Dear Helena Public Schools Families and Staff,
Today we honor our veterans. In classrooms across the district, it’s been a day filled with activities to educate students about service and sacrifice.
To all of our parents, teachers, support staff and community members who have served, I am grateful. You have spent time away from your loved ones, spent long hours doing hazardous work, and given in so many other ways for our country. Thank you.
While today’s Veterans Day activities are many, I want to highlight a new tradition started this year by Smith Elementary Librarian Tracie Shepherd and Secretary Chelsea Gould. Ms. Shepherd and Ms. Gould involved every K-5 classroom at their school in creating a giant American flag bearing the name of every veteran at Helena’s Touchmark community. Each Touchmark veteran has a star, while the stripes are filled with messages of thanks from students.
Thank you, Ms. Shepherd, Ms. Gould and our Smith students, for honoring some of our community’s eldest veterans on this important day. The flag was delivered to Touchmark residents yesterday.
Military service members work in Helena Public Schools at all levels, and we appreciate the talent, training and expertise they bring to the district. I am grateful for each of you.
Serve our community at Helena Public Schools
As we think about service today – service to country and community – I want to invite Helenans from all backgrounds to consider serving as an employee of Helena Public Schools. We are one of Helena’s largest employers, offering competitive benefits and salaries and – most importantly – the job satisfaction and pride that come from serving our children.
The district now has openings across a wide range of positions, including secretaries, substitute teachers, custodians, para educators and coaches. To see the full list of available positions, visit our Human Resources webpage.
Whether you’re looking for permanent employment or a short-term job; full days or part-time work, you’re likely to find a position that fits your needs. You’ll also join a great team of co-workers. I’d like to give a shout-out to a couple of those teams today.
Thank you to our Facilities & Transportation teams
Our Facilities and Maintenance crew started work as early as 3 a.m. this week, braving zero-degree weather to clear sidewalks and parking lots. Their focus then turned to Vigilante Stadium, where the team plowed the field and hand-shoveled the bleachers so we can watch the Bruins take on Missoula Sentinel in the MHSA Football Semifinals tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets will be available at the gate. Go Brus, and thank you Facilities and Maintenance! You make a great team!
And props to our Transportation Team, which also rose in the wee hours to get our buses running as the weather deteriorated Monday morning. We appreciate the work they do every day to get students to and from school safely.
Bus driver starts “Bus Boxes” to keep little hands and heads warm
For one bus driver, this week’s winter weather sparked an idea. As temperatures approached zero degrees, Theresa Forgey Loney noticed a few of her riders climb aboard without hats or gloves. She hit on the idea of a “Bus Box” filled with gloves, mittens and hats to make sure they’re available when and where little ones need them to keep or borrow.
Theresa shared the idea with Transportation Routing Specialist Drew VanFossen, who worked to expand the idea to all routes, thanks to help from private donations. The team is now stocking the boxes and preparing to install them in every bus.
Thank you, Theresa and Drew. You represent what it means to serve our community’s children as a member of our Helena Public Schools team!
If you would like to donate new hats or gloves for the Bus Boxes, please drop them off in the collection box in the foyer of the Lincoln Center at 1325 Poplar during business hours Monday through Friday. Bus riders who would like to donate may also give hats and gloves to their bus driver as they board.
Student & Educator Recognitions
Today I also want to recognize an educator at our PAL high school, the Program for Alternative Learning, who is helping students build the skills they need for career and financial success.
PAL Teacher Ryan Cooney was granted a $400 scholarship from the Montana World Affairs Council to take three students to its EconoQuest Conference in Bozeman. EconoQuest provides Montana high school students with a unique opportunity to engage with local companies and government leaders about economics, business planning, international trade, and future career paths. Congratulations to PAL Seniors Ashton Thompson and Nova Charlton and Junior Adam Rea on earning the opportunity to participate in this excellent learning opportunity. Mr. Cooney has been tremendously active with the Montana World Affairs Council and it’s a valued part of PAL’s curriculum.
In other student and educator recognitions, kudos to KMTX Teacher of the Month Madisen Burton, of Four Georgians Elementary and to Capital High Senior Isabel Beasley, who was recognized as the Independent Record Student of the Month. I encourage you to read about this young woman who personifies bravery, determination, discipline and excellence.
A great season for Bengals volleyball
Back on the sports front, congratulations to our Helena High Bengals Volleyball Team, which lost to Great Falls CMR in the quarterfinals last night, but beat Missoula Sentinel earlier today. The Bengals play Bozeman Gallatin at 4 p.m., and the winner will take on Great Falls CMR at 8 p.m. If the Bengals prevail in both games, they’ll play again tomorrow morning to decide whether they’ll proceed to the state championships. Thank you to Coaches Lindsey Day, Kayla Ryan, Emily Forsman and Allie Keleti and Volunteer Coach Bob Poelking for all you do for our student athletes! Go Bengals!
Speech and Debate judges needed
And congratulations to our HHS and CHS debate competitors for their great performances at the “Queen City Rumble Speech and Debate Tournament” here in Helena last weekend. They will compete again in Bozeman this weekend at the “Fabulous Fallrensics Spectacular.” See results on our Student & Educators Recognitions page.
We’re also grateful for the community members who volunteered as judges. Jim Smith, host of the Hometown Helena community forum, shared why volunteering in our schools is such a rewarding experience.
“It was truly inspiring to listen to the young people in the three categories I judged: original oratory, dramatic interpretation and humorous interpretation,” wrote Smith. “These students have a depth of understanding and an ability to communicate that is most impressive.”
He enjoyed presentations on everything from welding careers to a day in the life of a flight attendant.
“It’s not exactly easy judging these students and their work,” Smith continued. “It takes good listening skills and a lot of concentration … It’s hard work assigning points, ranking the students, and picking winners. But it’s well worth the effort … So, please, give some thought to signing up as a judge.”
There are more opportunities to volunteer as Carroll College and Capital High host the “City of Gold Speech & Debate Tournament” December 2-3.
HHS students support Helena Food Share
Speaking of volunteers, thank you to Helena High Business Teacher Samantha Humphrey and the HHS Student Council, Jobs for Montana Graduates and Business Professionals of America for hosting their annual trick-or-treating event. The event drew more than 300 people and collected donations for Food Share. The HHS Science Club, DECA, SkillsUSA, NHS, Key Club and Art Clubs also helped with this great community event.
STARBASE open house Nov. 15
In upcoming events, the STARBASE program will hold its annual family open house on Tuesday from 5:30 – 7 p.m. Located on the Fort Harrison National Guard Army Base, STARBASE gives fifth-grade students hands-on experience in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities. Fifth-grade classes spend five days at STARBASE, where they are encouraged to think like scientists to solve real-world problems. Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, the program also offers STARBASE 2.0 for middle school students.
If you plan to attend the open house, please bring ID for admission to the base. The event is in Building 121 and there will be signage to direct you from the Fort Harrison main gate to the STARBASE headquarters. Learn more about the program in the new issue of the STARBASE newsletter.
“Annie” continues tonight
And finally, congratulations to the Capital High and Helena High theater programs on last night’s successful opening of the Crosstown Musical “Annie”! The show runs each night this weekend and again November 17-19 at the Capital High Auditorium. All performances start at 6:30 p.m. Buy tickets at the door or order online through revtrack.
Thank you to Director Robert Holter, Choreographer Laura Brayko, Musical Directors Thomas Baty and Molly Kohoutek and Orchestra Conductor Zach Harris for bringing this stage experience to our students and this heart-warming show to our community.
Whether you’ll be in the audience, in the bleachers, playing in the snow, or elsewhere this weekend, I wish you fun, rest and relaxation as we gear up for the holiday season ahead!
Rex Weltz, Superintendent
Helena Public Schools