Dear Helena Public Schools Families and Staff,
I hope you have fun plans for this weekend. There are certainly a lot of activities around town to choose from!
If you’re looking for options, the 23rd Annual Last Chance Pow Wow starts today and continues through the weekend with drumming, dancing, concessions, arts and crafts booths and more. Activities are in the warm and dry Exhibit Hall at the Lewis & Clark Country Fairgrounds. Admission is free. The theme for this year’s pow wow is “Honor the Children,” with a focus on teaching the traditions of Native American culture and cross-cultural understanding. Best wishes to our students who will be competing in pow wow events!
And it’s not too late to register for the Helena Sun Run tomorrow morning at Central School. All proceeds will support the installation of solar panels at Bryant Elementary. You’ll be able to pat yourself on the back for a walk or run well done while supporting clean energy for our schools.
Speaking of contests, congratulations to our Helena High Bengals on their 3-1 one win at yesterday’s cross-town volleyball game. Match scores were 25-14, 25-22, 23-25 and 25-15. And thanks to the fans and dance and cheer teams who pumped up the school spirit for both Helena teams!
And let’s send positive thoughts to our Bengal and Bruin golfers, who are taking their final swings in the State Golf Tournament wrapping up this afternoon at Green Meadow Country Club.
I also would like to extend a big thank you to our community partners who made it possible for PAL high school students to enjoy an outdoor learning experience on a Gates of the Mountains boat tour. Rocky Mountain Credit Union covered the cost of admission and Gates of the Mountains Boat Tours provided burgers and ice cream. The PAL (Project for Alternative Learning) program is tailored to high school students who perform better in a non-traditional academic setting, with an emphasis on experiential, hands-on learning activities. We’re grateful to all of our community members who support this important program throughout the year.
Our administrative team here at Lincoln Center is also grateful to Jim Darcy Elementary School for hosting our September Board of Trustees Work Session on Tuesday. As I noted last week, we’ve moved these monthly sessions from late afternoon to lunchtime to allow trustees to see our schools in action. We enjoyed sitting down for lunch with students in the cafeteria, visiting classrooms and even shooting some hoops on the playground before heading to the library to convene our regular work session. October’s session will be held at Helena High School.
I also want to follow up on two school safety initiatives I noted in last Friday’s letter.
Administrators and staff visited schools throughout the district this week for a security audit led by Michigan-based Security Education Consultants (SEC). SEC’s work will help us reinforce and sustain things we’re doing right and address areas for improvement. I’ll continue to keep you informed – to the extent possible without compromising security – as we move forward with SEC’s recommendations.
Also this week, principals, vice principals, school psychologists and school counselors attended Behavioral Threat Assessment & Management (BTAM) training. The sessions were led by Melissa Reeves, Ph.D., NCSP, LPC. Dr. Reeves is a nationally certified school psychologist, licensed professional counselor and licensed special education teacher who has coauthored multiple books and publications focusing on school safety and trauma. She also is an advisor for Safe and Sound Schools, an organization founded by two parents who lost their children in the Sandy Hook tragedy.
You may be wondering what Behavioral Threat Assessment & Management, or BTAM, is. I’ll start by explaining what it’s not. BTAM is not a model used to predict violence. Nor is it a disciplinary process or a means of labeling individual students.
Rather, BTAM is a team-based, preventative process that helps us identify behaviors of concern, assess and manage risk to protect the student and others, and provide the student with appropriate support. As Dr. Reeves explained, mindsets that may lead to acts of violence are often temporary in children and teens, making the ability to identify behaviors, manage risk and connect the student with the right support at the right time paramount. The assessment and management process is carried out by a trained, multi-disciplinary team to ensure consistency and accountability, with an emphasis on parental involvement.
I’ll continue to keep you informed as we do further BTAM training and work to implement this process consistently districtwide.
Looking ahead to next week, parents and kids at many of our elementaries will hit the pavement on Wednesday for International Walk & Bike to School Day – a great reminder to incorporate walking or biking into your daily routines. Thank you to our parent volunteers who are coordinating “walking school buses” for kids who will be walking or biking on their own. Check your school’s newsletter for plans at your school.
Be safe out there and have a wonderful weekend!
Rex Weltz, Superintendent
Helena Public Schools