Friday Update from Superintendent Weltz | April 5, 2024

Dear Families and Staff,

This spring our district leadership team is meeting with local service clubs and other civic groups to share information on our upcoming school levies.

We enjoy learning about the tremendous work these local volunteers do for Helena, from Rotary to the Kiwanis Club. And we’re grateful for the opportunity to share why we’re asking our community for these levies.

Voter approval of this funding would help us keep students safe and maintain the level of staff, student programs and technology that our district currently offers – standards that our community has come to expect as part of a quality education.

These needs are critical as we address a budget shortfall that is affecting districts across Montana under the state’s current school funding model.

In response to some of the most common questions we’ve received at civic group meetings and elsewhere, we’ve put together an FAQ. If you have questions about how the district manages taxpayer dollars, what these levies will pay for, and why they’re necessary at a time when property tax bills have gone up, click here to view the FAQ. We want to make sure you have all of the information you need. Please send additional questions to helenamtschools@helenaschools.org.

The Lewis and Clark County Elections Office will mail out ballots on April 22 and they are due back to the Elections Office by May 7.

And if you want to take a deep dive into how school finances work, please see information later in this letter on a special presentation coming up next week at Warren Elementary.

One piece of the May election has now been finalized. Yesterday was the filing deadline for write-in candidates for the Board of Trustees. With no additional candidates, the trustee portion of the election has been cancelled (the levy portion of the election continues as planned).

Results are as follows:

Incumbent Janet Armstrong is re-elected by acclamation for a three-year term on the Board representing the elementary and high school districts.

Rachel Robison is elected by acclamation for a three-year term representing the elementary and high school districts.

Incumbent Jeff Hindoien is elected by acclamation to a one-year term serving the elementary and high school districts. (Hindoien was appointed to finish the second year of the three-year term held by the late Lois Fitzpatrick, who passed away during the second year of her term. Hindoien was required to run for election to finish the third year of the term.)

Congratulations to each of these public servants for giving their time and talents to serve our community.

Eclipse eye protection

Another topic we’ve received questions about this week is the total eclipse of the sun happening Monday, which will be visible in its totality across a narrow band of the United States. Here in Helena, we’ll observe a partial, 36.6 percent eclipse with maximum darkness occurring at 12:39 p.m.

Our teachers from kindergarten through high school are preparing to help our students safely observe this celestial spectacle and learn about our solar system. Assistant Superintendent Josh McKay has implemented the following eclipse safety protocols:

  • Recess and classes will be held indoors during the time of the eclipse from 11:38 a.m. to 1:43 p.m. If the skies are completely overcast and clouds cover the sun, recess may be held outside.
  • Students should not be looking into the sun; parent permission needs to be acquired if schools have outdoor science activities that day. NASA safety protocols will be followed.
  • At the high school level, lunch will be open-campus as normal; principals will instruct students to not look at the sun during lunch time.

If you plan to view the eclipse, please take a moment for a refresher on eye safety.

6th Grade Career Exploration Experiences launches

While next week presents an opportunity to learn about outer space, this week found sixth graders exploring career possibilities here on planet earth.

District Health Administrator Lona Carter coordinated the 6th Grade Career Exploration Experience in partnership with Bethany Coe, Lewis and Clark County Prevention Specialist, and Sarah Graham of Youth Connections, Communities That Care, and Southwest Montana Prevention.

Over the course of two days every sixth grader in the district will learn about career options ranging from construction, to art, to healthcare, to aviation. Each student explores up to nine different careers. The event is hosted by Dick Anderson Construction, Helena College, The Holter Museum of Art, Montana Wild and St. Peter’s Health, with many additional local employers participating.

CR Anderson’s Career Exploration field trip is Tuesday. I’m happy to share photos catching some of the excitement from Helena Middle School’s field trip this week. Thank you to all of the local businesses and organizations, staff and volunteers who have made this exciting opportunity possible!

It’s been a busy week! Last, but not least, I’d like to share photos from this week’s launch of Vigilante Parade season with a lively assembly at Helena High. Students from Bryant Elementary kicked off the festivities with a “Red Wagon Parade” – a mini version of the real thing. Catch some live calf roping from the event on our district Facebook page.

Watch for more details as we approach parade day Friday, May 3. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of this Helena tradition, which is believed to be the oldest continuing community parade in the United States.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Respectfully,

Signature: Rex M. Weltz, Superintendent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rex M. Weltz, Superintendent
Helena Public Schools

 

Student & Educator Recognitions

Capital High Paraeducator Nancy Johnson earns “Lifetime Achievement Award”

Wednesday was national Paraeducator Day, a day set aside to recognize the vital work of these professionals. Schools simply could not deliver quality education without paraeducators, who serve students of all ages and abilities.

Today we’re honored to recognize an individual who exemplifies the many ways these professionals help our students reach their full potential.

On Tuesday, long-time Capital High School Paraeducator Nancy Johnson was surprised with a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Montana Council for Exceptional Children (MCEC). She formally accepted the award at MCEC’s annual conference last night in Missoula.

Ms. Johnson was nominated by three individuals – CHS Principal Brett Zanto, CHS Special Education Teacher Stephanie Scott and a student who has experienced the difference she makes firsthand. I would like to share a few excerpts of their nomination letters, which illustrate the important work our paraeducators do:

From a student:

I am 17 years old and a new student at Capital High School. I was diagnosed with a learning disability at a very young age. Starting a new school was nerve racking and scary. But there was one class that was completely different than the others. I was greeted with a big bright smile and a warm welcome by Mrs. Johnson,” wrote Nancy’s student nominator. “… Mrs. Nancy would take any time out of her day to spend helping her studentsThere has never been a time where Mrs. Nancy has not been able to help me. She always finds her way to get to the bottom of something. Mrs. Nancy is one of a kind she sees and hears all of her students.”

From Special Education Teacher Stephanie Scott

(Nancy) wants to be able to help every kid so she will practice math problems and then check with me for accuracy,” wrote Ms. Scott. “She even will take books home to read if it means being able to help a student better in their English classThere isn’t a student with special needs that Nancy can’t help. There isn’t a student that doesn’t feel a little better about themselves after an interaction with Nancy. She just makes you feel that good!

From CHS Principal Brett Zanto

“Nancy has high expectations for her students and provides support and encouragement to

help ensure that all students reach intended outcomes,” wrote Mr. Zanto. “…the students she works with benefit from her efforts in acquiring new knowledge and her desire to exceed minimum expectations. Nancy exhibits so much energy and enthusiasm in the classroom (and throughout the building), that students and staff cannot help but notice.”

Holter Museum of Art’s “Youth Electrum” exhibition opens tonight

The artwork of more than 150 Helena Public Schools students, from kindergarten through high school, was chosen for the Holter Museum of Art’s “Youth Electrum” show opening this evening.

The professional caliber exhibition gives students the opportunity to see what it’s like to have their talent displayed in a real gallery.

Don’t miss this chance to see the incredible creative talent of our students. The Youth Electrum’s opening reception is tonight from 4:30-6:30. The free event is open to all.

The artwork will remain on display at The Holter through May 8. Congratulations, Helena Public Schools artists!

CHS photographers earn accolades in national photo contest

Two students in Genevieve Anderson’s Beginning and Advanced Photography programs at Capital High recently received honorable mentions in the prestigious National Rocky Mountain School of Photography Photo Contest.

Congratulations to Paige Springer and Jaedin Hermes on these well-deserved recognitions. We’re grateful to be able to share their beautiful work.

Three Harrison Writing Award winners to be featured in Pen & Ink Magazine

In the literary arts, congratulations three students whose prose and poetry earned the annual Harrison Writing Award through the Helena Education Foundation (HEF).

Dr. Lee Harrison endowed the awards through HEF in honor of her mother Ethel Harrison. The winning pieces will be shared at a community launch party May 14 and will be featured in the annual Pen & Ink Magazine, a glossy, high-quality literary publication. Watch for more details to come.

Congratulations to our Harrison Writing Award winners:

Nathaniel Fang, Senior, Helena High: “Paper Flowers” and “Home”

Greydyn Gildroy, Sophomore, HHS: “Elaine” and “My Sunshine”

Fiona Kuntz, Sophomore, CHS: “Gardenry of Faireen” and “You Matter”

Upcoming events and opportunities

RSVP for school finance presentation April 11 at Warren Elementary

Want to learn more about how school finances work? Mark your calendar for a special event this Thursday, April 11, from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Warren Elementary School, located in the Valley at 2690 Old York Road.

The Warren Elementary Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) organized this opportunity to learn about school budgets and funding formulas with Pad McCracken, research analyst with Montana Legislative Services.

If you wish to attend McCracken’s presentation, please RSVP at this link.

Learn and serve as a student board representative

The district is currently seeking applications from high school juniors and seniors interested in serving as our 2024-25 student representatives to the Helena Public Schools Board of Trustees.

This is an exciting opportunity for students to develop leadership skills, get hands-on governance experience and advocate for their peers. Student representatives serve a one-year term during their junior or senior year.

Completed applications must be sent to Barb Ridgway at Lincoln Center no later than 4 p.m. on May 3. Interviews are scheduled for May 7-9. Please see your principal or school counselor for an application.

A quick reminder for families of high school students that Tuesday, April 9, is Juniors Only ACT Testing Day. School will be mandatory for juniors, and optional for freshmen, sophomores and seniors.

Week of the Young Child events

Next week is the national “Week of the Young Child” and events focused on helping our youngest children thrive are planned across town. Families of incoming kindergartners are invited to visit their neighborhood school for fun activities celebrating early childhood.

KinderSprouts screenings available tomorrow

And tomorrow, April 6, screenings will be offered for families of preschoolers who are interested in the district’s new FREE KinderSprouts program.

KinderSprouts was developed under the parameters of House Bill 352 passed by the 2023 Legislature. The program is designed to increase the number of students who can read proficiently by the end of third grade. Students must be four years of age to participate and, per House Bill 352, must be admitted via a screening process to determine whether they would benefit from early literacy intervention.

If you’re interested in a screening, stop by the Walking Mall outside the Lewis & Clark Library between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow or schedule a screening appointment at this link.

Prevention advocate Ben Cort to present at HMS on dangers of marijuana

On Thursday, April 18, Youth Connections is hosting a presentation by renowned prevention advocate Ben Cort. Recognized for his impactful TEDx talks, Mr. Cort will present at Helena Middle School on the dangers that marijuana can pose in our communities, schools and households. The event is in the HMS Auditorium at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 18.

Helena Wins Technology & Finance Night