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Get children to open up about our schools


As I write this, it is a year to the date and almost the very hour that I received a phone call from Jim Donovan, Havre Public Schools director of operations, informing me that our high school roof had collapsed.

I would like to say that was a distant memory, but the emotions stirred by that thought are still quite fresh. I do not imagine that is something that will change for quite some time. The positive memory that remains with me from that day was the manner in which our high school staff and students reacted to the unexpected challenge.

Adversity is often the catalyst that displays the character of people, and their response to the situation is just one more reason I am extremely proud to be a part of the Havre Public School's team.

I recently attended a Havre Chamber Board meeting and left feeling somewhat disappointed that I had given a rather poor answer to a question that had been posed to me that morning. I was asked something of the nature regarding the relationship between our business community and Havre Public Schools. It struck me as I was driving back to work that should have been a rather simple question to have answered.

I am not sure that my reply touched on any portion of what I believe needs to be communicated. Regardless of what sector of our community I happen to be visiting with at the time, I want people to be proud of our school system, and I can tell you unequivocally that should be the case.

One of the first thoughts that enters the minds of individuals when considering a move to a new community is, "What are the schools like?" My hope is that would be a question that everyone in our community could answer with the same affirmative response that I would give when provided with that inquiry. There are great things happening for children across our district each and every day. For those of us fortunate enough to work for Havre Public Schools or who have children attending HPS, we get to witness the successes and accomplishments of our students on a regular basis. Sharing all that is happening in our district with the entire community can be a difficult challenge at times. One of our goals this year is community engagement, and I am extremely proud of the efforts that have been made across our district to make this a high priority.

Get children to open up about our schools

Our high school, by nature, tends to be more visible as many in this community have the opportunity to witness the outstanding accomplishments of our students through extracurricular activities and events.

One of my favorite memories this fall was watching our volleyball team battle back from a seven-point deficit against Livingston in a pivotal game three at the district volleyball tournament. The character of our students shone through as they overcame the deficit to win the game and eventually the match. A rather brief highlight, but one that I believe exemplifies the pride that resonates in our students at Havre High.

Other shining moments that readily come to mind were the first-grade Christmas concerts that were held at the mall this winter. I know there were people in attendance who heard one of the finest renditions of "Hip Hop Reindeer" who otherwise would not have had a chance to see the program if it had been held at the school.

Our staff is doing such a tremendous job of finding new ways to involve our community. This fall there were Family Math Events held for the first time in our schools. At Lincoln McKinley nearly 400 people gathered to play math games that reinforced strategies and concepts the students were learning in class. It was such a great moment for me personally to participate with my own family that evening. I have to believe some of the games that were taught that evening were being played over the holiday break in homes across our community.

At the November board meeting the principals from Sunnyside Intermediate School and Havre Middle School took their turns presenting reports to the Havre Board of Trustees. Each month principals and other administrators take turns giving reports to our trustees in one of five designated areas. I mention these two reports as a source of pride in particular because by measurements as determined by No Child Left Behind these are our two schools most in need of improvement. I can tell you without a doubt that anyone present for those two presentations would readily understand the misguided metrics being placed upon our schools. Regardless of the Adequate Yearly Progress identification of those two schools great things are happening for children at those schools. It is so exciting to know that similar programs and practices are happening at each of our schools

I know that I could fill pages recalling memorable events from the last four months. My intent certainly is not to diminish the events and accomplishments I have not mentioned.

In looking back at the past year, there are always things that I wish I could have done differently or better. It is easy to get caught up in addressing the day to day operations of a school district. One thing that I intend to do a better job of is communicating to our community the successes of Havre Public Schools. I can tell you there is not a day that passes that I am not thankful to be a part of this great school system and community.

My hope is that I provide you with many answers to share with prospective members of this community when they ask about our schools.

As we head into the new year I would ask one thing of those of you that are parents of children in our schools. Ask your child how they feel about school and communicate those responses to us. Children tend to dismiss many inquiries into their school day, but are often willing to express their feelings. It is a great way to get children to open up about school and can provide great dividends in their education. I wish all of you the best in the upcoming year and look forward to the wonderful memories that lay in store in 2012.

(Andy Carlson is superintendent of Havre Public Schools.)


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