Friday Message from Superintendent Weltz | May 3, 2024

Dear Families and Staff,

We’re into the final days of our 2024 school election. If you haven’t yet turned in your ballot, we recommend hand-delivering it to the Lewis & Clark Election Office at 316 N Park Ave, Rm 168, to ensure it arrives by the May 7 deadline. The Election Office will be open extended hours from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

No matter how you voted or plan to vote, we appreciate your participation in this election.

As I’ve stated over the last four months, we recognize that the levies are a big ask, especially for those on a fixed income. We didn’t take the decision to seek this funding lightly, and we recognize that this is an important decision for you and your family.

You may have read that other districts are asking for less, but we are asking for what we need. I don’t know other districts’ needs and they don’t know ours.

In our district, our growing safety and technology needs continue to divert money from our general fund – money that is needed to retain and sustain our current level of staff and programs for students. We simply can no longer afford to operate this way.

Our district’s safety and security levies contain some big-ticket, and big-need, items. Among them is new and updated HVAC systems to keep classrooms from becoming unbearably hot – which they most certainly do – in an era when it’s not safe to open windows and doors on warm days. Our students and staff deserve safe and healthy spaces to teach and learn.

Our district is also working to establish mental health support teams in each of our buildings. The levies would enable us to fund nurses and counselors across the district and to add an additional School Resource Officer (SRO) for our Helena Valley schools. In addition, the levies would cover a small percentage of the salaries of our amazing staff, who carry the heavy responsibility of student safety and mental health in so much of what they do – principals, teachers, custodians, secretaries and others. This work is costly, but school safety experts consider mental health support to be one of the most effective tools we have to prevent school violence.

The district is also seeking funding for other measures to make our schools safer – items such as blackout shades, secure deadbolt locks and hardware, fire alarm and suppression systems and maintenance of playground equipment. When you’re talking about 1.34 million square feet, 17 schools, 550 classrooms, 289 offices, 19 gyms and 9 lunchrooms, it adds up fast.

On the technology side, we’re asking for what we need to repair and replace the laptops that our students must have to do their schoolwork, with most curriculum now available only online.

We haven’t asked for our tech levy to be renewed in 20 years, and we have some catching up to do. From protecting students and staff from cyberattacks, to buying lunch, to entering the doors of a school, virtually everything we do today requires technology that must be maintained, licensed and replaced.

Our district’s first technology levy, passed two decades ago in 2004, continues to provide approximately $1 million a year. But today our district spends two and a half times that on technology annually, at approximately $2.5 million. The difference is currently coming out of our General Fund. The Legislature long ago gave school districts the ability to seek levies for technology funding, shifting it out of the General Fund. After 20 years, it’s past time for our district to adjust this funding to meet today’s needs.

As a district, we’ve done all we can to make significant reductions to our budget without affecting students – carving millions out of the shortfall through staff and cost reductions, finding additional revenue sources through the lease of district properties, and bringing in additional basic entitlement funding.

Our district operations are lean, and we’re using our resources appropriately. Our finances are, quite literally, an open book. In fact, our district recently received yet another clean financial audit, meaning a third-party reviewer, Wipfli LLP, conducted an extensive review of our spending and financial practices and found no deficiencies. This included the district’s use of federal ESSER funds (pandemic aid).

Meanwhile, we continue to work with other Montana AA districts and school advocacy organizations to seek changes to the school funding model at the state level. It will take several years to work through the legislative process, however, and our schools face acute budget needs now.

Finally, I want to address a widespread misperception that public schools are getting a windfall from tax revenues tied to increased property values. The increased tax revenue collected by the state through the “95 mills” school tax does not translate to increased annual operational funding for our public schools.

Nor do state windfalls from gambling, coal or cannabis translate to increased operational funding for schools.

This is because Montana public schools are funded through a set formula that is established in state law. The formula is based largely on student counts which, as you saw reported earlier this week, are down as our state’s population skews older than it once did.

Any tax revenues collected beyond what the formula legally allows schools to receive go into the state’s General Fund.

Again, the increased state tax revenue does not change the amount our school districts receive locally.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, I appreciate your willingness to get the facts and be an informed voter. You’ll find answers to some of the most frequent questions we’ve heard this election season in our FAQ.

No matter how you choose to vote in this election, I’m grateful for your participation and appreciate all that you and our community have done to support our public schools.

Now Helena gets to go have some fun!

The Vigilante Parade starts on the hour! Please see the route map below, as well as links to some of the coverage of the parade’s centennial by John Riley of the Montana News Network and our very own student journalist Will Eaton, whose feature on the history of the parade was published in the Independent Record this week. Congratulations, Will!

And don’t miss the Montana News Network’s full-length parade special to air this Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on KXLH (CBS) and KTVH (NBC).

I hope you can join us along the parade route, but if you can’t KTVH will live stream the event on their Facebook page.

Among the students marching by will be many of those featured in our Student & Educator Recognitions below. Thank you to each of the amazing students and educators featured below for representing the excellence that is our Helena Public Schools.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Signature: Rex M. Weltz









Rex M. Weltz, Superintendent
Helena Public Schools

Student & Educator Recognitions

Bruin Boys place first in Skor DeKam

Congratulations to the Bruin Boy’s Track and Field Team for their 1st place finish and to the girls for their 3rd place finish at the Skor DeKam Track Meet last weekend in Great Falls!

Helena students bring home top medals at statewide Science Olympiad

Last week we shared Science Olympiad results for Helena High School. Congratulations again to our Bengal Olympiad Team, which scored 7th overall out of approximately 30 teams, with students earning silver and gold in individual events. This week we’re pleased to share results from Capital High School, which were delayed last week due to a scoring issue.

Our Bruin team scored 5th overall statewide with students earning silver and bronze medals in a number of individual events. Congratulations, Bruin Olympiads!

At the middle school level, the CR Anderson team took second place overall statewide with students also earning bronze, silver and gold medals in individual events, while HMS earned a silver medal in individual events.

We also want to give a huge round of applause to the instructors who made this incredible, hand-on learning experience possible: Jonathan Driggers (HHS), Sara Grotbo (HMS), Leslie Hagengruber (CRA), Tyler Hollow (HHS), DeLacy Humbert (CHS), Julie Ladd (HHS), Megan Lane (CRA), Jamie O’Malley (HHS) and Sarah Urban (CHS).

Capital High School


Anna Gates, Alex Gomez-Beckman, Kate Drynan, June Forsythe, Adam Grasmick, Rowan Humbert, Vivian James, Fiona Kuntz, Ellie Mercer, Mahana Mobley, Charlie Snellman, Brailey Sublette, Isaac Urban

 Individual Events

2nd Place: Microbe Madness – Charlie Snellman and Anna Gates

2nd Place: Codebusters – Adam Grasmick, Rowan Humbert, Fiona Kuntz

2nd Place: Anatomy and Physiology – Ellie Mercer and Alexis Gomez-Beckman

2nd Place: Scrambler – Vivian James and June Forsythe

3rd Place: Fossils – Fiona Kuntz


CR Anderson Middle School


Ava Bennison, Braeden Burke, Charlie Frumkes, Chris Lay, Preston Lende, Grace Shanks, Grey Simpson, Emily Townsend, Judah Braese, Adam Drake, Emmett Forsythe, Rylee Kleshick, Kylee Kleshick, Matthew Urban, Matt Wendt

Individual Events

1st Place: Agricultural Science – Braeden Burke & Judah Braese

1st Place: Wheeled Vehicle – Emily Townsend & Chris Lay

2nd Place: Fossils – Braeden Burke & Judah Braese

2nd Place: Meteorology – Preston Lende & Adam Drake

2nd Place: Optics – Matthew Urban & Emmett Forsythe

3rd Place: Microbe Mission – Ava Bennison & Rylee Kleshick

Helena Middle School


Owen Carson, Graham Coleman, Talia Demers, Kingston Downing, Chase Foster, Brayden Garza, Hudson Hicks, Greysen Jakes, Abigail Lewis, Maddie McCullough, Erin McNeil, Bailey Moore, Easton Theys, Easton Theys

Individual Events

2nd Place: Erin McNeil, Bailey Moore and Abigail Lewis

Bruins earns firsts at Montana Envirothon

The Capital High School Envirothon team took first place in the Forestry and Range categories at the Montana State Envirothon Competition and earned 5th place overall.

Congratulations to Bruins Paige Frumkes, Madelyn Holston, Lilly Rippingale, Sage Moler, and Spencer Frandsen!


District News

Helena High hosts State Music Festival this weekend

Congratulations and best wishes for our students who qualified to compete in the MHSA Western State Music Festival at Helena High School today and tomorrow!

More than 1,000 music students from more than 60 schools are in town to participate in more than 650 performances!

The competition at both the district and the state level is the culmination “of hundreds, thousands of hours of practice and lessons that go into learning an instrument and a piece of music,” writes Capital High School Orchestra, Band and Choir Director Zach Harris. “Students are only competing with themselves to perform at the highest possible level.”

These top musicians will have the opportunity to take master classes and perform before adjudicators who will rate their performances in categories including tone, intonation, rhythmic accuracy, musicality, professionalism, difficulty of the music and others.

Adjudicators will include University of Colorado music professor Angela Keedy (Schendel), who is a Helena native and Helena High graduate. Ms. Keedy will adjudicate flutes and high woodwinds.

A tremendous thanks to our music education staff who have put in many hours to make this weekend’s event a success:

  • Thomas Baty (CHS choir and CRA band), State Festival Co-Chair
  • Zach Harris (CHS orchestra, band, choir), State Festival Co-Chair
  • Molly Kohoutek (HHS choir, piano), State Festival Co-Chair
  • Cody Hollow (HHS band, percussion, jazz, orchestra)
  • Duan Zehr (CHS band)

All events are open to the public and schedules with event locations will be posted throughout the school. The festival begins at 7 a.m. Friday and Saturday with performances continuing until 5:45 p.m.

Decorative Image of ChickPeas

The May Harvest of the Month featured food is – chickpeas!

How did chickpeas get their name? Find out and learn why they’ve been a snack for more than 7,000 years in this issue of the Harvest of the Month.



“Shakespeare in Hollywood” cast visits Central Elementary

CHS drama students coach aspiring actors at Central Elementary.

Congratulations to the cast of the CHS production of “Shakespeare in Hollywood.” With the performance now a wrap, the thespians visited Mr. Napoletano’s Montessori class at Central Middle School last week to assist with their Shakespeare unit. The high schoolers coached the elementary students on performance ideas, character development and tricks to memorize lines.






Pen & Ink launch party is Wednesday

The Launch Party for Pen & Ink 2024 is this Wednesday at the Holter Museum at 5:30 p.m.

The Pen & Ink magazine features the work of the winners of the Harrison Writing Awards for expository and creative writing through the Helena Education Foundation.

Grab a copy of the beautiful magazine, hear the Harrison Writing Award winners read, and check out the Youth Electrum Exhibit!