April, 2021 – Below, you’ll find information for each School Board of Trustees candidate published originally in the Helena Independent Record.
The Helena Public School District does not endorse any specific candidate or candidates.
Contact info: https://www.facebook.com/armstrong4helenaschools
Education: BS International Affairs Western Europe, US Air Force Academy
Occupation: Former Air Force Officer; Customer Experience Coordinator, TJX Companies
Relevant experience: My career in the military as well as several post-military opportunities make me uniquely qualified to serve as a Trustee on the Helena School Board. I have managed and led several organizations. My working titles have included: Director of Personnel, Quality Advisor, Chief of Training and Flight Instructor. When my children were young, I had the great privilege of working from home and volunteering my time to their schools (classroom volunteer), sporting activities (soccer coach) and throughout the Helena community. I have been on the Board of HYSA, and served as a volunteer for The Helena Food Share, HYSA, Queen City Football Club, Cathedral of St Helena, and Family Promise.
What are the three key issues facing the school district? Helena has great public schools but there is always room for improvement. One, I would love to help make a positive difference in our public schools by continuing to ensure that our budget is viable for many years to come. Two, we need to continue to address facilities’ needs. While we have 3 amazing new elementary schools, we also have very old facilities (Helena High School) and extremely crowded schools (C R Anderson) . Three, I also believe that the District would benefit by improving communication with parents, students, and the larger community. I want to repair the disconnect that I am seeing after the Covid-19 crisis.
How would you rate the school district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what would you like to see going forward? The school district’s response mirrors the confusing message the entire nation received last year. I fully comprehend that it has been extremely difficult for everyone. Most of us know someone who has lost a loved one. While I am not home schooling and dealing with multiple platforms, my children are and have lived alone in their college dorm rooms almost every hour of every day this year. I believe that following the guidelines set forth by the CDC and the Harvard Global Health Initiative was an appropriate choice. However, I also believe that the school district needs to work on improving its communication with the community. Balancing the need to keep safety first during an ongoing emergency, while also meeting the crucial need of families to know when and how school will function is a difficult task and there are lessons to be learned from our response. As challenging and frightening as this year has been, it has also spurred great innovation in the classroom. I believe that this summer will provide time for the board to reflect on the lessons that were learned and to conduct a post-mortem, of sorts, to devise strategies for future crises and to retain helpful innovations created over the last year. What I do not doubt is the intent of our educational community to rise as best as they can to meet the needs of the students, regardless of the situation. Going forward I want to see the number of infections going down so that we can, with innovation, safely meet in community-have art shows, family nights, open houses, sports practices and so on. The importance of our schools in connecting our communities is quite clear after this past year.
What do you hope to accomplish on the board? I hope to accomplish the following. One, I want to ensure the new superintendent has the support needed so that we can stop the negative impact of turnover from leadership change and instead focus on long term planning. Two, I want to improve messaging and connection between the school district and the community. Three, I will work to get the budget in line with our financial resources. Four, I will connect with the state legislature about the importance and necessity of public education in order to improve public funding. Five, I plan to continue addressing facilities’ needs. Finally, I intend to serve as a thoughtful and unifying voice in this amazing community.
Contact info: email@example.com
Education: I am a product of Helena Public Schools, attending grades 1 through 4 at Emerson, now May Butler, then grades 5 through 8 at Central. One year in Helena Junior High School and 3 years in the new Helena High School. I was then off to college at the University of Colorado. As a sophomore I transferred to Colorado State College, now the University of Northern Colorado. My Bachelor of Science in biology is from Colorado State College and my graduate work is from there also. I continue to be a life-long learner, fully recognizing that education has been my road to success.
“Every moment is a teachable moment”
Occupation: I have taught and coached for 37 years in Helena School District #1 which has given me the perspective of what can be expected from a school board trustee. I also have a full and diverse life as a tax-paying citizen of Helena which is a perspective representative of all who can be assured that fiscal responsibility is essential as a school trustee.
During the summers I worked in multiple functions for the U.S. Forest Service for 44 years. Upon retirement from teaching I took full time employment through the Helena National Forest, retiring from that in 2005 as the Helena National Forest Urban Interface Forester.
Relevant experience: I have served as a school board trustee for the past 18 years, serving Helena School District Number One. I take pride in addressing all problems through the scientific method of problem solving and hopefully come to conclusions that are educationally sound, fiscally responsible, and socially acceptable.
What are the three key issues facing the school district? There will never be a shortage of issues that need to be addressed in any school district. As a trustee, one can choose to represent other members of the board on sub-committees of: Teaching and learning, Buildings and Facilities, Health and Wellness, Budget and Programming, or Legislation and Montana School Board Representation. A wide background of interest and willingness to collaborate in understanding the many intricacies of school business helps to shorten the learning curve.
Multiple key issues facing our district today will be incrementally resolved over extended periods of evolving work. Limitations of financial resources is in general a major factor in resolving most issues.
I personally recognize the following as issues I perceive as being critical. Their resolutions are complex, but yet simple by striving to do “what is best for our students.”
How would you rate the school district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what would you like to see going forward? Each and every parent who has a child enrolled in Helena School District #1 entrusts our educators, our administrators, and our school board to be fully responsible in all facets of security and safety for their most precious gifts. My most prized possession and I’m sure yours are your children. HSD #1 strives 100% of the time to ensure that your child or your grandchildren are in the most secure and safe environment that we can feasibly create. In that light educators, administrators, and board members have reacted to the evolving parameters of Covid-19 in the most prudent manner. The health and safety of our children is not something to be compromised. It is recognized that some other school districts reacted differently in various applications toward Covid-19, but it was with the prime concern of each and every child in our district that our district has reacted, and will react in the future. We have relied on the professional sciences concerning the case of Covid-19 to direct and confirm our response to protect the health and safety of your children in our school district.
What do you hope to accomplish on the board? If a board member feels that he or she is in position to address a single issue to resolve, they will find it extremely difficult to accomplish. The actions of collaboration and cooperation lead toward competent board members and accomplishments. All of the issues, all of the policies, all of the endeavors of the district are based on “what is best for students”. Accomplishments are not results of board members but we see that educators create accomplishments. The role of board members is to support the ideas, innovation and processes of classroom teachers in doing what is best for students.
Our support of educational theory or financial assistance allows our educators to do the hard work. Their hard work leads to accomplishments. In our recent building program of three new elementary schools, it was not an accomplishment of our school board but the hard work was done by educators and our community. The board merely provided the support necessary for others to accomplish.
In a letter to the Independent Record, Neal Blossom wrote that he has decided to bow out of the school board race.
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Education: High School Graduate
Occupation: CNC Fabrication Specialist Boeing Helena, US Marine Corps retired
Relevant experience: Served on the board of 2 non-profits, dad to 2 daughters in the school system, 20 years in the US Marine Corps retiring as a Staff Non-Commissioned Officer. During this time I had to coordinate with multiple US and International Government agencies, Foreign military services, Local and State agencies, and communities, to accomplish training and missions for Marine Corps aircraft and support units.
What are the three key issues facing the school district? Some key issues facing the School District are poor communication to the parents, school staff, and community. We should be getting our children a solid in person education that is adaptable to the current situations. Another is transparency of the budget to the taxpayer, with easy access online.
How would you rate the school district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what would you like to see going forward? The District was pretty good in protecting our children for its COVID-19 response, but very poor in communicating the plan and where we were in that plan, to the parents and teachers. Why are teachers finding out the same time parents are, when the schedule to in person classroom days are increasing? The board or Superintendent should have been sending out updates to everyone as to what the next steps were, and approximately how close we were to implementing that next step.
What do you hope to accomplish on the board? If elected I will work on bringing better communication to the parents and school district staff, the issues that come before the school board. I will also look at how we can help our great special education departments become even better. Lastly, I would like our students to be able to take classes at the Helena College of Technology. That will give them a jump on their education if they choose to enter a trade.
Contact info: email@example.com
Education: Bachelor of Business Administration, University of Montana
Occupation: Director of Institutional Research and Integration, Carroll College
Relevant experience: For the past decade, I have worked in education as school teacher in Montana’s sister-state of Kumamoto, Japan, then as an employee of the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, and now at Carroll College. In Japan, I had the joy of teaching English as a second language at elementary junior high schools. During my time at the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, I had the opportunity to collaborate with K-12 partners, such as the Office of Public Instruction, on different projects, especially in regards to career and technical education as well as the iGraduate Montana program. In my position at Carroll College, I am responsible for data analytics and I play a role in our fiscal and strategic planning processes. My professional experiences have included working with city, county, and state government entities and I served on the Census 2020 Complete Count Committee. I also had the honor to serve on the Lewis and Clark Literacy Council’s Board of Directors; spending two years as the President of the Board. The Literacy Council collaborates with Helena Public Schools to deliver an elementary school reading program called Book Pals.
My son is currently a second grader at Smith School and I am excited to have my daughter entering kindergarten next fall. I am passionate about education and believe that a strong public education system is one of the key drivers of economic and social prosperity.
What are the three key issues facing the school district?
How would you rate the school district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what would you like to see going forward? No single solution could have been best for every student or family, but I was impressed at the way the District engaged employees and parents to craft a response that met the needs of most people. The planning and communication were thoughtful and there were multiple opportunities for the public to provide input. The District should be commended for executing a complex plan and making adjustments based on community input and the local COVID-19 situation.
The dedicated educators at our schools deserve the highest praise for their efforts to ensure that every child had access to a quality education. For many teachers, this was the first time utilizing online pedagogy. Many of them were conducting remote classes and in-person classes at the same time. The lesson planning and curricular adaptations really highlighted the creativity and commitment of the teachers in our District.
Moving forward, I would like to see Helena Public Schools continue to implement the existing plan. As more people receive the vaccine and cases decline in Lewis and Clark County, the School District should be anticipating entering the next school year in Phase III with fewer restrictions in place.
What do you hope to accomplish on the board? My hope is that Helena Public Schools will continue to provide the best possible education for all students. We have a strong District that employs many excellent teachers, staff, and administrators. I would hope that in my time as a Trustee, Helena Public Schools would steward public resources to provide a rigorous learning environment and to support our teachers. The District must focus on preparing our students to tackle the social, economic, and environmental issues of tomorrow. I would love to see an even greater emphasis on career and college preparation, continuing the work that has already been done to provide students with dual enrollment and work-based learning opportunities. And above all, I would like to build structures and processes to ensure the wellbeing, health, and safety of our students.
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Scandinavian Studies, Bachelor of Music, Piano Performance, University of Washington
Master of Music, Piano Performance, University of British Columbia
Occupation: Musician, Mom
Relevant experience: As a professional musician, I have directed and accompanied numerous choirs and musicals in a variety of educational settings, working with parents and PTAs, teachers, community members, and elementary to high school aged students. I understand from ﬁrsthand experience how the dedication and collaboration of students, teachers, parents, and the larger community creates exciting learning opportunities for students, and how important this contribution is to the overall success of our schools.
As a music instructor and parent, education and student success is near and dear to my heart, especially as I prepare my daughter to enter kindergarten. I have rich mentor relationships with my students, which allows me to understand their unique experiences, particularly during this challenging year. I am passionate about promoting students’ success and wellbeing and hope to bring a valuable perspective to the Board.
What are the three key issues facing the school district? Disparities in quality of education have increased dramatically. Students who previously excelled academically are now struggling to pass their classes. When schools were closed, families with the means to do so created DLI “pods”, where children received more one-on-one attention than the rest, while other families chose to homeschool or send their kids to private school. Meanwhile, dual income and low income families had to make do with paying the YMCA hundreds of dollars out of pocket to supervise their children’s virtual classes, or hope their child was attending virtual classes (and that the neighbor wasn’t calling CPS) while they went to work. The school board needs a voice that will hold them accountable to the real-world consequences of their decisions.
Many parents agree: technology seems to have taken over our schools, and this is not adequately serving our children’s health or education. While the Google Teams approach has been a useful tool for many teachers and students, the excessive amount of screen time needs to be curtailed to protect our children’s physical and mental health.
Finally, the consequences of declining enrollment and community satisfaction ultimately affect funding. We have an opportunity and a duty to raise the standards for our children so that our district can retain students and approve levies when needed.
How would you rate the school district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what would you like to see going forward? Unfortunately, the work-from-2000-square-foot-home class seems blissfully unaware of the real-world social impacts of their decisions on working class and poor families. While corporations like Zoom and Google reaped record proﬁts last year at immense taxpayer expense, children in our own community were isolated in small homes with no access to the programs and services that previously served as lifelines for their families.
Our school district should not be creating disparities in learning, causing strife for families, nor allowing children to serve as collateral damage for the War on Coronavirus. We need to unmask the students and give them their childhood back – smiles, laughter, singing, joy and all. Moving forward, I hope to be a voice for those families who feel that their children’s quality of life has been lessened due to changes in school district policies, and who were marginalized and gaslighted this past year. It is time to push back against bureaucrats, tech giants, and drug companies and prioritize our children’s needs ﬁrst. Those who desire a vaccine have the opportunity to receive it, and we should no longer hold our children hostage to those same drug companies whose opioids have killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.
What do you hope to accomplish on the board?
My objectives will be to:
I would like to see the district build and expand upon our already successful music and arts programs. These are excellent hands-on learning opportunities. Furthermore, high quality programs help to attract and retain students.
I think it’s important to evaluate policies, programs, and curricula to see what’s working and what’s not, and of course I am eager to weigh in on a cost-beneﬁt analysis of policies in order to optimize our children’s quality of life and education.
I would also like to see increased options for educational opportunities within the public school system, actively seeking open and continuous communication by stakeholders, trustees, and district personnel.