Friday Message from Superintendent Weltz | June 2, 2023

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Dear Helena Public Schools Families and Staff,

Today I had the great honor of attending commencement ceremonies for our PAL and Access to Success programs, which provide alternate avenues for students to obtain their high school education.

These programs represent the essence of what we do as a public school district, which is to prepare all students to succeed in life – academically, professionally and personally.

As 2023 PAL graduate Ashton Thompson put it: “Over the past two years that I’ve been enrolled in this program, I’ve learned many pivotal life skills. And even up until this very moment I’m learning about things that will benefit me for the future. I’ve learned about taxes, stock markets, linguistics, math and history – all in a way that actually excited me.”

Congratulations to our PAL and Access to Success Class of 2023 graduates! And thank you to all of the educators, counselors, parents, mentors and friends who made their remarkable journeys possible.

We now look ahead to tomorrow morning’s commencement ceremonies for Capital High and Helena High. With rain in the forecast tomorrow morning, the ceremonies have been moved indoors to the Carroll College PE Center adjacent to Nelson Stadium.

The move indoors requires all attendees to have tickets, which have already been distributed to graduates’ families. While we wish we could accommodate anyone who wants to attend, we have to abide by the fire code.

Both ceremonies will be streamed for those who cannot attend in person (see links below).

All times remain the same, as follows:

Capital High School: 8 am, Carroll College PE Center adjacent to Nelson Stadium CHS live stream
Students must arrive by 7 am. Doors open at 7:15 am.

Helena High School: 11 am, Carroll College PE Center adjacent to Nelson Stadium HHS live stream
Students must arrive by 10 am. Doors open at 10:15 am.

While rain will likely dampen our day, it won’t dampen our spirits or our fun as we celebrate this exciting day for our graduates and their families.

As we enter the last week of school on Monday, we’ve reached a milestone for families at every stage of the K-12 journey.

This has been a great school year, and you, our Helena Public Schools families, have been a big part of that success. This year we saw a resurgence of parents volunteering in classrooms, participating in their school Parent Teacher Organizations and assisting with a variety of activities. Whether it’s helping your student with homework, volunteering to chaperone a field trip, or simply coming to a school carnival or performance, you have been a partner in your student’s success. Thank you.

A look ahead

This year has not been without its challenges, and we know that more challenges lie ahead as we continue to address the district’s funding shortfall.

I was grateful for the opportunity to discuss those challenges with students who brought their concerns to a Board of Trustees meeting this week. I appreciate their willingness to bring their questions directly to me and Trustees. I’m also impressed by their motivation to get involved. As I shared with the students, I know they will be lifelong advocates for public education.

In response to these student concerns, and to similar comments received from parents and community members, I want to reiterate a few things.

All programs valued

The first is that I deeply value our fine arts, music and theater programs, as well as our CTE programs, foreign language courses, and all of the electives that enable students to develop their full potential. I am deeply proud of the rich and varied opportunities that Helena Public Schools offers our students, as is our Board of Trustees.

As I’ve shared before, the district’s overarching goal as we reduce our budget is to preserve these programs, however, they won’t – they can’t – look the same.

Consensus building

The second thing I would like to clarify is that there will be no sweeping cuts of programs, additional closures of schools or additional reductions in staff (excluding attrition) in the 2023-24 school year.

However, we must be prepared for change in the 2024-25 school year.

As I shared last month, the Budget Recommendation Consensus Committee has begun its work to recommend reductions for the 2024-25 school year. The Committee consists of approximately 40 representatives of district stakeholder groups, including students and parents. In late winter 2024, the Committee will present recommendations to the Board of Trustees to balance the budget for the 2024-25 school year. Trustees will then decide on a course of action.

While this process requires extra time and effort, it ensures that representatives of various stakeholder groups can participate. The resulting recommendations won’t please everyone, but they will be the result of a fair and equitable consensus-building process.

The district continues to work with our public education advocacy partners to address state and federal funding models that are no longer keeping pace with the needs of Montana’s AA schools. This is in large part due to legislative funding caps put in place years ago that have stunted our ability to align our budgets with today’s needs.

In closing, I want to thank the students, family members and community members who took time to send comments, questions and suggestions this week. Your letters, emails and phone calls will be shared with the Board of Trustees as well as the Budget Consensus Committee.

Thank you for your support of all that our public schools have to offer. Your continued involvement, your passion and your voice are needed as we move Helena Public Schools into the future. Let’s work together through the challenges and into a future of continued opportunities for our students.


Signature: Rex M. Weltz

Rex Weltz, Superintendent
Helena Public Schools

Student & Educator Recognitions

Our student athletes brought the spring sports season to a grand finale last weekend, clinching multiple state titles and a bundle of other top finishes.

The fleet-footed athletes of our Helena High Girls Track Team successfully defended their status as state champs at the AA Track Meet in Butte, and also clinched three individual state titles:

Hazel Bishop: 400 meter
Logan Todorovich: Long jump (all class record); 100 meter hurdles
Madi Todorovich: High jump, 300 meter hurdles

Meanwhile the Capital High Boys Track Team tied for the state title with Gallatin.

The Helena High Boys Track and Field Team also had two individual state titles, Aayden Simmons for High Jump and Colter Petre for Long Jump.

Congratulations to coaches Jesse Zentz (HHS Girls) and Lon Carter (CHS Boys), and to our Bengal Girls and Bruin Boys State Champs!

On the tennis court, we had two second-place finishers at the State AA Tournament in Kalispell. Helena High’s Qayl Kujala took second in girls singles and Capital High’s Ryan Ashley took second in boys singles. Congratulations Qayl, Ryan and Coaches Nicole Riebe (HHS Girls) and Ryan Swenson (CHS Boys)

And right here in Helena, the Helena High Women’s Softball Team finished an impressive season as runner up in the State Tournament. Congratulations to Coach Schulte and the Bengal Girls!

Behind each of these athletes is a team of assistant coaches, athletic trainers, parents and fans. Thank all who made these victories possible.

Music students earn top marks at State Solo Ensemble Festival

Our student musicians also delivered top finishes at the MHSA Western State Solo Ensemble Festival in Missoula.

Students competed at district music festivals earlier this year for the privilege to participate in the state solo ensemble festival, which brings together the state’s top student musicians. Bands. A total of 43 Helena Public Schools student earned superior ratings, the highest level possible, and 25 earned excellent ratings, the second-highest level.

Helena Public Schools is grateful to our talented student musicians for representing our district at the highest level. Congratulations to each of our student musicians and the directors who made these experiences possible!

Mock trial team brings home national recognitions

Congratulations are once again in order for the dynamite Helena High School Mock Trial Team. In March the team clinched its fourth consecutive state title, qualifying to compete at the 2023 Mock Trial National Championship last month in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The team shone once again on the national stage. Robert Stimpson, Melaina Kloberdanz and Wyatt Gant received “Outstanding Witness” awards, while Mia Taylor, Kenzie Criswell, Melaina Kloberdanz and Robert Stimpson received “Outstanding Attorney” awards.

A huge thank you to Helena High Business Education Teacher Kacey Askin for providing this opportunity for our kids. Way to go Bengals!

Napoletano and Skadberg named HEA 2023 Teacher and Para of the Year

In staff recognitions, the Helena Education Association (HEA) honored two outstanding individuals this week.

Central Elementary School Upper Montessori Teacher Tony Napoletano has been named HEA’s “Teacher of the Year.” One nominator described Mr. Napoletano’s classroom environment: “They are always doing some amazing art project, putting on Shakespeare plays, or working on a new grammar lesson (which his class likes to do for fun).”

Wrote another nominator: “He eats with the kids (I think he might know every child in the whole school), helps to solve school problems, thinks of new ideas (like therapy dogs) and is such an excellent communicator. He also has a huge heart and is an amazing citizen.”

Congratulations, Mr. Napoletano, and thank you for all you do for our students.

In addition to teachers, para professionals play an essential role in our classrooms. HEA’s “Para Educator of the Year” is Capital High School’s Kari Skadberg, whose nominators praised her as a leader who goes above and beyond every day.” Congratulations, Ms. Skadberg, and thank you for all of the ways you support our students and educators.