Friday Message from Superintendent Weltz | May 12, 2023

Dear Helena Public Schools Families and Staff,

As Teacher Appreciation Week comes to an end, I’m grateful to all who helped us celebrate.

Thank you to the many local businesses that surprised our teachers with treats, and to all who submitted thank you notes online throughout the week. You can view the appreciations on our district website or our Helena Public Schools Facebook page. Whether the author is five or 50, these heartfelt messages capture the profound impact our teachers have on students, families and the community. We’ve had so many appreciations roll in that we’ll continue posting them to Facebook into next week!

And a big thanks to the Montana Radio Company and its many listeners who shared their teacher appreciations on the air.

I also want to again thank the many local businesses and individuals who supported the 99th Annual Vigilante Parade with donations of money or time. Congratulations to the Grand Champion Float – “Arbor Day 1899” – and to our senior class, which earned the A.J. Roberts Cup for the highest level of participation at 47.7 percent.

Next up for our seniors is graduation day. The commencement ceremony for PAL (Project for Alternative Learning) is Friday, June 2, at 1 pm, in the Helena Middle School Auditorium. Capital and Helena High commencement is Saturday, June 3, at Nelson Stadium on the Carroll College campus. The CHS ceremony begins at 8 am and the HHS ceremony begins at 11 am.

District business update

In district business, I’d like to welcome Linda Cleatus and Jeff Hindoien to the Board of Trustees.

Linda has worked for organizations supporting children throughout her career, including supporting young people as they navigate aging out of the foster care system. For the past seven years she has focused on ending childhood food insecurity with No Kid Hungry Montana, where she is Community Outreach and Grants Specialist. “Whether working in the U.S. or volunteering in India, my goal has been to assist people, young and old, in having access to basic needs, which includes having the opportunity to live with dignity,” writes Cleatus.

We’re also pleased to welcome Jeff Hindoien back to the Board of Trustees. This is a bittersweet transition, as Jeff is stepping in to fill the three-year term of Trustee Lois Fitzpatrick, who passed away in March. As we continue to mourn the loss of Lois, we know that Jeff will carry on her passion for public education. Jeff served on the Board of Trustees from 2017-2020 and we’re happy to have him back. Jeff is currently legal counsel for Alluvion Health in Great Falls. He specializes in educational law and previously served as Helena Public Schools’ legal counsel.

Linda and Jeff will take their oath of office at a special Board of Trustees meeting on May 16. At that time, we’ll also say goodbye to a two-term Trustee whose leadership has steered the district through some of the most challenging times in Helena Public Schools’ history.

Luke Muszkiewicz was a steady, thoughtful, humble and compassionate leader throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, at which time he served as board chair. His intelligence, eloquence and ability to guide constructive dialogue through complex and sometimes contentious issues will be greatly missed.

I also want to again recognize and thank our outgoing student representatives to the Board of Trustees, Keiran Boyle (CHS) and Loreley Drees (HHS). I can’t say enough how impressed I am with the drive, discipline and commitment to community service demonstrated by these two young citizens.

In staff news, I would like to welcome and introduce Carrie Shinkle, the new principal of Four Georgians Elementary. Ms. Shinkle was born in Dillon and raised in Butte, where she graduated from Butte High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at the University of Montana Western and has worked as an elementary teacher, special education educator, counselor, instructional coach and principal for the past 29 years in Idaho and Oregon.

After receiving her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and her administrative licensure, she worked as an assistant principal and is currently the principal at Atlas Elementary School in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where she serves 443 students and 52 staff members. She is the proud mother of three grown children and has two dogs, Jax, a German shepherd, and Poppy, a miniature Australian shepherd.

School safety update

Helena Public Schools is proud to host the 2023 Jeremy Bullock Safe Schools Summit August 8 and 9 at Central Elementary School. Established in memory of Jeremy Bullock, who was the victim of a school shooting at Margaret Leary Elementary School in Butte in 1994, the summit is focused on creating safe school environments through prevention and preparedness.

All Helena Public Schools administrators will attend alongside teachers, nurses, mental health professionals, law enforcement, emergency responders, disaster preparedness coordinators and others who play a role in keeping students safe. I look forward to sharing details on state and national presenters, who will share best practices on student and educator safety.

All about agriculture

Before diving into Student and Educator Recognitions, I want to share my thanks to agricultural producers from across the state who volunteered their time and resources for today’s Ag Day events at Jim Darcy Elementary.

Ag Day has been a Jim Darcy Elementary tradition for more than 26 years. Jim Darcy students traveled from station to station to learn about everything from animal husbandry to baking with Montana-grown ingredients.

Thank you to each of the producers, teachers and other volunteers who made this highlight of the school year possible for our Jim Darcy students. We’re also grateful to “The Muffin Man” (aka Helena Public Schools/Sodexo Food Services Director Robert Worthy) who brought hundreds of pounds of flour, sugar, and oatmeal to show students how to make muffins at home with ingredients grown in Montana.

We have a beautiful Montana spring weekend ahead, and I hope you can spend time with your family. Remember to let your student know how proud you are of them this school year!


Signature: Rex M. Weltz
Rex Weltz
Superintendent, Helena Public Schools

Student & Educator Recognitions

Harrison Writing Award Winners

Congratulations to our 2023 Helena Education Foundation Harrison Writing Award Winners! The Harrison Writing Awards include up to four $350 awards given annually in the categories of either expository or creative writing to Helena Public Schools high school students. Dr. Lee Harrison endowed the awards in memory of her mother Ethel Harrison. Professional writers in the community review submissions and select the winning pieces.  The prose and poetry of Harrison award winners are featured in the annual Pen & Ink magazine. This year’s winners are:

  • Cecilia Kolar, HHS, for “Engine and Annie”
  • Alli Christensen, HHS, for “People Watching”
  • Robert Stimpson, HHS, for “Love in a Live Oak”
  • Wyatt Gant, HHS, for “Dancing in the Moonlight”

Nobel Laureate Winners

Capital High Social Studies and History Teacher Chelsea Mazurek-Pierce was recently selected as a “Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction” by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS). CHS student and NSHSS member Dustin Campbell nominated Ms. Mazurek-Pierce for the prestigious national award. The honor enables her to apply for grants to attend professional conferences, pursue advanced degrees and enhance the delivery of classroom instruction. “We hope to acknowledge and encourage the vital work of the teachers, counselors and administrators who are shaping the intellect and character of our young scholars,” said NSHSS President James W. Lewis in a press release on the award. Congratulations, Ms. Mazurek-Pierce!

 Capital High Honor Society Inductees

Congratulations to Capital High School’s National Honor Society Class of 2024, which was inducted in a ceremony May 9.

The National Honor Society invites students to apply in the spring of their junior year based on their cumulative GPA. Members participate in community service projects and other activities during their senior year. We can’t wait to see their projects! Way to go Bruins!

Bengals and Bruins earn high marks at State Music Festival

Bengal and Bruin student musicians represented Helena Public Schools at the highest level at the Montana High School Association State Music Festival May 5 and 6 at the University of Montana in Missoula.

Nearly 1,200 students participated in the two-day festival, which is adjudicated by the best musicians and teachers in Montana. Judges assess students based upon a rigorous rubric and students are awarded one of five ratings: Superior (1), Excellent (2), Good (3), Fair (4) or Poor (5).

Thank you for representing Helena Public Schools with your hard work and stellar performances!

Helena High School

Superior (1): Aine Cleary – Cello Solo; Freya Elias – Cello Solo

Excellent (2): Caili Lowney – Violin Solo; Clara Harmon – Cello Solo, Cello/Piano Duet

Capital High School

Superior (1): Kayle Andriolo – Cello Solo; Lindsay Abelin – Viola Solo; Keiran Boyle – Violin Solo, Violin/Violin Duet; Hollis Elliott – Cello Solo, Violin/Cello Duet; Maren Elliott – Violin Solo, Violin/Cello Duet; Makezie Grotbo – Violin Solo, Violin/Violin Duet, Violin/Cello Duet; Fox Rowland – Cello Solo; Charlie Snellman – Cello Solo/Violin/Cello Duet; Adeline Walters – Viola Solo

Excellent (2): Blake Erickson – Cello Solo; Theresa Randash – Violin/Violin Duet; Adrianna Helfrich – Violin Solo; Luna Herndandez – Violin Solo; Vivian James – Violin Solo; Grace Mattern – Violin Solo; Mattingly Meldrum – Bass Solo; Alice Townsend – Cello Solo