Honoring many of Missoula’s talented students was at the heart of Tuesday night’s regular meeting of Missoula County Public Schools Board of Trustees.
With two months to go before the end of the 2012-13 academic year, student awards are rolling in, and so is the cause for celebration.
The principals of MCPS’ three urban high schools – Hellgate, Sentinel and Big Sky – commandeered the podium to recognize the many student achievements, which ranged from Sentinel’s girls’ basketball state championship to first-place wins in an investment writing competition, state science fairs and the state DECA competition.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, board members were thanked for attending a casual meeting and engaging in clear and open dialogue with the teachers union representatives and educators.
More such meetings are planned, and “as we move into negotiations, much relies on what happens in the state Legislature and with Senate Bill 175,” said Melanie Charlson, president of the Missoula teachers union.
Debbie Hendricks, a Hellgate Latin teacher, told the board she has concerns about the school registration process for next academic year.
Her belief, based on past experience, is that Missoula schools strategically create scheduling conflicts so students have to choose between offerings, such picking Latin or band. In doing so, classes don’t fill and schools can quietly eliminate an offering and the staff that goes with it.
“My concern is that staffing is based on flawed numbers,” she said, stating she feels the numbers are “being manipulated so there are fewer (student and parent) requests for classes.”
“Is there are a plan to eliminate things? And if so, why are parents, students and teachers being kept in the dark?”
Diane Lorenzen, a trustee candidate in the May 7 school election, voiced objections before the board voted to adopt policies on a career academy program and dual language immersion programs.
“Board policy should not be used for individual programming” at different schools, Lorenzen said.
She also is concerned Spanish-speaking students may be excluded from the immersion program because of how the policy is defined.
MCPS Superintendent Alex Apostle closed the meeting by praising the district’s teachers and staff, and thanking the board for its courage, vision and support.
“They have done an outstanding job,”Apostle said.
“Understand, we are making terrific progress in our schools – not because of me,” he said. “I provide the vision and resources.
“It’s our teachers, our administrators, our para-educators and staff. It takes a team of people to make these things happen.”