Friday Message from Superintendent Weltz | January 6, 2023

Dear Helena Public Schools Families and Staff,

I hope you had a great winter break and are enjoying the return to your normal routines.

As we dive into 2023 and the exciting school activities ahead, remember to follow us on social media to see photos, videos, event reminders, weather alerts and other district information. Find us on Facebook @HelenaSchoolDistrict, Twitter @SchoolsHelena or Instagram @HelenaPublicSchools.

A favorite Facebook post this week came from, The Myrna Loy. I think you’ll enjoying seeing the joy and excitement on the faces of kindergartners from Four Georgians Elementary as teaching artists Kevin Casey and Ilgaz Ulosoy Casey engage them in a shadow puppet experience, “The Hedgehog and The Bear.”

The Myrna Loy has visited 17 kindergarten classrooms across the district already this school year and will reach the remainder in 2023. Coming up next is the Cheng2Duo piano and cello concert, which will be attended by 200 middle school students from HMS and CRA Middle Schools. Whether it’s arts activities, safety training, career demonstrations or outdoor adventures, we’re grateful to our community partners who bring new experiences to our students.

In Student and Educator Recognitions, I’m honored to announce that our very own Bruins defensive lineman Talon Marsh was named today as the Gatorade Montana Football Player of the Year!

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field. The honorees are chosen by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, which leverages coaches, scouts, media and other experts to help evaluate the candidates in each sport.

In addition to performance on the field, the award recognizes academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, notes Gatorade’s press release:

“A standout wrestler as well, (Talon) Marsh has volunteered locally with the Florence Crittendon annual fundraiser and as a youth flag football coach. ‘I’d label him as one of the most dominant defensive players we’ve seen in a long time,” said Helena High School head coach Dane Broadhead. ‘You really had to game plan around him and whatever you did, he found a way to be productive. He takes over games.’”

Talon, who is a senior, plans to play football on scholarship at Montana State University this fall. He joins recent Gatorade Montana Football Players of the Year Taco Dowler (2021-22, Billings West High School), Dylan Rollins (2020-21, Sentinel High School), Tommy Mellott (2019-20, Butte High School), and Carson Rostad (2018-19, Hamilton High School), among the state’s list of former award winners.

As a state Player of the Year, Talon will receive a grant to give to one of Gatorade’s social impact partners through the brand’s “Play if Forward” initiative. Talon is also a finalist for the prestigious “Gatorade National Football Player of the Year” award, to be announced in January.

Congratulations, Talon, and thank you for representing the fine student athletes of Helena Public Schools and all of Montana!

I would also like to congratulate a dynamic duo from the Capital High School Accounting II class. Taylor Ferretti and Brendan Miller placed 9th out of 172 teams overall at the recent Big Sky Business Simulation, an in-class experience offered through the Montana Council for Economic Education. Taylor and Brendan will receive a $50 Visa card for their “Taylor’s T-Shirts” project.

In district business, the Board of Trustees Teaching & Learning Committee held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, with a progress update on curriculum work for writing, science, social studies and math for grades 6-12.

A common thread woven throughout this work is an emphasis on authentic, applied learning.

In the writing arena, for example, the district is working to engage high school students in authentic writing across all subjects for at least 40 minutes a day. The emphasis is on learning to organize and then communicate thoughts, ideas and information, as opposed to simple memorization of facts. This can mean anything from drafting a proposal in a business class to writing a free-form summary of a history reading.

The district also is implementing Montana’s new content standards for social studies, which place a similar emphasis on an inquiry-based model of instruction. This means students learn to research and evaluate sources of information, analyze their findings, and then communicate their conclusions verbally and in writing.

Likewise, the district’s new Next Generation Science Standards curriculum engages students in investigating natural phenomena, determining how their findings can be applied in the real world and engaging in scientific discourse to defend their conclusions.

The Teaching & Learning Committee also was given a progress report on the district’s work to enhance delivery of Common Core Math Standards for grades 6-12. This work included prioritizing areas of emphasis, streamlining grading practices, and “progression mapping” to identify at what point each math standard is introduced, reviewed and mastered on the continuum from sixth grade to high school graduation. Teachers continue to engage in professional development courses focused on teaching the standards and on integrating technology into lesson plans.

Curriculum development and enhancement is a continuous process as we seek to bring the best-available content and teaching practices into our classrooms. I would like to thank Curriculum and Instruction Administrator Joslyn Davidson and Data and Assessment Coordinator Kaitlyn Hess for their ongoing leadership in this area, as well as the following middle school and high school instructional coaches who facilitate the work of educators in each of the curricular areas being reviewed:

Erin Hunt, CR Anderson, Science
Christy Mock-Stutz, Helena Middle School, Social Studies
Jonna Schwartz, Capital High School, Social Studies and Writing
Meghan Schultz, Helena High School, Science and Writing
Kayla Lunnon, Helena High School, Math and Social Studies
Marissa Graybill, Capital High School, Math and Science

Looking ahead to next week, the Board of Trustees will hold its first meeting of the new year on Tuesday evening at 5:30 pm at Lincoln Center, 1325 Poplar, St. You can also attend remotely. Among the items on the agenda are a report from the district Facilities & Maintenance Committee, including an update on the district’s Master Facilities Planning process. This week, administrators joined SMA Architecture + Design, which is leading the planning process, on a tour of district facilities. We’ll get an overview of their findings, as well as a look ahead at what’s next in the planning process.

In other updates, a quick reminder that 2023 kindergarten registration is now open. If you know families with children who will be five years old on or before September 10, 2023, please remind them to register as soon as possible if they haven’t already. Find details on our Kindergarten Registration page.

Wishing you a great weekend and a happy, healthy 2023!


Signature: Rex M. Weltz

Rex Weltz
Superintendent, Helena Public Schools