Welcome to the first monthly Gardiner Bruins Newsletter!
As “Principal with Superintendent Duties,” I will be serving as acting Superintendent while maintaining some of my principal duties. This is one of several staffing changes at Gardiner School. Ms. Shelby Jones who has been teaching 7th-12th grade science for the last seven years will be combining some of those classes and passing other classes on to other certified teachers to free herself to serve as Dean of Students. In this role, Shelby will be dealing with student disciplinary issues, serving as Advanced Placement Testing Coordinator, and helping submit state reports. With Shelby’s change of position, Mrs. Lori Hoppe will be combining 7th and 8th graders and teaching AgriScience. This class meets the life science standards set forth by the State of Montana and the NextGen Science Standards. Attached you will find a list of those standards. In addition to these changes of roles, Carmen Harbach will take on the Activities Director duties and Shelby Coy will be our new Transportation Director as well as Valley Bus Route Driver.
All of these changes and the changes in school class offerings, were set into action with the resignation of former Superintendent Randy Russell. Mr. Russell, knowing that likely changes to administrative staff were coming due to budget challenges, chose to be proactive and accepted a position in the Billings School District. That news came in early August with the Board making decisions on how to proceed at their August 15th board meeting. With students arriving on the 22nd, challenging decisions had to be made. In addition, with the resignation of David Sheerin in late spring, we waited as long as we could for a music teacher to apply as about half the high school signs up for band class. This vacancy had some pretty large impacts on our daily class schedule.
As an update to the music position vacancy, we did ultimately receive an application for a music teacher. This came in during the first full week of school. Even though there would have been some substantial work and changes to schedules, we pursued this applicant, going so far as to have housing lined up and ready thanks to a local landowner. Even with housing available, our applicant decided to go a different route and pursue another teaching opportunity. We will continue our search because having a quality K-12 music program is of the highest priority not only for the district but for me personally. In the meantime, our elementary staff have stepped up to provide musical experiences for our students K-6, and some opportunities for our secondary students interested in Pep Band and Choral experiences have been created during the Study Hall period thanks to volunteer help.
Another change is that several elementary classrooms have been combined for afternoon classes. This serves two purposes. First, it allows our teachers already on staff to teach some specials classes such as Physical Education, Art, and Guidance. Secondly, it prepares teachers for the likelihood of combined elementary classrooms in the future. Currently, our elementary enrollment is as follows:
First Grade 11
Second Grade 8
Third Grade 11
Fourth Grade 13
Fifth Grade 8
Sixth Grade 12
As you can see only one combination would create a classroom of over 20 students. The current classroom combinations come due to the small class sizes, but are also due to a budget deficit that exists in the elementary budget. With the changes made two years ago and now with the administrative changes, the high school budget is balanced.
With over 20 years of experience in class C sized schools where combined elementary classrooms and limited high school offerings are the norm, I assure you, continued academic excellence is not only possible but probable because of the individualized instruction students receive. There are a multitude of studies showing the benefits of smaller class sizes. Further, we are providing our students with some very unique opportunities not always available in larger schools. Currently we have two students doing real life science with park scientists (look for more information on this later); we have a growing and pertinent School to Work program; and we tailor academic schedules to accommodate our students as they need. Plus, we have a quality teaching staff that provides excellent in-classroom and out-of-classroom experiences unique to our students in Gardiner.
We all have our own school experiences, and likely they all vary significantly. These changes at Gardiner Schools have been quick, and perhaps difficult to process. But, they by no means indicate any less of an opportunity for our students to receive a high quality educational experience. In my next newsletter I will address some of the reasons rural schools struggle and how Gardiner is not your typical rural school.
Do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns you may have. We are off to a great start to our school year with your children’s enthusiasm and your positive support!
Agriscience Standards https://www.case4learning.org/images/2017StandardsAlignment/AFNR_NGSS_Standards_Alignment.pdf