Huckleberry caps and gowns to western Montana’s high-school graduation rates, which continue to exceed the state average. In 2017, the average graduation rate for Montana was 85.8 percent, according to the latest numbers from the Office of Public Instruction. Missoula County’s graduation rate was 86 percent, Flathead County’s was 87 percent, and Ravalli County boasted a nearly 92 percent four-year graduation rate. Overall, graduation rates across the state have been on the rise, a trend that shows Montana’s high schools are on the right track and more students are leaving school prepared to meet the challenges of adulthood with a diploma.

Weeping chokecherries to the record number of child abuse and neglect cases in Missoula County last year. The newest annual report from the Missoula County Attorney’s Office shows that although the rate of new cases filed may at last be slowing, it is still on the rise and reached a new record in 2017, when 195 cases were filed. In 2016, the number was 191. In 2015, it was 173, and in 2014, it was 130. That’s an alarming increase over a relatively short period of time – an increase Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst attributes in large part to the corresponding increase in meth and other drug abuse.

Sheltered huckleberries to the apparent decrease in homelessness in Missoula. Local experts on homelessness – including Theresa Williams, coordinator for the 10-year plan to end homelessness by 2022 called Reaching Home; Eran Pehan, the director of the Office of Housing and Community Development; and Jill Bonny, who manages veterans’ programs at the Poverello Center – spoke this week at a City Club meeting and noted that although the effort to house every individual in need still has a long way to go, it appears to be making some progress. The number of individuals without housing is estimated to be at least 300 on any given day; however, the total number of people without homes is about 350 less than in 2011, according to Pehan.

Five chokecherry cushions to the news that five vehicles crashed into Montana Highway Patrol cars in five separate incidents over just the past month, while a sixth vehicle narrowly missed being side-swiped. In each case, the patrol vehicle was hit after a trooper had pulled over to stop or help another motorist and had activated emergency lights to warn approaching vehicles to slow down and give them space. The recent rash of collisions drove MHP to post a caution on Facebook urging drivers to avoid additional crashes by driving appropriately for winter conditions.

Playful huckleberries to those involved in pushing forward plans for a new public park along Johnson Street, near Southgate Mall. The new Montana Rail Link Park will be constructed on the 12-acre triangle purchased for $2 million, considerably below market price. The community review and planning process has already produced a concept plan that includes a multi-use court, railroad interpretive area, playground and off-leash dog area, among other features. When it’s completed, the park will connect the last missing segment of the Bitterroot Trail. During their regular Monday meeting, Missoula’s City Council approved a construction contracting process meant to complete the project sooner and at less cost.

Collapsed chokecherries to the partially caved-in roof at an elementary school in Polson. The roof collapse at Linderman Elementary School not only took out the locker rooms, it also took out the Polson High School basketball and wrestling teams’ venue for practicing and holding competitions. Hopefully a new temporary venue can be found soon so the teams can continue to host home games until the gymnasium can be repaired and safely used again.

Gold-plated huckleberries to Dave Dickenson, whose record-setting performance as a Griz football player included Montana football’s first national title in 1995. The current head coach of the Calgary Stampeders, who was inducted into the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame in 2015, learned this week that he will add to his extensive collection of accolades when he becomes only the second Montana Grizzly to be listed in the College Football Hall of Fame. Congratulations, Super Dave!