Friday Message from Superintendent Weltz | March 10, 2023

Dear Helena Public Schools Families and Staff,

Thank you to all who have taken time to share your thoughts via the Helena Public Schools Facilities Planning Survey. As community members, we are all owners of our school facilities and your opinion is valued.

A consideration that is sometimes overlooked as we think about our schools and sports facilities is how they serve our community beyond the district. Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, youth sports clubs, adult sports clubs, theater troupe performances, and special events, such as the recent SWISH Basketball Tournament, are just a few examples of the community activities that our school facilities support.

Since January alone, Helena Public Schools facilities have hosted 2,524 district and non-district events! These structures work overtime, thus the need for a master facilities plan to guide their continued maintenance and determine when replacement or new construction is needed.

This spring, for example, work is expected to begin to replace the crumbling tennis courts at Capital High School. While the courts have been well-maintained, the asphalt is beyond its useful lifespan and can no longer be effectively patched. As a result, the courts can no longer be used for instruction and the district can’t host tournaments for our student athletes.

The rehabilitation project is scheduled to be finished this fall, and we look forward to seeing players on the court once again. The project will be paid for by remaining dollars in the district’s Facilities Reserve Fund, which was last renewed by voters in 2013. Voters will be asked to re-approve the Building Reserve Levy on the May 2 school election ballot, which would allow us to continue to make needed replacements and repairs, with the guidance of the Master Facilities Plan to be finished this fall. The Building Reserve Levy is the sole source of funding for the operation and maintenance of school facilities, including gyms, playing fields, theaters and other facilities used by the public.

Speaking of great players on the court, congratulations to the Carroll College women’s basketball team, which beat Jamestown 73-60 after an exciting rally Tuesday. The team is now headed to the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship Tournament Round of 16 in Sioux City, Iowa! Go Saints!

In other community news, I look forward to continued work with Helena City Manager Tim Burton in his now permanent role. The City of Helena is a vital community partner for Helena Public Schools, and we are grateful for Mr. Burton’s leadership.

Here in the district, spring school activities are picking up and I have a number of exciting student and educator recognitions to share. I want to first recognize our Helena Education Foundation (HEF) Distinguished Educator award recipients.

Each year, HEF honors high school seniors who have made exemplary personal and academic accomplishments with its Distinguished Student awards. The students, in turn, nominate Distinguished Educators who have made a positive impact on their school careers. We’re so proud of these students and teachers alike, who represent the growth, positive relationships and inspiration that are found within our classrooms every day. Congratulations to our Distinguished Educators and thank you to the Helena Education Foundation! You can find their stories on HEF’s Facebook page and also in this story from the Independent Record, which captured the surprise award presentations this week. HEF will publish the full list of honorees next week.

I would also like to congratulate our Helena Public Schools educators who were awarded HEF Spark Grants earlier this week. The grants offer an additional opportunity for teachers to access funds to provide enrichment opportunities for students. Educators may apply for up to $500 per project and Spark Grants are offered in four cycles per school year.

Our newest recipients will use their awards to introduce students to new learning experiences ranging from “Opera Under the Big Sky,” a project by CR Anderson Middle School Orchestra Teacher Kevin Cleary for students to participate in an interactive music program in Bozeman, to “Cheep, Cheep Chicks,” by Warren Elementary Teachers Molly Moore and Wilma Tabaracci, whose students will hatch baby ducks, chickens and even quails in their classrooms.

Beyond the innovative work of the teachers who develop these projects and seek funding, Spark Grants are special because they create a bridge between classrooms and community members. Each Spark Grant is sponsored by a local individual or business, and the sponsors are often present for the surprise award presentations to teachers.

We are deeply grateful for each of the community sponsors who support the Helena Education Foundation on behalf of our students. Thank you!

Below are highlights of our many additional staff and student accomplishments from the past couple weeks. But first, a quick reminder that Sunday is the first day of daylight saving time.

With longer days right around the corner, we have much to look forward to. For my part, I can’t wait to get out to run our beautiful Helena trails. For now, stay warm and don’t forget to set your clock ahead before bed on Saturday night!


Signature: Rex. M. Weltz

Rex Weltz, Superintendent
Helena Public Schools

Mock Trial state champs!

Two Helena High mock trial teams – the HHS Baker Team and the HHS Shea Team – went gavel-to-gavel last weekend to determine the new Montana Mock Trial 2022-23 State Champion. The HHS Baker Team clinched the state title by a slim margin. Helena High School has now captured four consecutive mock trial state championships!

The winners will compete in the 2023 Mock Trial National Championship in Little Rock, Arkansas – the first in-person national competition to be held since 2019. A big thank you to volunteers Brian Miller, Jacob Linfesty and Sean Morrison, who served as attorney coaches, and to the Montana Bar Association, which sponsors the statewide program. And thank you to Helena High Business Education Teacher Kacey Askin for helping take the HHS team to the top!

See the full list of champions and photos from the Mock Trial event on the HPS Student & Educator Recognitions page.

HHS culinary students make dessert – times 2,000

Helena High Culinary II students gained hands-on catering experience earlier this month as they partnered with Chili O’Brien’s catering to make 2,000 mini desserts for the annual Mansfield Metcalf Dinner March 4 at the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds. Students worked on the project for over two weeks, reports HHS Culinary Teacher Joan Leik. In addition to helping make and decorate the desserts, they worked as servers throughout the evening. Many thanks to Tim O’Brien for his support for the HHS Culinary Program! See photos of the event on our HPS Student & Educator Recognitions page.

Elementary school foodies will face off tomorrow in “Future Chef Challenge”

In other culinary news, congratulations to our 12 finalists in the “2023 Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge.”

The contest challenged elementary school students to reimagine their favorite fruit or vegetable by creating an original side dish. Tomorrow morning, the finalists will compete for the grand prize and other honors at a “Chefs Challenge” at Capital High School. The kids will have an hour and a half to prepare and plate their dishes alongside Sodexo cooks. The young chefs will then set up tables for the public tasting event from 11-11:30 a.m. Every guest will cast a vote for the “People’s Choice Award,” while the official judges will choose a grand prize winner. If you plan to attend, please use Capital High School Entry # 5 on the northeast side of the CHS building.

Sodexo is Helena Public Schools’ food services contractor. Now in its 12th year, the Sodexo competition was created to get students thinking about healthy food choices while encouraging them to be active and creative in the kitchen.

HHS Green Group Club tours Japan

Seven members of the Helena High School Green Group are in Japan for an eight-day youth exchange program through the “Kakehashi Project.”

The Green Group Student Club, which is dedicated to finding solutions to environmental concerns, will have the opportunity to learn how Japan is addressing these issues in visits with local, regional and national government officials. The students’ itinerary includes everything from making a traditional Japanese lunch with host families to visiting the Imperial Palace and Mount Fuji.

“Kakehashi” means “bridge” in Japanese, and the program aims to give participants an enhanced understanding of Japanese economics, society, history, culture, politics and diplomatic policies. The exchange program is funded entirely by the Japanese federal government.

Program participants are required to share their experiences upon their return, and we look forward to sharing their adventures! See photos on our HPS Student & Educator Recognitions page.

Cross-town balsa-wood bridge building challenge

You know about crosstown football and basketball. But did you know there is crosstown competitive balsa-wood bridge building? Thanks to the efforts of community volunteer Russ Lay, with Morrison-Maierle engineers, the Bengals and Bruins went head-to-head earlier this month to see who could design and construct a bridge with the highest efficiency rating. Lay, a bridge engineer, provided a custom-made bridge press to test the structural integrity of the students’ designs.

A total of 25 bridges were entered in the contest with first place going to Helena High Tech Math Class Student Ben Bingham, whose structure had a ratio of 23.4 lbs to grams held. The ratio demonstrates the mass a bridge is able to support in relation to the mass of the bridge itself – a measure of the structure’s overall efficiency. Bingham’s bridge was able to support an impressive 725 lbs! Second place went to HHS physics students Jonathon Abel and Titan Russell, whose bridge could support 830 lbs with an efficiency ratio of 23.1 lbs to grams held. CHS Student Henry Lay took third place with a ratio of 21.3 pounds-to-grams held, supporting 660 pounds. Thank you to Russ Lay and HHS Math Teacher Jonathan Driggers for making this event possible! See photos on our HPS Student & Educator Recognitions page.

Cheer leaders earn first at Vegas Crown

Three cheers for Capital High School cheerleaders who earned first place at the prestigious Vegas Crown 2022-23 World Class Championships in Las Vegas earlier this month! Congratulations on a hard-won victory in a highly competitive field. And thank you to KTVH Helena for highlighting the hours of work and practice that went into their victory.