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Franklin's success is a tribute to the Havre school system

Sometimes you wonder how far society has come over the years.

Some of the same problems we faced 40 years ago remain today.

There is a lot of poverty. There are wars.

Instead of becoming more civil, we seem to becoming more uncivil to one another.

But if you get depressed, there is one place you can look for en

John Kelleher


Take the case of Franklin Walter. He used to be Frankie, but he's in high school now, so he takes kindly to the more formal name of Franklin.

Franklin has been something of a media star recently.

When the Havre school district decided to experiment with using technology as part of the educational process, Franklin, a Havre High freshman, became one of the first to take part.

A special student who is non-verbal, Franklin used the iPad to communicate with teachers, friends and the public.

The caring staff at Havre High taught him how to use the iPad so he can tell people his name, ask them how they are doing and chat with friends.

Franklin isn't one to hold back his emotions, and he quickly made it clear he enjoyed the iPad and was happy he could now talk to others through the magic of technology.

Jen Belcourt, an aide for Franklin when he was in middle school, is a Jaycee, and told members of the value the iPad would be to Franklin. Impressed with the effect the iPad had on Franklin, the Havre Jaycees bought him one he could use at home.

Once again, Franklin was excited and his grandmother cried.

Last week, Franklin was given a statewide "Yes, I Can" award for his determination.

He sells coffee on a cart to people at the high school, using his iPad to ask people what they want to eat and drink.

I can't help but compare what opportunities Franklin and his classmates have compared to what special needs students received when I was in school many decades ago. They weren't called special students in those days. I won't repeat what we called them.

All kids with any kind of disability were put in one classroom at the far end of the school. They were pretty much out of sight, out of mind.

God bless Mrs. Churchill, their teacher, who made the best of what she she was given to educate these students.

Compare them to Franklin and his classmates, now.

First, Montana and federal law insists they be given the best education possible.

And more money is available for these students today.

But all of that would mean nothing were it not for a caring staff at Havre schools that is committed to giving special students the best education they can. They have accepted the challenge of giving students the best preparation for life they can.

These students can show you a video of their performance at the high school's annual talent show. Teachers, headed by Shaylee Lewis, prepared them for the special dance program that was a big hit with the audience.

If you missed it, they would gladly show you how well they can dance.

By the way, Franklin could have quite a future as a dancer.

The staff at Havre has done a tremendous job of getting these students ready for a great future.

Did it cost more to educate Franklin and his classmates? Yes, probably. Is it worth it? Just look at Franklin and his classmates as they go about their day, learning of things that will help them the rest of their lives. You can see the magic the Havre High staff has performed with these students.

There is a big debate going on in Montana now about charter schools. People favoring an alternative school system have made impressive arguments.

But if charter school supporters hope to gain widespread support, they will have to explain how they plan to educate folks like Franklin and his classmates.

(John Kelleher is managing editor of the Havre Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected], 406-265-6795, ext. 17 or 406-390-0798)


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