HPS Budget Recommendation Consensus Committee Overview

June 2023

The Helena Public Schools Budget Recommendation Consensus Committee consists of 40 representatives of district stakeholder groups. Some committee members were selected after stepping forward to volunteer, while others were invited because of their roles with a Parent Teacher Organization, the Helena Education Association or other groups.

The district has engaged three highly respected individuals in the state and local education community to lead the Consensus Committee.

Dr. Rob Watson is a former science teacher who has served as superintendent of the Missoula and Bozeman School Districts. He is currently Executive Director of School Administrators of Montana (SAM).

Assistant Facilitators are Assistant Superintendent Josh McKay and Melissa Romano. Melissa is a long-time Helena Public Schools educator and state representative for House District 81. She has advocated for public education at the local, state and national level.

Rob, Josh and Melissa will facilitate the committee using a proven consensus-building process that was developed around one of the world’s most contentious and intractable issues – water rights.

The process was developed by the late Bob Chadwick, an Oregon forester who became an internationally recognized expert on conflict resolution. Chadwick’s success with resolving water rights conflicts in Oregon’s Klamath River Basin quickly drew the attention of other entities navigating contentious issues – local governments, hospitals, corporations and many others.

And that’s how Helena Public Schools became part of Chadwick’s story more than two decades ago.

In 2002, then-HPS Superintendent Dr. Bruce Messinger engaged Chadwick to lead teacher contract negotiations. The resulting two-year contract drew the attention of districts across the state and nation who were interested in its innovative solutions around teacher salary structures and professional development. The consensus-building process was thus introduced to the public education sphere, where it is still widely used today. Chadwick’s methods, which begin with building trust, are detailed in his book “Finding New Ground: Beyond Conflict to Consensus.”

Rob has extensive experience guiding districts through the consensus-building process, most recently with the Missoula County Public Schools. Rob will not be paid for his work with Helena Public Schools, however the district will make a donation to SAM in appreciation of his time.

The Committee assembled for its first meeting in May. The Committee will meet once in June and once in August and will assemble twice monthly thereafter, with the goal of presenting budget recommendations before the Board of Trustees by late winter 2024.