Chancellor says he will set meetings with school representatives, create task force
The head of Havre’s university said Wednesday he is reconsidering plans to cancel the programs teaching prospective high school teachers.
“We have listened to community leaders and school representatives from across the Hi-Line with regard to Northern's secondary education program,” James Limbaugh, chancellor of Montana State University-Northern said in a press release. “Based on comments and suggestions received from community members all across the Hi-line and after a great deal of re-evaluation, I have decided to recommend to the Board of Regents that MSU-Northern place our secondary education programs in moratorium and not to terminate them.”
After a lengthy, multi-layered review starting last fall of every degree and certificate program at Northern, Limbaugh announced in June that one result was canceling secondary education teacher programs. That would not have impacted people already enrolled in the programs, who could complete their degrees.
The recommendations on secondary education in the report submitted to Limbaugh were varied. Some of the reviewing groups said that some high school education programs — Northern has six — should be eliminated or placed in a moratorium; that some should be maintained and that the university should work to grow others. The recommendations were uniform in some programs and mixed in others.
Limbaugh said in June that the resources used in the secondary education programs, which have a low enrollment and graduation rate, instead would be shifted to other programs. These include the rapidly growing criminal justice program, the elementary education program and strong programs in the College of Technical Sciences such as the diesel and automotive technology programs.
Limbaugh’s decision included working to create new programs as well, such as border studies and rural studies programs.
Limbaugh’s announcement Wednesday still stops new enrollment in the secondary education programs, putting them on hold for a maximum of three years while the programs are reviewed. That also gives the university faculty and staff time to rework curriculum and make other changes needed to improve program viability, reinstate it and attract student enrollment, the release said.
The release said that most of the decisions in Limbaugh’s report were met with support on and off the campus, but the decision on secondary education met mixed reviews.
In the release, Limbaugh said Northern’s secondary education programs provide an important service to high schools around the state, especially on the Hi-Line.
He said he would establish a task force to review the programs and to make recommendations to him about how they could be improved and tailored to meet the needs of the schools, Northern’s students and financial realities of keeping programs going.
“These programs have historically been a very important part of Northern’s tradition of excellence and the K-12 schools we serve,” he said. “I will be engaging in conversations with officials from schools and school districts across the Hi-Line as well as with key staff in Montana’s Office of Public Instruction to see how best our secondary education programs can and will meet specific needs of teachers, administrators, and students being served by these important schools.”
“There is no question that schools are critically important to the vitality of many small communities across the Hi-Line and to students and their families,” Limbaugh added. “My goal is to enhance existing collaborations and partnerships with K-12 teachers, administrators and school districts, and to identify additional opportunities that will be beneficial to all of us in education as we prepare students for rewarding and exciting careers.”