taken place, thanks to the idea first presented by the Plains Elementary Student Council. This is the 16th year the program has taken place.


St. Regis' Daisy Sansom wins county bee

At the start of the competition to determine which student would represent Mineral County in the state spelling bee, about three dozen students sat nervously in the Superior High School gymnasium last Thursday evening. The setting had folding chairs facing two tables at center court which were seated with the officials. The three judges were Katy Cannon of Alberton, Kelsey Clark of St. Regis and Chelsea Nygaard of Superior, along with the pronouncer, Angie Hopwood, from Superior. In the stands were friends and family who were there to support and then console as almost one-half of the contestants were eliminated in the first round. Another half of the contestants left after the second round, but everyone was in good spirits with some chuckling at the simple mistake that took them out of the running.


HS artists recognized

Several art students from Augusta, Power and Fairfield high schools have been chosen for the top finalists for The Young Masters Juried art show March 1-13 at the Horizon Credit Union, 1500 River Drive, Great Falls. The show will then be moved to the Out West Art Show in The Young Masters Gallery at the Heritage Inn March 14-16. Twenty-nine finalists were drawn from different schools including Augusta, Power, CMR, Great Falls High, Foothills and Cascade.


Two Eagle River School Graduates Of Early Years

Two Eagle River School is trying to update their list of graduates from the early years. In those early years a GED/diploma was awarded for those finishing the requirements. Following are the names we have on file for the first few years (1975-1980) but records are scarce so if anyone thinks a name has not been included, please contact the school and we will do research to check it out.


Lone Rock teacher helps raise $50,000 for heart association

Lone Rock teacher Art Perez has had his kids jumping rope for the last 25 years, and in the process they have raised over $50,000. Starting in 1998, Lone Rock students from kindergarten to 6th grade have participated in the Jump Rope for Heart event, which raises money and awareness for the American Heart Association (AHA). This year's event on February 2nd raised around $2,200, putting the overall total over the years above $50,000.


The Helena Education Foundation holds "Trading Places" event

On Tuesday, after a four-year hiatus, the Helena Education Foundations Trading Places program returned. We spent the day at Jim Darcy Elementary and the Archie Bray Foundation to get a glimpse into this program. "It's just a really great way to do like a mini deep dive and see what's really happening," said Rebecca Harvey, The Executive Director of the Archie Bray Foundation. The day starts with playing builders and bulldozers with second graders at Jim Darcy Elementary and ends surrounded by ceramic arts at the Archie Bray.


Corvallis FFA discusses food labeling for competition

On Monday, the FFA group presented to the Ravalli County Right to Farm Board. Corvallis High School FFA members Kenzie Weis, Gia Bumgarner, Morgan Bisel, with substitutes Beauden Therrien and Emelia Schairer gave the presentation. "The people represented in the script are everyday people," Bisel said. "A lot of people don't know anything about the labeling and what is in their food." The consumer in the skit purchases food based on whether it says the word "healthy" on the wrapping. Bumgarner, portraying the coffee barista, said few consumers understand what is meant by 100% organic and how it affects their health. Hormones, free-range, allergens, soy and nutrition are also discussed in the labeling presentation.


Montana high schoolers show off global knowledge at annual competition

Nearly 500 students from high schools all over Montana gathered in Missoula this week to meet with diplomats, learn about global cultures and explore professional pathways abroad. The three-day event included roundtable discussions led by former ambassadors, a performance by African dance group Djebe Bara, and visits with representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency. Students enjoyed global cuisine prepared by refugee chefs through United We Eat, the food program of a local nonprofit that supports refugees and immigrants. They also created a mosaic project that helped them learn about the Arabic language and that will be displayed at the Wren hotel. But the hallmark event, the reason why hundreds of students traveled from every corner of Montana, was the Academic WorldQuest, a team-based competition that tests how much students know about international relations, the globe and current events. Winners travel to Washington D.C. to compete nationally.


Preparation for Washington Innovation Center's inaugural fall semester is underway

Enrollment has begun for Washington Innovation Center's Early College School and Opportunity School, and the deadline to apply is March 11. The center's inaugural semester is set for this fall. Billings Public Schools will have all of summer break to make the building and grounds ready. BPS Superintendent Erwin Garcia stated during a walkthrough of the grounds Friday that the district anticipates costs for the project totaling between $65,000 to $70,000. Funding for the transformation will come from to the district via the state legislature's budget for charter schools, which equals close to $600,000 for BPS, said Garcia.


Record number of Montana high schoolers taking CTE courses

Montana leaders say a record number of high school students have enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE). According to the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, 3,371 students received college credit in a CTE program in 2023. That is an increase of 600 students from 2022.

Helena Education Foundation awards 18 grants

The Helena Education Foundation awarded 18 grants this week to teachers throughout Helena Public Schools. One award went to Warren, one to 4 Georgians, three to Capitol High, one to Helena Middle School, one to PAL, 4 to Helena High School, and one to Jim Darcy. These awards benefit kindergarteners through high school students. Some of the projects selected include bilingual books for Helena High's Library, a field trip to the Rich Ranch for Environmental Studies students, another to UM for Journalism students, and materials to build "Rocket Stoves" for a welding class.


Bryant Elementary and Helena College partner together to show kids a world of possibilities

Bryant Elementary is right across the road from Helena College. Two groups of differently aged students, learning very different things. Or so you would think. Two sisters, one working at Helena College and the other at Bryant, created a program that gets fifth-graders into college classrooms. "They think it's a ways off but it comes up before they know it. And so, just seeing that education is so accessible to them and there are so many different routes they can take is really just the most amazing thing to see," says fifth-grade teacher at Bryant Elementary, Taylor Hassler.


State, Kalispell School Board Green Light Charter School Agreements

Two public charter school programs will open within the Kalispell Public Schools this fall, after the school board on Tuesday night approved contracts with the Montana Board of Public Education.  The board voted unanimously to approve charter contracts for Flathead PACE Academy, a career-focused charter program within Flathead High School, and Rising Wolf Charter, a flexible, block-schedule learning model within Glacier High School. Both schools will operate within existing Kalispell Public Schools buildings and will utilize existing staff, with the exception of one career coach who will be hired at Flathead PACE Academy. Each charter programs is set to bring in $274,786 in state funding, a much needed boost for the district in the wake of a looming budget crisis and numerous failed levies.  "This is giving our students and parents more choice," board chair Heather Asher said "I back this. I like this idea. I think this is the route we're headed with our schools."


Career fair hosted at North Star High School

Multiple businesses from the region participated at the North Star High School career fair Wednesday afternoon, with students from multiple schools attending.

The fair was set up in the high school's gymnasium in Rudyard, and was organized by North Star students Quinn Trueax and Ecko Fraser. "Pretty much, it's a vendor show but with jobs," Trueax told Havre Daily News before the show. "We want students to know that there are more careers than just farming."


Helena school district offers students 'real world' career opportunities

Helena Public Schools is rolling out a 6th Grade Career Exploration project offering students an opportunity to experience the job options Helena and Montana have to offer. In Superintendent Rex Weltz's weekly superintendent update on Feb. 23, he said for two days in April every sixth grade student in Helena will participate in finding fields of work they are interested in. April 3 Helena Middle School students will participate in the project and on April 9 C.R. Anderson Middle School students will participate. He said the addition of the project allows the district to offer seven consecutive years of career exploration for students. The project has no cost to students or parents with all of the district's partners volunteering their time to promote these efforts.


February 2024 Great News

Farm to school: Grant helps put locally produced food on plates in schools

Corvallis schools are connecting with local ag producers to put locally produced foods on students' plates thanks to help from the USDA's Local Food for Schools grant program. "I think it is a great connection between the community and the school," Corvallis School District Food Services Director Kathy Martin said. "Everything we do is for the children." District-wide, Corvallis Food Services serves meals to 47% free and reduced lunch to students which is up about 20% from last year. In January alone, 11,107 breakfast and lunch meals were served on school days. The Corvallis Food Service received a grant for $29,281 from the Commodities Credit Corporation last fall under the USDA marketing service.

High school class teaches students recreation skills for lifetime

Colin Richem reached down to grab the kokanee salmon flopping on the end of his fishing line, grinning from ear to ear. Richem has gone fishing countless times, but this was the first fish he ever caught. After a couple of pictures of the catch on his cellphone, he sent the salmon back down the ice hole. "This feels really good, and I still have my bait!" Richem said as he sent his lure back down the hole for another try. Richem was out fishing on the frozen Helena Valley Regulating Reservoir for the lifetime sports class he is enrolled in at Capital High School in Helena. The class teaches students the history, skills and safety necessary for recreating in the Montana outdoors. 

Helena Public Schools announce new career program for 6th graders

Helena Public Schools (HPS) announced a new program heading to its middle schools next month. It's named the "6th Grade Career Exploration" experience. HPS will dedicate two days in April for students to discover new talents and passions free of charge, so they can begin thinking more about what careers they want to pursue in the future. 6th graders will be able to explore workplaces in our community ranging from construction to art, healthcare, aviation, and more. Each student will explore up to nine different careers. 

New film captures Colstrip through a high-school lens

The 21st Big Sky Documentary Film Festival is underway in Missoula. The annual event celebrates nonfiction films and creators from around the world - including right here in Montana. MTPR's Austin Amestoy sat down with the filmmakers behind "Tomorrow's Town Today," which explores life in the coal-centric town of Colstrip, Montana, through the eyes of some of its youngest residents.

MSU receives $2.5 million to bolster ongoing efforts to support youth in rural communities

Montana State University will commit millions of dollars to its ongoing efforts to strengthen public education in rural areas, where school districts continue to grapple with severe shortages of teachers and other resources. The university's Center for Research on Rural Education received a $2.5 million grant earlier this month. It will fund the center's work to "establish a blueprint for attracting, preparing, developing and retaining teachers" in rural communities throughout the state. This infusion of funds comes three years after the project received $1.5 million from the same benefactor, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, a Minnesota-based organization that focuses on supporting work on overlooked causes and communities.

'One hour at a time': Billings Skyview High senior juggles 18 extracurricular activities

Between academics, sports, or even a social life, a high school student does a lot of juggling. But one Billings Skyview High School senior is proving that she can do it all. Not only does Vanessa Afraid of Bear own her own business, but she's a part of 18 extracurricular activities. Whether it's being a leader in Billings Public Schools Student Tribal Council, or performing her duties as president of Skyview High's All Nations Club, Afraid of Bear has her hands full.

Spelling savant: Columbia Falls student wins county bee

Columbia Falls Junior High seventh-grader Lily Aveson is the 2024 Flathead County Spelling Bee champion. The winning word was "bereavement." Runner-up was St. Matthew's School eighth-grader Matthew Bliven. Somers Middle School seventh-grader KorKor Collins placed third at the bee which was held Feb. 21 at Glacier High School.  All three advance to the Treasure State Spelling Bee March 9 in Bozeman.

Boucher wins Hill County Spelling Bee, advances to state bee

The 57th Hill County Spelling Bee was one for the records, Hill County Superintendent of Schools Vicki Proctor said, with competition going 27 rounds as the top three contestants fought for the privilege to represent Hill County at the Treasure State Spelling Bee March 9 on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman. Havre Middle School eighth grader Riley Boucher won the bee and will represent Hill County at the state bee in Bozeman. Second-place finisher Piper Larson, a St. Jude Thaddeus School fifth grader, is the alternate for the Treasure State Bee. Havre Middle School sixth-grader Risa Hileman took third. 

Hileman, Chapman and Olson the HMS December students of the month

isa Hileman was the Havre Middle School sixth-grade student of the month for December. Risa is the daughter of Ben and Christin Hileman. She has one brother, Lane Hileman. Risa sings in the middle school's choir and is a member of the cross-country track team. Outside of school, she loves reading, writing, running and creating art. In her spare time, Risa enjoys spending time with family and friends. At school, Risa has a positive attitude and exceeds expectations. She has a tremendous work ethic and strives to go above and beyond all expectations. She is such a joy to be around and makes the middle school a wonderful place for everyone. 

Ben Steele students to represent Montana at world robotics championship

Five eighth grade students from Billings' Ben Steele Middle School will represent the state of Montana at the international youth robotics' 2024 FIRST Championship in Houston, come April. The self-dubbed 'Wildcats' team have been gearing up for the international competition since winning the state trophy in February, a first for the two-year running inaugural club. The Wildcats are the founding team of the school's now 20-member Robotics Club and hope to leave a legacy behind, as they graduate from middle school this spring. "Getting to Houston is a huge deal for us and we're super excited for that," said seven-year robotics enthusiast club member Jackson Stricker.

Determination and compassion - A student leader's perseverance through pain

Madeline "Maddie" Davis is a gracious, poised and articulate Glacier High School senior and aspiring neurosurgeon who wants to help future patients much like she was. As an aspiring neurosurgeon, the 4.0 student is prepared to be immersed in academia for at least the next decade with the end goal of obtaining a medical degree and doctorate. "I would both operate like a usual surgeon, but then I also want to do research to help improve spinal surgeries," Davis said. "I had back surgery almost a year ago and that experience had a really profound impact on me as a person and continues to shape the way I can move and do things."

Civil War reenactor takes students back through history

Fourth-grade teacher Karissa Prewitt puts on a Civil War-era hospital steward coat while standing before her class at Peterson Elementary in Kalispell. It's an ode to the completion of students learning about the creation of America. The coat belongs to Mike Inman, historian and American Civil War reenactor, who stands at the front of the classroom in his own Civil War-era medical outfit. Inman, who lives in Spokane, traveled to Kalispell to teach the students about the 1800s. "I feel like students could read about history all day long, but seeing it, feeling it makes it more real," Prewitt said.

RoboScout Squad codes a state win, ready for world championship

The Kalispell-based RoboScout Squad is motoring forward to the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship in Houston after a stellar performance at the state level. Described by state judges as "fearless and determined" on and off the field, the team received the prized Inspire Award. Making up the RoboScouts are veterans Kennedy Dortch, a Flathead High School senior and Zia Walker, a home-schooled high school senior; and rookies Marin Colley, a Glacier High School junior and Lillie Groom, a West Valley School eighth-grader. 

New well brings fresh water to Park City Schools

For nearly two years, Park City Schools had to bring water in five-gallon containers but now things are back to normal. Students, teachers and staff can fill their water bottles, and also get water out of the drinking fountain once again. Clean fresh drinking water returned in March of 2023. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation sent out a news release on Wednesday on the restoration of the drinking water. "We had five-gallon water stations all over the school," said Dan Grabowska, Park City superintendent. "We had bottled water. So just dealing with the individual bottled water was a big challenge." 

Central Heights Elementary hosts read-a-thon to promote reading and improve literacy

February is 'I Love to Read Month' and Central Heights Elementary School organized a read-a-thon for students for the entire month to promote the importance of reading. Principal Keira Wulff said that they have been searching for new and creative ways to engage students with achieving academic goals they have set for this year, specifically related to literacy. Furthermore, she said that she has been absolutely blown away by the amount of participation they have received from students for the challenge. 

Hardin School District feeds students free, local, nutritious food thanks for grant

Hardin School District shared Tuesday how they have been using the USDA Local Food for Schools grant they were awarded in November. According to Hardin School District's Facebook post Tuesday, February 20, 2024, the Public Schools 17H and 1 in Montana were awarded this grant, which is an initiative aiming to bolster local and regional food systems. The grant supports historically underserved and small establishments. The grant will provide $28,000 for the procurement of unprocessed or minimally processed foods sourced from Montana. 

Florence school counselor represents Montana in DC

Florence Carlton High School Counselor Alli Bristow attended the American School Counselor Association awards in Washington, D.C., representing Montana as the school counselor of the year in early February. "I loved doing this trip," Bristow said. "I learned so much from other school counselors across the country about what they are doing to mitigate the challenges and just get more access of supports to students." Last April, Bristow was selected as Montana's school counselor of the year. She joined counselors of the year from all 50 states at the awards gala.

DECA students take the lead in business competition

Emerging business leaders and entrepreneurs from Glacier, Whitefish and Flathead high schools have advanced to the DECA International Career Development Conference April 27-30 in Anaheim, California. DECA is a nonprofit organization that prepares high school and college students for marketing, finance, hospitality and management careers. Competitions help prepare students for a career setting by using skills applicable to the business industry.  To advance, students made it to the top two, or three, depending on the event, at the state level. Students may only compete in one event at internationals. At state, which was held Feb. 4-6 in Missoula, students competed in team decision-making and individual and written events. 

Nutrislice app shows food ingredients in school lunches for SD2

Billings Public Schools introduced an app that breaks down all the nutritional information for school lunches at different public schools in SD2. "Nutrislice" shows all food items offered at each public school in the district, including calories, the amount of fat, and ingredients such as dairy and wheat.  "It's a great resource that's a lot easier for parents than having to call somebody to get those answers," said Brittany Gage, a registered nutritionist with Sodexo School Nutrition Services.

Highland Elementary takes on "Jump Rope for Heart Challenge" to raise funds for American Heart Association

February is recognized as American Heart Month, a time dedicated towards spreading awareness about maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent heart diseases. To teach students about the importance of keeping hearts healthy, Highland Elementary School in collaboration with the American Hearts Association hosted their second annual "Jump Rope for Heart Challenge" in Billings.


Thompson Falls High School students Jeremy Fausett (above from left), Oliver Owusu-Brafi and Carter Marquardt traveled to the Montana State University campus in Bozeman earlier this month for the state robotics competition. The team was randomly paired with another team for the qualifying round in which two-team alliances compete against each other in five matches. The goal is to outscore the opposing alliance by completing various tasks, said robotics advisor Eric Nygaard. This year's challenge involved stacking plastic hexagons called "pixels" on a slanted backdrop while navigating obstacles. 

Three Forks Schools host Student Leadership Workshop

In a partnership with Montana Superintendent Elsie Arntzen and author and President of Canvas Creek Team Building Karen Grosz, Three Forks High School students participated in a Student Leadership Workshop last week. Three Forks was one of five school districts selected to participate in the workshops with the theme "Figure it Out." "Our children are the future of our great state," said Superintendent Elsie Arntzen. "These workshops will create strong partnerships between our Montana students, parents, teachers, and school leaders to improve student well-being and teaching and learning." Grosz said it is a privilege to work with the Montana Office of Public Instruction, and they loved the students in Three Forks. "They were high energy, worried about respect for one another and the teachers, and anxious to be part of the solution," she said. According to Grosz, the focus of the workshops is twofold. 

Students shine at All-State Music Festival

The University of Montana hosted the 2023 MHSA All-State Music Festival last October. A remarkable number of Whitefish high school student musicians earned All-State honors: two from choir and five from the band program. Four students were named to the American Choral Directors Association All Northwest Choir or Jazz Choir. Musicians were provided with the sheet music about a month in advance of the festival. Whitefish high school band director Matthew King said the pieces are more difficult that what the high school classes usually tackle. The students practiced the music alone, on their own time. Three of the five band students selected this year were sophomores, including clarinetist Ella Idleman. She explained that in the spring, when the sophomores were freshman, they submitted auditions to a panel of professional musicians to evaluate.

Super spellers battle for county title at annual bee

After 10 rounds of competition between 32 students, Apollonia Hall, a fifth grader from Charlo Schools, was named the 2024 Lake County Spelling Bee champion. Apollonia spelled cupidity and methane correctly to take top honors and qualify for the state spelling bee in Bozeman on March 10. This year's county spelling bee was held in the new gym at St. Ignatius schools. Students from Charlo, Arlee and St. Ignatius schools in grades 4-8 competed in the event. Lake County Superintendent of Schools Carolyn Hall said that with variety of new academic contests available from geography, math, robotics contests and more, she understands why schools may opt out. This year marked Lake County's 59th bee and the second in which Polson and Ronan schools didn't compete. 

Cooking up educational goals at Ovando School

Ovando School recently was awarded $1,500 via the Bright Future Grant from Missoula Electric Cooperative. The grant is being used for Consumer Science and Home Economic classes for grades four through eight. Funds will mainly be used for supplies. "We're excited to have this grant from Missoula Electric for Consumer Science classes," Patti Bartlett, fourth through eighth grade teacher, said. "Sometimes being away from the books is a great way to learn." This fall students practiced sewing machine skills by sewing soup bowl cozies. Sewing machines were purchased several years ago with a grant. 

"Aghast" foils Spelling Bee contestant

St. Ignatius fourth grader Kysen Incashola almost won the Lake County Spelling Bee until he fumbled "aghast," after precisely spelling "milligram." Winners must spell two words in a row correctly. The faux pas landed him back in the competition, which was ultimately won by Charlo fifth grader Apollonia Hall, who correctly spelled "cupidity" and "methane." The competition was held last Tuesday, Feb. 6, at the St. Ignatius High School gym. "It was quite an interesting bee," said Lake County Superintendent of Schools Carolyn Hall, whose office coordinates the annual spell-offs. "The little guy went all the way to the championship word and then missed the second one."

Science Time: Geyser students put science to the test

Does the amount of fat content in a given potato chip match what is on the label? What AAA battery lasts the longest? How do certain objects affect the strength of a wifi signal? How do certain salts affect conductivity? Is hair color related to the amount of static in ones hair? These are just some of the questions asked by students at Geyser Schools Science Fair on February 13. Youths were divided into two different age groups and presented their scientific process. They first developed a hypothesis/question to test. They then established research methods to either affirm or dispute their hypotheses. Lastly, they drew conclusions and presented their data to audience members and judges in attendance. 

Tanner Iron Pipe named recipient of Winslow Nichols Leadership Award

It's always a surprise when a local high school senior receives the Winslow Nichols Leadership Award. Community members, teachers and other school staff, coaches and others annually nominate a high school student in Glacier, Pondera, Liberty or Toole County for the award. The award is named for one of the first winners, previously called the Today's Achievers, Tomorrow's Leaders Award, who won the award in 2020. A junior at Columbia Falls High School, Winslow passed away in June of 2022, and the award was renamed to honor his memory at the start of the 2022 school year. The person in question, however, isn't told until the award is presented in person, and this quarter it was Tanner Iron Pipe who waited innocently in his normal classroom at Browning High School while a group of folks quietly approached him. 

Kaufman named VFW Montana Teacher of the Year

Bridger High School students stood proudly Monday to give a standing ovation to Vicki Kaufman on receiving the VFW Montana Teacher of the Year (9-12) award from Randy Stiles, District 3 Commander for the VFW. Kaufman, the Bridger Family and Consumer Science (FCS) instructor, is now eligible for the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award at the national level, the results of which will be announced in March. The Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher, recognizes the nation's top classroom elementary, junior high and high school teachers who teach citizenship education topics regularly and promote America's history and traditions effectively. Teachers who promote civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism are prime candidates for this award.

Bozeman schools pitched Grow Your Own Teacher program

To help with ongoing hiring challenges, Bozeman Public Schools officials are proposing a program that would recruit students and staff to be future teachers. The Grow Your Own Teacher program would identify people in Bozeman schools who show an interest or potential aptitude for teaching, Director of Human Resources Pat Strauss said. Students would get work study experience to prepare them for a teaching license and they could be offered college scholarships to help them finish their education, Strauss said. The program is still in the planning process, and Strauss and other staff did not formally ask the district for approval at the Feb. 12 school board meeting after presenting their ideas. Trustees were in favor of the concept on Monday night.

Billings Public School's much awaited "Hearts for the Arts" fundraiser is back this year!

Billings Public School (SD2) is gearing up to hold its much awaited second annual "Hearts for the Arts" fundraiser this week after its success last year. The event will feature an art show and a music concert by school district's art and music teachers. Amy Schendel, Fine Arts Education Coordinator with Billings Public School, who has worked for SD2 for 20 years said that this event provides a wonderful opportunity to showcase the talent of the creative community of Billings Public School. 

Bozeman schools to begin new early literacy programs this summer

Bozeman Public Schools plans to offer new early childhood programming this summer to help kids learn to read at their grade level. The district started offering its Running Start Kindergarten program in 2015, aimed towards students whose household income is below federal thresholds. Funding for the classes was partially supported by state law that helped schools to enroll students in early kindergarten programs. House Bill 352, passed in the spring, eliminates the provision that allowed Running Start to serve students based on financial need. District officials said they are excited because the law also expands program funding to more students based on their literacy needs.

Livingston schools to apply for electric school buses

Livingston Public Schools may join more than 40 other Montana school districts that will receive electric school buses, free of charge. In a unanimous vote, the Livingston School District board of trustees gave superintendent Chad Johnson authorization to submit an application for the Clean School Bus Rebate Program during the board's monthly meeting on Wednesday. "We knew this was coming and we can kick our name in as potential candidates without committing to anything," said Johnson. The superintendent explained submitting the application would provide the board with "a few months to breath easy, to see if this is something we want."

Huntley Project High School showcases Career and Technical Education program

This month is Career and Technical Education month, highlighting programs in schools that offer differing skills for students. On Thursday at Huntley Project High School, Gov. Greg Gianforte paid a visit to see how the school's program is shaping up. "My dad taught me how to weld when I was 11, and I've loved it ever since," said Willa Tauer, a student at Huntley Project High School, on Thursday. "My dad did it and my grandpa did it."

Belfry teacher nationally selected for Costa Rica conservation fellowship

Alexandria Knows His Gun, a Belfry Elementary School teacher, will be traveling to Costa Rica in April, one of a dozen teachers selected for Ecology Project International's Teacher Fellowship, where she will take part in leatherback sea turtle preservation. "I am excited to bring EPI's Teacher Fellowship to life in my classroom. I look forward to immersing my 3rd and 4th grade students in a dynamic curriculum centered around leatherback sea turtle conservation," said Knows His Gun. "We will embark on an exciting journey of hands-on learning. I also look forward to introducing elements of Costa Rican culture into my classroom."

Browning educator works to preserve Blackfeet language

"ōk̇ii niisoō ǐǐnnōk̇´ iik̇ǔnii nitsin´k̇ǎasim o´nōk̇īyk̇ǔṫtsis, nitīyǎaiitsin´k̇ǎasim," Robert Hall speaks in Blackfoot. This is how he introduces himself in his native language, translating to: "hello, I am Piikuni, my name is Elk Robe, my English name is Robert Hall." Hall is the Blackfeet Native American Studies Director for Browning Public Schools, curating a curriculum for the Blackfoot language and preserving the tribes' cultural traditions for the next generation. He got a shoutout from friend and language student Lily Gladstone recently when she won a Golden Globe for her performance in Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon." Gladstone began her acceptance speech in Blackfoot, a moment that Hall won't soon forget.

C.R. Anderson students secure historic designation for Mann Gulch Trail

months-long process of research and petitioning the U.S. Forest Service proved fruitful for a group of C.R. Anderson Middle School students seeking National Recreation Trail Registry designation for the Mann Gulch Trail. One student said they hoped the application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service for National Recreational Trails would be approved in June. Instead, the 3 1/2-mile trail was approved Tuesday night as a surprise to the students from the Forest Service and they were presented with a formal plaque. The students started the project as a part of the C.R. Anderson Mann Gulch Club, which focuses on studying the history of the Mann Gulch Fire. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the fatal wildfire near Gates of the Mountains. 

Placer Subaru donates over 150 jackets to children in need

Placer Subaru donated more than 150 jackets to children in need by partnering with Operation Warm and Helena Family YMCA. The dealer made an apparel donation as a part of Subaru Loves to Help, a national initiative that shares hope, comfort and confidence with children experiencing urgent-need situations. "Placer Subaru's donation of coats will go directly to families in the Helena community," Ashley Callison, director of youth development at Helena Family YMCA, said in a news release.

Hamilton teen hosts registry for bone marrow, stem cell donors Friday

Senior Gwen Wolfe, in Hamilton High School's Leadership Class, is organizing a drive to get community members to join the registry for bone marrow and stem cell transplants. She is working with the National Bone Marrow Donor Program and running the registration event at the Hamilton basketball games starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb 9. The HHS Leadership Class is a semester long course taught by educators Kiah Nisly and Seeley Mickelson that focuses on community involvement, leadership in the school and school spirit, then on leadership characteristics and personal growth. There is a food drive unit where students collect and sort food for Haven House Food Pantry in Hamilton. The class also requires an end-of-semester project that benefits their school or community. 

Governor visits Jefferson High School where they're setting up students for success

Students sawed and carved away in the woodworking lab during Governor Greg Gianforte's visit to Jefferson High School this Monday. The governor was there to kick off Career and Technical Education Month. Students at Jefferson are able to learn woodworking skills in the shop and then spend a handful of hours with Dick Anderson Construction to gain real-world experience. "And it's really just expanding the horizons for our students so they can pick careers that are a good match for their skills," says Gianforte. This partnership was made possible during the last legislative session where the Gianforte administration created a pathway for this exact kind of program. Another bill passed during the legislative session made personal finance a requirement for Montana schools.

Helena High School principal to speak in Japan

Helena High School principal Steve Thennis will be going to Senshu University Tamana High School in Tamana, Japan, in March to speak to students. The Japanese high school is funding the trip. The trip is part of the Helena High School Sister School program that has been in place since 2013 when the "informal" relationship began. In the recent superintendent community update from Rex Weltz, he said in 2013, 13 high school band students from Japan came to Helena to visit with Helena band students and tour the school. "A 'sister city' is an actual designation that refers to a long-term relationship between two cities in two different countries that share cultural exchanges and interactions," Weltz said.

Gianforte talks internships, work experience at Glacier High School

Gov. Greg Gianforte talked career and technical education with Glacier High School students and faculty Tuesday, highlighting Kalispell Public Schools for its work in promoting out-of-classroom learning opportunities for students. Gianforte applauded the work district officials have done regarding the state Advanced Opportunities Grant, which lets schools financially support students participating in internships alongside classes.  "It's really about bringing education closer to the workforce," Gianforte said. The 2023 legislative session saw a handful of bills regarding education pass, including House Bill 257, sponsored by Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, a Kalispell Republican. Gianforte signed the legislation, which boosts the money available to students looking to explore career fields through hands-on internships and work experiences, into law last year.

Lip sync battle brings in $27,000 for literacy efforts

Families and school staff from Hyalite and Meadowlark elementary schools filled an auditorium to play a verbal tug-of-war match, chanting the name of the school they hoped would win a lip sync battle. The competition between both schools is a friendly rivalry that has spanned the last several years. The staff competed to win the audience's favor and take home the trophy - a gold-colored guitar, which earns them bragging rights for an entire year. Staff said the battle does more than just build relations between school buildings because it's also for a good cause. The proceeds from Feb. 2 event at the Willson Auditorium will go towards buying books and other materials for teachers to use for improving literacy.

From the superintendent: Activities, events fill the week at East Helena schools

t's time for an events and activities update from East Helena! We are at the end of the winter season for some activities and others are winding up to state tournaments and finals. On Jan. 26 and 27, Speech and Debate wrapped up their season with state finals in Columbia Falls. The Vigilantes placed fifth overall and the following students placed in their categories: Cassie Goulart – eighth in Extemporaneous Speaking; Dan Shults and Copen Earley – fourth in Policy Debate; Max Listerud – third in Memorized Public Address; Riley Ophus – second in Lincoln Douglas Debate; Ariana Hrvatin – second in Informative Speaking. 

Havre's electric school buses ace their test in subzero temperatures

There have been a lot of questions about whether electric vehicles can hold up in Montana's cold winters. This comes as the federal government expands incentives for schools to electrify their bus fleets. One district in Montana is now running a couple of electric buses for the second winter in a row. Last year, Montana's Legislature was considering new taxes on electric vehicles and chargers. "Obviously I think most of us recognize that electric vehicles are not very practical for the state of Montana, especially in rural areas," Ed Butcher said. State Rep. Butcher, along with most of the Republican supermajority, was skeptical. "They're interesting toys. If you got $100,000, you don't know what to do with, you can go buy one. But you might get stranded," Butcher said. At the same time, a few hundred miles north of the capital, the first electric school buses in the state started rolling out for daily pick-ups.

Local nonprofit teaches healthy eating habits to Missoula kids

here's never been a group of elementary kids more excited to taste spinach than this past Tuesday at DeSmet School in Missoula. Érica Rubino, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, had pulled off that seemingly impossible magic trick by blending up the leafy greens in a smoothie along with orange juice, pineapple, yogurt, bananas and other treats. By the time the blender stopped whirring, the kids were jumping up and down in excitement to eat a food they probably turn their noses up at on most occasions at home. Rubino has been contracted by the nonprofit Community Food and Agriculture Coalition to pilot a new nutrition education program. 

A day inside a one-room school in Montana

From Helena, Montana, drive about 90 miles, winding past mountains and the Missouri River, to Great Falls. Keep driving, until there are no more buildings, not even houses, just a two-lane road splitting endless fields of wheat and barley. Wave to some trucks, sail past silos. And then take a left. Soon a small building will appear. Look for the American flag, the swing set, the John Deere. This is Benton Lake School. It's one of roughly 50 active one-room schoolhouses in Montana, the state that may have the most in the country. "It's just like the olden days," said Dawn Dawson, Benton Lake's teacher (and custodian, and librarian, and lunch monitor). "Except our school was built in the '60s."

Clean School Bus Program will reduce emissions

Thank you, Sen. Jon Tester, for helping secure funds to purchase 41 clean school buses for Montana's rural public schools. These include: 11 for Florence-Carlton; 10 for Hamilton; 8 for Thompson Falls; 6 for Plains: 3 to Trout Creek; 2 for St. Regis District and 1 bus for Dixon. The grant money, nearly $4 million, comes from the Clean School Bus Program, part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Tester worked with five Republicans and four Democrats to negotiate the bill and was the only member of Montana's congressional delegation to vote for the bill. In June, 2023, the American Lung Association published Driving to Clean Air, highlighting that a transition to zero emission vehicles would save tens of thousands of American lives and billions of dollars in public health benefits over the next two decades.  Air pollution from older diesel bus engines is linked to asthma and other conditions that harm students' health and causes missed school days.


January 2024 Great News

Columbia Falls takes Class A state title after undefeated season

Columbia Falls High School's speech and debate team capped another undefeated season as the 2024 state champions. "We earned 285 sweeps points which is a record for points earned at a state tournament," said head coach Dawn Roe. "We also had a record number of competitors win the championship in their event which contributed to the points." This is the team's second consecutive state win under Roe.

Murphy given highest honor by high school association

Stone Child College Business Professor and long-time Havre High School Activities Director Dennis Murphy was bestowed the Montana High School Association's highest honor earlier this month, the James C. Haugen Meritorious Service Award, for his years of service in the organization. Murphy said the award is named after James Haugen, a long-time executive director of the organization who led it through some of its most turbulent times and had a profound impact on it and the people who make it up. "To even be mentioned alongside his name, as having had that kind of impression and impact, is quite an honor," Murphy said.

North Star speech and drama does well at state meet

The North Star speech and drama team competed in the State Class B-C Speech, Drama, and Debate tournament held in Choteau Jan 26-27. All seven members made it to semi-finals, with one student making finals. Senior Emily Conner took fifth place at state in spontaneous oral interpretation of Literature. Other members that competed were junior Ecko Fraser with an original oratory titled "The Dress Code," freshman Savannah Schaumloeffel in original oratory with a piece titled "Dance is a Sport," freshman Christin Berton in spontaneous interpretation, freshman Troy Barrett in humorous interpretation with "The Secret Knowledge of Grown-ups" by David Wisniewski.

Havre speech and debate competes at state

Havre High School took a small team to the Class A state speech, debate and drama meet in Columbia Falls over the weekend, and while no one brought home any hardware, the head coach said he is pleased with their performance. "All of our competitors are in their first year in their events, and while I would have liked to have seen some finalists, they did well against the best Class A has to offer for competition," coach Tim Leeds said.

Independence Bank offering scholarships

Independence Bank is again offering scholarship opportunities for incoming first-year students planning to attend Montana State University-Northern. To be eligible, students must graduate from a high school in Hill, Blaine, Phillips, Valley, Daniels, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Liberty, Chouteau, Cascade, Pondera or Toole counties. Independence Bank will award eight $1,000 scholarships for the 2024-2025 academic year. Recipients will receive $500 during fall semester and $500 during spring semester. Scholarship recipients must have at least a 2.5 GPA to be eligible for the spring award.

State title a 'Cinderella win' for Flathead High School speech and debate

The tenacity of this year's Flathead High School speech and debate team paid off with a state title, beating defending champ Bozeman. "For this team - who overcame so many obstacles this year - this was truly a Cinderella season," Flathead head coach Shannon O'Donnell said.   The champions rallied to the first-place finish with 184.5 points overall. State runner-up, Bozeman, scored 169 points. Glacier High School placed third with 153 points. Flathead's last state win was in 2020. With an unusually high number of first-time competitors, this was seen as a year of rebuilding for Flathead. A state title seemed like a long shot, but the young team was driven.

Artificial intelligence is here to stay, especially in classrooms. So what should educators do about it?

From the Board of Regents and legislative biennium meetings to school hallways and college classrooms, it seems like everyone is trying to predict how artificial intelligence will impact education in Montana and what to do about it. AI will be a fixture in the academic experience and professional future for every student in the state, and Montana's educators are trying to catch up. "We are hearing about it everywhere," said Todd Buchanan, vice chair of Montana's Board of Regents, the governing body for the state's higher education institutions, at the January meeting in Helena. "We understand that we need to get our arms around it. (We want) to be at the front edge of what we do and how we handle it."

Waste not, want not: Billings schools using high-tech scale to limit wasted food

A high-tech food scale is the latest addition to Castle Rock Middle School's kitchen. It's all part of Billings Public Schools' plan to reduce food waste, as 20% of food in the district ends up at the landfill each year. During lunch on Monday, the cooks at Castle Rock's kitchen are doing their best to provide the right amount of food for hundreds of students. For 12-year-old Emily Shimamoto, vanilla ice cream is a favorite, and it's always a good day when pizza is on the menu. "I usually bring a little extra just in case I am hungry so most of the time I don't finish all of it," Shimamoto said.

Cascade Public Schools gets science help from Montana Digital Academy

Cascade Public Schools, like several other districts in the state, has experienced teacher shortages over the last few years. To make up for their lack of teachers in the science department, superintendent of Cascade Public Schools, Levi Collins, said they have partnered with Montana Digital Academy (MTDA) to fulfill these needs for the semester. "The entire state has a hard time right now finding science teachers, and there just aren't enough science teachers in the state entering the market or entering the labor force to make up for that. Some positions are a little bit easier to hire than most, but science and math is very, very difficult to find across the entire state," said Collins. 

Bozeman trustees praise superintendent in annual evaluation

Bozeman School District Superintendent Casey Bertram is photographed in a hallway at the Willson School on Jan. 27, 2021. Bozeman Public Schools trustees remain pleased with Superintendent Casey Bertram's performance, giving him high marks on its annual evaluation of the district leader. For the 2022-23 school year, trustees gave Bertram an average score of 3.09 on a four-point scale, meaning they felt he consistently performed just above expectations in 10 different areas. Bertram's gave himself a 3 on the self-assessment. The evaluation process is required by the superintendent's contract with the district which ends June 30, 2025.

Libby City Council backs effort to redevelop historic high school building

Libby City Council agreed last week to endorse an effort by developers to secure a grant to restore and convert the old high school into a an apartment building with community space. The approval for a letter of support was unanimous at the Jan. 16 meeting following a motion by Council President Brian Zimmerman. Zimmerman's motion was initially for TZ Management, but Tracy McNew, who made the presentation of the project as a member of Libby Lofts LLC, pointed out the letter of support should be addressed to Libby Lofts. The corporation is applying for a National Historic Preservation Grant from the state of Montana for $650,000 to restore the exterior of the old building as well as replace and refurbish windows and fix the roof. If the grant is secured, the developers must supply a 20% match.

Billings school board votes to keep contested book on shelves

Billings School District 2 trustees voted Monday night to keep the book "Assassination Classroom" by Yusui Matsui on its high school library shelves. A parent late last year had requested the district remove the book, arguing it wasn't appropriate for students. The district's curriculum panel last year voted to limit the book to just high school libraries. The parent then appealed that decision and the SD2 board Monday night ruled on the appeal, voting to follow the recommendation of the curriculum committee and keep the book on high school library shelves.

Bozeman among first in Montana public charter schools after state approval

The Montana Board of Public Education approved 19 new charter schools last week - including two Bozeman programs - made possible by a new law. The board's decision at a two-day public meeting on Jan. 18 and 19 created Montana's first wave of public charters under the law. The board reviewed 26 applications in total. House Bill 549, passed in the spring, allows for the creation of public charter schools. Bozeman School District's Bridger Charter Academy and Bozeman Charter School were among the first round of approvals. Both programs have already been operating as alternative options for students.

Bozeman among first in Montana public charter schools after state approval

The Montana Board of Public Education approved 19 new charter schools last week - including two Bozeman programs - made possible by a new law. The board's decision at a two-day public meeting on Jan. 18 and 19 created Montana's first wave of public charters under the law. The board reviewed 26 applications in total. House Bill 549, passed in the spring, allows for the creation of public charter schools. Bozeman School District's Bridger Charter Academy and Bozeman Charter School were among the first round of approvals. Both programs have already been operating as alternative options for students.

MAT puts on KidsMAT in Havre schools

The local acting troupe is bringing their acting knowledge to the youth of Havre. Montana Actors' Theatre Youth Activities directors Angela Pratt and Tylyn Turner, as well as other MAT volunteers, are traveling to schools around Havre to teach children some basic acting skills. The first session was Wednesday. "We are just doing small acting workshops with the K-3 graders," Pratt said. "Workshops are free to the participants. We started last week and will continue through the end of the month. We will then be starting another set of workshops at the 4-8 grade levels, running the month of February."

Bozeman High senior to run for school board, hopes to fight climate change, hate speech

Carly Bryant, a senior at Bozeman High School, is running for and open seat on the Bozeman School Board. She says she wants to be a louder voice for students and to prioritize policies that tackle the climate crisis. Carly Bryant, a senior at Bozeman High School, is running for and open seat on the Bozeman School Board. She says she wants to be a louder voice for students and to prioritize policies that tackle the climate crisis. Of the eight trustees currently on the Bozeman School Board, four seats will be up for reelection in May. If elected, Bryant said her priorities would be getting the district to limit its impact on climate change, making schools more inclusive by educating against hate speech and elevating student voices. "As a student who's been in the Bozeman School District for four years now - and I've gone to BHS that whole time - I've really seen what areas the Bozeman School District has done really well, but also what they have failed to do and provide their students," Bryant said. "And most of that is in the area of the climate crisis, but also in the area of how we treat each other as student and the environment the district has created for students. ...I would really like to change that to be more positive and inclusive for every student."

All charter school applications approved for Helena and East Helena

All charter school applications were approved Friday in Helena and East Helena public schools during a Montana Board of Public Education meeting. The board expected five or fewer public charter school applications when they were announced as a possibility and instead received 26 statewide. During the board meeting on Thursday, Jane Hamman, chair of the charter committee, presented data during a work session showing what applications were most likely to get approved based on their rankings. Applications were ranked by the committee with multiple factors including innovation, the likelihood of success, high performance, applicants who can open and operate a successful charter school, academic programs, school governance, business operations and community support. East Helena Public Schools submitted one application under the name East Helena 227 Academy, while Helena Public Schools submitted three applications under the names Helena Mount Ascension Learning Academy, Helena Project for Alternative Learning Academy and Helena Montessori Charter School.

Montana mining history - Kalispell eighth-graders pan for gold and garnets

A sign above Montana History teacher Kris Schreiner's classroom alerts Kalispell Middle School eighth graders that they are entering Alder Gulch to mine for gold and garnets. Alder Gulch, was the site of the "richest placer gold strike in the Rocky Mountains with an estimated total value of 100 million dollars throughout the 18th and 19th century," according to A man by the name of William Fairweather discovered the site in May 1863. "Fairweather dug the dirt, filled a pan and told Edgar to wash the pan in the hope of getting enough gold to buy tobacco. When the first pan turned up $2.40, they knew the gulch had great potential." Miners flooded in as word spread. The population surge led to the establishment of Virginia City and Nevada City, locations the students learned about as part of a mining unit in addition to Alder Gulch. Other notable sites Schreiner had marked on a map of Montana were Bannack, Fort Ellis (Bozeman), Butte City, Lost Chance Gulch (Helena), Hell Gate (Missoula), Fort Shaw, Sun River, Fort Benton and Fort Carroll.

Kristen Boumans earns trip with essay on Jeannette Rankin

When Kristen Boumans first began researching Jeannette Rankin for a school English project, she did not anticipate the personal impact Ms. Rankin's story would have on her, nor did she expect her efforts to earn her a trip to Washington D.C. The example of Jeannette Rankin and a little encouragement from her father and Mrs. Rachel Stoltz, Kristen's English teacher, paid off. Kristen is one of two area youth chosen to represent Sun River Electric Cooperative at the NRECA Youth Tour to Washington D.C. in June. "Every June, as many as 1,500 high school students from across the country spend a week in the nation's capital as part of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. The students are sponsored by electric cooperatives – cooperatives that are committed to educating America's rural youth about America and the role electric cooperatives play in developing strong rural communities."

Speech and debate looks to run the table

No matter their event of choice - informative, policy debate, public forum or DUO interp to name a few - the Columbia Falls Speech and Debaters have one goal in mind for this season: defending their state title. This year's team is large, right around 35 kids total with nine seniors. "We're the biggest A team, so you have a lot of people to pull from, and then that also means that returning folks from last year's team can help with new folks, it's nice," said senior Logan Peterson, who joined the team for the first time this year. "Everybody has a lot to learn, and it's really eye-opening."

Glasgow And Opheim BPA Students Place At Regionals

Glasgow High School and Opheim students traveled to Lambert, Mont., on Jan. 10 to participate in Business Professionals of America (BPA) regionals. Business Professionals of America is the nation's leading CTSO (Career Technical Student Organization) providing students and members with invaluable skill development and the opportunity to make personal connections.

Plains school honors local law enforcement

National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is Jan. 9 each year and was started to show support for law enforcement officials who risk their lives to save another's. In Plains, support was shown by members of the school district. Organized by Kati Mitchell, each officer received a certificate of appreciation from the Plains School District as well as hand-drawn thank you cards from students. Cookies baked by the school cafeteria and hot coffee were also supplied to take the chill off the day.

St. Regis students cash in at Stock Market Game

The typical high school student has a limited knowledge of investing, saving, and basic comprehension of the stock market. St. Regis history teacher, Jeff Stanek, has worked for the past several years to help change the trend of financial illiteracy. "I have been teaching U.S. history students the basics of investing in the stock market for the last five years by creating my own stock simulation game during our project on the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression," explained Stanek. "Our business teacher, Mrs. Phillips shared with me that the state of Montana puts on a competition doing the same thing with cash prizes; so, I enrolled my class. The Stock Market Game is a nine-week simulation where teams of students use a hypothetical $100,000 each to invest in the stock market.

Grant funds new electric buses for local schools

Schools in Mineral and Sanders counties will be among six districts in the state to receive new electric buses under the federal Clean School Bus Program. The program provides $5 billion over five years to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models. Locally, eight buses will go to Thompson Falls Public School, three buses will go to Trout Creek Public School, two buses will go to St. Regis School District, and one bus will go to Dixon Public Schools. Funding for the new buses is from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that U.S. Sen. Jon Tester helped negotiate. "In rural Montana, school buses are the vital link between families and the nearest school, and it's critical that these buses are safe, up-to-date, and efficient," said Tester. "I'm proud to see my bipartisan infrastructure law deliver these important funds to get kids to school safely and keep the air in our communities clean."

The Future of Ag in Florence School

 Two years ago, Florence High School and Middle School launched a chapter of Future Farmers of America (FFA). 35 students participate in the program to build comprehensive knowledge of agriculture and to prepare students for careers in, or related to, agriculture. FFA chapters also emphasize developing leadership skills and commitment to community service, not just during high school, but throughout one's life. When Scott Simmons, a science and agricultural education teacher, joined the Florence Carlton teaching staff, students found the sponsor needed to form their FFA chapter. Prior to becoming a chapter, Simmons held informal meetings to ensure the interest and commitment was present to support chapter responsibilities and activities.

Billings Schools program views wrongdoing as a 'learning opportunity'

s county commissioners hatch plans for a multimillion-dollar jail expansion, the Billings Public School system is taking a different approach to addressing youth violence and crime by training school staff to teach conflict resolution skills. Law enforcement officials in Yellowstone County have noticed a common thread among many of the juveniles charged with violent crimes - they seem to have no conflict resolution skills short of using weapons. Police and community leaders are looking to schools to help teach those skills. In the new Billings schools program, wrongdoing and conflict are viewed as learning opportunities. Misbehavior is reframed as harming people and relationships, rather than breaking school rules. Rather than "outsourcing discipline to the front office," teachers facilitate "problem-solving processes, which engage wrongdoers and those affected or harmed." It's called "restorative practices," and if it seems hippie-dippie, the program has serious backers. It's being funded through a Juvenile Justice Grant from the Montana Board of Crime Control.

Scholarships available for future teachers from Powell County

The Deer Lodge Education Association is offering scholarships to college students who are majoring in education, according to a Tuesday news release. Per the release, in order to be eligible, the student(s) must be graduating this spring from Powell County High School, or be an alumnus of PCHS and pursuing an education degree. The release also stated that: Interested applicants should either contact Tricia Witt at 846-1553 ext. 224, request an application by writing to her at Granville Stuart School 444 Montana Ave. Deer Lodge, MT 59722, or pick up an application from the Powell County High School. A 500 word essay titled "What classroom management techniques do you feel would be most helpful to you? Defend your response" is to accompany the application. An official transcript is also required. Previous recipients are welcome to apply again. The completed application must be postmarked no later than April 12, 2024.

LaMotte School students, staff settle into new addition

Students and staff at LaMotte School are settling into an addition to their building that is just about finished. The small K-8 school, which is about 6 miles east of Bozeman on Bear Canyon Road, broke ground on the addition in May, said first-year Superintendent Spencer Johnson, who also serves as LaMotte's principal. The school now has a library, kitchen, two small break-out rooms and a new main office. One of the more substantial add-ons is a multi-purpose gym and cafeteria, which teachers can use to host music classes, concerts and the school's first-ever indoor physical education classes. There are only a few things left to finish, like painting and ordering shelving for the kitchen, Johnson said. The goal is to fully complete the project by the end of January, he said

Western Montana students celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. with words, art

Students in kindergarten through grade 12 were invited to enter the annual Lynn Schwanke Youth Art & Essay Contest in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This contest is sponsored by EmpowerMT. This year over 350 submissions were submitted.

Flathead student runs on supportive leadership

Flathead High School senior and athlete Hailey Hendrickson is a motivated student and decisive leader who guides others with encouragement and kindness. "Hailey is a smart and kindhearted leader with the tenacity to keep her running strong whether on the cross-country team, in the IB [International Baccalaureate] academic program, or in her many FHS school and community activities," Flathead Career Center Manager Kristin Bay wrote in her nomination of Hendrickson who is a recipient of the Winslow Nichols Leadership Award.  The award, which is sponsored by Logan Health, in collaboration with the Daily Inter Lake, recognizes the academic achievement and community involvement of high school students who contribute to improving the lives of others. Her cross country coach, Jesse Rumsey, also noted that Hendrickson is the type of leader who is assertive, organized, diligent and professional. 

Whitefish speech second in Glacier Yeti tourneyThe Whitefish High speech and debate team came in second only to Columbia Falls this weekend at Glacier High School. The two-day tournament featured great competition for the Bulldogs who had several placers. 

Turner High School Holds Induction Ceremony Recently

The Turner High School recently held a National Honor Society at their school. Four students were inducted into the group with a cafeteria filled with students, parents, grandparents, and staff. 

Part of the team: Bozeman Hawks show appreciation for custodian's hard work, dedication

Most people on the Bozeman High School football team agree: Manny Herrera, a custodian at the school, is part of the team. Hawks players and coaches described Herrera as a hardworking, humble man of few words who is always around to support the team.

'Those kinds of things endure': Lions Club makes donation to Daly Elementary swim program

The Hamilton Lions Club supports youth learning and has a legacy of supporting the community.  The Lions made a $1,000 donation to Daly Elementary School on Wednesday to help fund swimming lessons for first graders. Daly Elementary math specialist Tom Redmon said he is grateful for the swimming program. "It has been a wonderful program that took a break during COVID and is getting re-started with the Lions Club and the Kiwanis made a significant donation as well," Redmon said. "I've always been a swimmer, but never competitively. I'm on the river all summer. In the past I was a white-water rafting guide." With three young children he sees the importance of comfort and competency around the water.

Havre High wins at Shelby speech tournament

Havre High School took a small team of speakers and debaters to a tournament at Shelby Saturday, with the Havre team performing well and winning the Class A team trophy. 

Knights speech and drama does well in Shelby

North Star speech and drama team got back into the season by traveling to Shelby Saturday and represented the school very well.

Montana Tech invites K-12 educators to Petroleum Resources Workshop

MISSOULA, Mont. - Montana Tech is inviting K-12 educators to spend a week in the summer learning about the petroleum industry. The workshop qualifies for 31 License Renewal Units or two graduate college credits.

Bozeman schools raise double amount needed to clear 2023 lunch debt

The Bozeman Schools Foundation received more than double its goal to clear all student lunch debt in December. The foundation started the campaign on Dec. 8 with the goal of raising $18,000 by Jan. 3 for Bozeman Public Schools to clear student debt from the fall semester. By Christmas, the nonprofit raised about $46,000 in donations from the community, said Jenn Lammers, director of the foundation. 

FHS business teacher named High School Educator of the Year

Flathead High School business teacher Caitlin Heuscher has been named the High School Educator of the Year for 2023 by the Kalispell Education Foundation. The foundation's student board reviewed 483 anonymous nominations from students, parents, staff and community members before selecting Heuscher for the honor. In addition to her teaching role, Heuscher leads Flathead's Brave Mentoring Program and represents Flathead as a DECA Board of Directors Officer. "We are thrilled with the opportunity to highlight Mrs. Heuscher's incredible dedication to her students," said the foundation's Executive Director Dorothy Drury. "Most of us can point to a favorite teacher from our childhood, and I imagine Mrs. Heuscher will be that for many. We are also grateful for the many students, parents, and community members who took the time to share gratitude with Kalispell Public Schools teaching staff by submitting a nomination."

Educational program 2024 tax credit offered Whitefish School District is encouraging local businesses and community members to support

Whitefish Schools with a dollar-for-dollar credit on their state income taxes for donations to public schools. "This is an innovative way to help support our schools and save significant money on your tax bill at the same time," said Dave Means, superintendent of Whitefish Schools. House Bill 279 allows Montana taxpayers to receive this credit to expand innovative educational programs through services and equipment for students with disabilities; work-based learning partnerships for students; post-secondary credit or career certifications for students; and technologies that improve student experiences and opportunities. 

SD2 proposes converting Washington Elementary into high school 'Innovation Center'

Washington Elementary in Billings could be converted into a campus for high school students focusing on early college and technology careers next year. That's what Billings School District 2 Superintendent Erwin Garcia proposed during a public meeting at the school on Wednesday evening. SD2 officials met with dozens of parents and community members in the Midtown elementary school's gym to outline his proposal to create the Washington Innovation Center. Garcia explained that Washington students would be moved next fall to Miles Avenue, Broadwater and Newman elementary schools. Teachers and support staff from Washington would also move with the students. The district would then convert Washington to house two new programs, one aimed at providing college credits to high school students and the other offering intensive classes for those pursuing technology jobs.

Amid uptick in youth homelessness, Montana Backpack Project collects donations for teens

In a classroom at Bozeman High School, about a dozen volunteers organized piles of donated items. A heap of backpacks sat in one corner, next to a rack of coats and a table covered in snacks. Volunteers grabbed a bag and took it into a hallway lined with bins full of items like hygiene products, clothes and blankets ready to be packed into the bags. Farther down the hall, a conference room table held gift cards for local restaurants and grocery stores, all to be donated to local students experiencing homelessness.


December 2023 Great News

Pony Pride Award goes to Newbauer

At their monthly meeting Tuesday, the Havre Public Schools Board of Trustees heard an update on an upcoming needs assessment of the district, presented this month's Pony Pride Award to Bob Newbauer and, in a split vote, approved a prorated payment to an employee who had to leave before their contract was up. The bulk of discussion at the meeting was held on the matter of a long-time employee, who was not named at the meeting, of the school who Havre Public Schools Superintendent Brian Gum said had to leave before her contract was up due to extenuating circumstances and was hoping the board might waive part of the penalty due to said circumstances.

North Star speech and drama excels at Fort Benton

The North Star School speech and drama team traveled to Fort Benton Saturday and took fourth place overall in speech sweepstakes. In original oratory, Ecko Fraser placed first, while Savannah Schaumloeffel took fourth. In dramatic interpretation of literature, Emily Conner took eighth. In humorous interpretation of literature, Joshua Campbell placed third, while Troy Barrett took fifth.

Morgan's Helping Hands: Local teen launches sixth annual clothing drive

The sixth annual Morgan's Helping Hands clothing drive is underway. Morgan Bisel, a junior at Corvallis High School, started this project serving people in need when she was in middle school. Over the years she has gathered and donated thousands of warm articles of clothing. "I've kept this project going because I realized how good it felt to give to others and spending my time serving my community," Bisel said. "After that first year I was inspired. Every year after that I just wanted to give back to the community. It has been an amazing opportunity to watch my project grow. Our community is so generous and that generosity inspires me to be generous with my time and efforts in helping others."

Libby grad named Montana Assistant Principal of Year

A Libby native has earned high accolades after being named the Montana Assistant High School Principal of the Year. Kathy Kidder, a 1985 Libby High School graduate, wasn't expecting it when Rob Watson, the Executive Director of School Administrators of Montana, presented her with a plaque on Nov. 16. "I was really taken by surprise," Kidder said in a phone conversation with The Western News. "I was having back surgery the next day and I was focused on that. I had forgot about the letter I received in September that I had been nominated for such an award by a staff member." Kidder is an assistant principal at Capital High School in Helena where she's been an educator since 2009. She helps supervise 750 students and more than 100 employees.

Photo: Hooked on Fishing at Meadowlark Elementary

Fifth graders at Meadowlark Elementary in the "Hooked on Fishing" class use the Gyotaku technique to make fish T-shirts and artwork at the school on Monday. The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks program teaches students about Montana's fish, fly tying and a dissection lesson. The class ends in May with a fishing trip to Lake Elmo.

Helena Schools working to include more Montana produce and livestock in student meals

here's the bison? Thanks to a $29,000 grant, Helena Public Schools (HPS) will incorporate more locally sourced livestock and produce onto kids plates. HPS Food Service Director Robert Worthy said, "We've got choices from beef stroganoff to tacos to whole meatballs for kids to be able to have a marinara with some stuff in there. Chilies, stews, including not just the bison, but we are going to put Montana potatoes, onions, lentils in with our stew or with our soup. " Currently, all of the milk cartons used in schools come from Montana, and depending on the time of year, different fruits and vegetables do, too.

Valleydictorian Senior Profile: Jack Minton

Jack Minton Billings West High School What are your plans after high school? I am excited to continue my path as an electrical apprentice. I was given an extraordinary opportunity when I was a sophomore at Billings West High School just months after making the move to Montana. Mr. MacAskill selected me for an electrical apprenticeship through Montana State University Northern. At that time I was taking a woodshop class with Mr. MacAskill and he had me wire up a tiny house and install wiring in a demo room in our school. He opened a door for me to start my journey to becoming an electrician at the age of 15. 

Photos: Holocaust survivor Ida Kersz at West High

Holocaust survivor Ida Kersz tells the story of being smuggled out of a Polish ghetto in 1942 during a program at West High on Monday. Kersz was adopted by a Christian family and only found her twin brother after 50 years. Kersz will travel to Auschwitz with a group of West High and Miles City students in June. 

From the Superintendent: East Helena happenings

You may have seen the recent article in the IR about the annual public meeting held by the Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG) called the "Miracle of East Helena." If you missed it, the environmental trust meeting hosted presentations by several partners revealing plans to build thousands of new homes on reclaimed lands formerly owned by the ASARCO Smelter. Additionally, the Prickly Pear Land Trust shared their involvement in the planning and the efforts underway to preserve open space and wild lands further enhancing the quality of life for East Helena residents well into the long range future. It's an exciting time for our little community (which may soon be a larger community!) and a turning point in a years-long process to reclaim polluted and damaged lands and make them useful again for the next generation. As for the schools, we became aware of many of these plans a year and half ago when the district's long term infrastructure committee began revising the planning document we use to help the school board prepare for and adapt to changes.

Turning around the high school drop out rate: Billings teen returns to education

Billings has some of the largest high schools in the state, per student population, but not every student who walks in the doors comes out with a high school diploma. That was the case for 17-year-old Gavin Morrison, who dropped out of classes at Skyview High School his sophomore year. "I went halfway through and then just stopped, which now I think I shouldn't have," Morrison said. "It was definitely almost for no reason, but I felt it wasn't for me." A decision Morrison said his mother, Amanda Kaldor, didn't take lightly but understood.

Dr. Erwin Garcia says, the classroom has the power to reduce crime in the Billings area

Bradley Warren talks with Dr. Edwin Garcia, Superintendent of Billings School District 2, delving into the crucial topics of safety and education within the Billings community.

Corvallis Middle School ReACT program focuses on vaping

Corvallis Middle School is the pilot location for a youth peer-to-peer anti-vape education program called ReACT. Jenna Pateman, Ravalli County's Tobacco Prevention Specialist, based out of the Public Health Office in Hamilton, said vaping is a huge problem for middle school age youth. "It is huge in high school but it is becoming even more of an epidemic for middle schoolers," Pateman said. "We are hoping that by targeting students in seventh and eighth grade we can stop them before they start, or get them the education before they are addicted. In Montana, one in three teens are addicted to nicotine." Seventh-grade students in the CMS ReACT group said they joined ReACT with the hope of making a difference.

Dozens of books gifted to East Middle School

Christmas came a bit early this year for East Middle School and its students, and the gifts came by the dozens. More than 200 books were delivered Friday morning thanks to a collaboration between East Middle School staff and Amanda Curtis, president of Montana's largest labor union, the Montana Federation of Public Employees. "Putting books in the hands of children is one of the most important things we can do," said Curtis, who is an avid reader as well. The book titles were as numerous as the genres - fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, sci-fi, and even some comic books. Robin Cranney, a 7th grade English teacher at East, was thrilled not only for the school, but for the students, too. "This is life-changing for us and for the kids," said Cranney. "There is something for everyone." 

Power Schools consider sports co-op

The Power Public Schools board discussed a potential co-op with Dutton/Brady Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Locke and Athletic Director Randall Reeve for boys basketball. The proposed plan from Locke and Reeve is for the 2024-25 season. At Dutton/Brady's October board meeting, board members discussed a co-op in all sports but track and field. Reeve told board members at the Power meeting on Nov. 13 that both sides have been discussing the co-op in boys basketball for the past four or five years but haven't made much progress. The two schools run a co-op in football, girls basketball and volleyball. In the past, both schools have approved the application to the Montana High School Association but were turned down because of too many players at both schools. Reeve said the number of boys at Dutton/Brady will fall in the next four or five years and their board is concerned. Reeve also told the Power board members that the number of girls in Power is falling and the number of girls at Dutton/Brady is doing well. The numbers issue is the exact opposite on the boys end. Reeve said both schools were planning on the co-op last year and hoped to get it done for this season.

New elementary education sprint degree to be offered by UM Western

The University of Montana Western, Great Falls College and Great Falls Public Schools are partnering together to offer a new bachelor of science in elementary education sprint degree. The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) awarded UM Western $400,000 to fund the program, which will allow students to graduate in nine semesters, including summers. Students will be able to take their general education courses through GFC/UMW and will complete their teaching program through UMW. The Sprint Degree cohort will be housed at Morningside Elementary in Great Falls, which will be the site for the new CORE School that Great Falls Public Schools will open in the fall of 2024.

Handmade music: Belgrade science students build electric guitars

A flurry of activity fills Rachel White's science classroom, as students work on building their own custom electric guitars. The students from Belgrade High School carve out the body shape using computer numerical control, or CNC, machines, before spending hours sanding it to the perfect shape. Each student gets complete control over what the final design of the guitar will be, though White gives them a variety of tools to complete their vision - everything from spray paint to laser engraving and wood-burning pens. Some students choose to hydro dip their instruments - which means dipping the guitar into a bucket of warm water that has a film of paint on top, creating complex, swirling patterns. Other students coat the wood in gun stock oil to keep the natural wood grain in the design.

School district food services director wants to add local flavor to menu

Helena Public Schools food services director Robert Worthy received a $29,000 grant from the Office of Public Instruction for his service within the district and plans to incorporate new meal plans into the school district. The grant will be used to add new foods to school menus such as bison, Flathead cherries and locally grown vegetables. The district has not had Flathead cherries in at least eight years due to budgeting issues. This is now an option for the district, according to Worthy. "We are working with groups to find vendors for all of the things we want to add," Worthy said. He added that getting new foods and making new meal plans comes with challenges such as food inspection regulations by the state for educational food service. The bison that Worthy would like to add to the menu for the first time will have to undergo thorough inspection for quality and safety purposes.

High School students help preserve Montana's past

In June and July, four high school students had the opportunity to play Indiana Jones, recording evidence of past human activity for the Montana Historical Society's Youth Archaeological Survey Program. The program was a partnership between the Montana Historical Society (MHS), Montana Discovery Foundation, Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, and Montana Department of Natural Resources (DNRC). Field instructor Libby Zorn, DNRC Archaeologist Patrick Rennie, and Laura Marsh, the community engagement specialist for the outreach and education department at MTHS, led the team.

Chapter One partners with literacy nonprofit to support Ravalli Co. students

Chapter One Book Store and literacy nonprofit Writing Coaches of Montana (WCM) are joining forces to support Ravalli County students this holiday season. Join Chapter One and Writing Coaches of Montana for a Grinch-themed holiday kickoff on Friday, Dec. 1, from 5-7 p.m. for snacks and drinks. Then on Friday, Dec. 8, from 5-7 p.m., WCM will be recording a podcast episode at Chapter One as part of the live window displays in downtown Hamilton. The theme of the episode is seasonal storytelling.


November 2023 Great News

MAFB, GFPS partnering to create educational opportunities for military families

Malmstrom Air Force and Great Falls Public Schools are partnering to create several new educational opportunities for military families. "We are excited to partner with GFPS on these new education programs," said Col. Anita Feugate Opperman, 341st MW commander. "Quality of education for children matters greatly to our military families. That education is not only key to military readiness, it's an opportunity to foster the critical relationship between the base and our local community." 

Great Falls Public Schools adding 'Build Montana' program

In an effort to set students up for success in the construction industry, Great Falls Public Schools is launching a new program as part of their Career and Technical Education program. The District's Build Montana program will provide students with hands-on training through operating heavy equipment machinery. Build Montana is partnership between the Montana Contractors Association, the Montana Equipment Dealers' Association, and the MCA Education Foundation design to generate excitement and promote careers in construction. Joe Wilkins will be instructing the program. Wilkins currently serves as the Teacher for Industrial Arts at Paris Gibson Education Center.

Billings students put in work on West End home construction project

There's a new house taking shape on the Billings West End. It's a 3,200-square-foot house with five bedrooms and plans for a big yard. Students from Senior, West, and Skyview high schools learn many aspects of home construction while working on the new build through the Career Center's construction classes. Skyview senior Eli Rodriguez is a first-time student in the class this year and says he is learning a lot. "I do love doing the roofing, that's pretty fun, putting up shingles, you learn how to put the things in," Rodriguez said. He says learning these new skills has been an adventure.

Whitefish dealership donates to East Evergreen Elementary

Whitefish dealership Don "K" donated $2,700 to East Evergreen Elementary School last week as part of the Subaru Loves Learning month campaign. Subaru Loves Learning is an annual giving program associated with the national organization, The effort allows a dealership to adopt a local classroom and provide teachers with flexible funding to purchase school supplies and other resources. Evergreen Elementary School is a Title 1 School whose students come from Kalispell and Evergreen areas of the Flathead Valley. There are approximately 375 students enrolled from pre-school through fourth grade. There are 32 dedicated teachers plus support staff. East Evergreen Principal Sherry Odegard and her team received the donations from Kevin Kaltschmidt,  general manager of Don "K" Subaru.

Yoga fundraiser helps GFPS food pantries

Habit in Great Falls hosted a yoga class called Gratitude Flow at the University of Providence on Thursday, November 23, to support food pantries across the Great Falls Public Schools district. Habit asked that attendees donate what would be the cost of the yoga lesson to the GFPS Foundation to help feed students in need. Nicole Frieling, the Habit owner and yoga instructor, says that this is the second year the event has been conducted: "Last year we held the Gratitude Flow at the Mac/Habit building but we quickly ran out of room. This year, we partnered with the University of Providence for more space and to not turn anyone away."

Flathead Electric Co-op Awards $386,900 in Community Education Grants

With over 58,000 members, Flathead Electric Cooperative is second-largest energy utility in Montana. However, most people don't give a second thought to how the electric company operates and what a "co-op" really means. In the Flathead Valley, the electric co-op's unique setup allows the organization to funnel surplus money back into community education. As a private, not-for-profit, Flathead Electric gives any money left over at the end of each year back to co-op members in the form of "capital credits." However, communications and marketing supervisor Courtney Stone explained that many of those credits go unclaimed. "There's a lookup tool on our website that makes it really easy to see if you or your business has unclaimed capital credits," Stone said. "Many go unclaimed because people move away, and they don't always add a forwarding address. So, one of the wonderful benefits of being a cooperative, a community driven business model, is that we use that unclaimed money to fund education projects of significance in the community."

Terry High School offers accelerated certified nursing assistant program to juniors, seniors

A partnership between Terry High School and the Montana Health Network has allowed two - soon five - local students to graduate with a high school diploma while also becoming certified nursing assistants, giving them an opportunity to fill vital entry–level positions within the medical industry earlier than most. According to Terry Public Schools K–12 Counselor Elizabeth Smith, implementing a local program for students to obtain CNA certifications by the time they graduate stems from significant interest in the medical industry prior to the onset of the Covid–19 pandemic. "Before the pandemic, we just had a lot of students who were interested in pre–med, dental, nursing, all sorts of things in the medical field," Smith said, adding at that time students were simply taking part in the Research and Explore Awesome Careers in Healthcare Program through the Montana Area Health Education Center Program Office.

Kalispell Education Foundation awards Kalispell Public Schools grant money

Kalispell Public Schools received more than $33,000 in grants from the Kalispell Education Foundation this week. This donation was from their annual Great Opportunity Grants Program. The district received 19 different grants to enrich students through science, literature, music and other creative activities. The funding helps teachers personalize student learning with technology and tools that would not be accessible on the normal school budgets. Teachers can request up to $2,000 in grants every fall.

Victor students, FFA help tidy up museum

Victor students and FFA raked and cleaned the Victor Heritage Museum last Wednesday in preparation for the annual Chocolate Tasting event on Dec. 4. Cassie Tintzman, Victor FFA advisor in her 10th year, said the youth who participate get to do something positive for the community while having fun. "We cleared leaves, moved a few plants and are having a good time," she said. "It is our community service. We got the Helping Hands Grant from the Montana FFA association and we're going to make new museum placards." The information signs will be waterproof and ADA compliant - at the right height for those in a wheelchair or with special needs.

Project Engage sets to recapture students

Community members gathered at the Lincoln Center to learn more about 'Project Engage' a Billings Public Schools program to re-engage students who didn't get to complete their education. The goal is to reach students who still want to earn their diploma but need additional support in order to do so. Introduced just over a month ago, 'Project Engage' gives students flexible learning options, a personalized study plan, a one-on-one teacher student experience and many other resources. Gordon Klasna, executive director of Secondary Education at SD2, says almost 90 students have *already* dropped out since the beginning of this school year and this is an effort to get them back on track to earn their diploma.

Montana High Schools Participate in 'Accounting Opportunities Experience' during the month of November

The Montana Society of CPAs (MTCPA) is pleased to announce the second year of Accounting Opportunities Experience, a collaboration between state CPA societies and the national association - American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) - to raise awareness of accounting career opportunities among high school students. This initiative will last the entire month of November and was recently granted a Governor's Proclamation as 'Certified Public Accountants Month' in Montana. Montana CPAs will visit high schools throughout the state to discuss with students what it is to have a successful career in accounting. The presentations, outreach, and support materials will work to raise awareness of the accounting profession, discuss the CPAs personal career stories, explain the exciting and challenging roles that CPAs play in the business world, and what they can do with a degree in that field - encouraging students to consider the profession.

'Business Goes To School' hosted in Great Falls

Community leaders got the chance to shadow principals from Great Falls Public Schools on Tuesday morning and share their experiences, as part of the annual "Business Goes to School" event. The purpose of the event was to get a unique perspective on how the schools are managed as well as the challenges that go along with being an educator. The event is organized by Great Falls Public Schools, Great Falls Chamber of Commerce, as well as other community leaders. Community leaders and businesspeople shadowed a principal of their assigned school which included visiting classrooms and talking with parents, bus drivers, and students. "It's really great as a community and a professional to get the chance to go in and see what the day-to-day is like for our local principals, and to support them," said Scott Anderson from Opportunity Bank.

Parman receives G.V. Erickson Award from School Administrators of Montana

Former Havre administrator and Superintendent Dennis Parman was awarded the 2023 G.V. Erickson Award by School Administrators of Montana, SAM announced in a press release. "Mr. Parman has a long and successful career as a Montana educator," SAM Executive Director Rob Watson said in the release. "With his varied experience, his institutional knowledge is unmatched. Mr. Parman has approached each of his roles with professionalism and kindness. We are excited to have the opportunity to honor Dennis with this award, the highest award we give at SAM." Parman received the distinguished honor at the annual Montana Conference of Education Leadership held Oct. 18-20, presented by Director of Great Divide Education Services and President of SAM Sara Novak. The award, the most prestigious award a Montana school administrator can receive, is given to a SAM member who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the advancement and betterment of public education in Montana. 

Evergreen School focuses on providing quality early education

Twelve years ago, the Evergreen School District was awarded a grant that enabled us to introduce an early learning program, now referred to as early kindergarten, for 4-year-olds within our community. The Evergreen School District board of trustees and administration recognized these benefits and continued the program for students with exceptional circumstances after the grant ended. As we know early childhood education can have a significant positive impact on a child's development and readiness for kindergarten and beyond, providing quality early education helps to address social-emotional and academic needs as well as to reduce achievement gaps among students. During the 2023 legislative session, House Bill 352 passed, allowing school districts to provide early literacy targeted interventions beginning next school year, which will allow Evergreen to continue providing early learning opportunities for 4-year-olds who qualify and whose parents want them to participate.

'Newsies' comes to Havre High School

The MAT production of the Disney musical "Newsies" makes its way onto the stage tonight at the Havre High School auditorium. This performance has been over a month in the making, between building the structure for the play and preparing the cast to take on their roles that depict a true historical story. The cast consists of 32 high school and middle school students, as well as eight adults. "Newsies" is a story about a group of children who found themselves selling newspapers just to make ends meet. When the cost of the newspapers went up, the children's pay dropped substantially. Eventually, the children went on strike, which resulted in them coming out on top and agreeing to terms that became beneficial to them.

Apples vs. Donuts: East Helena educators top cops in charity basketball game

East Helena educators making up Team Teachers bested Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office deputies during the 2023 "Apples vs. Donuts" charity basketball game hosted Wednesday evening in the East Helena High School gymnasium. Team Teachers claimed victory. Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said in an email Thursday "it was clear the teachers chose true athletes, and they came ready to play." "Next year we will practice more, but we sure appreciated the community's response and support," Dutton said. Tickets were $5 and all proceeds go to the Lewis and Clark Sheriff's Community Foundation.

Veterans Day Assembly at Valier High involves entire student body

Each year Valier Schools commemorates Veterans Day by honoring local veterans. As students, staff, and community members gathered Friday at Valier High School the traditional program format was enhanced with a few new touches that made the event memorable. Students in all grades participated. Prior to the program, veterans were invited to a breakfast provided by the National Honor Society with food items donated by Panther Cafe, Curry's Market, and the Valier Senior Center.  Eighth Graders Kolter Forbes, Brock Bales, Tucker Brownell, Coltyn Kelly, and Rayden West posted the colors followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by the 1st and 2nd Grade classes. Hadley Standley offered a welcome speech and expressed appreciation for the veterans and their service. He was followed by the elementary classes as they were led by Mr. Connor Bridge in a lively interactive rendition of "This Land is Your Land." Student Council President, Chantz Connelly, read the Veterans Day Proclamation.

Big Sandy Schools' Veterans Day Program

Big Sandy Schools honored the veterans of our community last week with their annual Veterans Day Assembly. The program featured music performed by the High School Band and Choir, songs performed by the 4th through 6th grade Choir, Veterans Day themed art projects done by the kindergarten through 3rd grade students, and a guest speaker: Diana LaBuda, who served for 24 years years in the military, 4 on active duty and 20 in the Montana Air National Guard. Diana LaBuda spoke to the students during the event, focusing on the question: "What is a veteran?" She began her talk by inviting students to share their understanding of veterans and their importance. Students spoke of military service, sacrifice, and the protection of our rights and freedoms. LaBuda went on to explain that not only are veterans responsible for ensuring rights and freedoms, they willingly suspend their own freedoms in the service of the country. Her talk also explored the importance of those who serve because they stand for right against the wrongs of the world, how veterans served away from their homes and country, how many of them risked or sacrificed life and limb, and ultimately, how these acts are inspired by love for country and their fellow citizens. LaBuda's words were impactful and rooted in her experience serving our nation.

Sunburst Teacher Honored as History Teacher of the Year

Hali Richmond, a third and fourth grade teacher at Sunburst Elementary School in her hometown, will be honored Wednesday, Nov. 8, as the Centennial Bell Montana History Teacher of the Year. The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. at the Montana State Capitol in Helena near the Centennial Bell next to the Old Supreme Court chamber. Richmond's students will ring the Centennial Bell at 10:29 a.m., the exact minute Montana became the 41st state in 1889. The public is invited to attend the Statehood Day ceremony. Fourth-grade student Bree Chilton nominated Richmond for sharing information about the different tribal nations and reservations in Montana, and the way she treats her students. "I am Chippewa, and she let me teach some Chippewa words," Chilton wrote. "Mrs. Richmond is a most worthy history teacher of the year because I care about her, and she cares about her students." Richmond received her education degree from the University of Montana and is working on her master's degree there. Her first teaching positions were in one-room schoolhouses in Sunset School near Missoula and Galata School near Shelby, teaching every subject and grade level, including history. 

Toole and Glacier County's Teacher Leaders in Montana History

Montana, a state rich in history and culture, has always cherished its past, and who better to carry this legacy forward than its dedicated educators? The 2023-24 Montana Historical Society (MHS) Teacher Leader in History Fellows are a mix of both returning and fresh faces, committed to fostering a love for Montana history in students. These teachers come from various grade levels, spanning elementary, middle school, and high school, and bring with them a wealth of experience, knowledge, and innovative teaching practices. The twelve returning fellows, who are Montana history classroom teachers, are joined by six new middle school teachers, one of whom specializes in teaching Crow language and culture. What sets these educators apart is their dedication to their craft.  The MHS Teacher Leaders in Montana History have undergone training to equip themselves with the latest Montana history resources and teaching strategies. They are poised to inspire and guide fellow educators and students alike. Their leadership manifests in various forms, from providing one-on-one mentorship to delivering presentations at workshops or in-school and in-district Professional Instructional Renewal (PIR) trainings.

Sunburst teacher and students travel to Helena to ring Centennial Bell

Sunburst fourth and fifth grade students enjoyed a fantastic opportunity on November 8, when they traveled to Helena to help honor Sunburst fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hali Richmond, who was selected as the Statehood Montana Centennial Bell Award Winner and Montana History Teacher of the Year. During the awards presentation, Lieutenant Governor Juras spoke about the importance of history being vibrantly taught to students. Mrs. Richmond accepted over $4,700 in awards and graciously thanked many folks. Bree Chilton read the letter she wrote recommending Mrs. Richmond. Bree received $100 in Sacajawea coins and all Sunburst students received $5 in Sacajawea coins. Lastly, all of the fourth and fifth graders sang "Montana" and had the opportunity to ring the Montana Centennial Bell. The students had a tour of the Capitol Building led by Mr. Anthony. Sunburst students and staff were then treated to a lunch in the Capitol Rotund, provided by The 1889 Coffee House from Helena. They concluded their trip by visiting the Old Montana Governor's Mansion.

BHS Pep Band Performs For MCC Pioneers Basketball Games

On Friday, November 10th, Broadus High School Pep Band performed during the Miles Community College Pioneers Women's and Men's Basketball games in Miles City. MCC Pioneer basketball teams took on the Northwest College Trappers (Powell, WY) in some exciting basketball action. The Pep Band was excited to support BHS alumni, Dillon Gee, as he played for the Pioneers. Gee scored 5 points on the night. The students did an excellent job and were a crowd favorite. Athletic Director for the Pioneers, Jerry Wilson, invited the Hawk Pep Band to "Come entertain us anytime. You guys are awesome!"

Power School goes for "Gold in Grains"

According to Laura Toeckes, School Nutrition Director, writing in recent issue of the Power Schools Newsletter, "On the 27th of September with the Montana Partnership to End Childhood Hunger, we piloted GO GO for the Gold in Grains. Our goal was to focus on grains in Montana and grains in our meal as a way to end hunger in the state."

'Beef to School'

Jay and Nicole Blankenship recently donated another beef to the local "Beef to School" program through the Rosebud County Cattlewomen. The beef was taken to the Rosebud School. Rancher Beef in Miles City helped with the processing and the Rosebud County Cattlewomen delivered it earlier this week. The school kids unloaded it.

Alberton students honor local veterans

The entire student body of Alberton School held a special Veterans Day ceremony last Thursday in their gymnasium. "Our TK through 12 graders have all prepared a class presentation or poems or thank you notes. Our band is going to perform as just a way to say thank you to the amazing veterans in the Alberton community and across the nation," explained Alberton Principal, Chris Whiteman. "We didn't do this last year and it wasn't done during Covid, but I was involved in them when I taught in Darby. It's a great thing and small schools do the best job of it; I'll just say that."  Superintendent Damian Droessler welcomed the students, veterans, school administration and parents visiting with a heartfelt message of what veterans have done to protect and defend our country through war and during peace. Everyone rose for the Star-Spangled Banner while the tuba played a part that was unexpected but enjoyed by everyone. And then it began. The TK students were first and with their teachers' help, lined up in front of the veterans who were sitting in their own seating section.

MCPS votes on high school baseball for 2025 season

There was a packed house at the Missoula County Public Schools board meeting Tuesday night for one reason – baseball. Trustees decided to aim for a 2025 start for high school baseball in Missoula. A motion was approved to start the season in 2025 and make it budget neutral in 2026. That means after using one-time funds for the first year, funds will be pulled from other programs to make baseball happen.


Great Falls Public Schools is adding a new component to its career and technical education program in January. BuildMT is a a heavy equipment program created by the Montana Contractors Association and implemented in Billings. This pathway is currently led/taught by industry partners in the Billings area, according to GFPS officials. District officials are planning to begin offering their version of BuildMT in January to provide a heavy machinery option to seniors.

Havre Public Schools four day week well received so far

During a meeting of the Havre Public Schools Board of Trustees Tuesday evening, district principals gave reports on their buildings and how they've handled the new four day week schedule, and the feedback from teachers, students and parents appears to be largely positive. The schedule, adopted by the board earlier this year, extends class periods and the school day overall while eliminating mandatory attendance on Friday, a schedule that was supported by teachers who said it would allow them to be more flexible, improve student performance and boost morale. Under the new model the school has implemented "Support Fridays" an optional school day held twice a month where students can come to learn and get more individualized assistance, and while some principals said the first few Support Fridays were sparsely attended, participation improved drastically soon after.

Flathead High School to perform Frozen: The Broadway Musical

It's opening night for "Frozen: The Broadway Musical" at Performance Hall at Flathead High School. When newly crowned Queen Elsa accidentally sets off an eternal winter, her younger sister Anna, Olaf the snowman and others try to save the kingdom. Flathead was chosen in a nationwide competition that granted one high school in every U.S. state and territory the rights to produce this new musical, based on Flathead's unique artistic vision and commitment to outreach in their community. More than 85 students are putting this on from the orchestra pit to the stage.

Capital High School students create moccasins for 'Rock Your Mocs Day'

Capital High School students created their own moccasins for "Rock Your Mocs Day" in Joseph Pichardo's class to celebrate National Native American Heritage Month. The event happened for the second time, according to organizer Roberta Twoteeth. The first was held at Helena High School last year where students created moccasins along with traditional ribbon skirts and shirts. "We wanted more accessible means of instilling Native pride," Native Connections representative Matt Hartnett said. This project is sponsored by the Native Connections Program within the Helena Indian Alliance. Students traced their feet on "big" hides and then cut out the shapes to begin sewing them together, Twoteeth said. Students at Capital High School create moccasins in Joseph Pichardo's classroom on Wednesday morning for "Rock Your Mocs Day." One student asked how long moccasins last. Twoteeth said that she has had the same moccasins for 23 years.

Native American lodges set up near GFPS district offices

The Great Falls Public School District is celebrating Native American Heritage Month by setting up 12 Native American lodges behind the district office building. Each of the 12 lodges represents a different tribe in Montana and will be lit up so they can be seen at night. The 12 tribes of Montana are Assiniboine, Blackfeet, Chippewa, Cree, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kootenai, Little Shell Chippewa, Northern Cheyenne, Pend d'Oreille, Salish, and Sioux. "Being able to light them in different colors brings more awareness, especially during Native American Heritage Month," explained Dugan Coburn, Director of Indigenous Education for Great Falls Public Schools. "We can bring awareness to some of the issues that the native community has."

Havre High School FFA returns from nationals

Havre High School's year-old Future Farmers of America chapter attended the 96th Annual National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis this month, giving agriculture students an opportunity to network and build leadership skills. Havre High School Agriculture Teacher and FFA Chapter Advisor Saralyn Standley said the event had more than 70,000 students from across the U.S., and while her chapter didn't do any competitions, they were able to attend workshops and go to information sessions that allowed them to connect with fellow students passionate about agriculture. FFA member and HHS senior Reinhard Bold said he was able to make a lot of connections just being there.

Central Elementary School holds Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day

Central Elementary School held a Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day event on Tuesday morning to honor Bridges and efforts toward equality. Bridges became the first Black child to integrate into an all-white Louisiana primary school in 1960. She was guided in by federal marshals, with media surrounding the moment. It cemented her in history books and lessons around the civil rights movement at 6 years old. "She is an important figure in history," event organizer and teacher Libby Kenney said. Kenney reached out to AAA, who was sponsoring the event through grants, and received a $750 stipend, which helped fund the morning.

Bozeman School District sees increase in enrollment

The Bozeman School District released its enrollment numbers for Bozeman Public Schools. Enrollment numbers increased by 104 students to 7,386 from Oct. 1, 2022, through Oct. 1, 2023. A 1.41% increase and a new overall record for the district. Total enrollments for K-5 elementary is 3,053 students, 6-8 middle school 1,590 and 9-12 high school 2,743. For next year's enrollment numbers, district officials are projecting a decrease for the 2023-24 school year due to the changes that were made during the most recent legislative session.

Bozeman school board to consider new provider for the Hawk's Nest Early Learning Center

Bozeman Public Schools trustees are set to review a contract Monday evening for a new child care provider that would take over operations of the Hawks Nest Early Learning Center program at Bozeman High. The district reentered the market for a new childcare provider after its partnership with the Gallatin Valley YMCA was scheduled to end on Dec. 31. District officials are recommending the board approve a contract with ABCDino Academy to takeover and continue the service. Check the Chronicle's website Tuesday morning for updates to this story.

Corvallis FFA sees success at national competition

Corvallis High School Future Farmers of America students found success at the National FFA Convention, Oct. 31 through Nov. 4, in Indianapolis, Indiana. "I'm super excited to bring the eighth and ninth team I've coached to compete at National FFA Convention since re-chartering in 2015," CHS Advisor Neela Hammerstein said. Hammerstein took two teams. Ag Issues Forum students included Casie Stornetta, Autumn Benson, Emily Jones, Conagher Kane and Katie Jackson; who placed 16th overall. Marketing plan students Corbin Kirkland, McKenzie Weis and Gia Bumgarner earned bronze.

Flathead Electric Co-op announces Community Education Grant Awards

Flathead Electric Co-op announced that they are giving Community Education Grant Awards to four projects across the state. After the project's applications were sent in the Board of Trustees interviewed and selected four projects. They chose projects at Conrad Mansion ($10,000), Evergreen School District ($57,380), Glacier National Park Conservancy ($10,000) and Kalispell Education Foundation ($8,000). A total of $386,900 will be dispersed over the course of the next five years.

Montana to accept federal funds to feed school-aged children next summer

After not accepting similar funds to feed hungry kids last summer, the state of Montana has changed course, and about 170,000 kids will have a better chance at full stomachs this upcoming summer in the Treasure State. Montana is opting to participate in the federal Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (Summer EBT) program beginning in June 2024, after Democrats decried the state's decision to not accept similar funds this past summer. The state previously opted not to apply for $10 million through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program in July, with the Department of Public Health and Human Services citing a "significant administrative burden for what was meant to be a temporary program," a spokesperson previously told the Daily Montanan. But DPHHS announced Thursday a partnership with the Office of Public Instruction to offer meals to school-aged children in the summer months.

Darby science teacher trains NASA 'mission advisers'

Darby High School's science teacher recently trained other Montana teachers to become effective "mission advisers" to student teams wanting to participate in an upcoming NASA Student Challenge. Andrew Shulstad said this is the sixth year of the Student Challenge program. "It started with a mission simulating a trip to an asteroid," he said. "They have had one going to the moon to simulate the original Apollo missions during the 50th anniversary year. Last year was a recon mission where students had to design robots that would travel to different locations on the lunar surface to collect samples." Darby High School Science teacher Andrew Shulstad trained Montana teachers as "Mission Advisers" for student teams in a NASA national student challenge.

Marianne Zilkoski Rees and the revival of youth sports on the Fort Peck Reservation

nside a classroom in Frontier Elementary School in northeast Montana, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade girls' basketball players huddled around their coach, Marianne Zilkoski Rees. "OK, so what do we know about Brockton?" Zilkoski Rees asked the group about their opponent. "Oh!" a player screamed and jumped, as she raised her hand straight in the air. "They have that one girl who dribbles real high!"

USDA beef decision good for Montana ranchers, schools, MFU says

It was about the best news a small meat processor could hope for. On Thursday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that from now on the Agricultural Marketing Service would only be purchasing meat sourced to American farms and ranches. AMS buys about $800 million worth of meat a year, including 87 million pounds of hamburger. But the blending of U.S. cattle with animals from Mexico, Canada and beyond at large meatpacking plants made an all-U.S. purchase difficult if not impossible. Not to mention that U.S. country of origin labeling rules doesn't apply to beef and pork. The hamburger AMS buys are used in nutrition assistance programs, which includes ground beef for public schools.

Whitefish band students set sights on New York City

Start spreading the news, the Whitefish High School band is preparing for a trip to New York City. The group's small town blues will melt away as they enjoy three days, April 24-28, in the Big Apple. A trip will offer cultural, musical and educational experiences for the students. "This one is a bigger and better trip in a lot of ways," said Matt King, band director. "We're going to be touring all the great landmarks and cultural, historical [locations] around New York City, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the 9/11 Museum, the stock market district, the Metropolitan Museum of Art." The group's musical opportunities include seeing the New York Philharmonic, going to a show at the Blue Note Jazz Club and attending a Broadway show, most likely "Hamilton."

Billings public schools aim to add Marine JROTC program in high schools by 2025

Billings Public Schools is aiming to add a Marine Junior ROTC program to the three Billings high schools beginning in 2025. The program would be offered to students just like a regular course, where in addition to learning math or English, they would learn about the military process and what that lifestyle looks like. Currently, there are only four JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) programs around the state in Lodge Grass, East Helena, Great Falls and Lockwood. Senior student at Lockwood Norman Banderob said for him, the program has been life-changing. "I didn't really have a goal in my life for after high school," Banderob said. "I took this course to see if it's something I'd be interested and now I kind of feel like I do. It changed me as a person and made me better."

Billings Public Schools announce new program for dropouts

The Billings Public Schools is starting a new program to work with students who left school before being able to graduate. The program will help middle and high school students earn their high school diploma or HiSET diploma. It's called Project Engage and they're hosting a lunch on November 15th at the Lincoln Center for prospective future students. It's meant to give adults a flexible alternative to traditional school that doesn't allow the normal schooling workflow. They also want to bring the enrolled together, bring a sense of community and help build a career future for those who didn't go through high school.

Crosstown play offers Helena-area high school students an opportunity to take center stage

More than 30 drama students will perform "The Man Who Came to Dinner" for the crosstown play featuring Helena and Capital high school students. The play will follow the original film made in 1942 with Bette Davis and Monty Woolley about a man who falls on a family's stoop and stays to heal. The comedy. which runs Nov. 9-11 and 16-18 at the Capital High School Auditorium, lets students test the waters in performing theater, according to Capital director Laura Brayko. "I am really excited. These are always such a fun production because it is a crosstown," Brayko said. "It serves so many purposes, not only to be a bigger cast, so we get as many kids involved as possible, some who have been with us for years and some that are brand new to high school."

Helena school hosts spaghetti dinner fundraiser for local educator

A spaghetti dinner hosted at Smith Elementary School by colleagues of Helena educator Linda Sorensen raised more than $8,000 Monday night to help the family cover medical expenses after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Sorensen lost feeling on the left side of her body on Oct. 6, and by Oct. 9 she was diagnosed by a Salt Lake City specialist with a brain tumor in her right frontal lobe. Sorensen underwent surgery Oct. 16, and her husband John stated on social media that the surgery went well and most of the tumor was removed. Monday evening, she sent heartfelt text messages of thanks to her fellow educators who organized and ran the dinner in her honor. "That's so sweet of her," Smith Principal Sarah Simpson said during an interview, glancing at the photo Sorensen sent of her flanked by family members. "That's just who she is. She's generous, loving and always has a smile on her face."

Havre speech and debate excels in Glasgow

Havre High School's speech and debate team again fielded a small group of competitors over the weekend, but the team of four did well enough in competition that the Ponies still almost won the team trophy. Havre just missed beating Class A rival Sidney by four points, taking second at the Scotties Speech and Drama tournament. "This was really close, and our kids did well," head coach Tim Leeds said. "We lost some competitors to illness and conflicting appointments and still almost won the trophy.


Middle school lists October students of the month

Havre Middle school's Sixth-Grade Student of the Month for October is Roxi Turntoes-Kuhnhenn. Roxi is the daughter of Kyle and Kerry Shabi. She has two brothers, Ryden and Henry Turntoes. At school, Roxi participates in choir and plans to join track in the Spring. Outside of school, she is involved with basketball, soccer and softball. In her free time, she enjoys traditional dancing at Powwows and spending time with family. As a student, Roxi is kind and always exceeding expectations. She is an active learner who participates in classes and works to her fullest potential. Her willingness to help others and pleasant personality models what "Pony Pride" looks like at Havre Middle School. In the future, Roxi plans to attend college and play basketball. 

Montana to launch language, educational exchange programs with Taiwan

Gov. Greg Gianforte announced a new partnership aimed at strengthening language learning and career opportunities for Montana students during his ongoing visit to Taiwan Thursday. The Governor's Office announced a new memorandum of understanding between the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education and the Taiwan Ministry of Education Taiwan to create a Mandarin language program housed at the Mansfield Center at the University of Montana in Missoula and an educational exchange program at Montana Technological University. The Mansfield Center already offers a variety of programs and cultural exchanges across the globe, with several programs located in Asia. Though the center already offers Mandarin classes through its Defense Critical Language and Culture Program and other, the new partnership will expand those language learning opportunities for high school and college students, according to a post by the center.

High school students identify new viruses through Montana Tech program

High school students across Montana are finding previously unknown viruses using Montana Technological University's new state-of-the-art scanning/transmission electron microscope. The PHAGES Program (Phages Helping Acquire Genuine Experiences in Science) started in 2005 and has connected more than 13,000 Montana high school students with the ability to discover viruses previously uncatalogued by scientists. The program has been awarded $2.55 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health since 2014. The new microscope alleviates the need for participants to travel to Bozeman or Missoula.

Polson High School student sets sights on Carnegie Hall

Polson High School junior Bethany Butler has wanted to sing in Carnegie Hall since she was 6 years old.  "I love Carnegie Hall not only because everybody, like anybody who wants to sing, wants to sing at Carnegie Hall," she says. "I also love it because of the history behind it and so many amazing singers and amazing performers have performed on that stage." So when she received a notification from WorldStrides that she had been nominated to perform in the Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall, she decided to submit an audition. She filled out the application form that included her reasons for wanting to participate in the program. Then she retreated to her bedroom and recorded an Italian aria that she had performed for District and State Music Festival last year: "O cessate di piagarmi" by Alessandro Scarlatti.


October 2023 Great News

Columbia Falls High School Speech and Debate takes first at season opener

Columbia Falls High School took first place and Whitefish High School, third, in Corvallis over the weekend in the first speech and debate tournament of the season for the local Class A teams. Columbia Falls earned the top spot with 184 overall points. East Helena placed second with 66 overall points followed by Whitefish, with 64 points. The Columbia Falls team of more than a dozen new competitors is bolstered by 25 returning members from last year's Class A state championship team, according to head coach Dawn Roe.

Tradition of terror: Anderson School's 'PG-13' haunted house

Anderson School eighth grade teacher Jen Wold insists that her school's 100-year-old schoolhouse is not haunted. Visitors to the Anderson School Haunted House this weekend could be fooled to think otherwise. "We've never seen any ghosts in there," Wold said. "I think it's always been a happy school, except for this one weekend." While the little red schoolhouse might look unassuming on the outside, Wold's class has transformed the inside to fill it with twisting turns and spooky surprises - each room featuring a different kind of terror.

Judges school educators at Montana Judicial Institute

Educators from across Montana this week participated in the Montana Judicial Institute, a chance for teachers to get a look behind the curtain of complex and often rigid proceedings.  On Thursday, a federal defendant shared her experience with the group of being sentenced to 54 months in prison and shipped to facilities around the country, from Seattle to North Carolina, under the purview of the federal Bureau of Prisons. Through a number of rehabilitation programs, she had navigated the years of her prison term and returned to Missoula; the challenges now included rebuilding a relationship with her son, who had been traumatized by the events around her criminal case. But her prison sentence also created some much-needed space between her old friends, and old habits.  "It uprooted me from everything," the woman, whose first name is LeAnn, told her attorney, Peter Lacny, in a talk before the group of Montana teachers. She said it was hard to cut loose from her old life, but she had since felt empowered to make a choice not to engage with that lifestyle. "I can choose to have a conversation, or not."

FHS students inducted into National Honor Society

Thirty students were inducted into the Flathead High School National Honor Society.  Members are required to exhibit the characteristics of scholarship, service, leadership and character. Students must maintain a 3.5 GPA and participate in various service activities throughout the school year.


Fifty-nine Great Falls Public Schools students were selected to participate in the Montana High School Association All-State Festival on Oct. 19-20 in Missoula. The students worked under the direction of all-state band conductor Larry Gookin of Central Washington University, emeritus; all-star choir conductor Angela Kaspar of Western Washington University; and all-state orchestra conductor Timothy Dixon of Messiah University.

'Where the future is going': Students get a glimpse at local, high tech jobs

Local business and higher education leaders hoped to get local students interested in photonics and other high-tech manufacturing fields through hands-on demonstrations at the second annual Photonic-CON Monday. More than 500 middle and high school students joined dozens of industry representatives at the event hosted by Gallatin College at the county fairgrounds. From robotic arms made of Legos to drones that can detect wildfires, company representatives showed off the types of technologies used - and opportunities open - to students in quantum science, manufacturing, military and other tech fields.

Quick pics: Teaching fire safety

Havre firefighters, along with Smoky the Bear and Sparky the Fire Dog, perform a puppet show at Davey School Wednesday. The firefighters are putting on puppet shows in schools in the area to teach fire safety.

GFPS Foundation readies for truck raffle

Crosstown week in Great Falls means football and a truck giveaway and there's still time to get into the drawing for this new set of wheels. If you're in the market for a new truck, there's still time to take your chances on a crosstown football raffle. It's been a mainstay of the Bison Rustler rivalry for years. And on Friday night, another lucky winner will be announced. One lucky winner will take home a new Toyota Tacoma from City Motors, capping off the signature fundraiser for the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation. "We've raised already about $110,000, which is remarkable. The community is ready for it every year and they step up to the plate and support their students and the teachers," said Great Falls Public Schools Executive Director Stephanie Becker. "So, it's really exciting."

Saturday Live 2023 raises $49,000 for Billings area schools

The 2023 fundraiser for Billings public schools "Saturday Live" raised about $49,000 for participating school groups in the Billings area. Saturday Live is an all-day carnival hosted by the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools to benefit the public school system. 100 percent of ticket sales go directly to school groups hosting booths at the carnival. Groups then use the funds in various ways for their respective schools that can include field trips, new playground equipment, additional teacher training, registration fees for school teams and clubs, classroom technology and team uniforms.

Anderson School named 2023 National Blue Ribbon School

Anderson School has been recognized with two national awards for its student's academic achievements. The rural K-8 school with just over 200 students was nominated by the Montana Office of Public Instruction for the Distinguished School Award at the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Conference. It is recognized in part for the academic performance of its 7th and 8th graders. Nearly 87% of its 7th and 8th grade students performed at or above grade level in reading last school year, compared to 45% statewide. More than 83% scored at or above grade level in math, compared to less than 40% of their peers statewide.

Darby School District receives $30,000 for gym roof repair

Darby Community Partners has gifted the Darby School District $30,000 to start overdue repairs on the high school gym roof. The local nonprofit raised the funds by organizing "Dreamin' for Darby" a family-friendly event at the Richard Cromwell Memorial Rodeo Grounds in August. Community members donated to the Darby school infrastructure upgrades with Triple Creek Ranch giving $5,000. The gym roof repairs are estimated to cost $64,000 and the school has more deferred maintenance. 

SpectrUM visits Bitterroot Valley schools

SpectrUM Discovery Area visited Bitterroot Valley schools recently with a national display on building resilience to natural disasters. Corvallis Middle School sixth-grade science teacher Glen Smith said his students enjoyed the opportunity. "This is the first time I've seen it, but this is good," Smith said. "It is good for them to see it, learn different things and realize science is fun." SpectrUM visited the Corvallis School District for three days this week and visited the Hamilton Middle School two weeks ago with it's ResilienceMT project, designed in cooperation with University of Montana and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help communities across Montana build resilience to wildfires, drought, flooding and extreme heat.

New winter coats gifted to Butte's Kennedy School students

The entire student population at Kennedy Elementary School was grinning from ear to ear Wednesday morning as each received a brand-new coat, thanks to Operation Warm, a national nonprofit, and the local FedEx branch in Butte. That's a lot of grins and a lot of coats, considering the school educates about 250 students from kindergarten through the sixth grade. Established in 1998, Operation Warm's main objective is to provide high-quality coats to children across the U.S. and Canada. Giving away new shoes is also part of its campaign. By 2008, FedEx, a global shipping company based out of Memphis, Tennessee, had joined forces with the non-profit. The fleece-lined coats were manufactured by the non-profit in a variety of sizes and colors with money donated by FedEx. All are machine washable and include a detachable hood and deep pockets.

Local student accepted to sing at Carnegie: seeks community support

On Friday, Sept. 29, Polson High School junior Bethany Butler received notification that she has been accepted to sing at Carnegie Hall. She will be the first Polson student to ever do so.  Joining an elite group of 300 students chosen from applicants in the United States, Canada and Guam, Bethany will spend five days in New York City with the High School Honors Performance Series by World Strides. Finalists will work with master conductors rehearsing and performing at Carnegie Hall. Bethany said, "It's been my dream since I was six years old because of the multiple people that have performed on it and the history of Carnegie."

Valier FFA Competes in Recycle Montana Trash Dash

Recycle Montana and Coca Cola recently sponsored the annual Recycle Montana Trash Dash September 17 through the 24 awarding the participating teams cash prizes for picking up garbage and recyclables in areas across the state. The teams weighed the "stuff" they collected and submitted the weights to Recycle Montana. The weights were compared across the board and winners were selected for the Most Recyclables and Heaviest Garbage. Cash was also awarded to the Teams for the Best Use of the Trash Dash Logo and the Most Unusual Garbage or Recyclable. Glendive Recycles Our Waste (GROW) won or placed in the most categories with a total of $468 while Winifred FFA came in second overall with $280. Winifred FFA placed 3rd in Most Recyclables and won the categories for Most Garbage collected and Most Unusual Garbage and Most Unusual Recyclables. Nashua FFA won 3rd overall and a total of $200 for 2nd  Most Recyclables and 3rd Best Use of the Trash Dash logo. Overall 4th place winner, Valier FFA, won 4th in Most Garbage, 3rd in Most Unusual Garbage, and 2nd in Best Use of the Trash Dash logo for a total of $145. Their unusual item came from collecting tennis shoes at various locations by the lake. Fourth place overall was awarded to Gardiner FFA for 3rd in Most Garbage, 2nd in Most Unusual Garbage, and 2nd in Most Unusual Recyclable. Lockwood Lions won 5th in Most Garbage for $40.

Miles Community College course on 'soft skills' spreads in Eastern Montana

Until this fall, Terry High School junior Hatty Eaton hadn't given a lot of thought to becoming a teacher. But when she completed a survey of her interests and prospective career choices the first week of the semester, teaching rose to the top of the list of jobs that might fit her. The timing of that recommendation was fitting, too, as Eaton had signed on to work as a teacher's aide at the local elementary school. "I took that survey, and it gave me teaching careers," Eaton told Montana Free Press. "That kind of made me more sure that that could be a possibility for something for me to do."

Rapelje revitalizing homecoming spirit

On Friday, Oct. 6, Rapelje had its second homecoming dance and third homecoming game since the early 2000s. According to Rapelje School social studies teacher Blake Erfle, efforts are being made by the school and the Rapelje community to rebuild homecoming to be an event to show pride for the school and the town.

Ag Days packs fairgrounds with local students

The second annual Ag Days drew third graders from all corners of Sanders County. Students representing each of the county's school districts, including the area's homeschool co-op programs, spent the day learning about the many aspects of the agriculture industry. Ag Days inception is the brainchild of Wendy Carr, a Sanders County Extension Agent of Agriculture, Horticulture, and Natural Resources. Fifty-five volunteers assisted this year, with many donations provided by local merchants and organizations. One hundred and twenty-four students roamed the Sanders County Fairgrounds during Ag Days, followed closely by 29 teachers and chaperones. Students were divided into 12 groups, with each group starting their rotation through each learning stations. 

Developing 'Unreserved' compassion, understanding between students

Now in its fourth year, the Unreserved program at Fergus High School has really taken off. Around 140 students from Fergus, Lodge Grass and Hardin high schools took part in the empowerment project that uses art as a way of breaking down cultural and social barriers. Founded by former teacher and Fergus High grad Dani Phillips, the program encourages students to create art that shows their hopes, dreams, and difficulties, which they then share with other students in a mix of Tribal and off-reservation schools. "When we started in 2019, I think we only had about 15 students participating and I had to beg them to do it. This year I have 90 Fergus students, 15 from Lodge Grass and 44 from Hardin," Phillips said.

'Should be proud': Lodge Grass School awarded with new fitness center

The National Foundation for Governors' Fitness Councils seeks to award schools promoting student health with a new fitness center through a $100,000 grant financed by public and private partnerships. Lodge Grass School was one of three schools in Montana selected for a new center. "It gives the community a good sense of feeling. It should. They should be proud that they were one of the ones picked," Lodge Grass Elementary School Principal Larry Barclay said on Thursday.

Kaci Hipple receives second Pony Pride Award

Havre High School Attendance Secretary Kaci Hipple works at her desk in the school office. Hipple received the second Pony Pride Award Tuesday at a meeting of the Havre Public Schools Board of Trustees. Havre High School Attendance Secretary Kaci Hipple was named the second winner of the Pony Pride Award, a monthly award for outstanding work in Havre Public Schools, which she was presented with earlier this week by its first recipient, Havre High Assistant Principal Jeremiah Nitz. Hipple said the receipt of this award was an unexpected honor and she looks forward to continuing her work at Havre High School.

Past and present - Cayuse Prairie School marks 125 years of learning

The first one-room schoolhouse for Cayuse Prairie School District was a log cabin. In 1904, the log cabin was sold to a man named Clark Smith for $10, according to a booklet on the school's history. Originally part of Egan School District, Cayuse Prairie was created in 1898. Past and present students and staff crossed paths and shared smiles in the hallways of the school on Sept. 23 during the district's 125th anniversary celebration. For many years, the cabin was used as a shop on the Snell family farm, where Lois Hook and her brother John Snell grew up less than a quarter mile from the existing school at 897 Lake Blaine Road. Hook and Snell shared some memories of attending Cayuse Prairie during the 125th celebration. "I was here when it was just the old school," Snell said, referring to the portion of the building that was constructed in 1903. 

Glacier High students inducted into National Honor Society

Seventy-nine Glacier High School students have been inducted into the school's chapter of the National Honor Society.  Selection is based on scholarship, service, leadership and character. Members must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 and community service hours within and outside the school community.

Matt Genger follows in family's footsteps as Choteau Superintendent

Matt Genger, the new superintendent of Choteau Public Schools, said he is glad to be in Teton County once again. With the school year about a month underway, Genger is very pleased with the administration and students and their ability and determination to have a fun, successful year. In his first year in Choteau, Genger has more than enough experience to continue leading the school to an even brighter future. His professional objective is to "create a positive and productive learning and work environment which promotes responsibility, productivity and creativity." Both his parents, Ward and Nancy, were teachers. Nancy went back to school for her teaching degree when she was older. His sister, Jody, and his two brothers, Tres and Grant, also followed in their parents' footsteps. Tres is the Cut Bank High School principal.

Second graders visit the Helena Fire Department and learn about fire safety

HELENA - October 8-14 is National Fire Prevention Week. Throughout the week, the Helena Fire Department invited second graders to come to Station One for a tour and education session.

USDA 'crunches off' with Monforton kindergarteners, celebrates local food

Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture visited Monforton School Tuesday to promote the importance of locally grown food in school meals. The visit was part of a celebration of National Farm to School Month, as well as National School Lunch Week, which runs from Oct. 9-13. The USDA was joined by representatives from the Office of Public Instruction and Gallatin Valley Farm to School to teach Stacey Springer's kindergarten class about local food.

'This is a great moment': C.R. Anderson Middle School opens $100,000 fitness center

The National Foundation for Governors' Fitness Councils and Gov. Greg Gianforte unveiled a new $100,000 fitness center Tuesday morning at C.R. Anderson Middle School. To the roar of about a thousand students packed into the school gymnasium, foundation Chairman Jake Steinfeld, of "Body by Jake" fame, announced the "no strings attached" gift. The foundation has installed these fitness centers at schools in 42 states, and this year brought the group to Montana.  "We don't always have great moments, but this is a great moment," Steinfeld told the hundreds of children. Gianforte was also on hand at the event to congratulate the school. "I learned more playing football than I did in the classroom," he told the students.

Cascade High School is getting a new greenhouse

CASCADE - The Cascade High School is going a little bit greener in their education this year. With a very generous donation from community members, the agricultural class gets hands a-on experience replacing the old greenhouse.

Kevin Kicking Woman named Montana Teacher of the Year

It was a secret. Everyone lined up next to the bleachers in the Tipi Dome knew it - the Tribal Secretary, School Board members, media reps, the Rawhide Singers and special guests.    The group ushered into the gym by Browning Superintendent Corrina Guardipee-Hall also included Montana Superintendent of Schools Elsie Arntzen. Board member Donna Yellow Owl remarked how hard it was to keep the secret as the entire student body filed into the stands. Even the teachers and staff were unaware of what was about to commence. Superintendent Guardipee-Hall introduced Superintendent Arnzten to the crowd, who welcomed them and said one among them was the reason she'd come. Masterfully managing the suspense, she revealed that Blackfeet Native American Studies instructor Kevin Kicking Woman had been named Montana Teacher of the Year.

'Real science': Belgrade High School class studies spread of invasive spotted knapweed

A biology class at Belgrade High School is getting real-world experience surveying plants, which in turn will help experts remove invasive weeds from public land. On Oct. 11, Sarah Tabor's 10th grade class will start counting and mapping out the distribution of spotted knapweed, a plant that is considered invasive in North America. The class will use geographic information systems, or GIS, to keep track of their data, which will be shared with experts who can kill the weeds. Tabor said she hopes the project will teach her students marketable skills and spark interest in using GIS for a career. 

Insects as indicators: Students collect bugs to measure river health

Students from Hamilton High School donned waders and trekked out into the cool fall waters of the Bitterroot River in search of insects on Monday as part of a five-year study of bugs in conjunction with Bitterroot Trout Unlimited. Large aquatic insects are not only a source of food for native trout populations, they are also good indicators of the health of a river or stream. However, no quantified data currently exists in regard to macroinvertebrates on the Bitterroot River. Bitterroot Trout Unlimited is teaming up with entomologist Jackson Birrell from The Salmonfly Project to work with students from local high schools to check on the Bitterroot River's indicator bugs. They will conduct annual inventories at 10 sites for five consecutive years. Students at Trapper Creek Job Corps, Darby, Corvallis, Hamilton and Florence are participating in the project. Bitterroot Trout Unlimited President David Ward said they hope to be able to see trends in the data by the third year.

Outdoor briefs: Helena students do forest monitoring; Apprentice Hunter Program; and more

Seventh grade students from C.R. Anderson Middle School went up Mount Helena on Sept. 28 to do forest monitoring and to share the data with the city of Helena. It's part of a program run by the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest since 2002. Students practice using a clinometer to measure the heights of trees, do an assessment of the understory, learn to check for health of the trees, and even get a chance to use a tree borer to learn the age of a tree. The original founder of this program, Sam Gilbert, came out to support the program this year alongside Conservation Educator Liz Burke, who has championed the program the past 20-plus years, tirelessly working in the background to set everything up for success. In addition to many staff from the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, the program relies on volunteers and partners from Montana Discovery Foundation, Big Sky Watershed Corps, Society of American Foresters, NRCS, and City of Helena, local government and of course Leslie Hagengruber and the teachers, parents and students at C.R. Anderson Middle School.

Montana celebrates American Indian Heritage Day at the State Capitol

On Friday afternoon, Montana leaders gathered at the State Capitol to celebrate the state's tribal cultures. The Montana Office of Public Instruction held its annual celebration of American Indian Heritage Day. "The goal of that is just to have all Montanans stop and reflect on the indigenous history in this state, and celebrate the richness that it brings to our state, both in a historical sense and in a contemporary sense," said Zach Hawkins, OPI's director of Indian Education for All. During Friday's event, Mike Jetty, an Indian education specialist with OPI, performed a Lakota flag song, before giving a talk on the symbolism of each of Montana's eight tribal flags – flown in a pavilion at the front of the Capitol.

Hamilton celebrates homecoming with bonfire

High schools across the valley are celebrating homecoming and the Hamilton Bronc Nation had a week of games and festivities including a bonfire on Wednesday night organized by the Hamilton Booster Club. Courtney Magness, Booster Club president, said the bonfire was a community effort and nostalgic. "We are happy to bring the bonfire back after several things happening in the last year," she said. "With fire season and COVID it's been all over the place. We're happy to get it back on this level and we'll build from here to be what it used to be." 

Deer Park named National Blue Ribbon school

Deer Park School was designated a 2023 Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education for being among Montana's "exemplary high-performing schools." "We're just really proud. It's a big deal for a little school like ours," Deer Park Principal Sheri Modderman said. The rural Columbia Falls school is among 353 schools around the nation to receive the award and is one of three Montana schools to make the list. Anderson and Amsterdam elementary schools in Gallatin County were also named Blue Ribbon Schools. Montana Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Elsie Arntzen nominated the schools for the award. The national award recognizes public and private K-12 schools and is based on overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Exemplary high-performing schools have their state's highest achieving students (top 15%) in English and mathematics, measured by state assessments, according to the U.S. Department of Education.


September 2023 Great News

Friday cancer observance to honor late Helena school board trustee Lois Fitzpatrick

Lights of Hope Helena, a local rendition of a nationwide event honoring those affected by cancer, is scheduled for Friday night and will honor the late librarian, Carroll College professor and school board trustee Lois Fitzpatrick. "Fitzpatrick passed away in March in one of her multiple cancer occurrences but left behind a legacy that continues to inspire those who knew and worked with her on many initiatives," a news release from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network states. The 13th annual national Lights of Hope was held Sept. 19, and the Washington, D.C., iteration featured more than 65,000 paper bag luminaries displayed along the Potomac River.

Kevin Kickingwoman of Browning High School wins Montana Teacher of the Year

Community members gathered in the Browning High School gym on Thursday to celebrate Kevin Kickingwoman, a Native American Studies teacher who was just named Montana Teacher of the Year. Teachers throughout the state were nominated and encouraged to submit applications. The Montana Office of Public Instruction then reviewed applicants and chose a winner. Now, Kickingwoman will compete for National Teacher of the Year. Kickingwoman earned his bachelor's degree in Native American studies and anthropology at the University of Montana in 2011, and he earned his master's in interdisciplinary studies from UM in 2014. He's been teaching for almost 25 years and began his career at Browning Middle School. Kickingwoman also served as the Indian education director for Heart Butte Public Schools, taught at Loyola Sacred Heart High School in Missoula and served as an adjunct professor at UM, according to a news release. Now, Kickingwoman teaches Blackfeet language and culture at Browning High School, his alma mater. He and his wife Joni have five children and one granddaughter. 

Bozeman students travel to Tanzania to teach debate workshop

This summer, Bozeman High School students helped teach students in Africa how to debate and came back with an unforgettable experience. From June 22 to July 17, 11 students from the BHS debate team traveled to Mwanza, Tanzania to help students from 16 schools learn debate skills like researching and critical thinking. Several Bozeman students said the most valuable part of it wasn't just learning about debate, but the cultural exchange that resulted in lasting friendships. Cameron Taylor, a senior on the team, said he felt like he was part of the community. "I felt like I was truly welcomed there," Taylor said. "It's a feeling I've rarely come across anywhere else. Just the sheer amount of cultural difference from Bozeman to Mwanza - it was basically as different as you can get. Every student, teacher - every person we met seemed eager to share their culture and learn about ours."

Elementary students celebrate their art in Pepin Park

Lincoln-McKinley Primary School students helped decorate Pepin Park's bathrooms this month with local artist Madison Ruff, and the students gathered at Pepin Park to admire the finished product and enjoyed a well-deserved ice cream treat Monday afternoon.

From the superintendent: Helena school year off to a great start

Our 2023-24 school year is off to a great start with the fall athletics and activities season in full swing. In fact, the Bruins and the Bengal girls are headed to the AA state golf tournament in Billings this week. Our soccer and football teams have already gone head-to-head in their crosstown games and the Bengal and Bruin volleyball teams match up this evening. Capital High celebrated their homecoming game with a 62-2 win over Missoula Hellgate Sept. 15, and Helena High will take on Kalispell Flathead at their homecoming game Friday at Vigilante Stadium. In other words, this season is going by fast!

Deer Park School in Columbia Falls receives national recognition for academic achievement

A small, rural school in Northwest Montana was recently bestowed national recognition being named a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School. Deer Park School, a K-8 public school in Columbia Falls is one of only three schools to receive the honor this year in Montana. "We were incorporated as a school a year before Montana became a state, so we're the oldest continuously running school in the Flathead Valley," said Deer Park School teacher Pam Clark. A school with a lot of history just made more after receiving the 2023 National Blue Ribbon Award from the US Department of Education. "Very validating, a small school like ours to receive something like that and be recognized," said Deer Park School Superintendent Sheri Modderman.

Hawk Blooded: BHS choir to perform with Foreigner

The Bozeman High School choir will be singing alongside British-American rock band Foreigner at a concert on Monday. Doors open for the concert at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 25 at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. Tickets are available on Montana State University's website. The performance part of Foreigner's "Feels Like the Last Time" farewell tour, which started in March. At the choir's rehearsal on Sept. 22, students and director Jacob Malczyk said they are excited and nervous for the upcoming performance, which several said will be the biggest thing they've ever done in the choir.

Collaborative art installation project takes shape at Whitefish High School

Whitefish High School and the Stumptown Art Studio along with several local businesses joined forces three years ago to start work on a large-scale art installation. "The Gear Heads" is located in the public courtyard of the high school. Stumptown Art Studio Executive Director Melanie Drown said "The Gear Heads" is not a new project and that after a long delay due to the Covid pandemic, the project is nearing completion. "And then, we will plan a community celebration," Drown said. At that time, she plans to recognize and thank all the businesses that made the piece possible. The work includes two huge, steel heads, one male and one female, looking at one another across a sidewalk while an arch filled with gears passes from the top of one head to the other. "The gears are a nod to the sharing of knowledge," Drown said.

Safe, creative fun: Corvallis Primary School playground remodel complete

Corvallis Primary School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday to celebrate the long-awaited playground remodel. CPS Principal Lisa Nagle told the 50 adults and 25 children in attendance that the old playground was over 40 years old.  "So, this project was a huge undertaking and way overdue," Nagle said. "Many of you might have played on the old playground when you were kids. So, as you can imagine, we are beyond excited to have a beautiful new playground that our Corvallis students and community will enjoy for years to come."

Hat Day Fundraiser Held at Valier Schools

Valier Schools held a "Hat Day" fundraiser to benefit Isabel Hodges, granddaughter of Valier High School Librarian Ann McAlpine (center). The students wanted to do something to support the family and Isabel who is battling Leukemia. The elementary students raised $55 and the high school students and staff raised another $370. Ann was overcome with emotion at the generosity and support as she received the gift of $425 to use for needed expenses as the family endures this health challenge.

Students Embark on Educational Harvesting Journey

On September 14, 26 students from Two Eagle River School (TERS) and 40 students from Nk̓ʷusm along with staff and elders departed the reservation in the morning to make a two-hour trek to the border of Montana and Idaho to harvest x̣asx̣s and mountain tea. The harvesting site was located at Packer Meadows on Lolo Pass. Packer Meadows is one of many locations that were and still are utilized by Salish people to gather roots. Roots like x̣asx̣s and camas that are found at the site are important and have been a part of a traditional diet for generations. Late summer and early fall are when x̣asx̣s are ready to be harvested. Armed with various digging tools and plastic bags, the students set out to dig. It turned out to be a learning experience for the TERS students and teachers. "This is how you learn," Arlene Adams told the TERS students. Many of whom were disappointed when they learned they misidentified the plant and picked the wrong root. Making mistakes is part of learning and it's okay, Adams reassured them. 

Crow Agency teacher's innovative program gets $2,000 boost from Voya Financial

A Crow Agency teacher has been awarded a $2,000 grant in a competition sponsored by a financial services company. Connie Michael, a teacher at Crow Agency Public School, received that grant as part of Voya Financial Inc.'s, 2023 Unsung Heroes awards competition. She was the only winner in Montana. Voya Financial, Inc. provides retirement plans for educators. For 27 years, the Voya Unsung Heroes program has awarded grants to K-12 educators in the United States to recognize and support their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects, and their ability to positively influence the children they teach. Since the program's inception, Voya has awarded more than $6 million in support of educators through this nationwide program.

Montana Food for Montana Schools connects local producers with schools

A pair of events this fall will help incorporate local food into Montana students' meals by connecting producers with schools. The events, called Montana Food for Montana Schools, will be held Sept. 28 in Great Falls at the University of Providence and on Oct. 25 in Missoula at the Hilton Garden Inn, both from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Montana State University's Montana Team Nutrition program, the Montana Office of Public Instruction, Abundant Montana and other partners will host the two regional events. Montana producers, food businesses and school representatives are invited to attend.

Columbia Falls school tapped as 2023 National Blue Ribbon School

The U.S. Department of Education has recognized 353 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2023, including three in Montana. The recognition is based on a school's overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups on assessments. One of the Montana winners is Deer Park Elementary School in Columbia Falls. An elementary school in Bozeman and an elementary school in Manhattan were also selected as a National Blue Ribbon School. "The honorees for our 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award have set a national example for what it means to Raise the Bar in education," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has issued approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,700 schools across the country.

Hamilton Adult Ed classes feature pasty making

Hamilton School District's fall adult education classes are set to begin in October. Adult Education Director Bryan Dufresne said the mission of adult education is to improve community wellness by focusing on its five facets: career, social, financial, physical and community.  "Our hope is to introduce people to new passions and connect people with similar passions," he said. "We are excited to have a few new classes this fall, including a pasty making culinary class, a travel Spanish class, guitar, banjo and Qijong. Another exciting offering is a fall pickleball course using Pickleball 406's amazing new facility, at 140 Kyle Lane in Hamilton. We will continue to offer indoor soccer, basketball and volleyball."

Work done to foundation of Unionville Schoolhouse

Work was done Saturday to shore up the foundation of the Unionville Schoolhouse. In April, it was announced the one-room 1872 schoolhouse would receive $5,000 from The Foundation for Montana History for structural stabilization repair. Pam Attardo, heritage preservation officer for the city/county heritage tourism council, said in April they were thrilled to get the money from the foundation and noted the Unionville Schoolhouse got a $4,000 grant in 2014.

Havre Suicide Awareness Walk draws a crowd

The Hill County Suicide Awareness Coalition's ninth annual Suicide Awareness Walk was held at Montana State University-Northern Thursday night, with local residents honoring the memory of those who lost their lives to suicide and providing a message of hope to those who need support. Coalition Chair Amber Spring addressed the crowd that evening saying she believes they have the potential to address suicide in the state and reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health and seeking help for it. "I encourage you to think about your own strengths and where you can play a role," Spring said. Spring introduced this year's speaker, Havre Public School Education Foundation Executive Director Krystal Steinmetz, whose life has been touched by suicide, like most of the people there.

National Merit semifinalists announced for 2024

Three Kalispell high school students and a Polson student have been named National Merit semifinalists. Dyson Linden and Brody Turner of Flathead High School, Van Scholten of Glacier High School and Isabel Seeley of Polson High School are among 16,000 students to reach semifinalist status around the U.S., according to a press release. The high school seniors entered the National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying test as juniors. The PSAT/NMSQT serves as the initial screen of entrants. More than 15,000 semifinalists are expected to advance to the finalist level, which will be announced in February. To become a finalist, a semifinalist must submit a detailed application that provides information about the student's academic record, school and community involvement, leadership abilities, employment and awards received. Additionally, students must have high SAT or ACT scores, write an essay and be recommended by a high school official.

Kalispell Public Schools health plan honored

Kalispell Public Schools was honored at the inaugural "Rosie Awards" presentation in Chicago with a national award for health plan excellence and stewardship. Fifty employers or unions with memberships ranging from 27 to 300,000 were honored by over 700 healthcare and benefits professionals, industry experts, and thought leaders who gathered at the Chicago Navy Pier on Aug. 7-9. The 2023 Rosie Award winners were chosen from plans recommended by benefits advisors, solution providers, or clinical leaders who met two important criteria: a high Plan Grader score and excellent use of their Health Rosetta Dividend. The Health Rosetta Dividend refers to money previously wasted on healthcare that can be reinvested back into the organization or community to improve wellbeing, such as free primary care services, pay increases, $0 medications, new job creation, or other tangible improvements that have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of their workforce, dependents, and communities.

How Montana is paying the way in trades education

Gracie Johnson didn't want to be a pilot. At least, not when she first walked into her eighth-grade science class at Billings' Ben Steele Middle School. Her teacher, Patrick Kenney, quickly tapped her for a student project building an experimental aircraft at a private hangar, and while she found that work interesting, Johnson initially resisted Kenney's encouragement to step into a cockpit for a test flight. Eventually she agreed. "It just spiraled from there," Johnson told Montana Free Press this month. At age 15, Johnson began pursuing her private pilot's license. Two years and more than 100 flight hours later, she has it, and after graduating from high school a year early, she's now enrolled at Rocky Mountain College in Billings - class of 2027 - en route to more advanced piloting credentials.

World-renowned hip-hop artist Supaman visits Corvallis Schools

he Internationally acclaimed hip-hop artist Supaman visited Corvallis Schools on Tuesday with a message of making positive choices and taking pride in cultural heritage. Supaman captivated high school students as he incorporated his talk about tradition, hope and faith, described his regalia and performed a traditional medicine fancy war dance. Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, aka Supaman, is a hip-hop rapper and fancy dancer, who was born in Seattle and grew up in Crow Agency, Montana.  "We need to view our Montana history, our Native history, languages, customs, things like that as having great value," he said.

Darby School District earns Cognia accreditation

Darby School District has earned accreditation by Cognia, a nonprofit organization that provides quality assurance for schools, school districts, and education service providers. Superintendent Tony Biesiot said the accreditation is a mark of quality. "School accreditation as conferred by the Cognia Global Accreditation Commission provides Darby School District a nationally recognized mark of quality for our school," Biesiot said. "It demonstrates to our community our commitment to excellence, our openness to external review and feedback, and our desire to be the best we can be on behalf of the students we serve."

Governor visits DeSmet to celebrate boost in public school funding

Gov. Greg Gianforte fielded questions from DeSmet students this week during his visit to Missoula as part of a tour around the state to highlight public school funding. "One of the most important things government does is provide for education, and that's why we've prioritized funding," Gianforte said to an auditorium of DeSmet staff and elementary students on Wednesday. The governor signed House Bill 15 into law in March, a piece of legislation with the goal to pour money into public schools to mitigate inflation. For the 2024 fiscal year, the difference in the education general fund is estimated to be $15,984,474, and the 2025 fiscal year difference is estimated to be $69,575,164. To cover these differences caused by inflationary costs, HB 15 adds $85.6 million to the state's K-12 Base Amount for School Equity aide funding through 2025, the Helena Independent Record reported.

Butte Archives headed back to 'school'

The Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives will hold an opening reception for its "School" exhibit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20. at 17 W. Quartz St. The reception is free and open to the public. "School" will showcase artifacts from Butte schools, both past and present. Artifacts will include textiles and photos from various schools and extracurricular activities. The exhibit, which will run through the end of fall, is at 17 W. Quartz St. This exhibit will be on display throughout the fall season.

Governor touts TEACH Act at Lockwood High School

Gov. Greg Gianforte stood in front of Zach Carleton's honors English class at Lockwood High Tuesday morning and asked the students what they liked to read. After a smattering of responses, including one student who nervously couldn't remember the title of his favorite book, only that it was about World War II, Gianforte explained that he thought nonfiction was often stranger than fiction and that he really enjoyed reading history, particularly Montana history.  "Isn't it kind of your job to know it," another student asked.  "No, I do it because I enjoy it," Gianforte said.  The governor was at Lockwood High to highlight the impact of the TEACH Act, legislation that was passed by the state in 2021 and then tightened up by the last Legislature in April.

Carnival Classic brings Sunday fun to help Helena's schools

The Helena Education Foundation's 20th Carnival Classic was held Sunday in Memorial Park. The event featured dozens of booths including a dunk tank, face and hair painting, crafts, bobbing for doughnuts, a temporary tattoo parlor, tie-dying, goldfish toss and other activities. Sunday's event will help Helena Public Schools, supporting participating school clubs, teams and parent groups, organizers said. The Helena Education Foundation aids education in the schools through the investment of time, talent, funding and resources, providing students, staff and the community opportunities.

Fort Belknap students continue pathways in nursing, public health and STEM

Programs at Aaniih Nakoda College on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation continue to move forward in health and science, technology, engineering and mathematics - STEM - fields, with two programs over the summer ending recently. A release said that one program, the Young Medicine Movement is a multi-level, innovative approach to supporting and developing Aaniiih and Nakoda scholars from the reservation via an educational pathway and tailored support for rising juniors in high school through to their graduate education. The program is funded by the National Institutes of Health Native American Research Centers for Health and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Young Medicine Movement is a collaboration between Fort Belknap tribes, including Aaniiih Nakoda College, tribal health and public health nursing, and Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. The summer program enhances critical factors, identified through prior research, to have protective value, with educational engagement, tribal identity and communal mastery, the release said.

FWP seeking 1 high school student for Future Fisheries citizen review panel

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking a current high school student to fill a two-year term on the Future Fisheries citizen review panel. FWP's Future Fisheries Improvement Program grants approximately $1 million annually for projects to improve and restore Montana's wild fish habitats. The 14-member citizen review panel meets twice a year to review proposals and recommend projects to the Fish & Wildlife Commission for funding. Review panel members are appointed by the governor, or his representative and must represent a variety of interests including: conservation districts, commercial agriculture, irrigated agriculture, silviculture, fisheries restoration, Montana anglers, members of the Montana House of Representatives and Senate, high school students, mining reclamation, fisheries, and one ex-officio member from the Montana Department of Transportation.

Richey-Lambert Fusion keeps sports alive

As small rural schools struggle with small numbers of athletes to play in state championships, many districts have formed cooperatives to keep their teams alive. For the last 13 years, Lambert and Richey have combined their sports teams into the Richey-Lambert Fusion to remain competitive. "It saved our sports program," Kara Triplett, R&L Fusion Activities Director, said. "We are always short of athletes and we would not have fielded teams without the coop." The schools still have a lingering identity with the Richey Royals and the Lambert Lions, which can be seen in their respective gyms, but Triplett said the cooperative has been in existence for a long time. "None of the athletes have known anything else besides being a fusion team," she said. Karlene Young is the cross country coach who coaches a mix of middle and high school athletes from both Richey and Lambert. 

Laurel High School presents September's Students of the Month

Laurel High School announced the first installment of the Students of the Month award. September's winners are Seniors Dakota McNeill and Maggie Hillis. Dakota is the son of Brad and Theresa Frey and Ken & Cindy McNeill. Maggie is the daughter of David & Aimee Hillis. Dakota is a member of the Montana National Guard, and enjoys science class. Maggie is a member of the LHS Volleyball team and her favorite subject is English. Students must meet a list of criteria to be considered for the honor. They do not have to be straight A students, but can't have any failing grades. They must exhibit a positive attitude and be of good character. They must exhibit growth of knowledge, have no excessive tardies or absences, and no or very few missing assignments. Rewards for the honor include a special parking space; a LHS Locomotive shirt; a $10 LHS Booster Club gift certificate; a LHS bag; a Student of the Month certificate; and their pictures will be published in the Laurel Outlook.

New School Resource Officer joins Lewistown Public Schools

Lewistown Public Schools' new School Resource Officer Madison 'Dustin' Salka had one main goal in mind when he put in his application for the job: making an impact on the lives of students. Salka, who has been with the Lewistown Police Department for two years, became the new SRO at the beginning of the school year, taking over for Chief Justin Jenness, who was filling the position on an interim basis for the 2023 spring semester. While a more regular shift schedule certainly didn't hurt his decision, Salka had two main reasons for taking the job. "I really enjoy working with kids - they're fun to work with," he said. "One of the reasons I got into law enforcement was to facilitate relationships between the community and law enforcement and this is one of the best ways I can think of to do that work."

New South principal helps staff continue to create strong foundation for kindergarteners

South School's new principal Katherine Dawe has been amazed at the skill and caring of her teachers. Following in the career path of her mother, who taught kindergarten for more than a decade in Idaho, Dawe is excited to be more hands-on with students and teachers in her new role. Dawe previously worked as superintendent and principal at Amsterdam School District, a k-8 district near Bozeman. The Laurel School District is larger, but South School, which serves kindergarten and kinder-boost students, has a smaller enrollment. The first-day count of kindergarteners at South South was 118 students, which doesn't include the kinder-boost students, who are pre-school age.

Nate Lundeen: School Resource Officer of the Year

Soft-spoken Lake County deputy Nate Lundeen, who was recently named School Resource Officer of the Year, clearly feels both a sense of responsibility and affection for the kids he interacts with daily at Polson schools. "You do your best to help them out – like you would your own," he says. "It takes all of us to help out, to get kids going in the right direction." Lundeen was honored last month at the School Safety Recognition Awards ceremony, held during the fourth annual Jeremy Bullock Safe Schools Summit in Helena. The summit was established in honor of the 11-year-old boy, who was the unintended victim of a school shooting at Margaret Leary Elementary School in Butte on April 12, 1994. The annual gathering focuses on cultivating safer schools for both students and educators. The award recognizes Lundeen for his professionalism, "unwavering commitment and impeccable reputation," and his passion for school safety and community involvement. According to Polson High School Principal Andy Fors, the recognition is well-deserved.

Frazer School Places Second In Region For Montana Paint The State

On Aug. 29, the Montana Meth Project announced the winners of its Paint the State art contest, including three grand prize winners who will each receive $10,000. The Meth Project will award 44 statewide and regional prizes, totaling more than $100,000 to Paint the State artists. Frazer High School placed second in the region with their two phase painting on the local grain elevator on Highway 2 in Frazer. Under team leader Teresa Heil and artists Kalianna Blount, Angel Nelligan, Christopher Fox and Baily Beston, they painted their work in two phases. During phase one, they worked on a giant graffiti style installation with their own original community outreach message. During phase two, they went back on site and added more meth prevention messages in order to bring context to the viewers. A fierce Bearcub head, the school's mascot, was added and so was the the Montana Meth Project name and tagline of "Not Even Once," while also tying in the state shape.

'Enhancing literacy': Billings Education Foundation aims to boost low reading scores in schools

As a nationwide trend continues to show declining reading scores for K-12 students, Billings schools are seeing a similar decrease, according to the Billings Education Foundation Executive Director Kelly McCandless. "In our Title (I) schools, we are only seeing about 43% of kids who can read on grade level," McCandless said about K-5 students in Billings. "That's compared to our non-Title schools, where you'll see about 56% of kids reading on grade level." Title I schools receive additional federal funding because they have higher percentages of students who receive free and reduced lunches. While test scores for both reading and math have been on a decline since the COVID-19 pandemic, McCandless said the trend has been around for a lot longer. "The decline in reading has been a four-point decline between 2019-2020 to last year. That's compared to a seven-point decline over the last decade. So, we've seen a pretty sharp drop in the last couple of years, but we've generally been seeing a trend downward," she said.

Bozeman School District recognized for its safety efforts

A common sight for students walking between classes at Gallatin High School is uniformed police officers standing in the halls. Most of the time, they aren't there because of an active threat, but merely to provide a sense of security for the hundreds of students they see every day. Oftentimes, Sgt. Scott McCormick and School Resource Officer Connor Foley spend their time between classes joking with students as if they're old friends. "A lot of the high school kids have gone up to the SRO and said, 'I feel a lot better knowing you guys are here'," McCormick said. "That's huge, especially when you hear it from a kid who's being genuine. It's just something most cops aren't used to hearing."

Kalispell School Administrators, Legislators Celebrate Work-Based Learning at Back-to-School Kickoff Event

On a rainy Wednesday morning that marked the first day of school across the Flathead Valley, school administrators, teachers, lawmakers and local business owners gathered at Kalispell Volkswagen to celebrate the expansion of work-based learning and "transformational education" in the Kalispell Public Schools (KPS). "The vision is to ensure that our hardworking kids have the opportunity to build a life right here in Montana, and we know right now that's an enormous challenge," Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, R-Kalispell, a state lawmaker who supported a number of individualized learning bills during the 2023 Montana legislative session, said. Sprunger highlighted new education laws that expand the ability of school districts to individualize students' learning through targeted reading interventions, off-site internship programs and other hands-on opportunities, and tied the new legislation to the "transformational education" initiative that has become a hallmark of KPS' educational strategy.

A 'rush of positive student energy': Bozeman is back to school

As Bozeman School District's first week of classes draws to a close, teachers and school leaders are reflecting on changes in their schools and what they love about their jobs. This year, there are about 7,500 students across the district, according to Superintendent Casey Bertram, an increase of 100 from last year. Bozeman High School Principal Dan Mills said 1,283 of those students are at BHS. Joanna Krogstad, who teaches family and consumer sciences at the high school, said there is a different energy in classrooms this year.

Montana Rep to tour condensed, humorous 'Odyssey' in schools

"The Odyssey" didn't originally include jokes about phone addiction, doomsday preppers or a bro'd-out Zeus, but the ancient Greeks were never obliged to perform the epic poem for teenagers, either. The Montana Repertory Theatre's version has all of those, while maintaining the major themes of the show among the contemporary humor: what it means to return home after losses. The troupe's annual educational outreach play will premiere in Missoula this Friday-Saturday before hitting the road for 30 schools around Montana for middle- and high-school classes. The selection for this year was adapted by Briandaniel Oglesby, an Austin, Texas, playwright.

Helena school district giveaway brings new life to unused furniture

Helena Public Schools opened the doors of its historic Seventh Avenue Gym, now used to store excess furniture, to members of the public Thursday, allowing them to take as much of the old classroom furnishings as they needed. The school district is in discussions to lease the facility to Queen City Football Club and needed to clear out the tables, chairs, desks, cork boards and filing cabinets piled on the basketball court and in the adjacent rooms. "Everything in this building is excessive furniture that's no longer usable by the district," Helena Public Schools Director of Facilities Todd Verrill said. "For years we've moved all this stuff around. In the last five years, it's been moved five times." This stuff amounts to, off the top of Verrill's head, upward of 800 molded plastic chairs, 30 tables and hundreds of student desks. Old elementary student-height library bookshelves labeled "NONFICTION," adult-size desks and old computer carts lined the walls of the gym.

Courts collect food in Helena for school kids in lieu of fines

The Lewis and Clark County Justice and Helena Municipal courts collected food items in lieu of outstanding fines and donated them to Helena Food Share. Lewis and Clark County Justice of the Peace Michael Swingley donated nearly 1,000 pounds of food and more than $500 in cash collected Thursday. "We thought it would be a good idea and just decided to try it," Swingley said in an interview Thursday evening. "It was wildly successful." He said between the two courts, there is about $3 million in outstanding fines. For every food item donated, $5 was knocked off an outstanding fine up to $200. "We did get a lot of fines paid for too," Swingley said. Considering the success of the event, he said the court might try to do this once a year.

August 2023 Great News 

Report: Hamilton listed in top 10 MT high schools

Hamilton High School was ranked eighth amongst Montana high schools according to the recently released U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools rankings. The rankings, released on Aug. 29, include data on nearly 25,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia according to U.S. News & World Report. Out of the 25,000 reviewed, 83 Montana schools made the rankings. Hamilton was given an overall score of 84.93/100 and ranked 2,664th amongst schools nationwide. Schools are ranked by their performance on state-required tests, graduation and how well they prepare students for college. In addition to traditional high schools, the rankings include science, technology, engineering and math-focused schools (STEM) as well as charter and magnet schools.

How Choteau area schools are tackling Montana's teacher shortage

The past few weeks of walking the halls of Choteau Elementary School and getting her new fifth-grade classroom ready for the fall semester have been somewhat surreal for Amanda Lightner. Day by day, she's added more books to the shelves, arranged the wood-topped desks, papered the walls with daily planning charts and decorations. But she can't shake the picture of what the room used to look like, back when she was in fourth grade. "I'm like, 'This should be this way because that is how it was when I was in here,'" Lightner said on a recent Thursday. "'But this is your room and you can do what you want.'" In her four years as a Montana educator, Lightner has inched closer to what she describes as the "end goal" of her career: a return to the town, and the school, where she and her husband grew up. After a year of teaching in Gallatin Gateway, she landed an elementary job in the Greenfield School District, commuting half an hour each day from her new house two blocks from Choteau Elementary. 

Whitefish grad builds pavilion to earn Eagle Scout

Natural wood pillars combined with steel roofing and an intricate sign make a new pavilion at the Whitefish Airport stand out to passersby. A picnic table sits on a concrete slab and the pavilion provides much-needed shade and a comfortable place to hang out at the airport off East Second Street. This pavilion called the Welcome Center was built by Whitefish High School Class of 2023 graduate Ryan Economy. The recent grad created the pavilion for his Eagle Scout project which he completed in the summer of 2022. Economy says he had the idea for the project in fall 2021, but thought it might be too much to take on as he only had eight months before turning 18 - the Eagle Scout project must be completed before the scout turns 18 and ages out of the Boy Scouts of America program. But he soon decided it was a project worth taking on despite the time frame and the potential cost to complete it. 

Sprunger, Kalispell educators celebrate boost to intership effort

Emmery Schmidt knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was in elementary school. Now a junior in high school, Schmidt confirmed she was cut out for the job through several internships. Schmidt has completed two internships with Kalispell Public Schools, the first looking at early childhood development and the second focusing on elementary education. From working during after school programs to spending two weeks in a classroom with every age group, Schmidt found that she truly enjoyed working with kids. "I do love working in the classroom," Schmidt said. "I won't have to go to college for four years and then start being a student teacher just to see if I like being in classrooms." Students in the Flathead Valley have long had the option to pursue a career and technical education alternative in the form of a job or an internship. This year the Legislature expanded those types of programs, effectively bringing businesses, schools and the community together through technical education.

GFPS offers Chromebooks to all students in grades 7 to 12

Students in grades 7 through 12 at Great Falls Public Schools will now have their own dedicated Chromebook laptop to use in school and at home. The laptops come with no additional cost to the student, unless they decide to purchase insurance for the device, which is only $26 a year. "Accidents are going to happen," Lance Boyd, an executive director of student achievement at Great Falls Public Schools said, "things are going to happen and occur, the one thing we're also proud of and were able to watch during covid was [that] we checked devices out across our district, and very, very few of them came back with any significant damage." 

Big J Show Cares, Education Foundation, raise $77K for Billings school books

he Big J Show Cares, in conjunction with The Education Foundation For Billings Public Schools is thrilled to announce the success of their recent fundraiser Books For Kids. Together, they raised $77,451 to support literacy in the local schools. Thanks to the support from the Billings community, more than 4,300 students across 14 schools in the area will receive a monthly book throughout the upcoming academic year. These books will be wonderful additions to the students' personal bookshelves at home, encouraging a love for reading and fostering a lifelong passion for learning. The majority of the donations came from generous individuals who were eager to contribute to this initiative, promoting literacy throughout the area. "We couldn't have achieved this incredible feat without the support of the Billings community and its generous individuals and businesses," said Justin Hutchinson, director of The Big J Show Cares. "We extend our heartfelt gratitude to businesses like Stink Blossom, 406 Disaster Response, and TDS Fiber for their significant contributions as well as the individual donations we received." 

U.S. News ranks Whitefish third among Montana high schools

Whitefish High School ranked third among Montana public high schools for the second consecutive year, according to the U.S. News & World Report 2023 Best High Schools. The rankings showcase schools whose students demonstrate outstanding outcomes, surpassing anticipated benchmarks, including achieving high graduation rates. In Montana, 173 public high schools were reviewed and 83 earned rankings. Bozeman High School ranked in the top spot and Lone Peak High School at No. 2. Rounding out the state's top five is Red Lodge High School at No. 4 and Manhattan High School, No. 5. In Kalispell, Glacier High School came in at No. 11 and Flathead High School at No. 21.

Stevensville School District starts the year with optimism

The Stevensville School District is off to a great start with additional programming, a nearly full staff and optimism. Second-year Superintendent Dave Thennis said the school has focused on three areas: transportation, a new pre-kindergarten early literacy program at the elementary school and an Alternative Learning Center at the high school. Classes started on Aug. 24 for grades 1-12, Kindergarten began on Aug. 28, and class for students age 4 and 5 begins on Sept. 5. "We have a lot of new things going so anytime there are new things going there are hiccups and we're working through those hiccups and trying to improve, adjust and get better," Thennis said. "We have done a major overhaul of our transportation system. As we go through the process we are continuing to refine, hourly, what's going well, what's not going well and making adjustments."

Bozeman bus company starting school year on the right foot

Bus driver shortages are a problem faced nationwide and has become an all too familiar story. However, one bus company is flipping the script and is finding ample staffing before the school year begins. In 2018, First Student had to cancel routes in Bozeman due to staffing shortages. Since then, every year has had its share of challenges – but the start of this year has a different tune. First Student has enough drivers to fit with adjusted routes. A major factor for the company getting ample staffing for the school year is the leap in wages.

Completing the cycle: Bozeman School District launches composting program in all 13 schools

All 13 schools in the Bozeman School District are set to start composting their food scraps this year, in an effort to reduce food waste while also improving soil health in the Gallatin Valley. The composting program, set to roll out in September, will also provide education to school staff and students about the value of composting and how to do it correctly. Belgrade-based YES Compost is taking on the school food scraps. Started in 2018, owner Karl Johnson said the business has been steadily growing their food scrap collection program and processing capacity. They offer regular composting services and vermicomposting, which uses worms to break down organic material. All YES Compost customers receive the end product of their food scraps, either bulk compost or worm castings. Each product can be added to garden plots, farms, or houseplants as a nutrient-dense organic fertilizer, Johnson said.

MCPS, UM expand early education programs, begin partnership

A week before Missoula public school teachers would open their own doors to students, doors opened for them at the University of Montana's Learning and Belonging (LAB) School. Like the preschoolers in the classrooms during the school year, a clutch of early kindergarten teachers, elementary principals and administrators explored some new classrooms looking to better understand early education in Missoula. Organizers of the LAB school explained how they encourage active learning, with children free to move from messy art activities, to organized tea parties, to basic wooden blocks in the classrooms. Areas are organized with posters explaining the purposes of activities to both encourage early literacy for students and better explain the value of them to parents and educators.

Sidney High School student becomes senator for a week

Ella Norby, a senior at Sidney High School, was chosen for American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Girls Nation where she and other young women across the country spent seven days gaining first hand experience in how the federal government works in the nation's capital. From July 22 to July 28, Norby and other participants became 'senators' submitting bills and resolutions, participating in senate sessions, and electing officials such as president and vice president.

Safe Routes to School- Walk 'n Wheel Wednesdays, Fit Fridays, begin Sept. 6

With issues ranging from childhood obesity to environmental pollution to rising fuel prices, families are rethinking how they travel, including the daily trip to school. Although walking and biking to school happens throughout the school year, this year's official kick-off of Walk n' Wheel Wednesdays begins Wednesday, Sept. 6 and Fit Fridays on Sept. 8. The City of Shelby, School District#14 and Toole County Sheriff's Office Safe Routes to School group have been working for over 16 years to create a fun, educational program encouraging our young people to walk and/or bike to school. Walk n' Wheel Wednesdays and Fit Fridays are key elements in Safe Routes to School activities. During September and October, and again in April and May, adults are stationed at locations within the community to walk and/or bike with kids to school. Walking school buses, as they're called, begin at the former Shelby Middle School, and intersection of Sheridan and Oilfield Avenues. The walking school buses leave the Middle School at 7:35 a.m. and the intersection at 7:45 a.m 

St. Ignatius expands gym and focuses on academic achievement

St. Ignatius School District welcomed students back Aug. 23 to several building improvements and a renewed focus on academic achievement. Jason Sargent, who is headed into his eighth year as district superintendent, says the district has completed multiple building projects. The major improvement is an extension to the school's gym that will expand the just over 600-seat gym to 1,200 seats. Other additions to the gym include a new air exchange that will give better ventilation to the newly expanded space. The district also added pickleball courts and redid the tennis courts on campus. Other building projects included improving some of the technical skills rooms such as making the shop classroom bigger and pouring fresh concrete into that space as well. Sargent also mentioned many general improvements such as adding new cabinets in the elementary school and cleaning up the bathrooms and hallways.

Ronan Schools prep for school year with building improvements and teacher training

Ronan School District swings into the upcoming school year with an emphasis on facility improvement and teacher development. School begins with an open house 4-6 p.m Aug. 28 and students return Aug. 29. Ronan School District superintendent Mark Johnston had, much like many other Lake County superintendents, a busy summer planning for the upcoming school year and many new developments with the biggest being a new heating system. The high school switched from steam heat to electric heat which will basically eliminate any type of leakage from the heating process. Johnston also mentioned the first phase of a two-phase project that will change the entrances to some schools by adding metal detectors. Many schools, including those in neighboring Missoula County, have implemented similar devices to improve school safety. Johnston also mentioned a new fob system that will improve security in classrooms.

Gov. Gianforte visits Stanford School

As part of his statewide, 56-county tour, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte welcomed students, teachers, and administrators back to school at Stanford Public Schools earlier this week on Wednesday, August 16. "Susan and I wish all young Montanans heading back to school this month a productive and fun year," Gianforte said. "We'll continue to advance commonsense reforms to support teachers, empower parents, and help students reach their full potential." The governor is intentional in spending much of his time interacting with the people across the state. "I learn more about the needs of Montana when I am out visiting with the people," said Gianforte. "We are hearing of some good things going on at the Stanford School."

Lavina School goes 'beef' to school this year

Lavina School invited everyone to their annual back to school ice cream social. But they also had something extra to celebrate. Local ranchers had collaborated to keep the school stocked with prime beef for the next year. A feat that has huge impacts on the Levina community but is also a huge task to take on. K.J. Fauth, a local rancher, and one of this year's donors said that what "we are asking these ranchers for quite a bit especially on a high market year like this. We are in historical market prices and I think sometimes on an off year ranchers are going to be more likely to donate and say 'yeah I'm ok with this, I'm ok if we let this steer go or this open heifer' and now it's a little more crucial you are kind of tapping into their livelihood but people just open up their hearts they are providing of beef, but again that's something we are raising we are having to background as far as feed, getting them in that condition so that they are ready to butcher and then of course that takes several months and then we are hauling them to the plant to get processed and then that's how we fill those freezers." 

Havre High marching band prepares for school year

Havre High School band teacher Cullen Hinkle has been working with high school students, in grades 9-12, to get ready for the start of the school year. Hinkle directed the marching band camp that began July 31 and ran every weekday until Aug. 10 to help begin fine-tuning the students. Hinkle moved to Montana from Louisiana and started as the Havre High band teacher at the beginning of the 2020 school year. One of Hinkle's stories is about the pep band students traveling to Missoula in 2022 to perform for their basketball teams at the state play-offs.

Helena Public Schools: Committed to communication

Since I was named superintendent of your Helena Public Schools two years ago, I've made communication a top priority for our district and a personal commitment for me. Our district receives tremendous support from our Helena community. Support is born of trust; trust demands communication. I'm grateful to our community partners at the Helena Independent Record for this opportunity to start the new school year with a new, monthly column here in the IR. I look forward to keeping you up to date as we build on last year's successes and seize new opportunities in the 2023-24 school year and beyond. In this Saturday's issue of the IR, you'll also find the 2023-24 Helena Public Schools calendar. We took a new approach with this year's edition, which includes a full sports schedule and is jam-packed with information about our district – everything from school safety, to technology, to how to volunteer. The calendar will be available in print and online, so be sure to pin it to your fridge or save the link or both. 

MCPS superintendent discusses new school year

Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Micah Hill is starting his 27th year in education. In that time, he's learned that the most important thing for a school are the people that keep it running. "Across the board it's always about the people," Hill said. "We're in a people business." Hill previously worked as the superintendent for Kalispell Public Schools. He made the leap to Missoula for family and new opportunities. The job has changed since he started as an english teacher and moved onto administration. Now there's more pressure than ever on teachers – that's one thing he hopes everyone can keep in mind when going into the school year.

HHS athletes work for Community Service Day

Hamilton High School athletes worked on a Community Service Day as a thank you to a supportive community on Friday. The weather cooperated as it was overcast and cooler than the day before which was hot and sunny. As different teams worked throughout the community HHS Bronc football players worked on pulling weeds off the sidewalks and curbs of Main Street. Senior Tyson Bauder plays quarterback and sees the need to thank the community. "Today we are here pulling weeds as a team," he said. "We're helping the community out by making it a better place for everyone to stay." Running back and Linebacker Andrew Frederick praised the team for helping the community. 

Montana Digital Academy offering new Artificial Intelligence course to high school students

English, math, and science are some of the core subjects we're familiar with in school, but as technology advances - so do the courses offered in the classroom. Two leaders at the Montana Digital Academy (MTDA) say bringing Artificial Intelligence to schools is an opportunity to embrace the future. "Fall 2023 represents a really important time in the way schools are responding to artificial intelligence," said MTDA executive director Jason Neiffer. The MTDA offers more than 100 courses to students K-12 across Montana, which might not be available to their local school. 

Canyon Creek School planned to cut activities - until it received a gift

The tiny Canyon Creek School District west of Billings hasn't passed a mil levy in more than 25 years. And when its latest levy failed last fall, school leaders met to make tough choices about what to cut this school year. They settled on trimming activities like field trips and athletics, "anything considered extra above academic programs," said district Superintendent Brent Lipp. Someone in the community heard about the cuts and mentioned it when he bumped into Brandon Scala, senior vice president of business development at Valley Credit Union. And then Valley got out its check book, gifting the school just over $22,000 to support activities. Canyon Creek has 260 kids in a district you'd think would be swimming in money with all the high-end homes going up on the far West End. But, while the school is in a high-toned area, the district draws mainly from the rural, lower-income areas south of Interstate 90.

New MCPS superintendent focused on connections, student success

Micah Hill attended at least 14 different schools during his childhood, much of which was spent in foster care. It was in the schools that he found his life changed, teaching him things like grit and perseverance beyond the normal subject matter of the curriculum. He owes his current role, as incoming superintendent of Missoula County Public Schools, to the relationships he found in his classrooms. "The connections I made with teachers, coaches and adults who saw someone who was worth investing in helped define my trajectory and my passion for education," Hill said. He's now spent more than 25 years in public education. As the new school year approaches at MCPS, he's looking to focus on building relationships in the schools and community, improving school safety and bolstering support for staff.

Helena Native youth receive laptops courtesy of AT&T, Helena Indian Alliance

AT&T with the help of the Helena Indian Alliance, the Montana Consortium for Urban Indian Health and the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce distributed laptop computers to 50 local students Wednesday. More than 100 refurbished laptops will be given to students and families across Montana as part of AT&T's goal to help bridge the digital divide, company officials said. The laptops, funded by an AT&T donation, were refurbished by Los Angeles-based Human-I-T, a nonprofit that converts corporate e-waste into devices for those left on the wrong side of the digital divide. The local recipients are clients of the Helena Indian Alliance, who receive a laptop and digital literacy resources "to help them fully participate in our digital world," an AT&T news release states. In rural Montana, many students don't have digital basics at home, including access to the internet, computers or skills needed to benefit from the online world, an issue known as the digital divide.

Help to 'Stuff the Bus' and help a student in need get ready for school

For many Great Falls families, buying the basics to get their children ready to start school is a struggle. According to Great Falls Public Schools two in five local students live in poverty, and more than 500 of the district's 10,000 enrolled students are homeless. All but one of the district's 15 neighborhood schools has a food pantry or fills backpacks with food for kids to take home on the weekends. To help, United Way is collecting school supplies and living essentials as part of its annual "Stuff the Bus" drive on Thursday, Aug. 10. More than 100 volunteers will be at one of three yellow school buses donated by Big Sky Bus Lines in the parking lots of Target (2000 10th Ave. S.), the north side Walmart (701 Smelter Ave. NE), and the east side Walmart (5320 10th Ave. S.) between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Nearly 200 gather in Helena for 4th annual Jeremy Bullock Safe Schools Summit

Nearly 200 people met Tuesday at a Helena elementary school to kick off a two-day summit geared toward school safety, bringing together educators, law enforcement and other professionals whose common goal is to make campuses more secure for everyone. This year's theme for the fourth annual Jeremy Bullock Safe Schools Summit is "Growing Your School's Safety Culture. The event was held at Central Elementary School in Helena. It's the first time it has not been held in Butte, the town where 11-year-old Jeremy Bullock was living in 1994 when he was fatally shot by a classmate on the playground of Margaret Leary Elementary School. 

Sister city teen exchange revving up in Missoula, Germany

When a teacher in Germany recently asked her students who might be interested in visiting Missoula, all of the class's hands went up. The enthusiasm represents a growing interest in reinvigorating a cross-cultural exchange program between Missoula and her German sister city, Neckargemünd. "There is lots of room for growth," said Arts Missoula GLOBAL Director Udo Fluck, who spent time in Germany this summer promoting the program. "In all of that, spreading goodwill and peace among cultures and nations in a very unique and enjoyable way." The connection between Hellgate High School and educators in Neckargemünd began 30 years ago, but the initiative faltered with the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, Fluck explained, the original founders of the sister-city movement started creeping into their 70s and 80s. With the exchange sputtering, Fluck saw an opportunity to breathe new life into the project. 

The BSHS Pioneer Wagon has a Unique History of Its Own

With discussion of the impending upgrades to the north side of the High School, I found myself wondering where the Big Sandy Pioneers wagon came from and when it was initially installed in the courtyard. An inspection of the wagon itself makes it obvious that it was a working covered wagon at one time. My research into the wagon's origin began with a series of phone calls to Big Sandy alumni and long time staffers. The universal response was uncertainty. Most off the alumni said that the wagon was installed after they graduated. The staff all commented that it was added before their time. One of the repeated remarks related to a plaque that used to be on the wagon announcing who had donated it.

Big Timber Student named excellence award winner

Sydney Hansen of Big Timber was recently honored with the Student Excellence Award Winner at MSU-Northern. Sydney is an Elementary Education Major. According to MSU-Northern, Sydney strives for excellence in everything she does. In addition to exceptional academic performance overall, Sydney has been a strong contributor to the women's basketball team, showing her exemplary skill as a leader on and off the court. Sydney is a two-time Academic All-Conference selection and will be named an Academic All-American for the second time at the end of this semester. Additionally, Sydney devotes time every year to a significant number of service projects on and off-campus. Of her leadership, her nominator wrote, "Sydney was the vocal leader on the team, but she is also a great leader by example. She does things the right way and earned the respect of not only her teammates, but her opponents as well."

STEM program offers youth extracurricular opportunities

If a person was stranded on a deserted island, with nothing but some pliable material, and a roll of duct tape, how would they make a water holding container that could stand upright, as well as hold 1,000 milliliters of water? This is one of several questions posed to the stranded class in the Coding for Kids program. Exercising their creativity, engineering and designing skills, participating youths must work through several problems during the five-day summer class.

Jeremy Bullock Safe Schools Summit to be held in Helena

National, regional and state experts in school safety are set to meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Helena at the fourth annual Jeremy Bullock Safe Schools Summit. The summit is geared toward school safety teams and professionals who work at improving safety within educational institutions. This year's theme is "Growing Your School's Safety Culture."  The annual event has been established in memory of Jeremy Bullock and his shooting death by a classmate at the Margaret Leary Elementary School in Butte on April 12, 1994. The event will be at Central Elementary School in Helena, 402 N. Warren St. Registration is still open, either online or onsite. More information, as well as registration details, can be found at:

PEO awards scholarship to Flathead senior

Kalispell's Chapter BN of the women's Philanthropic Education Organization has selected Flathead High School senior Kenna Anderson as the recipient of the $2,500 International P.E.O. STAR scholarship for the 2023-24 academic year. The scholarship recognizes the accomplishments of graduating high school young women planning to pursue post-secondary education based on leadership, academics, extracurricular activities, community and volunteer service, and potential future success. Anderson was in the National Honor Society, earned a 4.0 GPA and an International Baccalaureate diploma. She was involved in speech and debate, Model United Nations, She-Ra Book Club and mentor program, science club, competed in fairs and Science Olympiad, Spanish club, poetry club, volunteered and had a summer job at Flathead Pet Emergency.

Students learn to 'Share The Road'

In an effort to increase awareness while hitting Montana's roads, driver's ed students in Great Falls got the chance to go behind the wheel of a semi-truck to gain a deeper understanding of safety while driving. Referred to as "Share the Road," the Montana Trucking Association hosted the demonstration at CMR High School with the goal of giving the students a unique, hands-on experience before they get their driver's license. This is the first time the program was hosted before the Covid pandemic. The program is hosted in various cities across Montana.

JULY 2023 Great News

Tribes will have a larger voice in the state Indian Language Preservation program

Montana tribes are closer to gaining more authority in a state program designed to preserve Indigenous languages. The state Office of Public Instruction last week released draft revisions to the Montana Indian Language Preservation program, which was created a decade ago to provide funding to help tribes stem the tide of language loss. The proposed revisions implement a bipartisan law sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy of Box Elder passed during this year's legislative session. Windy Boy says the changes include new curricula and increased tribal involvement in Native language instruction across all Montana schools. "I wanted the tribe to have a seat at the table," Windy Boy told MTPR. The Legislature also made the program part of the state's ongoing budget, meaning lawmakers will no longer have to advocate for the program to continue every two years. Nine Indigenous languages are spoken within Montana, at least three of which were critically endangered as of 2019, according to the Montana Budget and Policy Center and the United Nations.

Ronan students join 'Paint the State' education effort

Six Ronan Middle School students have tossed their hats into the ring for this year's "Paint the State" art competition with each creating artwork with anti-meth messaging that's displayed in various locations in Ronan. RMS teacher Bill Becker recruited Anaka Hardy, Anastasia Hertz, Kailyn Marengo, Loren Olson, Rayna Tonasket and April Uhrich to join the competition as part of a new elective class he began teaching this year.  "I'm a math teacher in Ronan and I have been for 13 years, so this is the first year I've ever taught an elective," Becker commented. "Our whole theme was just basically 'why not?' Why not try everything we can try to make ourselves smarter, to showcase our talents and things like that … I've just been out there looking for things to challenge our best and brightest."

Plains welcomes new school superintendent; board reviews bus contract

Plains School Board of Trustees welcomed the new District No. 1 Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Walsh during their July meeting. Walsh brings to the superintendent position a Ph.D in school administration and moves to Plains from the New York City area. She has roots in Western Montana through her husband, Denis Munson, who grew up in the Eddy Flats area and graduated from Thompson Falls in 1957. The board's major discussion was about the school bus contract with Revier Transportation. The lengthy discussion revolved around how the cost per mile was figured by the school district for extracurricular activity bus usage. Chad Revier, owner of bus company, requested that the per-mile figures need to change to recover a loss in revenue. The board agreed to increase the cost per mile over 17,000 miles from $1.80 per mile to $2.40 per mile.

School fair exhibits on display at Central Montana Fair

Stained glass, dioramas, pencil drawings, wire art, and student reports are among the projects created by Central Montana students and on display at the Trade Center this week. Stop in to view our students' creativity and see what they worked on last school year. The projects were created by students from Ayers, Deerfield, Spring Creek Colony, Denton, Grass Range, Roy, Winifred, and Winnett Schools. There are 458 projects created by students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Charlo Schools ready for new year with improvements, new hires

Charlo School District 7J is preparing for a school year with lower enrollment and fewer teachers, but a revamped HVAC system represents a major improvement for the small rural school. "We had some great things going on and we also had some big challenges," Charlo Schools superintendent Steve Love said of last year. "We got through it like we always do, and every school year's different and every school year has its challenges." Love said he is working through obstacles that have impeded the school's progress since 2020 in filling jobs. Retirements contributed to many of those job vacancies. "We had some tremendous employees retire last year," Love said. "It is extremely difficult to replace the type of people who retired – in the job climate we have now it just seems almost impossible." However, Love said that there are incoming teachers who will help alleviate those losses.

Family donates bronze sculpture to Jefferson Elementary School

The Wilbur and Karen Wallace family donated a Pamela Harr sculpture to Jefferson Elementary School in May. According to Karen, the family made the donation for several reasons. The first, they wanted to show its appreciation to the teachers and librarians who have instilled a love of reading in their granddaughters. "Wilbur and I are supporters of Pamela Harr's work and love what she does for our community," Karen added. Last but not least, Harr used the Wallaces' granddaughter Scarlett Smith as a model for "The Library Cat." The life-size sculpture will eventually be on display in Glendive. Nine-inch castings of the sculpture are available through Harr and Bridger Bronze. Karen noted that Scarlett as the model was not planned. The seven-year-old was with the Wallaces at the Zonta Rent a Table last fall when Harr asked Scarlett if she could take her picture for a new sculpture she was thinking of doing.

Dino Shindig speakers share latest fossil research and fossil collecting skills 

From the youngest to the oldest attendees at the Dino Shindig July 22-23 in Ekalaka, the participants were fascinated by the speakers from all over the world sharing their latest research and collecting skills. The younger attendees were learning the names of common dinosaur species by coloring masks, viewing the exhibits in the museum and digging in sand for treasures. The older participants were digging alongside experts at active fossil field sites in Carter County.

Cut Bank Education Foundation and Alumni Association Announces Scholarship Winners

Congratulations to the 2023 Cut Bank Education Foundation & Alumni Association (CBEFAA) Cut Bank High School Alumni Scholarship award recipients! We are so proud of all of our CBHS alumni and love to see Cut Bank Wolves making a difference in the world!

Math problem-solving camp for middle and high schoolers set for Aug. 14-16 at Montana State

Montana middle and high school students passionate about advanced math are invited to attend the Mathematics Circle Summer Camp Aug. 14-16 hosted by the Science Math Resource Center at Montana State University. Participants will immerse themselves in math problem-solving challenges, tour innovative university labs, and engage in fun science, technology, engineering and mathematics

Event set to meet new HPS superintendent, ed foundation director

People have a chance this week to meet face-to-face with two new leaders in the Havre public schools system. A community meet and greet is set Thursday for Havre Public Schools' new superintendent, Brian Gum, and the newly appointed executive director of the Havre Public Schools Education Foundation, Krystal Steinmetz. The event is scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. in the Havre Middle School foyer Thursday. "(Havre Public Schools) is dedicated to providing exceptional education opportunities and cultivating an environment that fosters success for all students," a release about the event said. "In line with this commitment, the district is proud to welcome Gum as the new superintendent, bringing a wealth of experience and forward-thinking approach that will further elevate the educational landscape in Havre. 

Glacier librarian hits the road to learn about the auto industry

Kerrie More is not an automobile industry scholar - yet. She recently spent a week in Indianapolis learning about a part of history that shaped the everyday lives of Americans. The longtime Glacier High School librarian and media specialist was accepted to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture workshop. The workshop titled "The Democratization for the Automobile Industry: Construction, Culture, and Preservation," organized by the Ball State University history department, will teach educators about the historical and cultural significance of cars and the role of the Midwest car parts industry. Experts in the fields of preservation, history, manufacturing, and museums will address the intersection of labor, race and place at historic and modern sites. Fellows will visit to learn about the components of autos used by people for work and leisure. 

High school students get taste of college life at Montana Tech

High school students from Butte, Anaconda and Helena are getting a head start on preparing for college thanks to Montana Tech's Upward Bound summer program. Forty students ranging from incoming high school freshmen to seniors gathered at Butte's East Middle School on Monday to present their summer research projects created as part of a six-week academy through the program. This initiative, paid through U.S. Department of Education funds, allows youth from underprivileged backgrounds to receive a small weekly stipend and the opportunity to work alongside college faculty and get a true taste of college life, including dorm living and a variety of classes.

'Favorite part about myself:' Laurel teen shows TikTok what life without legs is all about

Addison Benson went viral on TikTok just by being herself. The 15-year-old Laurel girl recently got her driver's license and won a state softball championship. She's an avid Gilmore Girls fan and loves clothes shopping, especially from online outlet Shien. She posts TikTok videos showing off her new outfits and goofing off with friends, and sometimes she posts jokes about her legs. She answers questions she gets about her prosthetics, and she has a collection of videos titled "no feet :)." With more than two million likes on her TikTok account, videos joking about her limbs have exploded in views, some filled with comments asking how she is so happy and if it's OK to laugh at her jokes.

Flathead senior winner of car giveaway awarding students

Flathead High School senior Hadley Dennison is the recipient of Hyundai Accent as part of Clark Hyundai's Car for a Star event. The winner of the car is randomly selected from all participating high schools from the Flathead Valley. In order to be eligible, students must be in good standing with their schools and have achieved a 3.5 GPA or higher and attend the drawing at the Clark Nissan/Clark Hyundai dealership in Kalispell. Dennison has established herself as an impressive presence in the world of Acting Speech Theater at the Flathead Theater department, according to a release. She is also attending the esteemed Oregon Shakespeare Festival with her theater group. In addition to her theatrical pursuits, Hadley contemplates a future in criminal justice or psychology, showcasing her broad interests and desire to explore diverse fields. Despite pandemic-related delays, Dennison has also set a personal goal to obtain her driver's license.

Longtime friends, WHS grads head solar business in Whitefish

Two friends and former soccer teammates with a mutual interest in sustainability and renewable energy have joined forces once again, this time to help the valley turn on to solar power. Northstone Solar's CEO, Curran Edland and CCO, Thomas Clark have experience working together, as they were co-captains of Whitefish High School's 2013 state championship soccer team during their senior year. Now their goal is to educate people about renewable energy while installing solar panels at residences and businesses across the valley. In 2019, Edland worked at Northstone Solar with the company's founder, Lee Calhoun. After about two years of learning the business, Edland purchased the company. One of his first big jobs was the solar energy system that graces the roof of Nelson's Ace Hardware in Whitefish. At that time, Clark, the head soccer coach for the varsity girls team at Columbia Falls High School was also working as a journalist.

Evergreen Elementary School Awarded Grant for Student Safety Training

Evergreen Elementary School will receive $20,592 to support student physical and emotional safety programs through the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) Stronger Connections Grant Program. Evergreen is one of 25 districts across the state set to receive Stronger Connections Grants, which will address substance abuse, community and school violence, mental health issues and bullying in districts throughout Montana. "As I have said many times, our children are our most precious resource," OPI Superintendent Elsie Arntzen said in a Tuesday press release. "This grant reflects my Montana Hope initiative which focuses on student mental wellness and family and community engagement. Safer learning environments lead to higher rates of student success." Evergreen Superintendent Laurie Barron said that the grant will be used to implement professional training in "evidence-based activities, programs and practices that support physical and emotional safety," which will be specifically designed for classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, coaches, administrators and school counselors. Programs will focus on relationship building, reducing the use of exclusionary discipline practices, trauma-informed classroom management, preventing bullying and harassment and schoolwide positive behavior interventions.


MSU Billings professor leads Hardin students in an investigation of water

Montana State University Billings College of Education Assistant Professor Elaine Westbrook, Ed.D., recently led Hardin students in a month-long investigation into the importance of water, culminating with a presentation in the community. The Hardin Intermediate After-School Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Program partnered with Westbrook to research local water sources and the impacts of water on the Hardin community. During a three-part workshop over the month, students were able to learn about the movement of water, interview community members on their knowledge about local water, and develop a poster presentation featuring their gained knowledge.

TrailWest Bank provides financial literacy education

Financial literacy education is coming to students and residents in western Montana thanks to TrailWest Bank. Students at 16 schools will benefit including Victor Middle School, Victor High School, Daly Elementary School, Victor School, Darby School and Darby grades 7-8. Students will have free access to Banzai, an award-winning online program and content library that allows users to practice real-world finance using any internet-enabled device. Victor Superintendent Diane Woodard said the free programming is a boost. "Our new Social Studies teacher Michelle Meyer will be teaching economics as a requirement for all seniors per the new legislation to be implemented one year from now," Woodard said. "We will begin this 2023-24 to be ahead of the game."

High Schoolers learn democracy at Montana American Legion's Boys State

HELENA - The Montana American Legion Boys State brought over 43 high school students from all over Montana into the Capital City this week. The Montana American Legion Boys State's mission is to teach high school junior boys the fundamentals of government; from city, county, and state.


The link between volunteering and academic performance

There are many reasons for parents to encourage children who express an interest in volunteering. Volunteering is a social activity that can help children develop their social and networking skills, and many parents credit volunteering with instilling a sense of perspective in their children that they might not have gained had they not been exposed to people from different backgrounds. Volunteering also has been linked to stronger academic performance.

JUNE 2023 Great News

Flathead speech and debate earns top awards at nationals

Flathead High School Speech and Debate recently competed at nationals in Arizona with two individuals taking second and fourth place and the team earned the 2023 School of Honor Award.


Flathead auto students complete decades-long Model A build

When Flathead High School automotive students realized the 1928 Ford Model A was finally completed after decades of work, it was a moment of excitement and relief.


Helena Public Schools flying high after $100K in grants from Boeing

Helena Public Schools is working to expand real-world training capacity for its students, and $100,000 in grants from Boeing is helping that along.

MFU Foundation awards Havre High $7,500 for ag programs

Community projects focused on education and agriculture around the state recently received a boost from the Montana Farmers Union and its funding foundation, which awarded nearly $30,000 in grants this month, including a grants to build a greenhouse and expand agricultural classes at Havre High School.


Troy educator nominated for teacher of year award

Local educator Anita Winslow has been nominated for the 2024 Montana Teacher of the Year award. Winslow, who teaches at W.F Morrison Elementary School, recently spoke to The Western News about her experiences in education. "I've always said 'I didn't choose to teach. Teaching chose me,'" Winslow said. According to the state Office of Public Instruction, the award recognizes teachers who elevate student success, empower innovation and enhance teacher leadership. "The Montana Teacher of the Year Program is an incredible opportunity for our teachers to be recognized and celebrated by their community and state, in doing so, bring awareness to the exceptional and passionate educators in our wonderful state and the children and families who deserve them," said 2023 Teacher of the Year Catherine Matthews.

Students, landowners using insects to kill noxious weeds in Jefferson County<o:p></o:p>

In a remote corner of Jefferson County between Townsend and Three Forks, high school students, a landowner, and some tiny insects are using an elegant method to get rid of noxious weeds in the area. Elegant, says Todd Breitenfeldt, a former high school teacher and current leader of the biological weed control program, because you are using the plant's own enemies against them as opposed to other methods like chemical sprays and goats.

High-schoolers get free, hands-on materials engineering experience at Montana Tech

After attending the week-long Materials Engineering Summer Camp at Montana Tech, which concluded Friday, incoming high school juniors and seniors from across Montana might tell you that they were "forged in fire. "Definitely not a blatant rip-off of the hit TV show Forged in Fire," Grant Wallace, a materials engineering research associate at Montana Tech, said jokingly to a room of around 30 high school students, media members and Tech graduate students and researchers.


Little Peeps program launches in Helena, provides free eye exams and glasses

Fourteen Helena-area students were given comprehensive eye exams and glasses – both free of charge – last month through the Little Peeps program, the first initiative of the nonprofit organization Mountain Health Gives. The students were identified as needing follow-up care after a vision screening by Helena Public Schools nurses, and care was provided by optometrists and opticians at Helena Vision Center. Children who were identified as needing care but were unable to participate during the clinic in May will be able to receive the service throughout the summer at Helena Vision Center. "Little Peeps has been a great resource for the nurses of Helena Public Schools," Helena school nurse Francis Leonard said. "It has granted access to vision care to our students who have not been able to afford eye exams or glasses." Last October, Mountain Health Gives received a gift of $750,000, directed to the organization by trial attorney and former Montana State Auditor John Morrison from the Butler Class Fund, to help launch Little Peeps.

Helena High team wins national award for computer game Harpoon Guy

The Helena High School Business Professionals of America computer science team described the computer game they created - which took second nationally at the Business Professionals of America (BPA) 2023 National Leadership Conference - as "a little man harpooning around," but Harpoon Guy is more complex than it sounds.

Three Kalispell teachers named educators of the year

Three educators were named Educator of the Year by the Kalispell Education Foundation. The educators are Edgerton Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Halle Fusaro; Kalispell Middle School health enhancement teacher Noah Couser and Glacier High School French teacher and International Languages Activities Coordinator Stephanie Hill.


Mariah's Challenge honors 20 local graduates

The Mariah's Challenge Scholarship Ceremony was held May 30 in the Montana Tech Library's auditorium. Twenty graduating seniors, all of whom abstained from illegal drug use and underage drinking, each earned a $1,000 scholarship to be used in the first year of attendance at a four-year college, trade school or vocational school. The students are Isaiah Bergren, Parker Brownback, Payton Clary, Tyler Duffy, Max Gallicano, Olivia Kohn, Aunika LeProwse, Gianna Liva, Chesney Lowe, Riley Lubick, Gabriella McPeek, Emma Meadow, Miranda Murray, Doug Peoples, Jasmine Richards, Jacob Sawyer, Madison Seaholm, Jonas Sherman, Ryan Tomich and Alex Watson. Mariah's Challenge was officially launched on Feb. 2, 2008, in honor of Mariah Daye McCarthy, 14, who was hit and killed by a 20-year-old drunken driver on Oct. 28, 2007. Mariah and two friends were walking to her home for a sleepover at the time. Her friends survived their injuries.

Eureka school project produces twin tiny homes

Over the past school year, students from Eureka High School have spent several hours each day inside a workshop north of town. They've driven nails, hung windows, put up sheetrock, sanded, primed and painted. With each step, raw materials partly purchased with federal COVID-19 relief funds have taken on the shape of two identical tiny homes: gray with single-sash windows and black trim, each fully wired and plumbed. The project has brought to fruition an idea that's been cooking in the mind of Eureka's school superintendent, Joel Graves, for several years. And next month, when both tiny homes go on the auction block, Graves intends for those proceeds to help fund a second year of his district's newest trades-based instructional endeavor. He sees the two tiny homes now nearing completion as merely the first in a series of investments in expanding the district's building trades education. "My hope is that we eventually will build one of these shops on our campus," Graves told Montana Free Press, referencing an infrastructure bond the district plans to put to voters this fall. "Right now, part of the reason I can only do two classes is because I have to bus kids out to the site and then bring them back and switch them in the middle of the day. So if we were on campus, I could probably do three two-hour classes instead of two three-hour classes."

Thompson SAR shares its mission with Libby youth

David Thompson Search and Rescue had a fun morning Friday with the Libby Elementary School second grade class as part of their field day. Members put on mini sessions to help them understand the role of their Search and Rescue organization which has been operating for 54 years. There were five stations, including the K-9 unit which works to help find lost people and the mountain unit which can set up rope systems that allow even a second grader to pull a truck easily. They also learned how to load a litter with a patient and move them over rough terrain as well as the effects of hypothermia by challenging them to pick pennies out of ice water for one minute.

Valier students get hooked on Montana

When Stacey O'Neal proposed entering the "Paint the State" art contest with her 7th & 8th grade classes, she didn't anticipate the level of talent and creativity that would emerge. Students submitted designs for a mural that would be painted on a prominent structure on the main drive through town, the car wash on Highway 44. "Paint the State is a program of the Montana Meth Project. The statewide public art contest engages Montana teens and adults in on-the-ground drug prevention. This summer, more than $100,000 will be awarded to winning participants including three $10,000 grand prizes! One entry could win up to $20,000. To compete, harness your passion and creativity to produce a monument-sized original public work of art that inspires drug-free lives and incorporates the Meth Project's "Not Even Once" message."

Troy High School Students Earn College Welding Certificates

Troy High School had ten high school students receive and pass their college certified welding test through Flathead Valley Community College. The leadership and knowledge from the two shop teachers, Mr. Thill and Mr. McClellan guided and inspired students to gain these certifications. The students celebrated with a steak lunch. Troy High School was the only school to get one hundred percent passing rate all on the first try. Only sixty five percent of students at FVCC pass this test.

Masons gift 26 Kindles to area elementary kids

Masons from Lower Yellowstone Lodge #90 in Sidney recently awarded 26 Kindle Fire7 tablets to elementary students representing 9 area schools in seven different communities. Students in Bainville, Culbertson, Fairview, Lambert, Poplar, Savage and Sidney were awarded the Kindles in recognition of their hard work as readers and leaders.

Student Read to Win Kindles

Thank you to the Masonic Unity Lodge #71 and The Grand Lodge of Montana AF & AM for sponsoring this reading program. Students in grades K – 6 read over the month of April and turned in tickets for the drawing.

Broadus Tree Board Sponsors Arbor Day

Mrs. Swenson's first grade class joined the Broadus Tree Board in sponsoring Arbor Day on May 19. Tree Board member Don Birkholz (pictured at, along with the first grade class and Swenson) led the preparation of the planting hole and the planting of a Haralson apple tree at the Powder River Manor. Students helped out enthusiastically by adding compost and soil and carrying water. Following the planting, Anne Amsden handed out Dr. Seuss pencils made of wood to each student and the class went inside to sing for the residents. The event was originally announced for April 28, the traditional Arbor Day (last Friday in April) but was twice delayed due to weather.

Charlo grad's lessons go beyond the classroom

From Montana, to Alaska to Texas, Charlo graduate Gus Shrider has traveled a long way – and surmounted challenges beyond those offered in the classroom or on the football field or track. Gus began his school journey attending preschool in Dixon, where his grandmother, Susie Loughlin, lived. As a kindergartner, he and his family moved to Alaska where his mom, Randi Shrider, taught in remote native villages and his father, James, worked for British Petroleum. The family moved often, and while that offered Gus an opportunity to meet new people, "it's hard starting over all the time," he said. "Every place is different – like this school is way different than all the other schools I've been to – it's a small school where everyone knows everyone." The Mission Valley is also a place with a rich family history. His mom, who teaches in the education division at Salish Kootenai College, was born and raised in St. Ignatius and graduated from Charlo High. His grandmother was also born in St. Ignatius and spent many years working for the Tribes prior to her death in 2022.

Ronan superintendent earns regional recognition

"If you surround yourself with the right people, good things happen," says Ronan Superintendent Mark Johnston. "You can't do it by yourself." Johnston was recently recognized by his peers in the western region of the Montana Association of School Superintendents as the area's Superintendent of the Year. The nod puts him in the running for Montana Superintendent of the Year – a title currently held by another Lake County administrator, Arlee Superintendent Mike Perry. The western region, one of nine, is comprised of around 40 school districts from Ronan to Darby, and Philipsburg to the Idaho border. Johnston first joined the Ronan School District in 2008 as vice principal at the high school. He was offered the job of middle school principal in 2010 and hired as superintendent in 2018. Johnston says his decision to become a teacher took root in his hometown of Butte, where he grew up in a trailer court, the son of divorced parents. He earned a full-ride wrestling scholarship to Montana State University in Bozeman, but "I bombed out after a year and a half and went back to Butte."

Hobson Teacher of the Year Janet Wichman

"Enjoy the sunrises and sunsets, And all that nature has to give. No more endless days and weekends at the school, You only have one life to live. Spend time with family and friends, They are the ones who really care. So never waste time wishing that you could have done much more…. It's time to watch those seeds you planted grow and trust God for what's in store." The above excerpt is from a poem read at the Hobson Kindergarten graduation last week while Mrs. Janet Wichman was presented an approximately 15-feet tall Canadian Chokecherry Tree from her last Hobson Kindergarten Class. She announced her retirement earlier this year. The Canadian Chokecherry has since been planted by Janet and her husband, Dave Wichman, at their home near Benchland. 

Small engine students roar on go-kart track

One can easily say that the first year of small engines at Superior High School was a game-changer for many students. "They are actually four-stroke certified once they graduate," said Matt Doughty, who put the curriculum together on a vision that he had with former superintendent Scott Kinney. "Scott liked the idea and between some special grant money and finding room in the bus barn, I had 27 students at the beginning of the year in three different periods," he said. Doughty was a student of Kinney's years ago when both lived in Plains and even played football and wrestled for coach Kinney, so their relationship was already solid when Kinney approached him to join the Superior school maintenance team last year. "That got my foot in the door and then we started exploring the curriculum for small engines," shared Doughty who had received his teacher's certificate by now. For a new program and curriculum, Doughty wanted it to be fun.

Reservation High School Powwows Honor Seniors

Mission, Ronan, and Arlee high schools held powwows to honor graduating seniors at the end of the school year. Mission high school seniors were honored on May 18 as they danced an honor song and were given gifts. Arlee seniors danced an honor song at their powwow on June 2 and were given gifts by the Indian Club. Several people were overjoyed to see powwows at the local high schools. Charlie Quequesah spoke about his own experience and hopes for the powwow held at Ronan High School on May 31.

NASA Lands in Roberts

Recently, Roberts School participated in 2 exciting NASA events. The first program was called the NASA AREN or National Aeronautics and Space Administration AEROKAT and ROVER program and it was held on Tuesday, May 16, at Roberts School. Roberts School enjoyed this special event because teacher Jen Larson met Suzi Taylor, of the MSU NASA program, at the Summer Institute teaching conference in Bozeman last summer. Taylor was leading a session on kites (AEROKATS) for science teachers. After the session was over, Larson introduced herself and asked if Taylor ever came to schools to do presentations. She said she would love to and mentioned that no one had ever asked her to do a school presentation before.

Unit 109 Names Poppy Poster Winners

In time for National Poppy Day, which was Friday, May 26, five Turner Public School (TPS) students were announced as 2023 Poppy Poster winners last month. American Legion Auxiliary (ALA), Unit 109 of Turner selected Isley Welsh, Gracie Zellmer, Savannah Heilig, Holly Grabofsky, and Meridian Snider as Unit honorees. Every year, the ALA sponsors a Poppy Poster Contest for students in grades 2-12, including students with special needs. Grade levels are divided into six classes with one winner being named in each category.

Native middle and high school students study STEM through program

Over 100 students will soon move onto the University of Montana campus and spend part of their summer vacation building their own computers, learning about color wavelengths and studying river ecology while floating the Clark Fork. The students will live like college freshmen – eating at the Food Zoo, going to class and learning about the environment around them – but none are older than a high school junior. It's the culmination of a year of hard work and anticipation for middle and high school students in the Montana American Indians in Math and Science (MT AIMS) program. The MT AIMS summer camp brings together students from Montana and beyond – largely from Native communities – to forge friendships, gain STEM skills and build pathways to college. 

MSU Billings professor leads Hardin students in an investigation of water

Montana State University Billings College of Education Assistant Professor Elaine Westbrook, Ed.D., recently led Hardin students in a month-long investigation into the importance of water, culminating with a presentation in the community. The Hardin Intermediate After-School Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Program partnered with Westbrook to research local water sources and the impacts of water on the Hardin community. During a three-part workshop over the month, students were able to learn about the movement of water, interview community members on their knowledge about local water, and develop a poster presentation featuring their gained knowledge. Students had hands-on opportunities to build a pump from PVC pieces capable of moving three gallons of water from one bucket to the next and talk with employees at the United State Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and Little Big Horn College Water Quality Program. 

Harlem High film group releases documentary on blood quantum

A group of students at Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and Harlem High School has continued its work to look at serious issues through film, with the recently released film "Blood Quantum" which premiered April 29 at the "Guiding the Way from Our Past into Our Future" student film festival held in Harlem. The release was a continuation of the work of Harlem High School's Milk River Productions, guided by the Montana group that provides professional media arts instruction, MAPS Media Institute. That collaboration has led to a series of films and recognition, including the Milk River Productions film about how the Fort Belknap Indian Community is working to preserve its Aanniih and Nakoda cultures, "Looking Forward From Yesterday" being featured in 2020 at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula and the Future Forward Film Festival in Portland, Oregon.

Student rides a horse to class on last day of school<o:p></o:p>

Montana has an old law saying if a student rides their horse to school, the school principal has to feed and tend to the horse throughout the day - or at least, there is an urban legend about such a law. But law or not, on a rainy Friday morning, West Elementary School student Dally Tigges and her parents slowly rode up First Avenue NW to the school on their horses. Friday was the last day of school for Great Falls Public Schools. "No!" Tigges quickly exclaimed when asked if she likes riding her horse in the rain. 

Corvallis shot put, discus rings a community effort

Partnerships are bringing throwing events into focus at Corvallis High School's Track. The Play Like Robert Foundation partnered with the RAPP Family Foundation to build competitive shot put and discus rings at the Corvallis Community Event Center. The goal was to bring shot put, discus and javelin closer to the track for more visibility, more crowd appreciation and more convenience for athletes. It also helps the athletes in those sports feel more involved in the track meets. The cost would have been around $10,000, but money from the Play Like Robert Foundation and RAPP Family Foundation along with volunteers made it possible at no cost to the school. 

Charting his own path: From PAL to the Navy

Helena Public Schools' Project for Alternative Learning (PAL) is graduating 23 students at 1 p.m. Friday at the Helena Middle School auditorium. HPS' Access to Success is graduating 36 students at the Helena Middle School auditorium at 9 a.m. on Friday. Kaleb Dullum arrived at PAL his sophomore year from Capital High School, and PAL gave him a renewed sense of hope for finishing high school. He said he would've dropped out without being accepted into PAL, a place he called a family.


Flathead High School senior finds resiliency in face of adversity

Flathead High School senior Jacob Fort has risen from the ashes of an abusive childhood and multiple placements in the foster care system with his kindness and compassion still intact.


Glacier High School senior thrives on helping others

Maggie Frisbee is a natural at connecting with people. Sitting in the foyer of Glacier High School, the senior often stops mid-conversation to say hello or smile at those who pass by. Frisbee served as a student aid for English teacher Carrie Power, who says she's exceptional because of how much joy she brings into a room.


Helena's C.R. Anderson Middle School wins $100K fitness center

C.R. Anderson Middle School had to flex a little creative muscle in order to be among three Montana campuses that will receive a $100,000 fully equipped fitness center in recognition of their promotion of fitness, healthy living and nutrition in their schools and community. Gov. Greg Gianforte said Wednesday that C.R. Anderson, along with Lodge Grass Elementary in Lodge Grass and Mission Middle in St. Ignatius, were the schools selected for the National Foundation for Governors' Fitness Councils' "NFGFC Don't Quit" campaign. As part of the application process, schools had to submit a video explaining why they deserved the equipment. Recipients were selected by National Foundation for Governors' Fitness Councils (NFGFC) for keeping their students fit. The fitness centers will be unveiled during ribbon cutting ceremonies this fall.

Bigfork High School senior perseveres through turbulent journey

Saying Bigfork High School senior Emma Dawson has dealt with a lot of heartache during her high school years would be a colossal understatement. Born with a hole between her right and left ventricle and a second hole in her aortic valve, Dawson battled her way through open-heart surgery and the subsequent recovery as a freshman, along with the rigors of Covid-19 pandemic, all without the benefit of a strong mother figure in her life. Life has never been normal for Dawson. As a young child, she spent much of her time in and out of various doctor's offices while having her heart condition constantly monitored. As she grew older, the hopes of the defects healing on their own did not materialize, but her doctors agreed to let her be more active and join youth sports activities, but results were mixed at best. "I played soccer and basketball just like every other kid, I just ran out of breath way easier than anyone else did. I would turn red because the murmur in my heart kept it from pumping as much blood as it should."


May 2023 Great News

Eureka school project produces twin tiny homes
Over the past school year, students from Eureka High School have spent several hours each day inside a workshop north of town. They've driven nails, hung windows, put up sheetrock, sanded, primed and painted. With each step, raw materials partly purchased with federal COVID-19 relief funds have taken on the shape of two identical tiny homes: gray with single-sash windows and black trim, each fully wired and plumbed. The project has brought to fruition an idea that's been cooking in the mind of Eureka's school superintendent, Joel Graves, for several years. And next month, when both tiny homes go on the auction block, Graves intends for those proceeds to help fund a second year of his district's newest trades-based instructional endeavor. He sees the two tiny homes now nearing completion as merely the first in a series of investments in expanding the district's building trades education. "My hope is that we eventually will build one of these shops on our campus," Graves told Montana Free Press, referencing an infrastructure bond the district plans to put to voters this fall. "Right now, part of the reason I can only do two classes is because I have to bus kids out to the site and then bring them back and switch them in the middle of the day. So if we were on campus, I could probably do three two-hour classes instead of two three-hour classes."

Paris Gibson Education Center graduates walk the stage
Its a time high school seniors have been preparing years for - graduation season is upon us, and it's a busy weekend for Great Falls Public Schools graduates. On Friday afternoon, a graduation ceremony was held for the Career and College Readiness Center. On Friday night, 97 Paris Gibson Education Center students donned their caps and gowns and walked across the stage at Montana Expopark to receive their diplomas, with scores of family and friends watching with pride.

Quick pics: Rocky Boy Celebrates graduation
Rocky Boy High School Class of 2023 Valedictorian Kellen Ryder Colliflower speaks Thursday evening in the high school gymnasium to his fellow graduates at the school's graduation ceremony. Colliflower thanked his fellow students along with many teachers for staying by his side through difficult times. While their paths may diverge as this part of their lives ends, he said, they will always have the experiences of being together. "After all the challenges, you have made it," he said. "You've shown what determination and perseverance looks like."

Columbia Falls High School senior pushes through grief to find strength
Columbia Falls High School senior Carli Harrah is ready for the next chapter. Facing grief head-on as an underclassman, she came out stronger on the other side and ready to pursue a career in the medical field. When she lost her father to suicide a couple of years ago, Harrah said it became very difficult to find interest in school. "At the time, I felt like I could have done better things to help with my mental state and I felt like school was just not helping with anything ... It was just hard being around people when something so big happens to you and they can't really go through it with you- they don't know what you're going through and nobody can really help," Harrah said. One of the only helpful things about school was chatting with Columbia Falls High Counselor Brian Crandell. "Carli is one of the strongest people I have ever met. She went directly at all the feelings and psychological baggage that come with a parent dying. She was open, candid, vulnerable and honest about just how much it hurt to lose her dad," Crandell said.

Whitefish High School senior finds opportunity in life's challenges
Amber Samuels, as her teachers describe her, has a profound impact on those around her. Likewise, Samuels, who will graduate from Whitefish High School on Saturday, attributes all the good experiences she has had in the school system to her teachers. "I'm definitely just really thankful for all of the teachers I have had," Samuels said. "They are amazing teachers." Samuels was born hard of hearing. Born in Kalispell and growing up in Whitefish, she often found it difficult to interact with other kids because she couldn't really understand them. At 6 months old, she got her first pair of hearing aids which she used up until the end of middle school. She was the first - and for a while the only - deaf student to go through the Whitefish school system.

Independent Elementary School teacher recognized by 'One Class at a Time'

Q2, Western Security Bank, City Brew Coffee and Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools have teamed up for "One Class at a Time." The program recognizes teachers who go above and beyond to help their students. Meet Jurell Lindford, a second-grade teacher who has done an amazing job building a loving and caring atmosphere for his students.

Bozeman, Big Sky students named U.S. Presidential Scholars
In May, two area high school seniors were recognized on a national level, being named as Montana's U.S. Presidential Scholars for 2023. Up to 161 students per year are named as presidential scholars, and it's one of the highest honors given to high school students. There is no associated prize or scholarship, but the winners will take the honor with them as they move forward in their academic lives. There were six semifinalists from Montana this year, and only two were from the Bozeman area. Around 60 students from Montana were nominated.

Something that lasts: Gallatin High breaks ground on new green space
As the school year winds down, students at Gallatin High School came out to play on Tuesday. Across the front and side yards of the school, ladder balls, bean bags, frisbees and spike balls flew through the unseasonably chilly air as students took advantage of Gallatin High's new green space. Members of The Democracy Project club "broke ground" on the space, which mostly involved posing with shovels to avoid digging up the grass.

Hundreds of local students take part in Girls on the Run 5K
More than 450 girls, spectators, volunteers and community members gathered on Sunday, May 21 for the Girls on the Run Flathead Valley celebratory 5K event, the culminating moment of the Girls on the Run season, aptly called the Super Power 5K. Donning brightly colored capes and masks, girls from nine elementary and middle schools across the Valley (including Edgerton Elementary School, Helena Flats Elementary School, Muldown Elementary School, Elrod Elementary School, Hedges Elementary School, Rankin Elementary School, Helena Flats Junior High School and Kalispell Middle School), as well as girls from the Boys and Girls Club of Flathead Reservation and Lake County in Ronan, gathered together at Edgerton Elementary School to celebrate the culmination of the spring Girls on the Run season

Strawberry fields are still forever at Bozeman High '60s Museum
Elvis is alive, and he's teaching at Bozeman High School. Alongside wife Priscilla, the king of rock and roll strode the halls on Monday, curling his lip at every 1960s historical or pop culture figure imaginable as the junior advanced placement classes put on the 19th annual 1960s Museum. The Presleys were played by Advanced Placement (AP) American Studies class co-teachers Jennie Tranel and Derek Strahn. The museum is part of an assignment that teaches students about different aspects of the historical decade that included Vietnam, the Cold War, civil rights protests, a presidential assassination and more.

Students from across Montana simulate NASA moon missions at MSU
Moon dust flew from under the tires of a home-built rover on Friday as a team of middle schoolers tested their wheel design on a simulated lunar surface. Nearby, a moon crater mock-up was taped to the floor so students could run their LEGO cruisers in and out as they collected "data" from inside the crater. Forty students from fifth to 12th grade had the chance to get a taste of what it's like to plan and execute a moon mission during the Rover Observation and Drone Survey (ROADS) event at Montana State University. The program is run through Northwest Earth & Space Sciences Pathways, funded by NASA through a grant intended to reach underserved and underrepresented students. Participants came from Thompson Falls, Roberts, Hardin and Missoula. They have all been working on their projects since January.

Log by log, middle school students build history lesson
Outside in a courtyard at Kalispell Middle School, a small log cabin - the handiwork of eighth-graders - is taking shape log by log. "All of the people coming out to Montana in the late 1800s would have built really similar structures with the trees from the landscape," says Montana History teacher Kris Schreiner as he opens an exterior door revealing the structure. The log cabin build is part of a homesteading unit the students are learning, which ties into other lessons Schreiner teaches on Montana's timber industry, mountain men and the fur trade. The 14 by 14 house, or "single-pen," meant close living quarters for pioneers and settlers with families. "This is everything," Schreiner said - living room, kitchen and bedroom. "They just needed a roof over their head to get ahead; to take advantage of the resources that we have in Montana to have a better life."

Bigfork history teacher gains perspective from travels
While Bigfork High School history teacher Cynthia Wilondek is passionate about the past, her own history is filled with interesting accounts of travels and jobs abroad that eventually led her back to Montana. "With teaching American history, it's really given me a broader perspective of our place in the world and our responsibility to it. You know, we do so many things so well and it's great to be able to kind of appreciate that both as somebody who lives here as well as somebody who's been abroad," Wilondek said. When Wilondek, who grew up in eastern Montana, graduated from Rocky Mountain College with a degree in history political science education she was ready for the opportunities life presented. While seeking a letter of recommendation from a college advisor to possibly participate in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, Wilondek ran into the dean of students who, coincidentally, was traveling to the college's sister school in Japan the following week.

Billings Public Schools helps honor 1908 graduate
Billings School District 2 placed a plaque at the Lincoln Center on Tuesday afternoon to honor Hazel Hunkins Hallinan, who helped get women the right to vote. It's part of the William G. Pomeroy Foundation's National Votes For Women Trail, which includes one woman from each state. The marker has the suffragette colors of yellow, white, and purple. Hunkins was the valedictorian for the class of 1908 when the Lincoln Center was known as Billings High School. She then went to Vassar College and the University of Missouri. Hunkins was instrumental in helping pass the 19th Amendment and getting women the right to vote.

A real page-turner: Radley Elementary School gets free books from family's nationwide tour
The creators of "The Cookie Chronicles" series are traveling the country on their Busload of Books Tour and giving away 25,000 copies of their books to Title I schools, schools with high poverty rates, in every state. East Helena was among the stops. "The Cookie Chronicles" is a young adult fiction series of five books that follows young Ben Yokoyama and the lessons he learns along the way from cracking open fortune cookies. Series creators husband and wife Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr and their four kids spent the 2022-23 school year traveling in a tiny home school bus. Their mission, by giving away books, is to spread awareness of the challenges facing public schools in America, such as budget deficits, the banning of books and more. The family stopped by Radley Elementary in East Helena last Friday to give away books on their Montana stop.

Bigfork student wins top writing awards
Bigfork High School student Wyatt Barnes is the 2023 Authors of the Flathead student writing competition winner for his poem "My Eyes Belong to Me." Barnes was awarded $300 and free tuition to attend the Flathead River Writers Conference in the fall. His poem was also forwarded to the Whitefish Review literary journal for consideration. This is not the first award Barnes has received for his writing. This year, he entered the prestigious Scholastic Art and Writing competition and won a Silver Key for his poem "Message in a Bottle" and honorable mention for "Captain's Log" for the West region at-large. "I've always been interested in writing," Barnes said, noting he makes an effort to sit down and write at least once a month outside of school work. "I do my best writing on my own outside of school," he said.

Box Elder Staff Appreciation Week a success
Box Elder Schools is finishing up today a new and improved Staff Appreciation Week, which their administration is hoping will give school employees a morale boost going into the end of the year.

Bozeman High speech and debate heading to Africa
If the Bozeman High School Hawkers speech and debate team win any more trophies, they may have to take over a second classroom. Their skills will take them to yet another national competition in mid-June. This year, though, the students' dedication to their craft doesn't stop at structured competition. Due to a kismet of events, 11 team members are headed to Tanzania this summer to teach other students and coaches how to become champion speakers and debaters. The trip came about from a chance meeting.

Como Schoolhouse celebrates National Register of Historic Places listing
With a recent Historic Preservation Award from the Montana Historical Society and a freshly minted listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the Como Schoolhouse near Darby sure has a lot to celebrate these days. Nestled among towering Ponderosa pine trees, not far from the banks of the Bitterroot River, the 120-year-old schoolhouse was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in December 2022. On May 21 at 6 p.m., the Como Schoolhouse Association will celebrate the designation with the dedication of an official plaque, marking the schoolhouse's place on the historic registry. The plaque was recently mounted on a boulder outside the historic schoolhouse. The event will serve as an unveiling to the community as well as an opportunity for people to tour the grounds and learn more about the local landmark.

Vucanovich scholarships benefit 17 seniors from Butte and Helena
This year's recipients of the George and Emily Vucanovich Educational Trust Scholarship Fund include Gianna Liva, Jack Prigge, Jace Stenson, Mia Keeley, Camille Kautzman, Ashlyn Burnett, Brooke Badovinac, Abby Mellott, Grace Vincent, Olivia Kohn, Bryn Godbout, Alexandria Kovnesky, Reid Whitlock, Payton Clary, Casey Merrifield, Keaton Snyder and Canyon Mullaney. Established in 2004, the scholarship fund benefits graduating seniors from Butte and Helena.

To college or not to college? More high schoolers looking at vocations
Grace Finley likes looking at people's faces and making them beautiful. "I like the feeling of a new haircut and a new color because you kind of feel refreshed and renewed and like you kind of have a new slate," she said. When Finley, 17, was in eighth grade, she dyed her own hair for the first time and was hooked. Ever since, she has been interested in making cosmetology her career after high school. Right now, she's in the HiSET (High School Equivalency Test) Options Program with Bozeman Public Schools. Like Finley, more graduating students in Bozeman are choosing not to attend a four-year college right away, and advisers say they're moving away from pushing college as the only option.

HHS Envirothon Team heads to international competition in Canada
A Hamilton High School Envirothon Team is heading to compete internationally in New Brunswick, Canada, after winning first place in the statewide competition.  HHS Envirothon Team coach Marie Antoniol and Birch Fett said four of the five students on the first-place team are able to travel to Canada, and they pulled in an alternate from a different team at Hamilton High. The Montana competition was at the end of April in Great Falls. Envirothon is a competition for high school students based in environment education involving range, soils, aquatics, wildlife and forestry. Students compete by taking tests about those topics and work toward solving current issues in the natural environment. Hamilton students study all year - learning the details of their focus topic. They work with mentors, take field trips and research for greater knowledge. The HHS team has been successful through the years thanks to dedicated professionals investing in youth.

Mining City History: Grant school principal led Montana Teachers' Association
Butte's public schools had a total enrolment of 7,245 in 1906, a significant increase over the 5,949 counted in 1900. The 3,761 girls and 3,484 boys were instructed by a total of 210 teachers, plus 14 principals and a substitute corps of 10, spread over 14 schools. The greatest enrolment in 1900 was at Lincoln School, with 909, but Grant was a close second at 885 students, and Grant was the most populous school in 1906. The six-month revenue for the district totaled $120,440.89 in 1906, derived from a county apportionment of $60,854, a state allotment of $35,481, the special Industrial School Fund of $15,709, and a library fund of almost $8,400. They also held a general fund of $125,000.

Incoming Park High freshman learn about activities and athletics
The enticing rhythm of the snappy Park High School jazz band could be heard from the school foyer on Wednesday afternoon as Band Director Garrett Stannard led on stand-up bass.

Students' berry nice idea comes to fruition: Huckleberry now state fruit
Behold the huckleberry. It's now Montana's official state fruit. Gov. Greg Gianforte signed House Bill 880 into law Wednesday to designate the huckleberry as the official fruit of Montana. It was a result of students at Vaughn Elementary School who pitched him on the need for bill. Gianforte credited the students for bringing the huckleberry bill to fruition. "Whether you like them in jam, pancakes, or picked fresh off the bush, huckleberries are a Montana staple," he said in a news release.

Bitterroot Valley Fourth Grade Farm Fair in photos  Youth from across the Bitterroot Valley got a taste of life on the farm at the The Fourth Grade Farm Fair on Friday, May 5 at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds.

Margaret Leary to conduct major safety drill Thursday  Margaret Leary Elementary School will be participating in a safety exercise today. The safety drill will simulate a fire, and all students and staff will be evacuated and taken to another location. Fire engines, police and emergency medical services will be on site to test their responses. One of the school's objectives is to test its reunification process that will be used to get students safely back with parents after an emergency situation

Reach Higher Montana gives away $40,000 in scholarships and prizes to high school seniors  The nonprofit Reach Higher Montana has given out about $40,000 in scholarships and prizes to Montana high school seniors this year as part of their Senior Send-Off contest. We are immensely proud of all the students who participated in the Senior Send-Off contest and commend them for their remarkable accomplishments," said Kelly Cresswell, executive director of Reach Higher Montana. "These scholarships and prizes represent our commitment to fostering access and equity in education, and we are honored to play a role in helping these exceptional students realize their potential."

Emily Dickinson Elementary earns Professional Learning Community status  When teachers collaborate, students win. That's the theory behind becoming a Professional Learning Community, or PLC, model school, an official designation given to schools that meet PLC standards. In late April, Emily Dickinson Elementary School received its PLC designation, becoming the second school in the state to do so. The other Montana school is also right here in Bozeman: Hawthorne Elementary.

One Class at a Time: Missoula English language tutor "Ms. Liz"
Missoula has welcomed refugee families from many different countries in recent years. While Montana might feel like a long way from home for incoming refugees, there is a local teacher who spends her days trying to make young students comfortable in their new homes. This week's One Class at a Time winner is Elizabeth Fullerton - Ms. Liz. She's a well-traveled and well-spoken English language learner tutor for Missoula County Public Schools. She speaks Spanish, Russian, a bit of Turkish, and more. "I also decided to study Arabic because I was really interested in it. And then after college, I had an opportunity to volunteer teaching English in Tajikistan, I worked in a language school that was actually for Afghans and then after that, I was in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan."

'Keep the medicine going': Polson teacher inspires boys to wear hair long
In 2021, when Rod First Strike was working as a cultural specialist at Linderman Elementary in Polson, he noticed a lot of kindergarten and first-grade boys were being teased for wearing their hair long. Hair holds significance in Indigenous cultures. It's seen as a source of strength, connecting Native Americans to their ancestors. And often, when a loved one dies, Native people may choose to cut their hair short to symbolize the profound loss. Some say long hair is a sign of resilience, as Native people were forced to cut their hair short as a form of assimilation in government-run boarding schools. And in some places, long hair remains controversial. A network of charter schools in North Carolina has a policy prohibiting male students from wearing long hair, and the Native American Rights Fund intervened, urging the school to "permanently remove the discriminatory and outdated assimilationist policy."

Farm Fair returns for Gallatin County fourth graders
Tuesday morning at the Brainard Ranch, some kids shook tin cans to make homemade ice cream while others practiced milking cows. Another group rode horse-pulled trailers to a hamburger lunch, while still others pored over photographs to identify noxious weeds. It was a busy day for the Gallatin County fourth graders - and the dozens of volunteers who are helping put on this year's Farm Fair. Organized by the Bozeman and Belgrade Chamber of Commerce agriculture committee, the annual Farm Fair invites all the fourth grade classes in Gallatin County for a day on the ranch.

Helena High School's state champ mock trial team headed for nationals
Not many teams compete against each other for the state championship, but Helena High School's mock trial teams did to win their fourth-straight state championship. And they are headed for nationals next week. "I really, really like the sense of community we formed this year and how walking into it, most of my team didn't know what was happening and we were able to raise a team that won state," said Malaina Kloberdanza, a senior and captain of the state championship team. "I think that the way we bonded this year is insane compared to other years, and without this weirdly uniquely put-together team we wouldn't have won." State competition took place on March 3-4 at Carroll College. Kloberdanza is the only member in the program who has done mock trial all four years of her high school career. She stated that her team had a member who had to drop out a week before state for medical reasons, which left three people walking into their first trial who had never done a run through for their roles. The fictional criminal case for state was about a stolen computer chip.

Bugs, birds and fish: Billings science classes learn outdoors
Red-winged blackbirds were trilling, captured carp were splashing and muskrats swam unafraid past Billings high school students gathering at the Shiloh Conservation Area on Monday. At a variety of stations around the park, led by several science educators, the students gathered information on bugs and birds to take back to the classroom for their ecology unit. The outings are spread out over three days this week to accommodate all of the ecology students. "A lot of these students have never gotten to do anything like this," said Sarah Lord, a Billings Senior High School science teacher. "There's value in being outside." The bird-watching unit started with the basics: how to use binoculars, take off the lens caps and look through the right end. They also began by simply listening to the different sounds made by birds circling the ponds or hanging onto the stalks of last year's crisp, brown cattails.

Belgrade High's cooking team competes in national competition
Culinary arts teacher Kortney Douma stood at the center of a whirlwind at Belgrade High School on Monday as 10 students banged pots and pans and found homes for bowls full of butter after their trip to Washington D.C. for the ProStart national cooking competition May 2-4. As the students' chatter mixed with the inspirational notes of Disney showtunes on the stereo, Douma talked of her pride and attachment to the juniors and seniors in her ProStart class, some of whom she has taught since they were in elementary school. ProStart has been running nationwide for 23 years and is a two-year culinary arts and restaurant management program for high school students. Each year, ProStart teams compete against others in their state for a chance at nationals in Washington D.C., where they compete against some pretty stiff competition.

Students explore Bitterroot river
Students from Hamilton High School's Classroom Without Walls program gathered along the banks of Hieronymus Pond in Hamilton on Wednesday to celebrate the culmination of months of work with the release of more than 100 rainbow trout fry they raised as part of a class science experiment.

99th Vigilante Day Parade strolls through downtown
It didn't rain on Helena's parade - even with rain in an early forecast and threatening skies in the morning. The 99th Vigilante Day Parade floated its way through downtown Helena Friday with 88 floats built by local high school students, portraying the history of the Helena area. The parade was first held in 1924 when Helena High principal Albert Roberts wanted to create a healthy outlet for class rivalry.

Box Elder Schools BPA team brings home national awards
Box Elder Middle Schoolers took home some national awards last week from the Business Professionals of America National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California, with four projects winning places at the top of their categories. <o:p></o:p>The event sees more than 6,000 middle school, high school and college students from around the U.S. compete in project categories ranging from web design and broadcast news to multimedia promotions and business planning in a series of events.

Making 'being smart cool again': 36 students compete in City Hall of Fame
Thirty-six elementary school students and a crowd of spectators gathered in the Butte High School Auditorium on Thursday for the Butte School District City Hall of Fame. Nik Weiss, a fifth-grader from West Elementary School, won the competition with 24,600 points

Trio of students appreciate Laurie Rossberg
<o:p></o:p>It's Teacher Appreciation Week at East Middle School and for the past few days, students have rolled out the red carpet for their educators. Thanks to the students, a hearty breakfast was served. They picked up the tab on a four-course lunch, and those small gifts and party favors that were handed out - well, that was all thanks to the students, too. Laurie Rossberg was among the nearly 60 teachers honored. The week has been bittersweet for the longtime educator, who will be closing out her career at the end of this school year. The classroom has been her home-away-from-home for more than 40 years. Rossberg, who has taught at East for 32 years, decided it was time to clean out her desk, which will take a while, and move on to her next adventure. She will be missed. Earlier this week, three eighth graders, Nimalka De Alwis, Harper Harryman and Lamar Watson, sat down to share just how much they have appreciated the Rossberg and the life lessons she has taught.

'This is huge for us': Arlee gets fleet of balance bikes
If it's true that once you learn to ride a bicycle you never forget, then Arlee's kindergartners won't forget May 3, either.  On Wednesday morning, Arlee Elementary School's three-dozen kindergartners were surprised with a fleet of brand new balance bikes donated to the school for a new learn-to-ride program. The bikes, which don't have pedals or training wheels, allow a child to propel themselves forward by walking with their feet astride the bike. As they develop a sense of balance, kids can lift their feet to coast forward and truly ride. The models donated in Arlee can be equipped with pedals once a child masters balance.

Bitterroot high school trade students connect to industry professionals
The Bitterroot Shedz School Trades Program is investing in valley students by connecting them to trade classes to expand their academic career paths. On Tuesday, Bitterroot Shedz delivered all the components for students to build a shed to Stevensville and Victor High Schools. Bitterroot Shedz Project Manager Sam Fawcett said the program is an outreach effort. "Essentially, it is Bitterroot Shedz giving back to the community," Fawcett said. "We want to be part of the community and we're helping build the community. Our motto is 'building the valley' and we want to help build the valley. For us it is about teaching the trades, getting people involved and providing opportunities."

'Napoleon Dynamite' producer visits Darby
Napoleon Dynamite" producer and children's book author Sean Covel visited the Darby School District and read from of his "Porter the Hoarder" book series recently. "The students were very familiar with the 'Porter the Hoarder' book series, as each of them had received a previous copy of a 'Porter the Hoarder' book through the Stock Farm Greater Ravalli Foundation, which supplies all the elementary schools in the valley with a Porter the Hoarder books," said Darby Superintendent Tony Biesiot. Covel later gave his "TED" talk to the community. The April 17 family engagement also included tater tot nachos to keep with the "Napoleon Dynamite" theme.  "Sean challenged the audience to change their mindset to 'how' rather than 'can' when asking their brain a question," Biesiot said. "In doing so he shared  engaging and very entertaining stories about his life, from producing 'Napoleon Dynamite' to being a hometown celebrity and being on the 'Price is Right.'"

Helena, Central Elementary celebrate Arbor Day with historic planting re-enactment
Central Elementary School third-grader Kamron Jones triumphantly waved two of the bright pink marking flags Helena Open Lands staff placed to designate sites for 150 ponderosa pine seedlings to be planted in the burn area on the northeast face of Mount Helena Friday as part of the city's annual Arbor Day celebration. Kamron and his friend and classmate Noah Riverman choose adjacent sites to plant their trees. The pair called them "buddy trees." Helena Open Lands Manager Brad Langsather said the planting sites were chosen for the afternoon shade they provide to the seedlings, and that some of the larger stumps left behind by trees burned in the August fire provided enough shade for two seedlings. "The friends have been planting their trees together," Langsather said. Following their success, Kamron and Noah scampered across the still-scorched mountainside, gradually greening with spring, to join another friend and check on his tree

Helena Public Schools joins with HPD for Handle with Care program
Helena Public Schools and the Helena Police Department have another way among many to better support students -- the Handle with Care program. "Knowing that a student has experienced a traumatic event outside of school will help us meet that student where they are emotionally when they return to the classroom," Helena Public Schools Superintendent Rex Weltz said in a news release. "While we won't know specific details of the event, we will be prepared to give the student the support they need to continue learning and succeeding at school." The program is a partnership that establishes a confidential protocol for law enforcement to notify school personnel if they respond to a traumatic incident that involves a student. The notification doesn't contain details about the traumatic event -- it only includes the student's name and the instruction "Handle with Care."

April 2023 Great News

Great falls students, schools honored as part of Month of the Military Child
Students, schools, and military personnel were honored Thursday as Great Falls Public Schools commemorated the Month of the Military Child at the Early Learning Family Center. The Purple Up Recognition Lunch, hosted by GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore, featured guest speakers from state and military leadership in Montana, including Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Elsie Arntzen and Mission and Support Group Commander Col. Christopher Karns of Malmstrom Air Force Base. Karns said he's had 13 assignments during his 28-year military career. In that time, his 18-year-old son has attended 10 different schools, and his 14-year-old son eight.

Art bringing Northern Cheyenne students 'closer together'
There are thousands of stories in a pair of shoes, from their origins to their ultimate decay. For students at Lame Deer High School, shoes have also become artistic muses. The assignment: Deconstruct and rebuild a shoe using new materials and forms. Not just any shoe, but Nike's iconic Air Force 1. Twenty-two pairs of blank new sneakers were donated to the high school through a partnership with Nike, Portland-based fashion designer Palani Bear Ghost, and Nike's N7 Fund, which provides grants to support positive experiences in sport and physical activity for Native youth. "I wanted to empower the students while working with them, inspiring them to tap into their imaginations and freedom of expression," said Bear Ghost, an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation whose grandmother was Northern Cheyenne. She is including student designs on fabric as part of an upcoming release through her fashion brand, No End Of Designs.

MCPS to host Native Youth Powwow honoring graduates
A Native Youth Powwow will honor 2023 graduates in Missoula. Missoula County Public Schools' Native American Student Services Department will host the event this Saturday at Sentinel High School. Grant entry takes place at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. The event is free and all are welcome.

Two Helena educators named finalists for highest government education award
Two Helena science teachers have been named state-level finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. "A lot of times it's isolating as an educator, and people don't necessarily see what you do every day," said Sarah Urban, a science teacher at Capital High School and finalist. "It's hard to get a whole picture of it, so an (award) is always surprising and exciting." The National Science Foundation administers the award on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Every other year, the applications alternate between kindergarten through sixth grade teachers applying and seventh through 12th grade teachers applying. In 2023, the applications were for seventh through 12th grade teachers. Megan Lane teaches science at C.R. Anderson Middle School and has taught there since 2004. Urban has taught at Capital since 2005.

Bozeman School District, United Way partner for summer camps
The Bozeman School District is partnering with Greater Gallatin United Way this summer to provide an early literacy camp for kids entering kindergarten. It's the district's first summer camp project in several years, said early literacy teacher Megan Roth. United Way's kidsLINK program puts on the camp, while BSD provides space and staff for the early literacy component through its Bozeman Reads program. The kidsLINK camp also includes activities for kids up to 5th grade. "On a personal level, I feel like this is kind of a collaboration that just makes sense," said kidsLINK program director Ben Frentsos.

'A level of realism': PAL students balance their budgets at financial reality fair
I learned it's hard to adult in today's society" wrote one Project for Alternative Learning student, noting how life can be unfair at the financial reality fair put on Wednesday by Rocky Mountain Credit Union. This was the second year in a row since COVID-19 that the credit union put this event on at the Project for Alternative Learning, also known as PAL. "This is our favorite reality fair we do every year," said Kelly Fleiner, director of marketing and public relations at Rocky Mountain Credit Union. "I promise you PAL is my favorite school to come to. You guys are my favorite students. You guys always have the most fun with this, and I appreciate it." Students started by picking a job from a pre-made list. Some of the jobs were attorney, electrician, police officer, writer and more. Education requirements, prior experience needed, health insurance and benefits and monthly salary were also listed alongside each job.

FCHS counselor Alli Bristow is the 2023 Montana State Counselor of the Year
A Florence-Carlton High School counselor has been selected as the 2023 Montana State Counselor of the Year by the American School Counselor Association and the Montana School Counselor Association. Alli Bristow has been a school counselor since 2006. "I feel that this award is for all of our school counselors in Montana," Bristow said. "They are all hardworking and dedicated. The award feels honoring but also I hope to be a good advocate for our profession, lifting up all the school counselors and their important roles in the state." She said that a big part of advocacy is making sure students have access to counseling. A recent challenge through the Office of Public Instruction attempted to change the ratios of counselors to students.

'This one feels special': CHS gets dramatic with 'Witness for the Prosecution'
Come witness Capital High School's "Witness for the Prosecution" by Agatha Christie set to open 6 p.m. Thursday. "We usually do comedies in the spring just because they're fun and the kids love doing them and it stretches them with timing and actively listening to each other," said Laura Brayko, who has taught drama and English at Capital for 8 years. "It became abundantly clear with a courtroom drama like 'Oh, we don't have doors slamming or maids missing or mistaken identities. It's all language, rhetoric and presence - a whole new skill set.'" As the play goes, Leonard Vole, is arrested and accused of murdering a wealthy older lady, Emily French, who suspiciously made him her main heir. Vole's wife Romaine, played by senior Lou Sechrist, chooses to testify but as a witness for the prosecution and not for the defense. Her complicated plan is to ultimately free her husband, but will it work?

Farm to School workshops planned in Gardiner
Foods that are raised and grown in the Treasure State are taking center stage in Gardiner next Friday for the Farm to School workshops. The National Center for Appropriate Technology will join with Farm to School of Park County, Gardiner Public Schools and other partnering organizations to host the workshops, which provide general training on Farm to School programs and Montana Harvest of the Month.

Area students in Optimist International speech contest to compete at state
The first and second place finishers from the local Optimist International Oratorical Contest competition will advance, along with other students from Western Montana, to the Montana Regional Competition to be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Lockwood High School. "All the students competing in the Zone contest did a wonderful job presenting their speeches about the topic posed to them." District Oratorical Chair Gail Strever said. "All who heard them speak have no doubt that these students have a bright future ahead of them." The students are sponsored by the Optimist Clubs of Yellowstone County, which have encouraged area students to speak their minds about the topic "Discovering the Optimism Within Me" as part of the Optimist International Oratorical Contest for the 2022-2023 year. In the past six weeks four local clubs have held competitions, advancing eight students to a Zone competition which was held on April 8th. First and second place finishers from those zone competitions will now compete in the state contest in Lockwood.

Statewide summer program prepares kids for kindergarten
For the third year, the Montana Office of Public Instruction has partnered with and online education platform to provide 1,000 Montana kids with free early literacy, math and science education to get them ready to enter kindergarten. According to spokesperson John McCann, the Upstart Summer Learning Path uses a fun and engaging program that often gets participants reading at nearly a first grade level upon entering kindergarten. "Sometimes a kid doesn't even realize that he or she (is) learning something," McCann said. The program removes educational barriers by providing a laptop and internet service to families who don't have those resources, McCann said. The family gets to keep the laptop at the end of the summer.

Middle school girls take over MSU campus for STEAM Day
Middle school girls from across the state got to build things and break things in the name of science on Saturday as Montana State University held its annual STEAM Day. Formerly known as Expanding Your Horizons, STEAM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, Day gave 120 girls the chance to learn about everything from how plants work to the search for alien life forms using research from Yellowstone National Park. Girls in grades six to eight participated in workshops with the aim of introducing them to careers in a field largely dominated by men. Jillian Welsh, Program Manager from the Academic Technology and Outreach Department, said the number of women in STEAM fields is increasing, but it helps to introduce girls to these fields at a formative age.

A bear is killed at school, a student documentary film ensues
Not many seventh-graders produce a documentary film that screens at an international film festival. But not many seventh-graders watch as a police officer shoots and kills a black bear just outside their schoolyard fence, either. It was that wild moment last fall that motivated students at the Alberton School to learn about how and why bears come into conflict with humans around the small town 30 minutes west of Missoula - and what could be done about it. The story of bear conflict in Alberton, and recent efforts by concerned residents to secure bear attractants, are chronicled in "Fatal Attractants," a roughly 15-minute documentary planned, filmed and edited by five seventh-graders and one eighth-grader in the school's project-based learning class. The film earned support from the International Wildlife Film Festival, Montana Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts.

Photo: Highland Elementary receives Strider bikes
Jared Harris with HDR Engineering announces a Strider bike donation to Highland Elementary kindergarteners on Wednesday. The Billings company donated 24 bikes, helmets and pedal kits as part of the All Kids Bike initiative. HDR has donated $150,000 to All Kids Bike, designating $18,000 to three schools in Montana.

Anderson School's 'Seussical' will make your heart grow three sizes
The stage at Emerson Cultural Center was a riot of color on Tuesday, filled with Whos from Whoville, Yertle the Turtle, the Cat in the Hat and the sharp-eared Horton the elephant, all singing a finale number for "Seussical" put on by Anderson School. Even the grumpy old Grinch makes an appearance in a play that incorporates elements of more than 20 Dr. Seuss stories. The parts in Anderson's production are played by 55 students from fourth through eighth grade. Directors Stephani Lourie and Laurie Kinna have been working on Anderson School plays since the 1990s, and they credit that longevity to the benefits the productions have on their participants. "It's so much fun, and it's so good for kids," said Lourie. Lourie said the actors learn to work as a group and learn new skills as part of being in the play. "I mean, this is intense music," said Kinna. "If you know anything about music, this is some tough stuff, and they just nail it."

Belgrade Battle of the Bands raises $10k for music program
The first annual Belgrade Battle of the Bands saw hundreds of people show up to support the Belgrade Schools' music department to the tune of more than $10,000, according to a news release from event organizers sent this week. Sponsored by the Panther Music Boosters, the two-day event pitted local bands against each other for some pretty rockin' prizes. The cover bands competed on March 31 for a shot at an Epiphone SG Classic Worn P-90S Electric Guitar from Music Villa and a Marshall MG15FX Amp donated by Ekroth Music. Local bands Tyran't, Scott's Garage, Wilde Hix and The Hall Passes - a newly formed band featuring four Belgrade music teachers - all played. Wilde Hix took home the grand prize. Just one point behind them was Tyran't, which won a $100 gift certificate to Music Villa.

Bozeman Night Live fundraiser showcases local student talent
When the Bozeman High School choir sings Eric Whitacre's "Fly to Paradise," the music seems to travel through your feet and right up into your heart. It's the kind of singing that led to their performance at Carnegie Hall last month, and they're bringing their talent back home on Friday and Saturday for Bozeman Night Live. The shows start at 7 p.m. both nights and feature Bozeman High School and Gallatin High School students showing off talent of all kinds for a shot at prizes and prestige. Bozeman Night Live, put on by the Bozeman Friends of Music, started 31 years ago as Hawks Night Live back when BHS was the only high school. The production is a variety show with singing, music, comedy and dance.

A sky like bubblegum ice cream: Posters collect students' river poetry
If you'd like to see what the Clark Fork River is like to a seventh grader, start at the beginning. "I want to be alone in this place," according to one student in Steven Strothman's seventh-period class at C.S. Porter Middle School. To another, what's above had a particular tint: "The thick blue sky like Big Dipper bubblegum ice cream." A classmate seemed to delve more into the interior: "Suddenly you become the river, and the river becomes you." Each sentence in the 33-line poem was written by a student in that class, with the guidance of Sam Olson, a published poet. Through the Missoula Writing Collaborative, he spent February helping seven classes at C.S. Porter produce a collective poem about a different waterway in western Montana. "Every day, students present raw, vulnerable, humorous, powerful pieces of writing," he said.

Students from Reichle School in Glen win DAR essay contest
Four students from the Reichle School in Glen were selected as winners of the Silver Bow Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution American History Essay Contest. Two students, fifth-grader Paityn Tarter and sixth-grader Sage Rhodes, went on to earn first place recognition in the state. The two students also honored at the local level are seventh-grader Rylee Ford and eighth-grader Faith Rognstad. The essay contest, sponsored annually by DAR, is open all students in grades 5-8 in public, private, or parochial schools, including those who are homeschooled. This year's essay title was "If I Were a Delegate to the Second Continental Congress." Students were invited to imagine that they represented their colony as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, which met between May 10, 1775, and March 1, 1781. This Congress was instrumental in shaping what became the United States of America. Students answered the questions of which colony they are from and what will be important for them to accomplish for their colony.

No 'ducking' out of this assignment
There were no sports activities being held in the Margaret Leary School gym on Tuesday. Instead, fifth- and sixth-grade students helped build nests for ducks under the guidance of Montana Wetlands & Waterfowl's Bailey Luoma-Tasker, a biologist with Rampart Solutions, and officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The group's goal was to bring science to the classroom and get the kids excited about ducks, and they accomplished both. The fifth-grade students pictured here had a great time. "It was really cool to build the nests and learn about the types of ducks," said Emma Killoy. Timothy Schumway described it as a "very good experience," while Emma Richards was thrilled to learn something new. The three students in front are, from left, Khrysali Meixner, Olavia Krattiger and Gaige Baker. In the back, from left, are Timothy Schumway, Zach Forbes, Bailey Luoma-Tasker, Emma Richards and Emma Killoy.

Gianforte talks internships and work experience with Kalispell educators
Gov. Greg Gianforte joined educators, administrators and students in a roundtable discussion focused on workplace experiences and individualized learning at Flathead High School on Wednesday. Gianforte complimented Kalispell Public Schools on the work district officials have done thus far with BUILD Montana - a private program from the Montana Contractors Association aimed at introducing students to construction careers - as well as other local internship opportunities. "We need more innovation in education," Gianforte said. "That's what is going on here in the Flathead." Gianforte's opening remarks focused on the 2023 legislative session and education bills poised for his signature, including House Bill 257, sponsored by Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, R-Kalispell. The legislation boosts the amount of money available, via a statewide program that supports career and technical education, to Montana students looking to explore career fields through internships and work experience.

Talking Bulldogs heading to nationals
Peyton Waters, 16, recites "Y2K" by Therese Lloyd. Waters is heading to the national speech and debate tournament in Phoenix, Arizona, this summer with five other Butte High Bulldogs. The Talking Bulldogs are currently raising money to attend. Each child will need about $3,000 by June, 1 or their spots will be forfeited. Donations can be made to Butte High Speech and Debate (account 168) or to head coach Roger McCullough at Butte High School, 401 S. Wyoming St.

MCPS robotics team sets sights on championship
There are more than 80,000 students participating in FIRST Robotics Competition events worldwide among 3,000 teams in 26 different countries, hoping to qualify for the world championship in Houston this spring. Missoula County Public Schools' team likes its odds. As one of two high school robotics teams in Montana, Missoula's robot masters have to travel across state lines to compete in regional qualifying events. Typically, they only travel to one event a year. This spring they're doubling their chances by competing in North Dakota and Idaho. "It's the most competitive thing I've ever done," said Tim Walters, a senior at Sentinel High School and the team's leader. "I've also wrestled and done some other sports. (Robotics is) very intense, but it's some of the most fun I've ever had."

Helena and Broadwater high school students visit Japan
Students from Helena and Broadwater high schools recently returned from a field trip of a lifetime to the land of the rising sun - Japan. "Japan was a way better host than anything I've ever been to, and I've taken kids nationally to a lot of places," said Claire Pichette, a science teacher who's been at Helena High School for 16 years. "They took amazing care of us." The idea for the program started in 2020 when HHS teacher Jill Van Alstyne had a chance encounter at Helena's Hokkaido Ramen & Sushi Bar with Japan Consulate staff. She overheard two men speaking Japanese in the restaurant and went over to speak with them. Van Alstyne had spent two years in Japan teaching English, and she's been at HHS for 20 years. The men were Yoichiro Yamada, consul general of Japan in Seattle, and Hiro Tojo, who worked at the Japanese Consulate in Seattle. Alstyne stayed in touch with them and Tojo texted her about the Kakehashi Project, Japan's Friendship Ties Program. Alstyne applied with her students in June of 2021, but COVID-19 postponed the trip until March 2023.

BNSF Railway Excellence in Education award winners at Billings schools announced
The Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools, in partnership with BNSF Railway, announced the winners of the BNSF Railway Excellence in Education Awards for 2023. This year's recipients are Abbey Kochel of Castle Rock Middle School and Angie Langeliers of Will James Middle School. The Excellence in Education program seeks to recognize teachers who strive to make a positive impact on the education of Billings Public Schools students.  Educators are nominated by students for this award, and 205 teachers were nominated this year. Of those, 25 chose to apply for the cash award. As Excellence in Education Award winners, Kochel and Langeliers will each receive a $2,500 award to use toward continuing education or classroom projects. This is the sixth year BNSF Railway has recognized SD2 teachers with this award. "BNSF is proud to recognize the outstanding dedication and achievement of these two educators," said Matt Jones, spokesperson for BNSF Railway. "Ms. Kochel and Mrs. Langeliers are clearly dedicated to creating engaging and innovative classrooms. Congratulations to both of them."

March 2023 Great News

Bozeman high schoolers may see their designs used by NASA
A NASA scientist walks up to a high-schooler and asks him how astronauts could play Dungeons and Dragons in zero gravity. It sounds like the start of a joke, but students at both Bozeman high schools this year had the opportunity to solve NASA problems for a chance to see their solutions implemented in space. Four groups of students are heading to Houston in a few weeks to present projects as part of the NASA HUNCH program. HUNCH (High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware) is a nationwide program where NASA identifies problems, they have in their flight programs and frames them for high school kids.

Kalispell student competes in constitutional speech contest
Kalispell homeschool senior Ella Pheifer was the winner of the American Legion of Montana High School Constitutional speech contest. The contest was held in Bozeman. She won at this level and will represent Montana at the American Legion National finals contest to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 21-23. The winner receives a $25,000 scholarship. Pheifer won the Kalispell American Legion Post 137 Oratorical contest and also won the American Legion District 4 Oratorical contest. Kalispell American Legion Post 137 contestants have won the Montana Department Oratorical contest three of the past five years and placed second once.

Rural educators receive awards for merit, service
Theresa Watts from Shields Valley Public Schools was recently awarded the 2023 Distinguished Service Award as Montana General Education Teacher of the Year by the Montana Council of Administrators for Special Education. Watts was nominated for the award by several colleagues who recognize that she consistently goes above and beyond to support her students. She is always willing to learn and do more in order for all children to achieve academically, socially, and emotionally. Watts is passionate about working with students and making sure they make progress by growing academically and emotionally, according to a news release.

Quick pics: Learning the stick game
Havre Middle School students learn how to play the stick game Friday in the school gymnasium. In the traditional Native American game, common at powwows and other Native celebrations, teams try to outguess each other as to where markers are being held. The activity was held Friday as part of Havre Public Schools' Indian Education for All program.

'Continuously surprised and pleasantly amazed:' Student of the month HHS' Foster Smith
Helena High School senior Foster Smith lives up to his name – fostering a curiosity for life and all its labyrinths. "I enjoy doing things for the sake of doing them," said Smith. "I wouldn't consider myself a super goal-oriented person as much as an experience-oriented person, and that takes me a lot of places." Smith's family moved from Lincoln to Canada for five years before returning to Helena, where Smith has spent most of his high school years. His parents are both physicians, which has given them the flexibility to live in various places, such as New Zealand when Smith was a child. He has one younger sister. Courtnay Crowell, Foster's mother, describes him as "kind" and "curious."

Darby schools celebrate community; host 'Napoleon Dynamite' producer TEDx talk
Darby School District has selected the month of April to show its appreciation to the community and help give individuals a better understanding of the Darby Tiger experience. Superintendent Tony Biesiot said the goals are to thank the community and reconnect. "We also invite the community to be part of the school," he said. "One of my main goals coming in as superintendent is to reconnect the district with the community. The past couple of years with the pandemic a lot of schools were forced to close their doors. We definitely lost that connection with the community." Also on the docket is increasing collaboration. "We have a lot of great businesses, organizations and individual stakeholders here," Biesiot said. "I've been visiting with them because I think it is important that we share our story. There are a lot of things were doing down here in the south valley. We're excited with the direction we're headed and the momentum is building."

East Helena educator receives technology teacher award
Among educators from five states, East Helena Public Schools Instructional Coach Katherine Senecal stood out. In a surprise announcement on Tuesday during the Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) technology conference in Tacoma, Senecal received the 2023 Outstanding Technology Teacher Award. NCCE is a not-for-profit educational technology professional development organization. The conference was regional, with educators attending from Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana. "I was very surprised. Instructional coaches, I don't think, get put up for a lot of awards," Senecal said. "I was very honored. It was so generous and thoughtful for someone to nominate me."

Polson student D.C. bound after winning state poetry reading contest
As Wica-ta-wi Hoksina Brown inhabits the poem that won him the state Poetry Out Loud championship, he does so carefully, his voice almost conversational at first, then growing in strength and passion. The Polson High junior recited "We Are Not Responsible" by Harryette Mullen, a poem he chose precisely because it invited him "to be able to speed it up and be loud, different from the rest." He also chose the poem for its content, which "talks about police violence and hints at microaggressions" towards people of color. Not easy subjects for the reciter, who is Oglala Sioux and Salish, or for the listener. But Brown clearly doesn't take the easy path. The poems he chose for both Poetry Out Loud and for Oral Interpretation in Speech and Debate are often edgy, asking listeners to pay attention to realities beyond their own lives.

FHS student shows compassion for others through community service
Flathead High School student Ivy Gannon is someone who meets people where they are in life with compassion and respect. The caring and talented senior is a recipient of the Winslow Nichols Leadership Award, which recognizes the academic achievement and community involvement of high school students who contribute to improving the lives of others. "Ivy is an enthusiastic, talented and kind-hearted leader at Flathead High School who has set a great example of leadership in our school community and holds great promise to lead as an education professional in the future," Flathead Career Center head Kristin Bay said in her nomination letter. "In her classes, Ivy's teachers describe her as very intelligent, analytical and hard working." During a March 20 interview at Flathead, Gannon contemplated what qualities she thinks make a good leader.

 FFA students conduct 'Day Of Service' in Great Falls
Montana members of Future Farmers of America (FFA) descended upon Great Falls this week, committing to acts of service at four locations - St Vincent De Paul, the Rescue Mission, the Food Bank, and Eagle Mount. "We already knew each other really well, but then getting to work with some of the other chapters here, we're working together, we're moving stuff and we're getting to know each other better, and then we're all working together for a good cause," says FFA member Maggie Darr of Gardiner. Students helped to clean, organize, and feed the community. "We were moving pallets, so that way they could give away food to some of the elderly people here in Great Falls," says Darr.

Havre Public School K-5 STEM Family Night set for Thursday
Havre Public Schools will be hosting a STEM Family Night at Havre Middle School Auditorium Thursday evening from 6 to 7 p.m. The event will feature a live science show, drawings for STEM boxes with STEM-related activities and experiments and a group STEM challenge for students to take home. The night is for K-5 students and their families and will allow them to explore science, technology, engineering and math in interactive experience that aims to engage everyone there. "We are excited to offer this opportunity to bring our families together to experience a STEM Night," said Highland Park Early Primary School Principal Hayley Criner. Criner said Havre High School teacher Erika Brekus will be organizing the live science show, drawings and challenges.

Local students earn Reach Higher Montana scholarships
Several local students in both the high school and college level received awards in Reach Higher Montana the Class of 2023 High scholarship programs. On the high school level, Alisyn Maloughney and Hannah Kinsella, both Havre High School students, and Kylee Zander of Hays-Lodge Pole High and Kellen Colliflower of Rocky Boy High received scholarships. On the college level, Treyten Stiffarm of Fort Belknap Indian Reservation's Aaniiih Nakoda College was one of the recipients. This year, the Montana-based nonprofit organization has awarded 30 $2,000 scholarships to Montana high school students and 50 $2,000 scholarships to continuing Montana college students. In addition, one of the scholarships was awarded to a student who has served or is serving in the military.

Partnership will bring local beef to schools in Bozeman
Gallatin County is home to 36,000 cows, according to the Montana State University College of Agriculture. Through a new collaboration between Bozeman School District and The Producer Partnership, a portion of those cows may soon find their way into the district's cafeterias. The Producer Partnership was founded to take in donated cattle, process them and give them to Montana food banks for those with food insecurity. Matt Pierson, founder and president, comes from several generations of ranchers in the Livingston area. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Pierson began donating cows to help out his hometown and the surrounding area.

HHS earns fifth straight Science Olympiad state title
Hamilton High School's Science Olympiad team won first place for the fifth year in a row and Corvallis Middle School's Science Olympiad team won first place in the middle school category at the Montana state tournament in Bozeman on March 8. The teams will travel to the National Science Olympiad competition in Wichita, Kansas, beginning May 20. "These kids keep impressing me year after year." said HHS Coach Vanessa Haflich. "I don't know how they do it." Haflich has been the head HHS science coach for two years and was the assistant coach the year before. "The students have a tremendous work ethic and attitude and desire to learn their event and compete," Haflich said. "It is so fun to see this year after year. For seniors, this is their fifth year too. They won this in eighth grade too, so this is very cool. We're excited to see what we do at nationals."

A mover and a shaker: Castle Rock student becomes first Montanan to advance to national competition
It's often said that a handshake can reveal a lot about someone. Their confidence, personality and level of engagement are all believed to be on display to a degree, and a Billings sixth-grader has landed at a nationwide competition to show off those skills. The national program Amazing Shake began in Billings in 2015 and has provided fifth-grade students here the opportunity to learn the nuances of professional human interaction like giving a proper handshake, giving a successful interview, and how to remain composed under pressure. Castle Rock sixth-grader Harper Carsten is currently in Atlanta to compete in the national competition after winning last year's regional competition, and is the first Montana student ever to participate. "I've had so much fun with this. It's been awesome to learn all the things that I have," she said ahead of her departure.

Montana high school students flex skills at MSU culinary competition
On Thursday morning, seven groups of high school students gathered feverishly around tables each razor-focused on their task at hand. Some quickly minced vegetables, while others seared lamb chops over a Bunsen burner. While the students handled their tasks separately, they were all working toward a common goal - producing six plates of luxury cuisine to be judged by professional chefs. The students were competing in the 2023 Montana ProStart Invitational culinary competition held at Montana State University.

Corvallis students bring history to life with Living Biographies project
Corvallis High School juniors dove into the lives of important historical figures, taking part in the 27th year of the Living Biographies competition on Thursday. "Living Biographies allow students to research an important historical figure and portray that person's life story in a 5-10 minute speech to their respective class," said Joel Loran, who teaches U.S. History at CHS, which all juniors are required to take. The class covers American History and includes themes of belief systems, America in the world, geography and environment, peopling, identity, the economy, politics and power. Loran said students focus on mastering historical thinking skills such as chronological reasoning, comparison and contextualization, historical argumentation and historical interpretation. "My goal is to make the curriculum relevant and interesting with the use of problem-based learning projects and simulation," he said.

FEC sends students to D.C. for youth tour
Flathead Electric Cooperative will send three area high school students to the nation's capital this summer on the annual Washington, D.C. Youth Tour. Participants go through a competitive application process involving transcripts, essays, and references. This year, the co-op selected Tayen Lackey, a rising senior at Flathead High School and the son of Shanti Lackey; Kyle McCormick, a rising homeschool senior and son of Kerri McCormick and Lonnie McCormick; and Kaylee Hampton, a rising junior at Flathead High School and the daughter of Amanda Hampton and Robert Hampton. Lackey is currently participating in Model United Nations and enrolled in International Baccalaureate courses. He is also an active member of BSA Troop 1901 and Eagle Scout. "I have for many years been fascinated with the greatest systems in Washington, D.C., and their importance to our nation and the world," Lackey enthused in his application. 

Photo: Hellgate High School celebrates Pi Day with pie
Hellgate High School attendance secretary Crystal Downey, left, and math teacher Zandy Startin hand out free pieces of pie to students on Tuesday to celebrate Pi Day. March 14 (3/14) is known as Pi Day because 3.14 is the beginning of the mathematical constant pi, or the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Hellgate staff, students and parents brought pies for the day, which resulted in roughly 500 slices of apple, lemon meringue, marionberry, chocolate cream, cherry, banana cream, strawberry-rhubarb and other varieties.

High school club drums up interest in health care industry desperate for workers
Members of the Capital High School's Health Occupations Students of America organization paid a visit to C.R. Anderson Middle School to encourage their younger peers to consider a future career in the health care industry. The high school students demonstrated basic components of a medical exam, such as how to take and interpret a blood pressure reading, and talked to the visitors about the coursework required for a career in the industry. Capital's HOSA co-president RaeAnn Loewen said the television drama "Grey's Anatomy" inspired her to become a pediatric surgeon and while touring the high school ahead of her freshman year, she was introduced to HOSA and has been a member all four years of high school. "I'm passionate about the medical industry and learning, and to be in a club centered around my dreams is incredible," Loewen said.

Students show out science acuity at county fair
How does global warming affect corn crops? How much salt do you need to add to water to make an egg float? How much sawdust can you put in a cereal treat bar before someone notices? These are just a few questions asked by students from schools all across the region as they participated in the Flathead County Science Fair on Thursday. Science lovers of all ages packed into the Expo Center at the Flathead County Fairgrounds to take a look at projects from students in third grade and up. Retired civil engineer Roger Marsonette has been judging the science fair for about seven years. He likes seeing what the students can come up with for their projects. "To see the imagination of the kids - some of their experiments are just different from the typical boiling water kind of stuff. There are some really interesting things out there, how they go through their experiments and how they can apply it to the real world," Marsonette said. Many students said they drew inspiration from what was around them to come up with the idea for their experiments.

Quest Program expands options for Billings gifted and talented students
Billings Public Schools have some exceptional young students, but that doesn't mean they can't be pushed further. Enter the Quest Program, School District 2's gifted and talented program for elementary students across its 22 schools that has continued to grow over the years. Since it was introduced to the district in 2018, Quest has provided students who demonstrate exceptional academic abilities additional learning opportunities outside of the regular public school curriculum through unique projects and local collaborations. This has included a photography exhibition, students creating their own board games and even designing a new playground at Primrose Park with Billings Parks and Recreation. The program recently expanded to approximately 400 students into three separate components for K-1, 2-3, and 4-5 grade students to work on different study units at different locations.

Montana students gather for annual state Science Olympiad
You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. Based on "The Scrambler" event at the annual Science Olympiad, the same can be said for science. At this year's Olympiad, held at Montana State University, more than 70 teams from 36 Montana cities competed in knowledge tests and practical experiments. Participants in The Scrambler build a wheeled vehicle with an egg strapped to the nose. The vehicle must traverse a field and stop within a designated area without hitting the end stop and breaking its egg. Different tournaments took place all over the MSU campus on Wednesday with middle and high school teams competing.

Victor students hit the slopes at Lost Trail
Victor School students in fourth and fifth grade participated in Ski P.E. at Lost Trail on Feb. 27. For the program, students receive two lessons in their choice of skiing or snowboarding then practice their skills. Victor fifth-grade teacher and event coordinator Taylor Cassidy said the Ski P.E. program provides students with skills for regional activities and the training for a potential lifetime sport and activity. "Skiing and snowboarding is such a beautiful lifetime opportunity afforded to the residents of our area," Cassidy said. "For many students, this is the only opportunity they will have to experience and participate in an activity so central to where they live. We want to ensure that all students have this opportunity regardless of their family's socioeconomic status."

Graduating seniors surprise their Distinguished Educators
Graduating seniors recognized by the Helena Education Foundation as Distinguished Students surprised their Distinguished Educators across the district Wednesday. The students, along with representatives of the Helena Education Foundation and school administrators, surprised the selected educators with an invitation to be their special guests at the Celebration of Excellence. The annual banquet is taking place on May 8. This year, HEF will celebrate 50 student and educator pairs. Educators selected this year include teachers at elementary, middle and high school levels and in a range of disciplines.

Bulletproof desk design lands Montana students in national science contest
The Montana School for the Deaf and Blind was recently selected as the state winner in a national Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) competition. The school's STEM team is engineering school desks designed to withstand natural disasters and active shooters. When the 13th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM Competition opened in September, Montana School for the Deaf and Blind teacher Erin Barr tasked her students with developing something to benefit the community. The four high-schooler students, three of whom are visually impaired and the fourth who is deaf and blind, decided to develop a safety desk designed to protect students during earthquakes. "It actually has a shock absorber system in it to keep them safe under the desk," Barr said. The desks, made of stainless steel, wood and laminates, are also designed to withstand hurricanes and tornadoes. They're also bulletproof.

Flathead speech coach receives Assistant Coach of the Year award
Flathead High School speech and debate coach Sean O'Donnell has been named Assistant Coach of the Year for the Western District of the National Speech and Debate Association. The award recognizes exemplary high school assistant coaches serving a National Speech and Debate Association member school. A committee of coaches selects a winner. During his tenure, O'Donnell coached 27 individual state champions and 54 national qualifiers. He was inducted into the Montana Forensic Educators Association Hall of Fame in 2020. O'Donnell got his start in speech and debate as a competitor during his sophomore year of high school at Flathead. It was in college that he started coaching at the high school level.

Glacier speech and debate student named Student of the Year
Glacier High School senior Mac Adkins received top accolades from the National Speech and Debate Association. Adkins was named the 2023 Student of the Year for the Montana West District. He is the first Glacier student to receive the award. To be considered for the award, coaches in each district of the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) are invited to nominate a graduating senior, "Who best represents the tenets of the association's Code of Honor: humility, equity, integrity, respect, leadership, and service," according to the association. A committee of coaches selects the winner. Flathead High School head coach Shannon O'Donnell nominated Adkins, describing him as a "beacon of leadership." She noted that while it isn't every day a coach nominates a competitor from a rival team, Adkins exemplifies the award criteria. O'Donnell said she has watched Adkins progress into a "formidable competitor," who remained respectful and kind throughout his time competing.

Photo: Students learn Irish dance steps during Academic WorldQuest
Lockwood High School seniors Austin Therriault, at left in dark shirt, and Isaac Bovington, at right in white sweater, and other Montana high school students learn Irish dance steps during Academic WorldQuest at the University of Montana on Monday. Academic WorldQuest, hosted by the Montana World Affairs Council, brings Montana students to UM for two days to meet with global and policy experts on a range of subjects and participate in a global trivia team competition. Students heard from UM's Irish Studies program and talked remotely with students in Ireland on Monday, and on Tuesday they'll converse remotely with students in Ukraine.

Joey McKeon Memorial Scholarship and Legacy Award given to Helena High School seniors
The Joseph Michael "Joey" McKeon Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Helena High School's Gabriella Radley, a senior, at the Helena and Capital High Swim Team Banquet. McKeon was also a Bengal many years ago. "My wife and I, along with our daughter Erin McKeon and Mary McKeon offer this scholarship and legacy award in memory of our son and brother who left us to early in life as a result of an automobile accident," said Jim McKeon. "This is our 12th year offering the scholarship and legacy award, and we are honored to be able to recognize all the student swimmers and the high school sport of swimming." The $1,000 scholarship goes to support a Helena high school swimmer in furthering their education after high school. The team also created the Joey McKeon Legacy Award which is given out each year to a swimmer who embodies Joey's spirit, which was awarded to HHS' Allison Christensen.

Baker High School senior Cheyanne Dame presents her project on bacteria in Baker Lake at the 2023 MSU B Science Expo

Sunset School's Hatten named top Montana Rural Teacher
If you would have told Toni Hatten when she started her teaching career that she would be named Montana's Rural Teacher of the Year, she wouldn't have believed you. Hatten, who teaches at Sunset School, decided to enroll in college at age 40 to shift her career from a paraeducator in Seeley Lake to a full-time teacher. Now she's in her 12th year of teaching at Sunset and has been named Rural Teacher of the Year by the Montana Association of County School Superintendents. "I wanted to show that with my students that it's OK to be proud of who you are," Hatten said. "But what I think I do well - I don't know for sure, I don't get it right all the time - but what I think I do well is work well with students on a personal level."

Five National Merit Scholarship Finalists at West High
Billings West High School has five students who have been named National Merit Scholarship Finalists this year. They are Ian Barriger, Melanie Irwin, Abel Paulsen, Ryan Pilcher, Hayden Trost. National Merit is based on scores on last year's Preliminary SAT (PSAT/NMQT) college entrance exam. The teens are among the 16,000 semifinalists announced in September. In February, the 15,000 finalists were announced and are then considered the top 1% of the 1.5 million juniors who took the test nationwide last year. The finalists will compete for 7,250 National Merit Scholarships worth over $30 million offered this spring.

Manhattan robotics team headed to regionals with their robot, 'Joe Mike'
In an echoey high school room amidst the chatter of students, a machine of metal and wires zooms across the room, picks up a road cone and tries to deposit it on an upright wooden rod. The cone falls to the floor, but no one complains. The group immediately turns back to the computer to try to figure out what went wrong. The machine is a robot named Joel Michael Oppenheimer Senior II, or "Joe Mike" for short, built by Manhattan's high school robotics team. This week, the team heads to a regional FIRST Robotics Competition to compete against other teams from across the country.

Emily Dickinson teacher co-writes book to help early readers
A Bozeman elementary school teacher and her cousin from Michigan have found their way into print, collaborating on a book to help early readers who are having trouble with pronunciation. In "Sonny Says S," the main character is a yellow lab inspired by co-writer Kat Bezek's dog, Truman. Bezek is a first-grade teacher at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, and she's been teaching for eight years. Her co-writer and cousin, Kailey Riker, has been a speech and language pathologist for more than 10 years, Bezek said. In the book, Sonny writes a note without any 'S' sounds because he can't say them, a common speech error among early readers. Sonny's forest friends come together to help him pronounce and read the words. Bezek said the story is about more than how to say words - it's about friendship, teamwork and lifting each other up.

Kalispell ag center hosts district competitive events
More than 200 FFA students from a dozen high schools around Montana recently converged at the H.E. Robinson Agricultural Education Center in Kalispell for a chance to earn a spot at state in March. The ag center hosted a day of Western FFA District competitive events on Feb. 20. Ronan High School hosted the second day of the competition. Students competed in veterinary science, sales and service, parliamentary procedure, agronomy, mechanics, livestock evaluation and multiple speaking events. Ag student Makenna Howard provided a tour of the events after walking through classrooms where competitors took written tests to identify surgical tools and parasites and quiz them in math skills. There were also hands-on portions of the competition which Howard referred to as practicums. "A practicum is any of these tasks they have to perform that is like haltering a sheep, or filling a syringe, or putting the 'cone of shame' on the dog," formally known as Elizabethan collars, Howard said, smiling. "They're just practical skills that any veterinarian or vet tech would have to perform that the kids learn how to do."

Sunset School's Hatten named top Montana Rural Teacher
If you would have told Toni Hatten when she started her teaching career that she would be named Montana's Rural Teacher of the Year, she wouldn't have believed you. Hatten, who teaches at Sunset School, decided to enroll in college at age 40 to shift her career from a paraeducator in Seeley Lake to a full-time teacher. Now she's in her 12th year of teaching at Sunset and has been named Rural Teacher of the Year by the Montana Association of County School Superintendents. "I wanted to show that with my students that it's OK to be proud of who you are," Hatten said. "But what I think I do well - I don't know for sure, I don't get it right all the time - but what I think I do well is work well with students on a personal level." At first, Hatten resisted nominating herself, feeling it was too self-congratulatory. However, she changed her mind after remembering what she teaches her students about being confident in themselves, specifically with eighth-grade student Sera Benton.

Kila fourth-grader places in Energy Share art contest
A Kila fourth grader won third place in Energy Share of Montana's statewide art contest. An award ceremony was held at Kila School honoring Kannin Crawford on Feb. 24. Teresa Miller, Energy Share Board member and member services manager for Flathead Electric Cooperative, and Mary Olson, capital credits and energy assistance administrator for the co-op, presented Crawford with a $25 check from Energy Share. Flathead Electric also brought pizza to teacher Tika Counts' class as a "congratulations" for all their fine artwork. Using the medium of art, Counts taught her students about Montana neighbors who sometimes need a little help with keeping warm in the winter. Per Energy Share's contest guidelines, the drawings by her students depict what Energy Share means to them. 

PAL's Lili Bennum strives to give school and wrestling her 'all'
Senior Lili Bennum felt like she was running toward a finish line that was running from her before she switched to Helena Public Schools' Project for Alternative Learning a year and a half ago. "I wanted to be able to give school my all and wrestling my all at the same time. At Capital, I felt like I was so far behind but I looked back, and I wasn't even doing bad. It just felt like everything was piling up," said Bennum. "... (PAL has) helped me organize my time, be more responsible and get stuff done. I now know how to sit down and get work done." Bennum stated that since people have to apply for a spot at PAL, there's more accountability to show up to school and class so that people don't lose their spot. The school does 90-minute periods and alternates A and B schedules throughout the week. Every three weeks or so, they switch subjects in a block schedule.

February 2023 Great News

North Star students eating pulse crops courtesy Columbia Grains

Columbia Grains International recently made a donation of pulses to North Star Elementary so the school can offer healthier food options to students for World Pulses Day, which was earlier this month. CGI Vice President of Pulses Tony Roelofs said the donation is part of a larger effort to give back to communities in Montana, Washington, Idaho and North Dakota where their company has facilities. Roelofs said the company has facilities across the Hi-Line and they've been looking to make donations to local schools, food banks and other organizations. He said products like pulses, lentils, chickpeas and pinto beans are valuable, lesser-known, elements people can work into their diets and he's hoping these donations not only help the people directly served by organizations like North Star, but help to raise awareness about the items.

Local students received Good Citizens Awards from local DAR Chapter

The Daughters of the American Revolution Black Eagle-Assinniboine Chapter in Great Falls presented 11 Good Citizen Awards at its Feb. 11 meeting and George Washington Tea. Chapter Regent Selene Thomas and Good Citizen Chair Char Ross awarded Good Citizen certificates, pins and wallet cards to students including Lance Rutledge from Big Sandy High School, Bree Swanson from Chinook High School, Rayna Johnson from Havre High School and Rainee Watson from North Star High School

Terry students take in tourism meeting

On Feb. 8 the Terry High School US Government class participated in the Visit Southeast Montana Tourism board meeting which was held at the Cameron Gallery.  The Visit Southeast Montana Tourism board meetings take place five times per year in selected communities in southeast Montana. Visit Southeast Montana Tourism is one of six tourism regions in Montana that promote Montana as a destination for world class tourism.

Sunset School's Toni Hatten wins Rural Teacher of the Year award

Every year the School Administrators of Montana accepts nominations from small schools all over the state and chooses just one classroom instructor to award with the annual Rural Teacher of the Year award. This year's recipient of that prestigious award is Toni Hatten of the Sunset School in Greenough, a small two-room schoolhouse with an average yearly enrollment of less than ten students.

Making a splash with physics

Tara Moon's Physics classes made a splash this semester. Groups of students worked on their design skills as they built handmade cardboard boats. Not only did they have to come up with a design, but teams also had to make sure their boat was sturdy enough to float. The students only had 6 class periods to plan, gather materials, and build the boats. 

Cut Bank teen performs at Carnegie Hall in New York

"I feel like all my hard work and dedication to an art I love is starting to pay off," said Cut Bank High School senior Stefani Bohmer after she performed at Carnegie Hall earlier this month. Stefani was selected for the High School Honors Performance Series in New York City after being nominated by Cut Bank High School band director Dr. Kathy Lindberg.

Big Sandy Schools welcomes back Alecia Raining Bird

Alecia Raining Bird, Big Sandy Schools' newest teacher, is serving students in the special education classroom with patience, grace, and a heart for teaching. It was her compassion of kids that prompted Alecia to come into the classroom in the first place when she stepped into a staffing gap in the local school.

'A crowning achievement': 17 out of 21 new National Board Certified teachers in Helena

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced that 21 Montana teachers have successfully earned their National Board Certification, and 17 of the 21 are Helena teachers. "Earning National Board Certification is a crowning achievement in an educator's career," said Amanda Curtis, Montana Professional Teaching Foundation (MPTF) chair and Montana Federation of Public Employees president. "I join Montanans in congratulating these dedicated professionals for the incredible feat they've accomplished. These educators provide our students the best education in America, and Montana families are grateful to them." MPTF administers the program in Montana and is the nonprofit foundation of the Montana Federation of Public Employees, the union that represents public educators in the state. Jane Shawn, president of the Helena Education Association, stated that Helena has 38 out of the 175 National Board Certified teachers in the state. She said there's been a rise in certification across Montana, but especially in Helena in recent years. This is due to Helena equating master's and National Board Certified teachers in the same pay lane upon feedback from educators.

Educators tout internships and apprenticeships at Kalispell Chamber luncheon

Learning to fly, interning at a law office, using a surgical robotic arm, identifying fish at a hatchery, creating art to display at the hospital - these were just some of the examples Kalispell Public Schools officials touched on while highlighting the transformational learning taking place in the district during a Kalispell Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday.

Bozeman High Speech and Debate team continues winning streak

It's been another winning year for speech and debate teams at Bozeman and Gallatin High Schools as 30 total students head to the National Speech and Debate Association High School National Tournament in June. Bozeman High won its third consecutive state championship in late January, sweeping all four categories of the sweepstakes award. Gallatin High took third in speech, debate and overall. Bozeman is sending 26 competitors to nationals in Phoenix, and four are coming from Gallatin. Bozeman High Hawker Sparta Evans, 17, had a rocky start to the season with not much time to prepare for one of her speeches, a dramatic interpretation. "It definitely takes some late nights, you know, being willing to stay a little later than you might usually want to sort of get the results you want," she said.

Deaf and Blind School team claims state title in STEM competition

A team of high school students attending classes at the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind (MSDB) has been selected as the State Winner for Montana in the 13th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) competition. It's another achievement for the team, who secured one of 300 coveted spots in the nationwide competition last January. "Every year, Samsung Solve for Tomorrow entries provide a unique snapshot of the concerns and issues on the minds of America's students – identifying what they perceive as pressing community issues they want to help solve," said Ann Woo, Senior Director, Corporate Citizenship, Samsung Electronics America. When Samsung announced that the MSDB team had been selected as a state finalist the team's academic advisor, teacher Erin Barr, was reluctant to describe the project the students were working on.

Washington Middle School 'Robosapiens' take on the world
The Washington Middle School robotics team punched their ticket for the FIRST LEGO League World Festival after recently winning the Montana State Robotics Championships in Bozeman. The 10-student team, known as the "Robosapiens," are now fine-tuning their robot and other competition materials as they prepare to take on the international competition based in Houston in April. "They worked hard for this," said Alec Arntzen, who is the team's coach and a sixth-grade teacher at Washington Middle School. "I think about a week before state, that's when I started to have an idea that it was possible. And then they did it. They just surprised me over and over all season." Though team members were confident in their preparation for the state competition this year, coming out on top still came as a shock. "We knew that we did, like, really well on innovation and robot design, but (the judges) didn't announce us for first or second in either of those," said Gabe Hammitt, a student on the Robosapiens team. "None of us put it together that if we didn't place for either one of those, then maybe we'd place overall. But we were all just like, we didn't get anything."

Speech and debate students qualify for nationals

Speech and debate teams from Flathead, Glacier and Columbia Falls high schools will be well represented at nationals following the West District Qualifier tournament at Sentinel High School in Missoula. Both Flathead and Glacier have four-time national qualifiers who will be recognized at nationals. They are Jasmine Anderson of Flathead, who will compete in Humorous Interpretation, and Mac Adkins of Glacier, who will compete in Duo Interpretation. Including Anderson, Flathead had 11 students qualify in main events and two students in supplemental events. Three-time national qualifier Rylin Wilde will compete in International Extemporaneous. Two-time national qualifiers include - Ada Milner in Program Oral Interpretation; Bethany Nairn in Program Oral Interpretation; and Neila Lyngholm who vacated the U.S. Extemporaneous Speaking Speaking event to compete in International Extemporaneous Speaking.

Flathead, Glacier to offer slate of new classes

Flathead and Glacier high school students will have a slate of new courses to choose from for the 2023-24 school year, including several that will get students outdoors for physical education, science and art instruction. The financial impact of fees, supplies, materials to the 2023-24 budget will not exceed $24,000. This amount also includes any costs related to course revisions. Money will come from building block grant funds and money from the district's curriculum budget. Staffing costs are expected to be neutral. New courses at Glacier High School include: Art Outside, Pottery, Seeds of Success and Product Development. Art Outside will be part of an outdoor education block and is geared to hands-on learners who enjoy the outdoors. Pottery replaces a sculpture class and is designed for students wanting to advance their ceramics skills. Seeds of Success is intended to teach incoming freshmen the skills and tools needed to achieve success in high school.

Valley Credit Union supports local high schools with $15,000 donation for sober parties

Valley Credit Union has donated $15,000 in support of local high schools for their annual sober graduation parties. The all-night sober party is a drug and alcohol-free event that provides a safe and fun environment for high school students to celebrate the end of the school year. The funds donated by Valley will be used to ensure every student, from all three schools, leaves the party with a gift. "We believe it is important to invest in the youth of our community and provide them with positive, healthy experiences," said Brandon Scala, SVP of business development of Valley. "This all-night sober party is a great opportunity for students to have a memorable, enjoyable time without having to worry about the dangers of drugs and alcohol." The all-night sober parties are scheduled to take place the night of graduation on Sunday, May 28 at their respective schools.

Havre speech does well at national qualifiers

Havre High School speech and debate took a small squad to a national qualifying tournament, and while none of the Blue Ponies qualified this year for a trip to nationals, they did well against the toughest competition in the district. "I am really proud of how we did this weekend in Belgrade," head coach Tim Leeds said. "I would have loved to have taken some kids to nationals in Mesa, Arizona, this year, but our students did well against tough competition." The tournament allows members of the National Speech and Debate Association, of which Havre High School has been a member since the 1920s, to compete for a chance to qualify for the association's national tournament, held each June in a rotating location, this year in Mesa.

Helena third graders make Valentine's Day cards for hospice, home health residents

Third graders across the Helena Valley created Valentine's Day cards for hospice and home health residents this year, wishing people they have never met a happy holiday and letting them know they are loved. Hazel Noonan, the area manager for Enhabit Home Health and Hospice, said this is the third year she has collected and distributed the cards. "It's unbelievable," Noonan said when asked what receiving a card means for these people. "It brings back memories. They can respond to the kids. It's wonderful." Kim Helseth's third grade class at Jim Darcy Elementary School in the north valley "really knocked it out of the park this year," Helena Public Schools spokeswoman Karen Ogden said in an email.

From Madrid to Colstrip: Foreign exchange program sees a comeback across Montana

After years of planning and anticipation for her foreign exchange trip to the United States, one thing quickly stood out to 16-year-old Carmen Garcia shortly after arriving in Colstrip from Spain. "Well, it's really cold, I have to say," she said with a smile. It's one minor adjustment among many that the self-proclaimed city girl braced for as one of 12 exchange students currently enrolled in Montana high schools through the Forte International Exchange Association (FIEA). This year's students reflect a major upswing in local placements following only one student three years ago and none over the past two. For the 2022-'23 year, local field reps have placed students from Spain, Brazil, Germany, Mexico and the Netherlands across Billings, Lockwood, Gardiner and Great Falls in addition to Carmen and one student in South Dakota.

Flathead student shows versatility in path to nursing career

Science, art, music, volunteering and working with individuals with special needs - Veyda Anderson has pursued a range of interests during her years at Flathead High School. The inquisitive and artistic senior is a recipient of the Winslow Nichols Leadership Award, which recognizes the academic achievement and community involvement of high school students who contribute to improving the lives of others. Flathead Career Center Coordinator Kristin Bay, in her nomination said Anderson is an exceptional student who "holds great promise to lead in caring for her community in the future," based on her past contributions to the FHS community. "One unifying quality noted by everyone who works with her, is Veyda's kind personality," Bay stated in her nomination letter. "She is able to work with all types of students and does so with her gentle, caring and respectful demeanor. She is not one to create drama or focus on the negatives and is able to work through issues with communication and calmness. She is also able to ask for help if the situation warrants it. Peers are drawn to Veyda as she creates a welcoming and safe environment to learn in with plenty of laughs along the way." 

Deer Park School nominated for Blue Ribbon award
Deer Park School in rural Columbia Falls is one of three Montana schools nominated for the U.S. Department of Education's National Blue Ribbon Schools Program by Montana Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Elsie Arntzen. The Blue Ribbon program recognizes excellence in a school's overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Deer Park was nominated in the academic performance category. Exemplary high-performing schools are measured by all student scores on state assessments and nationally normed tests. "It is a credit to our amazing staff for all their hard work and dedication to our students. Also, the parents and the families of our students are tremendously supportive. But, the students are also doing their part by showing up, putting in the work, and making the most of the opportunities they are given," Deer Park Principal Sheri Modderman said.

Montana State hosts robotics championship
The pit area of the First Tech Challenge robotics championship was swarming with activity. Teams huddled tightly around their tables. Some talked strategy for their qualifying matches while others joked and ate pizza - the atmosphere was jovial with only a whiff of intensity. Montana State University's Shroyer Gym played host for the annual robotics championship. Twenty-seven teams made up of middle and high school-aged students from Montana, Wyoming and Idaho were competing for a chance to head to nationals in Houston, Texas. ach team built their own robot that had to undergo inspections before participating in the tournament. Julie Heller, a board member of the Montana Robotics Alliance, said that the students participating tailored the style of robot they built to the game they were playing.

Seeing double: eight sets of twins attend Cayuse Prairie School
One set of twins attending the same school might be special but eight sets at a rural school with a total enrollment of about 300 students seems pretty remarkable. These identical and non-identical twins attend Cayuse Prairie School, where it's not the first time several sets have been enrolled at once in the kindergarten through eighth-grade school. Cayuse Prairie Principal Amy Piazzola recalled it happening at least once before. Leafing through a 2014-15 yearbook, Piazzola was surprised to count seven sets of twins. This year, the twins are in grades third through seventh, and five of the eight sets have attended Cayuse Prairie since kindergarten. What do the students like about being a twin? "That we were born with a friend," said fourth-grader Quora Roe, sitting next to her twin Teaghan. Her sentiment was expressed by several of her fellow students.

Morningside Elementary School Principal earns national award
School Administrators of Montana, SAM, awarded Kim Marzolf, with the National Distinguished Principal of the Year Award. Over 20 years in education, the announcement was a complete shock. "I was very surprised. There's a lot of very deserving principals out there for the award." Beginning her career as a coach, she made the transition to teaching with no problem at all. "I love the students; I love the staff. They're a very family-oriented community. It probably starts with the community that comes from outside our building with the parents." Shelley Andres, is the principal at Bonner Elementary and the President of SAM. She was a panelist for the award.

Box Elder's MacDonald featured student speaker at anti-meth event
A Box Elder High School student was the featured speaker this week at the kickoff of an event to promote drug prevention. Box Elder student Juliet MacDonald spoke in Helena at the launch of The Montana Meth Project's Paint the State 2023, a statewide public art contest that engages Montana teens and adults in on-the-ground drug prevention. The contest invites Montana residents 13 years of age and older to create monument-sized original public works of art that inspire Montanans to live vibrant drug-free lives incorporating the Meth Project's "Not Even Once" message.

Hileman wins Sunnyside spelling bee
The Sunnyside Intermediate School spelling bee was held Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. After 14 rounds, Risa Hileman was declared the champion speller. Her winning word was "serum." Isaac Yost was the runner up, and Tenlee Hungerford took third place. The top 10 spellers from the Sunnyside bee will go on to compete at the 2023 Hill County Spelling Bee, Feb. 9, 2023. In addition to Risa, Isaac, and Tenlee, the top ten contestants include Mason Dannen, Hunter Tweeten, Jacobi Knoles, Kaelin Peltier, Genevieve Lass, Sidney Farr and Walter Hibl. Charlotte Stoll will serve as alternate. All spelling bee competitors are fifth graders at Sunnyside. Tony Vigliotti served as moderator for the Sunnyside spelling bee this year. Vigliotti was the champion of the 1979 Hill County Spelling Bee. His winning word was "ombudsman."

Family engagement nights keep Central Elementary School busy after the bell rings
Central Elementary School has been a busy place both in and outside of school. Throughout the school year, Title I teacher Jill Downing has been working with the parent council and other community groups for family engagement nights to welcome parents and students to Central for various activities. Downing has been at Central for as long as she's been in Helena, 16 years. "This year, we've been doing a lot of events. It's kind of like getting back to pre-pandemic times," said Downing. "The building is relatively new. When we compare it with the pandemic, we were only in here a full year before then. We have lots of new families, so this is a year of trying things out and seeing what works for families." The most recent family engagement night was a family science night sponsored by STARBASE on Jan. 24.



January 2023 Great News

Victor students receive bicycles
Bitterroot Disposal donated 11 bikes and helmets for Victor School students without a bike, on Monday. Victor Community Liaison Kristy Gaul said the donations were exciting. "This is so amazing and awesome," Gaul said. "We went through each class and asked who had bikes and who did not. Then we talked to their parents to make sure they were OK with their child receiving a bike. The bikes are here today, and parents will come get them." Gary Savage of Bitterroot Disposal brought the bikes in two loads in the back of a white pick-up truck. Gaul had selected each bike for a specific child according to height. When the children ran from their classes, they found the bike with their name on it and were thrilled. The children sat on their shiny new bikes and offered thanks. The youngest students made racing noises and pretended to be riding at a breakneck pace, while the oldest students were checking details like colors, stripes and tire pressure.

Two electric buses for Havre Public Schools
A vast majority of the buses rolling down the road use either gas or diesel. Two buses in the Havre Public Schools' fleet are entirely electric, becoming the first fully-electric buses to be used in Montana according to service attendant Allen "Woody" Woodwick. He says it was about a year's process, after HPS was awarded a grant for two buses, and they have proven to be efficient. The grant, from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, provided most of the funding. Woodwick said the grant came from a settlement with Volkswagen and HPS payed about $120,000 out of their pocket for the buses, while the grant covered the other 85% of the cost.

Montana Students to Hear from NASA Astronaut on Space StationStudents from the Boys & Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation and Lake County in Ronan, Montana, will have an opportunity this week to hear from a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station. The space-to-Earth call will air live at 12 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 26, on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency's website. NASA astronaut Nicole Mann will answer prerecorded questions from student participants of the Boys & Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation and Lake County out-of-school programing. Mann is the first Native American woman to fly in space. The program provides opportunities for reservation youth that inspire students to be the best version of themselves and uses science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to foster collaboration and problem solving. The downlink connects to their experiences as part of the Students to Launch program and their study of STEM.

Brothers return to ranching roots to teach next generation
Through teaching an agriculture and construction class at Whitefish High School for the last four years, educator Mark Casazza has watched struggling students transform into attentive and motivated workers. Casazza has watched the class transform struggling students into attentive and motivated workers. "[The class offers] room for adaptation," Casazza said in a recent interview in his classroom. "Kids who are struggling in school have the opportunity to change paths." Now, Casazza is launching a post-secondary trade school, with the intention of training the next generation of construction and agriculture teachers for Montana public schools.

Hellgate High School choir to perform at national conference
Hellgate High School's top choir, the Chevaliers, was selected to perform at the National Association for Music Education's All-Northwest Conference. The conference takes place in Bellevue, Wash., this February. Only three groups from Montana have been selected, including the Montana State University Montanans Choir and the C.M. Russell High School Wind Ensemble. The performance takes place on Feb. 18.

'Be a Light': Montana School for the Deaf and Blind students return to Capitol after 4 years
In a world full of hate be a light. When you do somebody wrong, make it right," rang out from speakers across the floor as Expressions of Silence performed "Be a Light" by Thomas Rhett to our elected officials. Expressions of Silence (EOS), the performing group at the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind, performed on the House and Senate floors for what school officials said was the first time in four years Monday. The group performed for the 2019 session, but bowed out of the 2021 session due to COVID-19 concerns. They also performed "Imagine" by John Lennon.

Sparks fly! HHS, EHHS compete in annual Crosstown Weld-Off
Students welders from Helena High School and East Helena High School went head-to-head Thursday for the 11th annual Crosstown Weld-Off. Students dug through scrap metal, chose pieces that would work for their project, then designed and welded their projects in four hours. Judges for competition were from Dick Anderson Construction, General Distributing, Boilermakers Union Local 11, Iron Workers Union Local 732, Pioneer Aerostructures, Helena Sand and Gravel and Winfield "Be Tough" Memorial Foundation.

Bigfork School Board authorizes purchase of electric bus
Bigfork Schools are taking advantage of a grant which aims to help districts move towards clean energy buses. The Bigfork School Board on Jan. 11 unanimously approved the purchase of an electric bus. The district was awarded $375,000 for an electric bus in 2022 through the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus Program. Transportation Director Danny Walker said after researching a few different electric bus companies, he recommended purchasing a 71-passenger bus from Lion Electric. The cost of the bus matches the grant they received and the charging infrastructure would cost $20,370. Walker said the EPA program would cover $20,000 of the cost of the charging infrastructure, leaving the district with an out-of-pocket cost of $370. Walker said a requirement to receive the grant is to take one of the diesel buses entirely off the road. The district selected a 2010 Bluebird bus with 105,000 miles on it to be removed from its fleet.

5 principals to watch in 2023
As the latter half of the 2022-23 school year gets underway, principals nationwide face a veritable phalanx of challenges. Across the board, the concerns are familiar, including fostering positive school culture to support engagement and achievement, closing the gap on pandemic-related learning loss, creating equitable access to enrichment programming, and providing wraparound services to reengage and support those most at-risk. The following five principals are leaders you'll want to keep an eye on as we launch into the new year. Shelley Andres, Bonner School in Bonner, Montana, During a ceremony last fall in Washington, D.C., honoring the 2022 Class of National Distinguished Principals, Shelley Andres, elementary principal of Bonner School in Montana, received a bell. The bell, she said in an interview on the school's website, is a reminder of the honor she has in serving students, staff and families.

Fort Benton teen publishes debut novel
Emerson Giese, a senior at Fort Benton High School, is many things: a three-sport athlete (volleyball, basketball, and track), a member of the National Honor Society, and president of student council. Aside from her success as a student, she has now published her own debut novel titled "The Miserable Lives of the Perfect Ones." The adult fiction story came to life as she entered her senior year. The process of completing the story took two years, but she developed the idea during her freshman year of high school. "You get this divine inspiration at first," Giese said. "Your chapters are coming easy because you're doing the basic concepts and outlines. After that, it's just work you have to do. It feels more like a job and something that you just need to do and push through to get your final product. I enjoyed it a lot, but it was very difficult to find the job and motivation to continuously write about this certain thing. I had to research and find information outside of my experience."

BPA teaching real-world business skills to students
Sometimes people will joke that Montana's biggest export is it's kids, but Business Professionals of America (BPA) is actually trying to change that. "My favorite part about being an advisor is connecting my students and my teams with mentors in the community," said Jessica Goosen, BPA advisor at CMR High School. This year, 13 schools and 280 students competed in the Regional BPA competition at CMR High School on January 16. And it's all working to help them find their passion and develop business skills. Students say they are learning real world skills at BPA. "Presenting, data management, how to handle yourself under stress," explained Landen King, a sophomore at Great Falls High School. In other words, they are teaching students business skills and allowing them to practice those skills in a competitive environment. But it also gets students more involved in the community.

Butte students read for peace on MLK Day
MLK Read for Peace is a statewide service project in Montana that brings volunteers to elementary classrooms to read to students about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After listening to a book read aloud, students were asked to draw a dream they have that promotes peace and equality in their own lives.

Hellgate High School teacher named educator of the year
The Missoula Education Foundation Student Board of Directors awarded a Hellgate High School teacher with the 2022-23 High School Educator of the Year Award. Milton Zhinin-Barreto, a Spanish teacher, received the award Thursday morning in the school's auditorium. Zhinin-Barreto receives $1,000 to purchase any items to enhance learning for his classroom.

Worden school wins national NASA STEM contest two years in a row
Huntley Project Schools was one of 60 schools from across the country to win the NASA TechRise Student Challenge, the second year in a row the Worden school has taken the award. The challenge, in its second year, is a national STEM competition for sixth- to 12th-graders that offers students hands-on STEM experience and the opportunity to test their own innovative solutions for space exploration and the study of Earth. Administered by Future Engineers, it is designed to attract, engage, and prepare future science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professionals. This year, the challenge was to design a science or technology experiment that could be tested on a NASA-sponsored high-altitude balloon flight. High-altitude balloon platforms have catalyzed fundamental discoveries for decades that contribute to our current understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe.

Hamilton High students gain leadership skills through service projects
The Hamilton High School Leadership Class is wrapping up the semester with a wide array of community service projects. The 27 students in the class were given a task for their semester final: Make a positive impact on your community. The Leadership Class is team-taught by Kiah Nisly and Seeley Mickelson. "Through events like homecoming, the community food drive and the reception for the Veterans Day assembly, students have practiced establishing goals, creating plans, working with school administration and community members, and coordinating large-scale events," Nisly said. The community service final gives students the opportunity to demonstrate those leadership skills with a project of their own devising.

NEA grants go to Montana projects like MMIW play and Native ceramics
Around of federal funding will pay for western Montana workshops on Native American ceramic practices; elementary students learning poetry and Plains Indian sign language, translating some work into Salish, and an original touring play addressing the issues of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The National Endowment for the Arts grants, announced this week, are the first funding round for fiscal year 2023, according to a news release sent on Tuesday.

Powell County High School students create 'something of their own' for senior English project
Whether it be via Reddit, Cliffnotes or elsewhere, the internet – among other sources – provides students with easily accessible coaching or guidance for the age-old assignment of writing papers. So this year, Powell County High School teacher Sean McConnaha wanted to push his English IV seniors to create something organic. "Papers, I think, get really formulaic," McConnaha, 33, said Wednesday morning during an interview in his classroom. "Maybe some students have outside assistance, and I just wanted to have them make something of their own." The class named their collaborative effort "Richest Tailings," a nod to the "Richest Hill'' podcast by Nora Saks and Montana Public Radio. "Nora Saks gave us permission," McConnaha confirmed. The audio series narrated by Saks about Butte Superfund, along with Michael Punke's nonfiction work - on the 1917 Granite Mountain mining disaster - titled, "Fire and Brimstone," helped inspire the senior Wardens in their research-based storytelling endeavor covering "the intersection of the history and culture of Butte and Deer Lodge."

FEC offering scholarships to local students
Flathead Electric Co-op is offering over $117,000 in scholarships to local students this year. Applications are due March 15. Graduating high school seniors across the Co-op's service area, as well as current undergraduates, are encouraged to explore the requirements on the Co-op's website: All Co-op scholarships are funded by unclaimed capital credits. Despite the Co-op's best efforts to return capital credits to its members, some go unclaimed. Usually this is because a member moves and doesn't update their mailing address. The Co-op can use capital credits that go unclaimed for five or more years for educational purposes in Montana. If the Co-op chose not to use the unclaimed capital credits for educational purposes, these funds would go into the Montana general fund. The Co-op strives to award scholarship dollars across its service area to meet varied community needs. Scholarship dollars are earmarked for each area high school, including Stillwater Christian School. Dollars are also set aside for homeschool graduates and for those already attending a post-secondary Montana education institution. Additionally, scholarships are awarded each year to students pursuing trades degrees.

Havre schools add two electric buses to fleet
Havre Public Schools just added two new electric buses to its fleet, which the district's Transportation Department service attendant and trainer, Allen "Woody" Woodwick said will save the district a significant amount of money and improve their operations. Woodwick said the buses have a range of about 100 miles, only take an hour to charge and are easily handling two of their local routes even at -20 degrees, and at less than a quarter of the fuel costs they would have for their diesel buses. "And that's just the fuel costs. We also don't have to change 16 quarts of oil, or a filter, or flush the transmission fluid, your brakes don't wear out as quickly," Woodwick said. " ... So far, they've been working great." He said the buses drive about the same as the diesel-powered ones but are also far quieter and the only fuel they need other than electricity is some diesel for the auxiliary heating system, which helps keep the back half of the bus warm in the frigid Havre winters.

Hellgate Spanish teacher wins Missoula Educator of the Year
In the five years he's been at Hellgate High School, Milton Zhinin-Barreto has made a lasting impact on Spanish students by adding his lived experience into engaging lessons. On Thursday, Zhinin-Barreto hopped to his feet and ran down the aisle of the school auditorium as his colleagues delivered a standing ovation for his recognition as the Missoula Education Foundation's High School Educator of the Year. "This is going to be the highlight of my year," Zhinin-Barreto said. Originally from Ecuador, the engineer-turned-teacher traveled between his home country and the United States for many years before taking a job at Hellgate. Now, he teaches multiple sections of Spanish classes. His personal experience and knowledge of South American and Latin American culture make his lessons engaging and difficult to forget, according to many remarks from students who nominated him for the award 

Students from Montana School for the Deaf and Blind reach finals of STEM competition
One of the goals of any school is to provide their students with the skills they need to move confidently through the world, and to instill in them the belief that if they apply themselves and work hard, they can achieve whatever goal they set their minds to. That's a tall order for any school, one made even more challenging when its students must confront visual and hearing impairment. Students at the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind in Great Falls are proving that being "differently abled" is no barrier to academic achievement even at the highest levels. In December, international tech giant the Samsung Corporation announced that a team of students from the Deaf and Blind School (MSDB) are state finalists in their 2023 STEM competition to develop technologies with the potential to solve real world problems impacting the communities in which they live.

Corvallis students visit with local employers for Career Day
Corvallis High School held a Career Day for seniors on Tuesday for exploring jobs they could get immediately or with minimal training and will continue Wednesday with a focus on careers that require further education or instruction. CHS Counselor Jennifer Gaston-Smith organized the event along with American Legion Post 91 Adjutant Pat Clover. "We have about 85 seniors and over 21 opportunity booths," Gaston-Smith said. "It is not huge because I wanted it to be small enough for students to have time to get to the presentation booths they want to know more about." Representatives of the military, Bitterroot Health, Ravalli County Sheriff's Office, the City of Hamilton and the U.S. Forest Service were just a few of the entities who spoke about careers available without going to college, each giving brief presentations.

Trout in the Classroom: Bitterroot Valley students study fish ecology
The local Bitterroot Chapter of Trout Unlimited is working with four local high schools and the Trapper Creek Job Corps to help students learn about raising trout. Trout in the Classroom was started in the Bitterroot Valley three years ago with Hamilton High School and Corvallis High School. This year Florence High School, Darby High School and the Trapper Creek were added. On Wednesday, Dave Ward, president of the BRTU, said the program teaches students about the river ecosystem and the delicate balance required to provide life for fish. The program is "fabulous for the students," said Hamilton High School Principal Marlin Lewis.

GFPS and Alluvion conducting coat drive for students
This year, there are more than 10,000 kids enrolled in Great Falls Public Schools, and not all of them have the things they need, such as winter coats. GFPS is looking to change that. GFPS staff say they have identified more than 376 homeless students. With a big need for supplies, they have partnered with Alluvion Health to put on a coat drive for the month of January.

Lincoln School music students celebrate Christmas with a pair of concerts
Lincoln student had the chance to show off their musical talents during a pair of concerts in the Lincoln School gym last week. The elementary students served up a some Christmas cheer Wednesday evening, Dec. 14, with each class from Pre-K through sixth grade handling classic Christmas tunes including the first graders rendition of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and fourth graders playing "Jolly old Saint Nicholas" on recorders. Fifth graders, accompanied by sixth graders keeping tempo with 'boomwhackers," tackled a little latin with "Dona Nobis Pacem" and the fifth and sixth grade band followed up with a performance that included "Jingle Bells" and "My Dreydll."

Ronan basketball teams heading to Alaska after winning prize trip
The Ronan boys and girls basketball teams will be taking the trip of a lifetime at the end of January after winning the Alaska Nets High School Movie Night Grand Prize. Because of this, Alaska Airlines will fly both the Maidens and Chiefs up to the Alaska Airlines Classic High School Basketball Tournament in Anchorage. "The kids, parents and fans are pretty excited," Head Ronan Girls Coach Steve Woll said. "Many of the kids have never been on a plane or out of Montana so this is a great thing for them." Ronan High School had originally screened "Alaska Nets" as a fundraiser, showing the documentary about life and basketball on Alaska's last Native Reserve in the traditional community of Metlakatla. The school had a dinner night to go along with the film and there was a good turnout. Organizers realized that there was a hoops contest that could be entered as well and decided to compete.

Lodge Grass reboots music program
Lodge Grass schools have received 16 child-sized violins in an effort to restart music programs at the school. A program starting at the end of January will teach all third and fourth graders, twice a week.

Long-time Glendive educators leave $1.4 million to DCC
There is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon where exceptional educators shape the lives of young people in ways that they will remember fondly for the rest of their lives. In a recent case, the generosity of two of those educators has become a benefit to the entire community. Richard "Dick" and Winifred "Win" McMullin, two long-time educators in Glendive schools, donated their sizable estate to multiple organizations in the community, leaving the largest share to Dawson Community College. Richard - a science teacher at the college and at Dawson County High School prior to the college and high school separating in the 1960s - and Winifred left approximately $1.4 million to the institution for the betterment of students looking to receive a scientific education.

December BARK awards
On December 20th, Ekalaka Elementary School held its December Behavioral BARK awards. BARK is an acronym for Be Respectable, Act Responsible, Remember Safety and Kindness Matters. Each month, students at Ekalaka Elementary work on a specific character trait. During December that trait was kindness.

Billings high school student gives back to families in need
It's hard enough when families wonder when, where or how they will get their next meal, but oftentimes special occasions like a birthday celebration get completely overlooked because of these day-to-day challenges. A new volunteer group in conjunction with the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools is looking to address that through take-home birthday kits. Since starting this fall, over 50 kits have been made and sent to students across School District 2 struggling with food insecurity. Through the efforts of a local student and her mom, the program looks to not only provide a treat for a student and their family, but also to deliver a celebration they may not have otherwise. "It's easy and fast and it definitely helps a lot to make someone's day and normalizes having a birthday (for them)," said Senior High freshman Ellie Edwards.

Billings high school student gives back to families in need
It's hard enough when families wonder when, where or how they will get their next meal, but oftentimes special occasions like a birthday celebration get completely overlooked because of these day-to-day challenges. A new volunteer group in conjunction with the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools is looking to address that through take-home birthday kits. Since starting this fall, over 50 kits have been made and sent to students across School District 2 struggling with food insecurity. Through the efforts of a local student and her mom, the program looks to not only provide a treat for a student and their family, but also to deliver a celebration they may not have otherwise. "It's easy and fast and it definitely helps a lot to make someone's day and normalizes having a birthday (for them)," said Senior High freshman Ellie Edwards.

Belgrade school bus driver wins $10,000 to purchase heated clothes for fellow drivers
A Belgrade school bus driver received $10,000 to surprise her fellow drivers with heated gloves, vests or jackets this winter. The money, from a "These are my people" contest run by a financial technology company called Kasasa, was awarded to Heather Garity last week. When Garity saw the contest mentioned in a newsletter from her bank Sky Federal Credit Union - where she has a Kasasa account - she immediately thought of her coworkers. Gifting the drivers with heated clothes was a way to recognize them for their hard work and say thank you, Garity said. "They don't ever think about themselves. They think about what to do for the kids and what's best for the kids," she said. In a news release, Kasasa said the contest launched through community banks and credit unions was an opportunity for people to share their stories and connect with their loved ones.

December 2022 Great News

SSHS Entrepreneurs Showcase Products at "Blackhawk BIZ" Market Day
From juniper charcuterie boards to scented soy candles, Seeley-Swan High School students have been working hard since the first day of school to build their own independent businesses. The semester-long entrepreneurship class, taught by Michele Holmes, is a chance for students to learn their way around the world of business. During the "Blackhawk Biz" Market Day, students were able to sell the products they have been working on throughout the semester.  The students were challenged with the complex process of creating a business plan, a cost analysis, making a product to sell, and then marketing their product.

Seeley Lake youth one of 21 students nominated in the state
Owen Hoag, of Seeley-Swan High School, was announced as one of the 21 students in Montana nominated by U.S. Senator Jon Tester to the country's four prestigious military service academies. Owen is nominated to the U.S. Military Academy. The announcement was made in a press release on Thursday, Dec. 8, noting that Owen is captain of the football team and a track and field 200-meter dash state champion. He is also a junior member of Seeley-Swan Search and Rescue, a student trustee for the Missoula County Public Schools Board, and has attended Boy State. 

Polson High senior receives Winslow Nichols Leadership Award
"It's been my goal to be valedictorian since forever – pretty much at least since I knew what the word meant," says Polson High senior Aspen McKee. With just two quarters left in her high school career and a 4.0 grade point, she's on track to check that accomplishment off of her to-do list. The highly motivated student is the recipient of the Winslow Nichols Leadership Award from Logan Health. In nominating McKee, school counselor Betsy Wade calls her "an exceptionally talented student – demonstrating academic excellence and intellectual curiosity." "I'm a doer," says McKee of her many accomplishments. That propensity for engagement helps explain her decision to take the most rigorous course of study available at Polson High, including five AP classes and two dual-enrollment classes, which have already earned her 15 college credits. She's taken music all four years, playing saxophone and piano, performing with the Symphonic Band, Jazz Band and Pep Band, and receiving superior ratings at the district and state level. She's the sole band member to earn a berth at the prestigious All Northwest music conference in February, featuring top high school musicians from six states. 

Alberton parent-teacher group hosts gingerbread day
On Sunday afternoon, the Alberton School Gymnasium transformed into a gingerbread house manufacturing plant as parents, guardians and kids came in to build and have fun. Graham crackers were used instead of gingerbread so boxes were spaced out on the lunchroom tables with an aluminum foil mat in place for the building site. A plastic bag of vanilla frosting was set in each construction zone to be used as adhesive sealant and the trim and accessories (candy) were lined up in bowls on the stage for the builders to help themselves to for the finish work. The Alberton Schools Parent Teachers Student Association (PTSA) was disbanded about 10 years before Felicity Day became the president two years ago. "A couple of parents pitched the idea of bringing back the PTSA and my kids were enrolled here and I wanted to get involved. I wanted to support the teachers," Day shared.

Plains art students bring holiday cheer to area businesses
Art teacher Kristen Cole's students spent last Thursday bringing holiday cheer to businesses around Plains. They used their art skills to paint holiday-themed pictures on the windows of 17 businesses. The Post Office was among those having 11 windows painted. This was the second year in a row to have the students paint their windows. Artist and 10th-grader RuBea Privett was hard at work painting the character, Cindy Lou Who, which came to life under her brush strokes. Privett said she enjoyed spending time creating her art. Ninth-graders Madi Peele and Maddie Carter were adding more holiday cheer to the windows, with snowflakes and the always poplar Grinch and Max the dog. Each of the paintings were hand drawn with color carefully added on. Many of the artists painted multiple businesses starting at 9 a.m., Thursday morning and ending around 4 p.m.

Lincoln High School Graduate Sage Kamps Inducted into The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi
Sage Kamps of Ovando, Mont., was recently initiated into The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation's oldest and most selective all-discipline collegiate honor society. Kamps was initiated at University of Montana. Kamps is among approximately 25,000 students, faculty, professional staff and alumni to be initiated into Phi Kappa Phi each year. Membership is by invitation only and requires nomination and approval by a chapter. Only the top 10 percent of seniors and 7.5 percent of juniors are eligible for membership. Graduate students in the top 10 percent of the number of candidates for graduate degrees may also qualify, as do faculty, professional staff and alumni who have achieved scholarly distinction.

Chess Club a new option for strategic students
Another new endeavor for Laurel High School is the Chess Club. The chess club is hosted by art teacher Ceilon Aspensen. The club has four active members that meet in Aspensen's room every day during lunch to play chess against the other members of the group. At this time, the players rotate to rival each other to improve at the game. All the players are at different levels, but everyone can play and participate. It is a stress-free time to enjoy playing chess with other chess lovers. It is a great opportunity for them to play chess because they are able to do one of their favorite activities with other teenagers that know how to play. Dallas Jackson, a member of the group said, "I like playing chess and especially in Laurel High School because I can actually find other people who know how to play it so I can practice with other chess players. It's very fun." Many high school students enjoy playing chess, but can't find students to match who know how to play the game at a high level. The club in Laurel High School makes it possible for students to easily find fellow chess players and play for fun. In the spring of 2023, the club will start to enter in tournaments.

Another LHS real-world venture: Hot Diggety Dog
Let's be frank: we all love a good hot dog, whether it is boiled, grilled, or even microwaved. "Hot dogs just hit the spot!" says Lisa McDonald, who teaches life skills classes for the Special Education students. These classes include Math, Science, Montana History, English, and Job skills. Specifically, the job skills class has been preparing for their hot dog cart debut. The hot dog cart called "The Hot Diggety Dog" opened for the first time on December 2, and will carry on through the end of the year. The students will be selling their hot dogs outside of the Laurel High School Depot every first and third Friday of each month. Two students at a time will be working at the cart, selling hot dogs along with chips and condiments.

Reading For Graduation Matters
Graduation Matters is a program at Laurel High School that emphasizes that the work students do in the building is important. It is important to be a good role model for younger students as well as focusing on their own post-graduation goals. This year the high schoolers went on an adventure to read for the elementary students on November 17th for an early Thanksgiving treat. In the beginning of November, Lori Hodges, the high school's librarian and Graduation Matters coordinator, sent out an email to all fall and winter season coaches to invite the athletes to help host this event; a couple of weeks later the fun began. After reading a short book to the kids as they sit and look at the pictures, elementary students are given the opportunity to ask the high schoolers questions and learn more about what high school is like or their specific sport. This is a great way of getting the elementary students excited for their future in high school, and a way for the athletes to give back to all of their little fans who cheer for them at games. Hosting these events allows the older kids and elementary kids to make a connection with each other where the younger ones now have a special bond or person to look forward to at high school games and other big events where the high schoolers are. 

Interior Design another elective available for students
Jennifer Painter, a new teacher at Laurel High School, specializes in classes such as La cuisine, ProStart, FACS and Interior Design. With this being her first year teaching Interior Design and it being her first year teaching high school, Painter has talked about what a wonderful class it is and the struggles that came with it. Painter herself had to take this class when she went to college so she has some background knowledge of this class. Painter also said, "I have to reteach myself the curriculum that I was taught in college, now teaching students myself." With all of that said, however, Painter's classes have been successful and engaging for a large spread of students. Interior Design is a lesser known elective for students.

Student Council takes on Great Falls
After not being able to attend the State convection for Student Council for almost 2 years due to the pandemic, schools from all over the state were able to have a chance to attend. "We left on the 6th and got back on the 9th; it was a 3 day conference," said Lori Hodges the Student Council co-advisor. "There were approximately 470 students from across the state; it was huge." Two advisors and 17 students from Laurel High School went. This year, the convention was held in Great Falls. Every year, the State Convention has a theme. This year's theme was "Lewis and Clark" because in Great Falls they have the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Senior, Tazsia Brester mentioned, "They were showing off what the Great Fall is all about; we were pretty much doing what they did. So, they opened up the museum for all of us to go in to show off Great Falls and their school." Sophomore, Raylea Brown said, "We got to build boats that they used, wear their type of clothes, and we watched a film. I really loved it. I'm a history fanatic!" At the conference they had 3 keynote speakers, Josh Fingerhut, Michael V. Ivanov, Josh Huestis.

Home Room
For the past six months, Reanna Taliaferro, her two children, and the family's mixed-breed rescue dog have shared a 270-square-foot hotel room on the outskirts of downtown Kalispell. Filled with emblems of childhood chaos - old Halloween costumes, homework sheets, ramen noodles and teddy bears - the small space is the most constant home the family has had in years. While not ideal, the hotel room offers privacy, a bathroom and a heating system, which is more than Taliaferro can say for other recent living arrangements. As the family's after-school routine unfolded on a recent weekday evening, Taliaferro described her enduring struggle with the Flathead Valley's harsh housing market and its impacts on her two children, who have been forced to weather the storm of homelessness alongside their mother for the past three years. The family has been without stable housing since October 2019, when an unexpected eviction pushed them onto the streets and into a sequence of transitional living situations. Her daughter, a first grader, and her son, a freshman in high school, are both enrolled in Kalispell schools. 

DCHS pantry benefits students
The Dawson County High School student pantry has seen an uptick in usage this year, and while that means student needs are being met like never before, it does also raise some questions for those who manage the program. The goal of the pantry is to provide food and other products to students who may not have those resources as easily available to them as their peers. It was established in early 2020 by a member of the graduating class and taken over by the school's Z Club later that year. It's success has even inspired the implementation of another pantry at Washington Middle School this year. According to Z Club Adviser Nicole Cohen, this year has seen some changes to the pantry's operation, though those have mostly been due to the way it has been utilized. For example, she explained that students have shifted from primarily taking food home to cook and have instead been utilizing it more for in school, such as at lunch time. What this means is that there is more of a conscious effort to stock the pantry with items that can be suitable for an easy lunch or snack. "This year, the student pantry has been used in a different way than I've seen it used in the last couple of years. Our first couple years, we saw a lot more leaving the building for, like, after school, and this year, we haven't seen that as much. I'm not sure if that's just because it's earlier in the year or we are just facing a different need this year, but we are seeing more use in school than we've seen in previous years," Cohen said.

Trout in the Classroom brings watershed to life for Frenchtown students
Growing up, Caitlin Wilcox had a pet Betta fish. Now, the Frenchtown High School junior and her classmates in Hannah Pepper's advanced biology class are responsible for the lives of about 200 rainbow trout. Caring for the trout - which the class is raising from eggs to fry - is a lot more involved than Wilcox's previous experience. It's a process that involves more equipment, frequent (but regimented) feedings and routine testing of the aquarium water. 

Dinner and a show
The CCHS drama class performed at their annual Dinner Theater last Thursday. This year, the class put on an original production entitled "Hospitals Can Be Murder." The story was set in an old military hospital. Performers included Zander Ashbrook, Barbara Rose Elmore, Travis Shallenberger, Jenna Elmore, Jolyn Elmore, Alivia Foxley, Tristan Reynolds, Abagayel Stonebrink, and Ayla Yates. The local FCCLA chapter provided the dinner portion of the evening, chicken cordon bleu with sides and dessert.

Youth tour winner announced
Southeast Electric Cooperative Inc. recently announced that Kayl Hadley of Plevna, Montana was chosen as the 2023 Washington D.C. Youth Tour winner. Kayl, the daughter of Jeff and Josi Hadley, is currently a sophomore at Baker High School. This year students were asked if they could witness one historical moment firsthand, what would it be and why? Kayl chose the Apollo 11 Moon Landing stating that "this moment in history exemplifies one of the greatest technological, far-fetched, and complicated advancements in the 20th century."

Big Sandy High School Music Rules the Air
It is that time of year when music rules supreme. The time of year when we usually know every song being played. It brings up memories and smiles. It lifts us, and despite ourselves, we find ourselves smiling. Ok, there is occasionally a song that is played so much we start crumbling about "that" same song. There is music about the Savior being born. Music about family. Music about Santa. My favorite concerts are this time of year. I love listening to grade school children sing. I love watching them search the crowds for their parents. I love seeing them in their Christmas dresses. "Gramma, I have a new dress! It's so beautiful! It's gold." I love hearing the first time the grade school band plays. They are still learning, but it's terrific! The Elementary School Concert is 6:30 PM on Thursday, December 15th. The High School Christmas concert is on Tuesday, December 20th, at 6:00. This concert is fabulous because of the quality of the music! Our high school musicians are that good.

'FFA goes Urban Cowboy': CHS chapter organizes fundraiser
The Corvallis High School FFA chapter is organizing its 4th annual Alumni fundraiser "FFA goes Urban Cowboy" for Friday, Jan. 27, at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds. Chapter Advisor Neela Andres said the FFA program helps the youth prepare for the future and that the funding provides opportunities to more members. Sentinel Gia Bumgarner said the event will include a sirloin steak dinner, a dessert auction, live music by the Copper Mountain Band, silent and live auctions and a mechanical bull. "Corporations can buy tables and we also have general admission seats," she said. "Doors open at 5:30 and dinner will be served at 6:30. The other events will take place the whole time. It is going to be so much fun. The band, Copper Mountain Band, is super good and the bull riding will be so fun."

Sen. Daines nominates local students for military academies
U.S. Senator Steve Daines on Tuesday nominated 19 Montana students who are applying for enrollment into U.S. military academies, including two from the Flathead Valley. Daines nominated Kalispell student Luke Leech for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and Columbia Falls student Nicholas Dills for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy. "One of my greatest honors as Montana's U. S. Senator is to nominate committed Montana students to compete for an appointment to one of our nation's military academies. Their commitment to serving our nation is a reflection of Montana's rich legacy of service. I wish them the best as they continue in this extremely competitive process," Daines said in a press release.

Highland Park students learn about Native heritage
Students at Highland Park Early Primary School were treated to a number of activities Friday meant to introduce them to aspects of Native American culture and history. Native elders from around the area came to the school and helped with a number of activities students engaged in, including learning about the reservations' flags, and the significance of certain symbols and animals. Students were also able to take a beading class with Renita Longknife, an elder from Fort Belknap, and Nikkita Foursouls, also of Fort Belknap, who spoke about traditional Nakoda teachings about the Circle of Life.

Dolce Canto to perform with SHS Chrysolian Choir Saturday
Stevensville High School Chrysolian Choir will join the Missoula choir Dolce Canto for a special "Love in December" concert at Stevensville United Methodist Church on Saturday, Dec. 10. SHS Choir Director Kyla Morton said she is pleased her students get the opportunity to sing with a professional choir. "Every few years Dolce Canto reaches out to schools," Morton said. "This year they reached out to the Bitterroot and called me. I was so honored." SHS will sing a solo number and a combined song with Dolce Canto.

Durward looks to improve HHS band as drum major
Havre High School's band has a new Drum Major in Liana Durward, a senior and former color guard captain, who took over at the beginning of this year and who has been looking to continue improving not only their performance, but their connection to the larger community. Durward started playing music in middle school, as part of a family tradition that included her father and brother, both of whom played in middle school, the former playing percussion and the latter playing trumpet. Durward on the other hand opted for the alto saxophone, but has since pivoted to a baritone saxophone which the high school band was in need of, a change she said she has definitely enjoyed.

Two Bitterroot high school coaches selected as COY Fall 2022
The Montana Coaches Association has selected two Bitterroot high school coaches as Coach of the Year for Fall 2022. Pat Duchien, Florence-Carlton High School, is the Class B Football Coach of the Year and Owen Burch of Hamilton High School is the Class A Girls Golf Coach of the Year. This is the second year the Florence Falcon football team earned the Class B 11-man state championship. The first time was just last year. The exciting repeat by the Florence Falcons as Class B state football champions was 48 to 7 against Loyola on Saturday, Nov. 19. Duchien said that although he appreciates being selected as Coach of the Year it was a group effort.

4 local students nominated for military academies
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester has nominated four Flathead County students to the country's four prestigious military service academies. Tester selected a total of 21 students based on their academic accomplishments, extracurricular activities, and dedication to serving and leading in the United States military. A nomination from a member of Congress is a student's first step in applying to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. "Montana has a long and proud history of producing some of our nation's finest military men and women, and it's a great honor to nominate our state's best and brightest to continue this legacy at one of our military service academies," said Senator Tester. "Their outstanding work ethic and dedication to serving our country prove they are exactly the kind of leaders we need in the military and I look forward to watching them continue to make our state and country proud."

Former Cascade teacher will lead national ag educator recruitment
It has been a few years since Eric Tilleman was at the head of an ag education classroom. He was a fixture in the halls at Cascade High School as the Ag Education teacher for 16 years. But his passion for the profession never faded, even as he took a job as the Agricultural Education Specialist with the State of Montana. Recently, he was named President-elect of the National Association of Agricultural Educators, which gives opportunities to over 9,000 teachers across the country. A big part of the organization's mission is to attract and keep new ag teachers. "We're trying to get teachers into the classroom, trying to retain them, because we have a lot of teachers, they quit after three years," said Tilleman. "So we had to figure out how to solve that issue." Tilleman will serve in a presidential capacity for three years, first as President-elect, then President, and then past president.

Buzz! Students battle it out for title of best Apsaalooke Language Speaker
How do you say, "Thank you, may your day be good?" "Aho, Diish Baapaa Itchi." Correct! The Intertribal Language Summit came to Montana State University Billings with an Apsaalooke Language Bowl for elementary, middle and high school students on Wednesday. The students were given words or phrases in English, which they had to translate into Apsaalooke. They were given buzzers, Jeopardy! style. They would then duke it out over the course of five minutes with the winner answering the most questions in that time. Tribal elders who speak the language served as judges. Around 30 students vied for the title of best speaker and the competition was fierce with a few going on runs of three or four correct questions in a row, while also flexing their buzzing skills.

Emerson students deck the halls for floor decorating competition
At Emerson Elementary School, teachers and students alike not only got into the holiday spirit, but also embrace the spirit of competition. This is the first time the school has done a Christmas floor decorating competition, and it's not an annual event, said principal Brenda Miner. First-grade teacher Alynn Jonart said the floor decorating – which has been going on since before Thanksgiving – started as a competition between the teachers, and evolved to include the students. The teachers decided on three themes: one for each floor. On the first floor, where the pre-k, kindergarten and first-grade classrooms reside, the theme is "The Polar Express," the 2004 animated movie which was adapted from the 1985 book by Chris Van Allsburg. When you first walk down the hall from one side, you'll see Christmas trees made of some of the students' green-painted handprints.

Student of the month: Curtis Corzine of EHHS 'reaches for challenges and doesn't back down'
Curtis Corzine is redefining the word busy, and he hasn't even graduated high school yet. Curtis attends East Helena High School and is a part of the first senior class since the new school was established in 2019 and moved into a newly constructed building in 2020. This is his first normal school year in his new school. "I wish COVID hadn't happened," said Curtis. "The first two years, we didn't have a real high school experience because they hadn't even built the school the first year. We were in the middle school. Then COVID hit, and we had the weird block schedule. I've enjoyed my one year of high school." Curtis Corzine is redefining the word busy, and he hasn't even graduated high school yet. Curtis attends East Helena High School and is a part of the first senior class since the new school was established in 2019 and moved into a newly constructed building in 2020. This is his first normal school year in his new school. "I wish COVID hadn't happened," said Curtis. "The first two years, we didn't have a real high school experience because they hadn't even built the school the first year. We were in the middle school. Then COVID hit, and we had the weird block schedule. I've enjoyed my one year of high school."

Grandparents fill local schools with love
Grandparents always have the best stories, interesting facts, and delicious treats and now these role models can be found in the schools. Foster Grandparents are currently in 10 of the 15 GFPS elementary schools and three private elementary schools. The Foster Grandparents program is a federal program and a United Way of Cascade County grant provides the required matching local dollars to leverage the federal funds as they're given $3.15 an hour for their time. However, it's not the money that fuels their desire to spend time with kids, it's the kids themselves. "Being a foster Grandmother means I can enlighten a child's life and perhaps give him something he doesn't have, and perhaps he can have a totally fun filled day with love while he's at school," said Genia McElroy, a foster grandma. McElroy, better known as Grandma Genia has been a foster grandma in the Great Falls Public School system for 8 years. She's just one of 25 grandparents who go into classrooms throughout Great Falls to give teachers a helping hand and students a little extra attention.

Montana Model UN announces high school winners
More than 250 students from 12 Montana and Idaho high schools participated in the 57th annual Montana Model United Nations Conference, hosted in November at the University of Montana. UM Provost Pardis Mahdavi welcomed students and their advisers to campus and shared her own personal experiences growing up in Iran. Joanna Shelton, a UM economics faculty affiliate and nonresident senior associate in economics for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, gave a keynote speech titled "Global Cooperation in a Fragmented World." The top five high school seniors were Melina LaPlante, Eden Maxwell and Ashley Kim of Hellgate High School in Missoula, as well as Aiden Rohn and Eddie Chisholm of Columbia Falls High School in Columbia Falls. Each will be offered a $1,000 scholarship to attend UM. Schools also won awards at the conclusion of the conference. Participating schools were divided into small and large delegations based on the number of students attending and were judged on the overall preparedness, participation and excellence of their delegate.

Columbia Falls students top-5 at Model UN
More than 250 students from 12 Montana and Idaho high schools participated in the 57th annual Montana Model United Nations Conference, hosted in November at the University of Montana.

East Middle School students learn about 'gift of giving'
Not every school assignment is taught in a classroom. Sometimes, the classroom can be temporarily moved to the toy aisle at Walmart, or right smack in the middle of the store's clothing section. While shopping Sunday morning for Butte families in need this Christmas, East Middle School students, with lists in hand, had to use not only their math skills, but their organizational skills as they walked up and down the store's aisles. All of the students wanted to make sure they didn't go under budget, nor over budget, and that the gifts they picked were not only needed but what each person wanted. Everything had to be just right. Early-morning customers who thought they would beat the crowds and noise were in for a surprise. During the nearly two-hour shopping excursion, pre-teens were heard laughing and shouting throughout the store. "This is so cool!" or "I think she'd really like that!" were just two of the many comments that reached high-decibel levels.

'I'd love to go back and do it again': PAL students attend EconoQuest Conference
For high school teachers wondering how to make economics fun, look no further than EconoQuest. The Montana World Affairs Council put on the first ever EconoQuest Conference in Bozeman from Oct. 23-25. Students Ashton Thompson (senior), Adam Rea (junior) and Nova Charlton (senior) from Helena's Project for Alternative Learning (PAL), along with their government, history and world culture teacher Ryan Cooney, were in attendance. "The Montana World Affairs Council based in Missoula is a wonderful program, and I want to emphasize to any teacher to get their students involved because it is mostly free. They provide scholarships, transportation, hotel rooms and great programming," said Cooney. "... I think the benefits and values are too numerous to list." The main goal of the conference was to provide Montana students with an opportunity to engage with local companies and government leaders about economics. The takeaway from the conference was basic understanding of economic theory, business investment planning, the impact of global dynamics on our economy and more. Around 12 teams from high schools around the state attended the conference.

Public schools report second year of enrollment gains in Montana's K-12 student population
Preliminary enrollment figures released by the Office of Public Instruction Thursday show a slight increase in Montana's K-12 student population this fall - the second consecutive year of gains following a significant dip during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the latest headcount, conducted in public schools across the state on Oct. 3, Montana's statewide enrollment has reached 149,879 students. That's a 681-student increase from OPI's official enrollment count for the 2021-22 school year, and a gain of 4,247 students since the agency reported a dramatic decline in 2020-21. OPI stated in its announcement that the latest total marks the highest public school enrollment in Montana in 19 years. School districts have until Dec. 31 to change or certify their headcounts, meaning this fall's numbers may alter slightly before they're finalized. In a statement accompanying the announcement, state Superintendent Elsie Arntzen tied the increase to her agency's ongoing work revising content standards for math and reading and exploring alternatives to end-of-year standardized tests.

Penny wars
Whitefish Middle School students participated in a "Penny War" run by their student council. Classes compete against each other to raise the most money. Pennies, checks and cash go into their positive total. Kids enjoy sabotaging other classes by putting silver coins in the can, which gets subtracted from their class total. WMS raised over $4,000 for North Valley Food Bank during the fundraiser. Student Council thanks all of the WMS Families for their contributions to this fundraiser. 

Student businesses ready to launch at Blackhawk BIZ Market Day
The Seeley-Swan High School Entrepreneur Class has been talking about Market Day since the first day of school. Now their mini businesses are a reality and will make their debut during the second annual Blackhawk BIZ Market Day from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, in the SSHS Cafeteria. The high school students are excited to offer their homemade goodies, hand-made crafts, jewelry and apparel, and unique art created from various mediums. With the class size more than doubling from last year's inaugural Entrepreneur class, SSHS is leading the way for Missoula County Public Schools. Teacher Michele Holmes said they are the first school in the MCPS District to offer an entrepreneur class using Empowered, a curriculum sponsored by the Montana Chamber of Commerce. Empowered provides a platform for hands-on, real-life business experience by taking students through the whole entrepreneurial process from brainstorming to starting a mini business in a semester. "Nobody [in MCPS] is using the Empowered platform and curriculum, and I think it adds so much," Holmes said. "The activities are so hands-on, and it is just such a powerful way to learn."

REACH works to build new school in Dayton
The REACH Foundation has announced its plans to build a new school and community center for the town of Dayton in Proctor Valley. Started this year by members of the community, Executive Director Kaci Santos explained that REACH has been in the works for the last couple of years. The conversation got started when parents, seeing the issues of the current school, came together wanting better for their kids. On leased Tribal land, the facility has no room for expansion due to the septic system being at capacity. This means the school district is unable to add school basics such as a gym and a cafeteria for hot lunches. Though the normal process for creating a new public school happens through levies and bonds and a taxpayer vote, Dayton has been unable to pass such a measure over the years. Therefore, the idea of the foundation was born. Spearheaded by school board members and parents, an eight-member board includes a Tribal liaison, a principal, a school teacher, and business owners. Santos said REACH is involving "individuals from many different walks of life to make sure we're getting all the right people engaged to take on a project of this size." Though it's a private organization, the school the REACH foundation intends to build will be a public school leased to the school district. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the foundation simply allows for private money to be used for the school district in lieu of the tax funding they were unable to receive. And since the foundation kicked off in May, Santos said they've received over a million dollars in donations. 

Native American Heritage Day: Polson students study heritage and traditions
Students at Polson Middle School set aside their regular studies Tuesday to learn about the cultural and artistic traditions of Salish and Kootenai people during the seventh annual Native American Heritage Day. D'Arcy Ellis, an artist and teacher, helped students learn about traditional indigenous dress, hair styles and embellishments. Students experimented with different materials and patterns as they adorned paper-doll size cutouts. "We're going around from the beginning of school until lunch learning about Native American heritage," said eighth grader Morgan Delaney as she put finishing touches on a doll. Tim Ryan, department head for the Salish Kootenai College's Culture and Language Studies Department, and John Stevens, also of SKC, taught students how to build a fire (carefully) with a bow, spindle and notched fire board. The room erupted in cheers when someone finally elicited a slender tendril of smoke and flicker of flame. "Keep it going, c'mon, c'mon!"

Two local students awarded scholarships
CONGRATULATIONS to TERS Student Brandi Bigby and RHS student Kaileen Howard! Winners of two, all expenses paid scholarships, to the Intertribal Agriculture Council Youth training in Las Vegas, this December! Each year, my office, the MSU Flathead Reservation Extension Office (FREO) works with the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) to engage youth in agriculture. One of these sponsored events is the annual Youth Essay Contest. This year the theme for the contest was focused on recognizing, creating, and proposing a work plan that supports Tribal food sovereignty by addressing food nutrition, insecurity, processing, and/or infrastructure. There were 60 full ride scholarships available (any indigenous youth across the U.S. can participate) for youth finalists and one guardian to attend the Intertribal Agriculture Council Youth Track in Vegas every December. This is a Monday – Thursday event filled with training opportunities specifically designed for youth and of course lots of fun along the way.

Laurel High School senior Abigail Nagel honored by Wendy's
There are some students who set the bar. They work harder, show more passion and lead by example-in the classroom, on the field and within the community. Today, Wendy's High School Heisman recognizes Abigail Nagel from Laurel High School and her dedication to never cutting corners by naming her as the school winner."These students are known by their teachers and friends for their commitment to excellence. We are excited and honored that a program like Wendy's High School Heisman is also recognizing their hard work," said Shawnda Zahara, Principal of Laurel High School.

Cut Bank, Browning third-graders receive free books
The Glacier County Library Memorial Foundation and Friends of the Library Committee did their Third Grade Book Giveaway in Cut Bank on Wednesday, Nov 2., and in Browning on Thursday, Nov. 3. Each third grade student was able to select a book from the local Scholastic Book Fair with a value of up to $13.00. This year Cut Bank had 72 third grade students and their selections totaled $685.29. Browning had 140 students and their selections totaled $1,340.69. Austin Castle, Library Director, Vananda Yazzie, Browning Branch Manager, and Linda Luther, Foundation Board Member and Friends of the Library Committee chair were present at the giveaway in Cut Bank to help the children make their book selections.

Big Sandy has incredible schools
Principal Heather Wolery's report was the most important and exciting at the meeting. The student enrollment is elementary 104, Jr. High 29, and High School 63. There are 52 girls and 52 boys in the elementary school. Jr. High has 12 girls and 17 boys. High school breaks down to 34 girls and 29 boys. The Student-Teacher Ration is Elementary 7:1, Jr. High 2:1, and High School 5:1. The Average class size is 15. The average daily attendance is 95.03% in the Elementary, Jr High has 95.89%, and High School is running at 93.53%. The percentage of students involved in Extracurricular Activities is high. The Jr High has 90% of the student participating. High School is 67%. But here it is! The average 1st Quarter GPA for the Jr. High is 3.542, and the high school student's average is 3.574! The Board of Trustees held their regular meeting on November 15th. There was a rather large crowd of wrestling supporters to discuss allowing Kyle Rodewald to volunteer as an extra coach this year in the wrestling program. Tucker Taylor reported they would have up to eight wrestlers this year in the Big Sandy wrestling program. He has the largest number of athletes to wrestle since he has been coaching. He believed this was because of the commitment of Kyle Rodewald. Everyone who spoke was in favor. The board voted to allow Kyle to be a volunteer.

FE Miley Had a New, Creative Thanksgiving Celebration
F.E. Miley Elementary School kicked off a new Thanksgiving tradition last Tuesday before breaking for the holiday weekend. "Friendsgiving" was an opportunity for students to plan their own class meals and share lunchtime with their friends. For "Friendsgiving," the school was divided in half by grades. Kindergarten through third grade planned their own event, while fourth through sixth grade did their own thing. The younger grades prepared class soups and bread for lunch, with each child bringing in a different ingredient. During lunch, classes had the opportunity to choose to eat in the cafeteria with the other grades or in their classrooms. Kindergarten through second opted to eat as a group and mixed into each other's classes. Typically lunch tables are separated by grade, but for Friendsgiving they sat with friends they normally wouldn't be able to have lunch with. The third grade class chose to eat in their classroom, which is a treat normally reserved for special occasions.

Havre schools Native heritage events a success
Today is the last day of Native American Heritage month and Havre Public Schools Indian Education For All Director Jessica Kennedy-Stiffarm said she thinks this year's cultural events, classes and addresses went very well. Kennedy-Stiffarm took the position in October of this year and has since been working to bring more cultural events and education to the district, with the guidance of parents and students. She said she's been conducting surveys and talking to parents and students to see where they think the holes are in the district's education about Native American culture, language and history, and their suggestions are guiding her longterm plans. In the meantime, she said, she's been working on setting up events, classes and speakers at the schools and they had a number of great events throughout November. "I think it went very well," she said. Among the events were a class on horse painting, which has a very important history for Native American communities, and an honor song and drum group for Veterans Day.

Reach Higher Montana Scholarships double to $2,000 this year
When it comes to paying for higher education, the Montana nonprofit Reach Higher Montana knows that every penny counts these days. "Reach Higher Montana is super excited to offer funds to students to pursue their college and career dreams," said Steve Coop, programs manager. "We understand the value of higher education, whether that be the trades, a two-year school or a four-year school." In past years, the nonprofit gave out the same number of scholarships, but they were for $1,000 each. Coop stated that with the rising cost of higher education, the nonprofit's board gave the go-ahead to double the scholarship awards to $2,000 this year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost of education has gone up 10% from $8,500 to $9,400 from 2010-11 to 2020-2021 at four-year public institutions. At four-year private nonprofit institutions, the 2020-2021 education cost at $37,600 is 19% higher than in 2010-2011 at $31,700. For two-year public institutions from 2010-2011 to 2020-2021, the cost is 18% higher, going from $3,300 to $3,900.

 Local youths help decorate museum with history in mind
Local youths helped deck the halls of the Northwest Montana History Museum with history in mind in preparation for an open house on Thursday, Dec. 1. Museum volunteer Susan Bradley, who took on Christmas decorating responsibilities this year, was inspired to reach out to students when she thought about decorating the McClaren 1895 Classroom. "I thought we're missing an opportunity to engage kids in the local area," Bradley said and knew it was around the time that teachers would be getting out the art supplies to make ornaments and other holiday decorations. She put out the invitation on social media and got a good response. Bradley was also interested in taking a historical approach to decorating that complemented different exhibits and expanded visitor's knowledge of local history through the lens of Christmas and was delighted to learn Kalispell Middle School eighth-graders in social studies teacher Brynn Willcut's elective history class were studying families like the Conrads and other people and groups such as homesteaders, missionaries and Native Americans in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

November 2022 Great News

Belgrade Schools offer free Thanksgiving meals
This is the second year the Belgrade School District is offering free Thanksgiving meals after a successful and impactful first year. On Thursday from 1-3 P.M. at Belgrade High School folks can come pick up a full meal that includes turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, a roll, cranberry sauce and assorted desserts. They will also have pantry items that folks can take as well if they need it.  This is put on by Belgrade School District's ProStart program which is a foodservice industry driven curriculum developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The ProStart course integrates performance-based learning with academics, entrepreneurship and technology skills to prepare students for successful employment in the industry. Topics included in this year-long class include food safety and sanitation, restaurant management, desserts, breads, vegetables, proteins and more. Students will participate in catering events throughout the program, such as this Thanksgiving meal.

Katelyn Gorder selected for educational community service award
The Montana Association for Career and Technical Education announces that Katelyn Gorder, Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Skyview High School in Billings, has been selected to receive the 2022 Montana Career and Technical Education Community Service Award. Ms. Gorder is this year's award recipient for her work with students in her Family and Consumer Sciences program. Nominated for the award by her fellow FCS teachers of Montana, Ms. Gorder encourages students to work in a team or as individuals on community service projects. Her FCCLA members organize multiple community service events in the Billings area. The Community Service Award is presented to ACTE members who have used CTE to make a significant impact on a community or humanitarian cause through leadership in programs and activities that promote community involvement. This award was named in honor of the late Congressman Carl D. Perkins of Kentucky and is designed to recognize individuals who have demonstrated the same humanitarian concerns exemplified by Congressman Perkins.

Foundation awards more than $25,000 to teachers
Kalispell Education Foundation awarded $25,009 in Great Opportunities grants to help educators fund projects to engage and inspire students in Kalispell Public Schools. The grants will fund 18 projects that are estimated to serve roughly 2,640 students across the district. Every fall, educators are encouraged to apply for up to $2,000 in funding to support projects that are innovative, encourage collaboration and prompte academic excellence, according to the foundation. This year, educators also had the opportunity to apply for mini-grants in amounts up to $300. The new mini-grant program was established to support smaller projects, according to Kalispell Education Foundation Executive Director Dorothy Drury, based on feedback from a teacher survey.

Montana team takes a national win at FFA convention
Sporting traditional blue jackets and winning medals, Shaun Billingsley and Gus Turner of Missoula County Public Schools got a round of applause this month for bringing home a first place award from the national FFA convention - a first for the Missoula FFA team and first Montana win in more than a decade, according to a presentation to trustees. "It's just a wonderful opportunity to teach more kids who grow up in a city like Missoula how they can impact agriculture, even if they don't want to be a farmer," said Billingsley, vice president of the Missoula FFA. Turner, president of the Missoula FFA, said FFA used to stand for Future Farmers of America, but it doesn't anymore because the industry has expanded far beyond tilling land and into food production and growing new leaders, such as the estimated 70,000 other "blue jackets" at the national convention in Indianapolis. "That's just out of proportion for me to even conceptualize," Turner said.

Bozeman elementary students' art to decorate Christmas tree in D.C.
When the National Christmas Tree and its accompanying 58 smaller trees are set up in Washington, D.C., in December, a tree representing Montana will be decorated by ornaments from local elementary school students. Students from a couple of classes at Hyalite Elementary School drew ornaments representing Montana for the 100th annual holiday celebration. The smaller trees surrounding the National Christmas Tree represent states, territories and a handful of schools managed by the Bureau of Indian Education and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Bigfork Vikings' Jim Benn a coach on and off the field
Jim Benn faced more than his fair share of challenges as the head coach of the Bigfork Vikings football team over the past few seasons. From navigating the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 to helping his players deal with the death of a teammate in 2021 and more, Benn's labors leading his athletes to success on the field have only been rivaled by his efforts guiding them off of it. His core philosophies of love, camaraderie and accountability have helped his players, and those around them, make it through times that would test the toughest of souls. "The last few years have been overwhelming at times, to be perfectly honest. Having the core philosophy we do may not have made things easier, but it gave us something to lean on because we could lean on each other," Benn said. "We had some moments that were very difficult for everyone involved, but I think what has come out of it all has been a closeness and maybe a greater appreciation of why we are doing this. It may be a sport, but it is about people and taking care of each other and loving each other."

People praise Superintendent Mueller at memorial
A memorial was held Saturday morning at Havre High School for Havre Public Schools Superintendent Craig Mueller, who died unexpectedly Oct. 22. A long line of people showed up to the event, where family, friends and colleagues spoke about their time with Mueller and the effect he had on them, their families, the school and the community. Before anyone spoke, however, the Havre High School band played "Come Thou Font of Every Blessing" and Havre High School Assistant Principal Jeremiah Nitz led a prayer. The first to speak was Mueller's sister Dr. Michelle Mueller, who talked about everything that made her brother who he was, a man with a desire to improve the world and a family he loved more than anything.

Havre speech sees success at massive East Helena tournament
Havre High School speech and debate saw some success at a massive, highly competitive tournament Saturday in East Helena. The tournament had competitors from 13 Class A schools, including Havre, coming from around the state. Those included state rivals like Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Laurel, Billings Central, Butte Central, Corvallis, Fergus, Park and Stevensville. Three Class AA and eight BC schools rounded out the competition. Havre took a fairly small team, but had some wins including fourth-year debater Paige Bertelsen, a senior, going 3-1 and ending up in fifth place in Lincoln-Douglas debate out of 25 competitors.

Quick pics: Havre students learn about painting horses
The family of Toby and Elizabeth Werk and Joan Racine blessed the Sunnyside students and Havre Public Schools with traditional horse painting in recognition of Native American Heritage Month. They also took the painted horses to the Lincoln-McKinley and Highland Park schools and paraded them up and down the sidewalk so the young students could see the painted horses and ask questions. The students even got a pet or two in. "In Native American cultures, horses meant power, wealth and survival" a page on Notes from the Frontier said. "To paint a horse for battle or for a buffalo hunt was a sacred act, believed to enhance power for both horse and rider - spiritually and physically. It was serious business and could mean life or death."

Stevi resident receives national Honorary American FFA Degree
Like a lifetime achievement award, the Honorary American FFA Degree is an exclusive award given "to those who advance agricultural education and FFA through outstanding personal commitment." Stevensville resident Jay Meyer received the recognition last month at the 95th National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana. Meyer called receiving the award on Oct. 28 an "exciting moment." "It was a complete surprise," he said. "It was quite an honor and a thrill. It was like utopia for being honored in the FFA world of agriculture." According to the FFA materials, "The Honorary American FFA Degree is an opportunity to recognize those who have gone beyond valuable daily contributions to make an extraordinary long-term difference in the lives of students, inspiring confidence in a new generation of agriculturists."

Students get moving with Evergreen Fitness program
The Evergreen Fitness team has been exercising its way through 20 years of fitness and fun. "The objective of the program is to make lifelong healthy individuals," Evergreen Fitness Team founder Darner Ross, who is a health and PE teacher and football and eighth-grade boys basketball coach at Evergreen School District. What started out as a weight training program for seventh- and eighth-grade student-athletes, soon expanded to all students interested in staying fit over summer break, starting in the second grade. "There was a need for the Evergreen community to have kids engaged in a summer program," Ross said. "Because I was highly involved in athletics I came up with a supplemental PE program to keep kids active and engaged throughout the summer." Depending on his availability, the fitness team may also meet during other breaks such as winter break. "Lots of kids just want to stay physically active and do not participate in the athletic program. We make it really fun," he said.

Quick pics: Learning culture during Native American Heritage Month
Havre Middle School student Olivia learns to braid sweet grass at Havre Middle School Tuesday. Havre Public Schools Indian Education for All Coordinator Jessica Kennedy-Stiffarm teaches Havre Middle School students Tuesday how to braid sweet grass. Events are being held across local schools and across the state to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. November is designated as the month to celebrate Indigenous history, culture and tradition.

Helena bus driver starts Bus Box program to make sure kids have hats and gloves
Amid last week's below-freezing temperatures, a Helena school bus driver came up with a warm idea. On Nov. 8 Theresa Loney was driving her morning bus route to Warren Elementary School when she noticed a few students getting on her bus without hats and gloves. "I came home and told my husband that I wanted to get some little gloves, and he said to call Warren school and see if they have some lost and found they can donate that you can keep on my bus. They gave me hats but the hardest thing to get is gloves," said Loney. After talking with Warren, she turned to Facebook to see if the community would be interested in donating hats and gloves for students. Her post in the Facebook group Helena Classifieds, with almost 40,000 members, had almost 800 likes and about 90 comments as of Tuesday. Loney didn't know it then, but this would be the start of what has become the Bus Box program.

HSD's Keystone after-school program is kicks off
Hamilton School District's Keystone after-school program is off and running for the 2022-2023 school year to provide well-rounded academic activities to students after school hours. Keystone's mission is to offer a safe, educational and play-based learning environment to both enrich students' education at Hamilton and help working families. The Keystone program recently added two new educational clubs - STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and Strategy Lab. The STEM club is run by Alexis Wheat, Daly's technology and media specialist. The club runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays and focuses on providing STEM opportunities for students outside of the classroom.

Havre speech sees success in Chester
Havre High School speech and debate took a smaller team to a smaller tournament Saturday, the CJI High School invitational in Chester, and its competitors did well. Junior Trinity Olsen, competing in dramatic oral interpretation of literature at her second tournament, received some good marks from judges, including a second-place mark from one of the three finals judges, to end in third place at CJI. Havre's public forum debate teams, the second-year varsity team of senior Caitlynn "Corbyn" Ehry and junior Carinna Kline and the freshman first-year team of Paige Anderson and Lyvia Little, were the only teams in that event and went three rounds against each other.

North Star speech and drama does well at CJI
The North Star Speech and Drama team traveled to CJI in Chester for its first meet of the year and represented the Knights well. Joshua Campbell placed third in Impromptu, a great job for his first meet. Ecko Fraser took a first place in original oratory and Emily Conner also took a first place, in dramatic interpretation. The team is coached by Linda Lett.  The next meet will be in Malta, Dec. 10.

Great Falls hosts Montana Association of Student Councils
The Montana Association of Student Council 2022 was hosted at the Heritage Inn in Great Falls. Student Council members from around the state of Montana came together reflecting upon their accomplishments along with their needs and goals moving forward. In previous years, the conference only had a couple hundred students, partially due to some challenges in terms of bringing all of the attendees together. Helena High School student Charles Fox said, "we were expecting 200 kids to come to the state conference, and we had nearly 500 show up. It's just the interest is peaking here, the state conference, it's been hard to throw it in the past couple of years with COVID, but our executive team is doing a really good job. Great Falls has done a good job. Now we kind of just threw it together and honestly, it's been super fun over the past couple of days." CMR High School student Abbie Virts stated, "There's about 480 students, which is really quite a lot coming from all over Montana. And so it's really good to have we have 667 schools represented here. And so that's a really diverse area. And so I think it's really good to incorporate everybody and get everybody involved."

East middle-schoolers learn about American flag and history
Dignity. Pride. Sanctuary. Safety. These are all words East middle-schoolers used when asked what the American flag means to them Tuesday morning during the It's My Flag presentation at East Middle School. Election Day was a fitting one for the Butte Exchange Club and Butte's United Veterans Council to visit East to hold the It's My Flag assembly and commemorate the installation of the Freedom Shrine. Doug Rotondi, co-chair of the Butte Exchange Club's It's My Flag and Freedom Shrine programs, led the students in the pledge and explained what each word meant and why it was important. He also explained to them what each fold in the flag means as two members of the United Veterans Council folded the flag onstage in the auditorium, and talked to them about the responsibilities of US citizens. Near the end, he asked the students what America meant to them, what the flag meant to them and a variety of other questions to get their voices in the conversation.

Fairfield gets $2.8 million for electric buses, hopes to spread the wealth
The Fairfield School District, which oversees the education of 360 students 35 miles west of Great Falls, was awarded nearly $2.8 million in federal assistance to purchase up to seven state-of-the-art electric school buses. The announcement came last Wednesday in a release from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's Clean School Bus Program has awarded $2.765 million to Fairfield, a small portion of the $965 million the program will award this year to U.S. school districts serving low-income, rural, and Native American communities across the country. Fairfield was one of only 389 school districts nationwide to receive a Clean School Bus award, a part of a highly competitive program that received about 2,000 applications in 2022. Fairfield Superintendent Dustin Gordon said he had low expectations when he applied for the funding last summer, and that his "jaw dropped" when he received the e-mail notifying him of his school district's selection.

Indigenous fashion show at Hardin High aims to instill pride in Native culture
The Hardin High School Crow Language class hosted its first Indigenous fashion show on Friday. Local Crow designers used students to model their clothing with the goal of promoting a positive lifestyle and building self-esteem and confidence in Native culture. Hardin High sits on the northern edge of the Crow reservation, which takes up the majority of Bighorn County. The school's student body is 75% Native. Yolanda GoodVoice one of the four designers brought in for the event drew on emotions to create her pieces. One of her collections the students wore is called "gratitude," aimed at teaching the students how to give thanks for being Native American and for the life they have. This collection consisted of everyday wear such as leggings or jackets that incorporate Crow design patterns and rely on primary colors and symbols seen in Crow Culture. The other is called "live" and teaches the students about living in the moment and being present.

A busy Bruin: Helena's student of the month is Isabel Beasley
High school was among the best two years of Isabel Beasley's life that she can remember. COVID-19 started during Beasley's sophomore year. She blinked and is now a senior at Capital High School. "I very much need to interact with people to survive, (so the isolation of COVID-19) was really difficult. Junior year felt very much like a fresh start," stated Beasley. "I hardly remember anything from my freshman year because Covid just put a dent in it, like nothing before Covid basically happened. It feels so much farther away than it was." Beasley has been nominated by teachers and staff at Capital as October's high school student of the month. Each month, a different high school will have the opportunity to nominate a student to be featured in the Independent Record. "Isabel is active in student council and excels in choir as evidenced by her recent selection to All-State Choir," stated Capital's Principal Brett Zanto on Beasley's nomination. "She is an energetic and positive influence upon Capital High School!"

Hamilton High welding class repairs street light snowflakes ahead of holidays
Cooper Hartless fired up his welder and tested some pieces of scrap metal before fusing a large broken snowflake decoration back together. Sparks flew, looking like magic fairy dust as he repaired the metal holiday display. For decades, the Hamilton Downtown Association has decorated Main Street's street lights with large metal snowflakes as a festive wintry tradition - but this year the snowflakes were needing vast repairs. Hartless and the rest of his Hamilton High School welding class stepped up, providing freshly learned skills to make sure the decorations are ready for display. "This is a great opportunity for our students to engage in community service," said Logan Smith, HHS Welding Instructor. "I think it's a meaningful and beneficial relationship."

Fairfield gets $2.8 million for electric buses, hopes to spread the wealth
The Fairfield School District, which oversees the education of 360 students 35 miles west of Great Falls, was awarded nearly $2.8 million in federal assistance to purchase up to seven state-of-the-art electric school buses. The announcement came last Wednesday in a release from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's Clean School Bus Program has awarded $2.765 million to Fairfield, a small portion of the $965 million the program will award this year to U.S. school districts serving low-income, rural, and Native American communities across the country. Fairfield was one of only 389 school districts nationwide to receive a Clean School Bus award, a part of a highly competitive program that received about 2,000 applications in 2022. Fairfield Superintendent Dustin Gordon said he had low expectations when he applied for the funding last summer, and that his "jaw dropped" when he received the e-mail notifying him of his school district's selection.

SHS Speech Drama & Debate Competes In Glasgow
SHS Speech, Drama & Debate Teams travelled to Glasgow for the first meet of the season. Speech & Debate Team took 1st in Class A Sweeps; Extemporaneous Speaking: 1st Oliver Slade, 2nd Kyle Pust; Impromptu Speaking: 2nd Colten Dahl; Lincoln Douglas Debate: 3rd Bronte Bennion. The Drama Team also Won 1st in Class A Sweeps; Dramatic Solo: 1st Emma Cundiff, 2nd Cayla Hanson; Humorous Solo: 2nd Cedar Hovde, 6th Brooke Marie Watson. The teams will travel to Billings next weekend to compete in The Eastern Opener!

October BARK awards
On Tuesday, Ekalaka Elementary School held its October Behavior BARK awards. BARK, a new program this school year implemented by Ekalaka Public Schools Guidance Counselor Carol Spencer, stands for Be Respectable, Act Responsible, Remember Safety and Kindness Matters. Each month the students will work on a specific character trait. During October that trait was respect.

Wick, school board, receive top honors
The Columbia Falls School District 6 board of trustees and superintendent Dave Wick were recently recognized by their peers. The School Administrators of Montana earlier this month recognized the Columbia Falls School board as its 2022 school board of the year. The board was nominated by Wick for the award. Wick and the association noted the current board members, as well as their predecessors, "have consistently and doggedly pursued excellence in providing education for the students of Columbia Falls. In the more than 25 years Mr. Wick has worked with the Board, he has seen them follow their vision of 'creating an atmosphere of excellence, where individuals are valued, differences are respected, and students are prepared for their futures," the association noted. The association also said the longevity of the board members speaks to its lasting commitment to education. Recently retired board members Gail Pauley and Larry Wilson served for 26 and 24 years, while current board members have served 33 years, 26 years, and 18 years. "This stability has led to tremendous community trust, as well as extremely knowledgeable decision making," the association said.

Broadus High School Represents
Broadus High School Music Department is proud to announce Seniors Sophie Irish and Alex Edwards have been selected to represent BHS in University of Montana's All Star Band. The two will have the opportunity to play trumpet and trombone, respectively, with the Grizzly Marching Band and also perform alongside 75 other Montana high school students, from AA, A, B, and C schools, at a concert at U of M on Sunday, November 13th under the direction of guest composer and guest conductor, Frank Ticheli, Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California.

FF Schools receive electric bus grant
The Fairfield Public School system was one of three Montana schools selected to receive funds through the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean School Bus program. The funding, which came from a bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), will go toward supplying brand new zero-emissions electric school buses and charging stations for school districts of Fairfield, Bigfork and Clinton. The exact dollar amount Fairfield is eligible to receive is a little unclear. The award letter received by the school district on Oct. 25 states that $2,765,000 has been reserved for use from this program to replace seven new electric buses, which is broken down to $2,625,000 for the buses and $140,000 for eligible charging infrastructure. However, a press release from Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and EPA received by the Choteau Acantha says the Fairfield district is slated to receive $395,000 for one bus.

HHS color guard takes first in competition in Idaho
Havre High Schools' marching band and color guard team competed in the Mountain West Marching Band Festival in Pocatello, Idaho, this past weekend, going up against teams from Idaho, Utah and Montana, with the color guard taking first in their division. Color Guard Team Director Serena Dawson said this is her first year leading the team, but she thinks they did very will this weekend and during their fall season as a whole. "I was very happy with our team," Dawson said. "From the beginning of the season until now. I am very proud of them." She said some of the team members have never done a competition like this before and it was a great learning experience.

Local author donates books to Billings high schools
During a recent visit at West High School to discuss his novel 600 Hours of Edward, Billings-based author Craig Lancaster couldn't help but notice the degrading conditions of the students' copies. Worn out spines and tattered covers were the norm after near constant use since it was added to the school district's curriculum in 2012. "They had seen a lot of action in recent years," Lancaster said. "So I just thought that it was time for a refresher." Soon after the visit, Lancaster checked with his publisher to determine how much it would cost to replace the books in all the high schools and began a GoFundMe campaign without their knowledge or involvement. Not 12 hours later after starting the campaign, Lancaster exceeded $1,100 in donations. His original goal was to raise enough money for 50 new books for each public high school in Billings. Following some input from the schools, he's now personally delivering 40 new paperback copies to each one along with 30 going to the career center.

High schoolers' documentary on state Capitol to hit film festivals
Creating a well-rounded documentary in two weeks may feel like an insurmountable task, but high school students in Helena College's summer bridge program Humanities Through Film this past July accomplished it with "The People's House." "We've heard back from a bunch (of film festivals), and ("The People's House") has gotten into about a dozen film festivals already," said Ari Laskin, the program's director on Thursday during a presentation at the Montana Historical Society. "… We won't hear back from them all until basically a year, but it's done shockingly well." The summer program is part of a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Next summer will be the third and final year for students to participate in filmmaking with this program. "The People's House" focuses on the history of Montana's state Capitol and who's been invited to the metaphorical table since construction began on the building in 1896. Laskin noted that while the Capitol was a wonderful subject, it produced some challenges for teaching.

Bigfork receives grant to purchase electric school bus
Bigfork School District is one of three Montana school districts to receive federal funding to purchase an electric bus. The district received $395,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus Program to purchase the bus. Clinton and Fairfield school districts also received funding through the federal rebate competition as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Law). Bigfork School District Transportation Director Danny Walker said the purchase will replace one of its nine diesel buses. Funding will also cover the necessary infrastructure to charge the bus. Walker anticipates the district will see savings in fuel costs. He said one manufacturer estimated that one of Bigfork's bus routes which typically costs $20 a day in diesel would cost about $6 in electricity. The district's buses log about 5,000 miles a year. Additionally, electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions, which would improve air quality for passengers. Electric buses are also quieter than diesel. District transportation staff, namely the mechanic, will need some training to work on the electric bus. "It's almost identical to a diesel bus. Instead of a diesel engine and transmission you have batteries and an electric motor," he said.

October 2022 Great News

CMR High School teacher named Montana Business Teacher of the Year
A teacher at CMR High School has been named Montana Business Teacher of the Year. Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS) says the Montana Business Education Association named Jessica Goosen their Outstanding Business Teacher of the Year. The following is more on Goosen from GFPS: "Jessica has been teaching at Charles M. Russell High School for 15 years and currently serves as department chair. Her courses include accounting, financial tech skills, introduction to business, and personal finance. Currently, Jessica is serving as the MBEA President-elect and the Montana BPA Region 3 co-coordinator. Jessica hosts the Montana BPA Region 3 Leadership Conference as Charles M. Russell High School each year and this past school year, took 15 students to the Business Professionals of America 2022 National Leadership Conference with students earning first place in both team and individual events."

Troy Public Schools raises money for new track with Halloween Walk
Troy Public Schools is hosting a 5k Halloween Walk fundraiser Saturday evening. The goal is to raise money to turn the school's cinder track into a rubberized track, which is located near the WF Morrison Elementary School in Troy. Organizers have brought in nearly $150,000 getting the school close to the halfway mark. "We've been working on this project since 2019. Really had limited opportunities for fund raising early on just because of Covid, so we tried to get folks out and about," said Shana Bernall, a parent of children who attend Troy Public Schools. "Additionally, we are hoping to get some pretty good grants for the project. "

5 Montana student films make shortlist for national awards
The National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences earlier this month announced nominees for its National High School Student Production awards, and five Montana films made the list out of more than 2,000 entries. The National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences recognizes excellence in television with the Emmy awards, and entries for the student awards were judged and selected by industry professionals. The five Montana films that made the shortlist were produced in collaboration with MAPS Media Institute, a nonprofit that aims to empower youth through professional media arts instruction. In the film, "Waking the Generations," students from the Fort Belknap Reservation highlight hidden details of their ancestral past, and reveal that understanding their heritage can help future generations.

Westward ho: Young pioneers traverse the Oregon Trail
Under the bright afternoon sun, teams of excited Hedges Elementary School third-grade pioneers pulling covered wagons rounded the last bend before Dry Bridge Park, or, using their imaginations, the Oregon Trail, came into view. Stepping onto a curb, the black pavement turned into the dusty trail beneath their feet as the third-graders, left behind the modern-day and tuned their imaginations to the 1800s. Here and there a student donned a bonnet, wide-brimmed hat, apron, plaid or flannel button-up and boots. Their wagons were packed with food, water, tools and extra supplies for the journey ahead. Each group, which represented a family of settlers, had a $500 budget to spend in preparation. "Our only stipulations were you have to buy an ox and you have to buy your wagon," Hedges third-grade teacher Lexie Strouse said, the latter of which consisted of a contemporary children's red wagon, to represent the wagon bed and a PVC pipe framework to represent the bows that held up the canvas cover.

Third Graders Receive Dictionaries
The Whitehall Rotary Club completed their annual distribution in October of dictionary/reference books to local third graders. Third grade students in Harrison, Cardwell and Whitehall receive the books each school year. The books are purchased from The Dictionary Project, a national non-profit that promotes literacy. The books contain a basic dictionary along with sections on the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. states, world countries, the planets, world maps, weights and measures, sign language and the longest word. The favorite every year for most of the students is finding the longest word and asking how to pronounce it.

Trout Creek students learn about safety from locals
The students of Trout Creek School spent last week learning about safety. Students had the chance to learn about different areas of safety from representatives around the county including those from the forest service and Trout Creek Ambulance. Students also received a visit from detective April Phillips of the Sanders County Sheriff's Office. Last Thursday, Students spent the morning learning from members of the Thompson Falls Fire Department. Adam Anakalea, Scott Eldridge and David Eldridge, all volunteer firefighters, were quizzed about fire safety from the inquisitive minds of Trout Creek students. Students also had the chance to learn about two different trucks that were parked out in the school's field, including the department's water tender truck, which can hold up to 4,000 gallons of water.

Local students witness NASA launch
Kids of the Ronan Boys and Girls Club got the opportunity of a lifetime on Oct. 5-9 as they were invited to Florida to witness a NASA rocket launch in person. A new program partnered with NASA and funded by the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics' (AIAA), "Students To Launch" reached out to the spectrUM Discovery Area with the University of Montana back in July. According to the spectrUM Discovery Area Director Jessie Herbert-Meny, the hands-on science center in Missoula had applied for a grant that allowed them to become a NASA Community Anchor this last year to build upon NASA's resources and help share them with the people of Montana. As Students To Launch is still in its first year, it used the list of approximately 20 Community Anchors to choose who to begin working with. SpectrUM ended up one of the first sites they reached out to.Herbert-Meny said they were offered the opportunity to participate in a rocket launching activity that would lead to some kids getting the chance to go see an actual rocket launch. They responded with an enthusiastic yes. From there, spectrUM reached out to their partners at the Boys and Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation to find interested kids and Herbert-Meny said it just grew from there.

Overcoming bullying and being yourself
AJ Douglas Bear, a Mohawk from Six Nations Confederacy, spoke at Two Eagle River School (TERS) about bullying, what she has gone through and is still going through, and the strength it takes to stand up to the prejudice that others aren't afraid to propagate. AJ discussed bullying, suicide, self-harm, infertility, miscarriages, anxiety, and depression, of which she was bullied about or was a result of bullying. "I'm not sure if you guys noticed, but I don't have any hair," Douglas said to the TERS students and others at her presentation.  Douglas suffered such severe bullying that it led to the development of an eating disorder and depression. She eventually started losing her hair in clumps as a result. She decided to shave her head, which is mostly why she wears a hat when she dances. "I wasn't really comfortable with being bald at the time; it's an extremely difficult thing to process, and I'm still learning how to process it," Douglas said. Her sisters, who are also her pillars of support, gathered to make her a hat.

Troy students see how Lincoln County ballots are counted
The Lincoln County Election Department's annual test of its ballot counter provided several Troy High School students a look at part of the process that features one of our country's most important rights. The test, which was held on Friday, Oct. 14 in the Election Center at the county Annex Building on Mineral Avenue in Libby, included 15 test ballots from each of the 14 precincts in the county. Ballots in the test deck were all marked "TEST" in red ink. Choices were made and the ballots were hand counted so when they were run through the machine, the results could be compared to make sure the DS450, a scanner and tabulator manufactured by Election Systems and Software, was operating properly. "Every county has to do the testing and it certifies that the machine is working properly," said county Election Administrator Paula Buff. "We will also run a second test on the morning of the election to make sure it is still operating properly." After overseeing a primary election in June where all the ballots had to be counted by hand because a printing error left the ballots not readable by the machine, Buff said she is happy the first test was a good one.

Middle school, college students reap benefits from mentorship program
A mentorship program between Washington Middle School and Dawson Community College has returned this year, continuing a practice that has already seen impacts in both institutions. The program, which started last year, brings DCC students into the middle school to spend time with the younger students, giving them someone to lean on when life's got them down or they need someone to hang out with. The program started as an idea from WMS Principal Katy Kennedy, who explained that the goal is really multifaceted. Not only does it give the middle school students role models, but it also puts the DCC students in positions of leadership, possibly for the first time for some of them. It also exposes the middle school students to people from a variety of backgrounds, as DCC students come from all over to study at the college. "It's multi-faceted. Of course we want our kids to be exposed to people from different places and who have different backgrounds. Yes, some of the kids from DCC are from (Glendive), but they still have different backgrounds from our kids. So it's just experiencing people who are similar and different," Kennedy said. Having someone to look up to, however, is one of the primary goals of the program. Specifically, giving the kids someone to look up to who is not entirely an adult, someone who is still a student, like themselves.

Flathead County School Districts to Begin Pilot Testing Program
Six Flathead County school districts next month will administer the first set of standardized tests to fifth and seventh graders as a part of the Montana Alternative Student Testing (MAST) Pilot program. The pilot program, which teachers say will more accurately measure and address gaps in students' skill levels, allows educators to give students shorter, more frequent tests in math and reading, rather than a longer summative assessment at the end of the year. Flathead County has the highest MAST participation of any county in the state, with the Kalispell, Whitefish, Bigfork, Evergreen, Kila and Fair-Mont-Egan school districts planning to administer MAST tests. Currently, Montana students in third through eighth grades are assessed on mathematics and reading through the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), a summative exam that requires students to test for a total of 3.5 to 6 hours at the end of the year. Fifth and eighth graders are also required to sit for the one- to two-hour Montana Science Assessment, which brings cumulative state testing hours up to 4.5 to 6 hours for those grades.

Farm To School Park County Sandwich Fundraiser
The Mustang fresh food sandwiches made by Carole Sullivan are back for one week only to raise money for Farm to School of Park County. The program teaches kids about farming, agriculture and plants and also provides local fresh food to Park County schools throughout the year. Carole is the School Meal Advisor for the program and made delicious sandwiches for 25 years at Mustang's. She thought what better way to give back then to make those sandwiches people dearly miss while raising money to help keep kids healthy. The pick up of the sandwiches will be next week daily from Novem