Friday Update from Superintendent Weltz | April 26, 2024

Dear Families,

I firmly believe that communication and relationships – built on a foundation of mental health support – are the most powerful tools we have to keep our schools safe. This week’s incident at CR Anderson Middle School was a case in point.

Our staff had a relationship with the student who brought a loaded handgun to school in his backpack on Tuesday. Staff knew his circumstances and needs, and those needs had been communicated to the adults responsible for him at school.

An administrator was quick to notice that his behavior was amiss on Tuesday and took immediate action, averting a potential tragedy. The gun was secured and turned over to the School Resource Officer before the student knew it had been confiscated from his locker.

Our CRA staff did all the right things at the right times. Their attentiveness and quick action led to a safe outcome for all and I am extremely grateful. This reflects the professionalism of our staff at CRA and throughout our district.

That doesn’t make the facts of Tuesday’s incident – a loaded handgun in a school – any less troubling. We have received many questions from parents and community members this week and I want to assure you that those questions have not gone unheard.

As we move forward to serve our students, we’re also looking back at what we can learn.

As I write, we’re finalizing details of a visit to Helena by Secure Education Consultants (SEC), a Michigan-based firm that has conducted safety audits of hundreds of schools, businesses and other organizations nationwide. CEO Jason Russell – a nationally recognized safety expert and former Secret Service agent – last visited Helena two years ago when SEC conducted safety audits at a number of our schools. The district has already implemented a number of SEC’s recommendations and more are planned as resources allow.

SEC’s return to Helena will include a series of staff meetings and a community school safety forum. Watch for more details and an event schedule to come soon.

Earlier this week we shared details on how to access the district’s new “Montana Cares” app, which offers mental health support and other resources as well as a portal to anonymously report concerns. We have worked with the app vendor to resolve an issue with the app’s age rating, which was preventing younger students from downloading it. We apologize for the inconvenience. The app now has the correct rating, which is ages 4+.

In other district news, please remember to vote! To be counted, ballots must be mailed in time to arrive at the Lewis & Clark Elections Office by May 7. Be sure to mail your completed ballot well in advance.

If you’re in need of childcare this summer, please note that the lottery for Summer SACC registration starts April 29.  To be entered, please email Jamie Merill at Please include your child’s name, school and grade for the 2024-25 school year, and date of birth. Please also indicate what weeks you are interested in. We will contact you by May 10th with enrollment information.

We’re on the final stretch to the Vigilante Parade next Friday, May 3, and it’s looking like we have nice weather in store. Best wishes to our Bengal and Bruin float builders and their support crews!

I look forward to celebrating the strength, resilience and can-do attitude of our Helena community with you.


Signature: Rex M. Weltz








Rex M. Weltz, Superintendent
Helena Public Schools


Student and Educator Recognitions

HHS Science Club competitors earn high marks in State Science Olympiad

Congratulations to our Helena High Science Club, which earned high marks at the Montana State Science Olympiad in Bozeman last Friday.

HHS student build a balsa wood tower at the 2024 State Science Olympiad at MSU Bozeman last week.

HHS students build a balsa wood tower at the 2024 State Science Olympiad at MSU Bozeman last week.

Sponsored by the MSU Science and Math Resource Center, Science Olympiad is a national program funded to encourage science exploration and experimentation in middle and high school students.

Watch for results from the CHS Science Club, which has not yet received its final scores, next week .

HHS Competitors won top spots in several categories:

1st Place Wind Power: Owen McDaniel and Jonathon Abel

2nd Place Fossils: Paul Reeves and Annika Nehring

4th place Codebusters: Paul Harmon and Glacia Lucchetti

4th Place Optics: Paul Harmon and Kaelen Loomis

5th place Chem Lab: Annika Nehring and Eva Hicks

5th Place Tower: James Tran and Grey Gilderoy

The HHS Science Club placed seventh overall. Team members are:

Seniors: Annika Nehring, Emily McAnally, Paul Reeves, Eva Hicks, Ryan Grossman, Jonathon Abel, Owen McDaniel,

Sophomores: Glacia Lucchetti, Grey Gilderoy, Alec Henderson

Freshmen:  Calder Cupino, Paul Harmon, Kaelen Loomis, James Tran




Central Families do-si-do

Families enjoy a night of folk dancing at Central Elementary School.

Families enjoy a night of folk dancing at Central Elementary School.

On Tuesday evening, Central School hosted the first ever Montessori Family Folk Dance Night. Led by elementary music educators Caitlin Cantrell, Abby Nyhof and Jennifer Skogley, families from their three schools, Broadwater, Central and Smith, joined together for an evening of traditional folk dancing. Students have been learning folk dances in their general music classes throughout the year, and this was the culmination of that hard work. Live music was provided by David Casey and Helena Public School Montessori Parents sponsored the event. Thank you to the dozens of families who attended this event!












CHS Science Teacher Tom Caffrey, Photo by JoVonne Wagner, Montana Free Press

CHS science teacher earns Montana “Outstanding Earth Science Teacher” Award

Congratulations to Capital High School Science Teacher Tom Caffrey, who is the recipient of the Montana “Outstanding Earth Science Teacher” Award from the National Association of Geoscience Teachers.

Mr. Caffrey was recently featured in the new “Helena This Week Newsletter” from Montana Free Press Reporter JoVonne Wagner, which we have reprinted here with permission.

Congratulations Mr. Caffrey!


From “Helena This Week”

Thomas Caffrey has been teaching at Captial High School for the last nine years. Caffrey teaches AP environmental science and earth science classes for freshmen, juniors and seniors and recently was named Montana’s Outstanding Earth Science Teacher by the National Earth Science Teachers Association. Montana Free Press spoke with Caffrey about the honor, his classes and his passion for teaching the sciences. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.

MTFP: How did you feel about receiving the title?

Caffrey: I was caught off guard, actually. I think somebody outside of the school district as well as inside the school district apparently nominated me. It wasn’t something I expected and it was just kind of a pleasant surprise, and it’s always nice to get recognition.

Not a ton of schools are offering earth science anymore, and so it’s neat that the Association of Geoscience Teachers still is recognizing people who are in the trenches still teaching this, and recognizing its importance in K-12 education, and honestly, there needs to be more of it. There’s just such a focus to push kids towards what’s on the ACT that I think we’re really losing sight of what we should be teaching them, you know, earth science. I mean, most of the kids I teach are from Earth.

It’s a pretty cool thing because I feel like the geosciences are really underrepresented in K-12 education. Everybody has biology and they have some sort of physical science, probably physics, chemistry, but rarely is there an earth science or a geology-based course available to kids until college. Turns out there’s a lot of careers that involve this particular science and a lot of directions you can take with it and a lot of money can be made, a lot of jobs in Montana. You can stay in the state and work in the geological field or, you know, hydrology, geology, meteorology.

MTFP: What interested you to start teaching earth science?

Caffrey: I just love the outdoors. My love for the outdoors, that’s what made me fall in love with geology originally. It’s just the wonder of mountains and rivers and streams. I’m a fly-fishing outfitter, and I tell people all the time there’s no better application for the scientific method than chasing wild trout with a fly rod. What are they eating? Why are they eating it? What’s the weather doing? What are the bugs doing? What are the fish? What’s gonna make them happy? Everything comes into play with that. Good fishing doesn’t happen on accident. It’s a lot of intel and a lot of science to it.

MTFP: What are your next plans with your classes?

Caffrey: We always have something going. We’re really fortunate to have an indoor greenhouse attached to our building as well as an outdoor greenhouse, which was acquired through a grant. Monday’s Earth Day and being an earth science teacher, that’s a big deal for us. We have a shortened schedule on Monday so we’re actually going to celebrate my class on Tuesday, the 22nd. All my classes will be taking little plants and little containers and putting them in bigger containers with topsoil and, you know, soil and soil health is a big part of what I teach.

We started plants. We have about, I would say, 1,200 plants started: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, watermelons, maybe a few eggplants. We’ll have a plant sale in mid-May for the public and then we ended up donating about 300 plants to the Helena Community Gardens. I think we did 200 to the Helena Food Share last year. They do a good job of getting food on plates, in the cupboards and people’s refrigerators. So we’re part of that.