Friday Update from Superintendent Weltz | May 24, 2024

Dear Families and Staff,

Thank you to the parents and staff who attended Wednesday night’s Community Safety Forum at Capital High School.

Sponsored by the Helena Education Foundation and the Helena Education Association, the event gave community members the opportunity to discuss the district’s safety needs with national school safety expert Jason Russell. We had a productive week with Mr. Russell, whose three-day visit to Helena included conducting safety audits of several schools and meeting with local law enforcement.

As Mr. Russell explained to the forum audience at Capital High, school safety and mental health support go hand-in-hand: “If you’re not addressing mental health, you’re not addressing safety.”

We look forward to receiving and implementing Mr. Russell’s safety recommendations from this latest round of school audits as resources allow. Over the summer, we will also continue to work tirelessly to expand student mental health services through grants, community partnerships and state and federal funding.

While it’s my job to keep our eye on the ball when it comes to critical issues such as student safety and school funding, I never want these challenges to overshadow the accomplishments of our students and staff – especially as we celebrate the end of the school year.

On that note, I would like to congratulate an administrator whose behind-the-scenes leadership has garnered some well-deserved, state-level recognition. This award is especially meaningful because it was driven by the students whose education she has helped shape.

I’m pleased to share that Capital High School Assistant Principal Kathy Kidder has been named “Administrator of the Year” by the Montana Association of Student Councils, based on a nomination from CHS Student Body President Gavin Mow.

Writes Gavin: “(Ms. Kidder) is a bright soul who always has something positive to say and fully invests in our students and teachers. She is the first to say ‘Congrats!’ after an achievement and the key figure many at CHS can rely on for affirmation and support. Students feel safe and heard with Ms. Kidder at the helm and she is instrumental to the support network of Capital High … To say she is the glue that holds us all together would be a fitting analogy, although she really does much more.”

Congratulations, Ms. Kidder, and thank you to Gavin and the CHS Student Council for the initiative and leadership you have shown by seeking this well-deserved recognition.

 Congratulations to our 2024 Retirees

This week we had the pleasure of celebrating our 2024 Helena Public Schools Retirees.

While it’s hard to say goodbye, the retirement banquet is always a night I look forward to as we reflect on these individuals’ remarkable careers and hear their parting advice.

Special congratulations to our longest-serving retiree, Kelli Kessler, who has served the district for 42 years, most recently as administrative assistant for our Athletic Department.

In all we celebrated a total of 25 retirees. Even as they leave us, I know they will continue to reap the rewards of their many years of service to our community. We are grateful for all they have done for our students and our community.

As Board Chair Siobhan Hatthorn told retirees: “Most people in this world end up with no more than five or six people who remember them. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them.”

Thank you to Sodexo, Costco, Safeway, Albertsons on North Montana, Super 1 Foods, Vanns and Forget Me Not Flowers for donating dinner, dessert and décor to make this a special and well-deserved evening for our retirees. (link to video here)

 I also want to recognize an exceptional educator whose long career took him from the classroom to the boardroom.

Terry Beaver taught biology at Helena High School for 37 years, retired, then served on the Board of Trustees for another 21 years. After nearly six decades of service to our community, he finished his final term on the Board earlier this month.

Mr. Beaver started his first teaching job in East Helena in 1964. The following year he moved to Helena High, where he taught biology and advanced biology to generations of Helenans.

Education was a family affair. Mr. Beaver’s wife, Patty, served as Helena Middle School secretary for 42 years. And a highlight of Mr. Beaver’s career was the opportunity to teach alongside his daughter, Helena High Chemistry Teacher Julie Ladd, for seven years before his retirement in 2002.

In addition to developing Helena High’s biology curriculum, Mr. Beaver started an outdoor education program for students at risk of dropping out. And it wasn’t just any outdoor education program. Mr. Beaver and his 30 students spent 180 days in the great outdoors, where his students enjoyed cartography, construction, biology and other experiential learning that gave many the sense of engagement and inspiration they needed to graduate.

In a 2017 interview for the Helena Civic Television show “Vintage Helena,” Mr. Beaver summed up the essence of a good teachers as follows: “As a teacher, you have to have a love for the kids. You have to have a love for learning. And you have to have a love for your medium that you’re teaching.”

Thank you, Mr. Beaver, for all the decades you have dedicated to our Helena Public Schools and the students of Helena.

 Community partner update

I would also like to extend wishes for a happy retirement to an exceptional community servant outside the district.

Bruce Day, long-time executive director of Helena Food Share, has announced his retirement at the end of the year.

While Bruce has expanded his organization’s reach in many ways, the most vital development for our schools is the distribution of hundreds of “Kid Packs” to our schools each week.

Our staff distribute these bundles of nutritious, easy-to-prepare foods to kids facing food insecurity, helping stave off hunger during the weekend gap between school meals. In 2023 alone, Helena Food Shares provided 45,000 Kid Packs to children in Helena, East Helena, Boulder, Basin, Canyon Creek and Lincoln.

Thank you, Bruce, for all that you and your colleagues, donors and volunteers do to help kids fights hunger and focus on learning.

 Speaking of those volunteers, Claire Pichette’s Helena High AP Environmental Science students volunteered at Helena Food Share this week, bundling almost 600 Kid Packs for elementary students in our community. Way to go Bengals!

 Good luck and congratulations to our spring sports athletes!

Last, but most definitely not least, I’d like to congratulate and cheer on our spring sports athletes, starting with the Tri-County Twisters track team. The Twisters brought home multiple medals from the 2024 Montana Special Olympics in Billings last weekend!

In case you missed it, KTVH dropped in on the Unified Pair of Willow Young and Camille Patterson of CR Anderson Middle School as they trained for the games last week.

Thank you to Coaches Shiloh Corcoran, Chris Findley and Brad Patterson and to each of the following Tri-County Twisters for representing Helena at State:

Central Elementary School: Harlei Lightfoot

Jim Darcy Elementary: Ryder Williams and Brielle Thuotte

CR Anderson Middle School: Willow Young, Ryker Sark, Gwen Tooke

Helena Middle School: Kaylub Vasprang

Way to go Twisters!

And best wishes to our softball, tennis and track athletes who are competing for state championships today and tomorrow.

A huge shoutout is due to Helena Public Schools Athletic Director Tim McMahon, who hustled to organize the Class AA Softball Tournament here in Helena this week after fields were rained out in Belgrade. View the bracket here.

We all have much to look forward to as we return next week to graduate our seniors on Saturday June 1 and continue our year-end activities and celebrations.

 The Capital High and Helena High Combined Spring Orchestra Concert is sure to be top-notch on Tuesday, at 6 p.m., in the CHS Auditorium, followed by the CRA All Bands and 8th Grade Choir Concert at 7 p.m., Thursday, at the Civic Center.

Also Thursday evening, is the Helena Middle School 4th Annual Tech Expo from 6-8 p.m. All ages are welcome at this evening of STEM family fun.

For elementary families, check your school newsletter for end-of-year field days, festivals and BBQs.

Enjoy the long weekend!

Superintendent Rex M. Weltz signature