Media institute wants to provide services to Havre Native language students

Hipple presented second Pony Pride award


Last updated 10/11/2023 at 11:49am

Havre Daily News/Patrick Johnston

Havre Public School Indian Education for All Director Jessica Kennedy-Stiffarm speeks to the Havre Public Schools Board of Trustees Tuesday in Havre Middle School's assembly room.

The Havre Public Schools Board of Trustees discussed policy revisions, received an update on enrollment and heard a presentation from MAPS Media Institute at their monthly meeting Tuesday evening.

The MAPS Media Institute is a free-of-charge non-profit organization that instructs students in media arts, one that is looking to provide services to Havre Public Schools, specifically to their Native Language students.

Havre Public School Indian Education for All Director Jessica Kennedy-Stiffarm said students taking the recently adopted Cree language program have been surveyed about the course and the responses indicate ongoing interest in the class which is helping Native American students connect with their culture and previous generations of their families.

Kennedy-Stiffarm said she thinks the successes of the class should be celebrated and she thinks that projects that MAPS facilitates are a good way to do that.

MAPS Media Institute Executive Director Clare Ann Harff said the goal of her organization is to empower, inspire and prepare the next generation for success in professional media and provide instruction that allows them to learn in a compassionate environment that encourages creativity.

Harff said they offer instruction in filmmaking, graphic design, music production, podcasting and newer forms of media like app construction.

She said the institute has grown significantly since its establishment in 2004 and they now partner with tribal colleges all around the state, working with students from across Montana.

She's already had the pleasure of working with Gum during his time as an administrator in Stevensville and he can attest to the value of their program.

She said they're services are free-of-charge and they just want to give students the opportunity to learn.

Closer to home, the board also heard from Havre Public Schools Facilities and Transportation Director Scott Filius who had some good news.

For the first time in a very long time, Filius said, the transportation department is fully staffed, with all driver positions filled and a healthy pool of experienced relief drivers.

As for facilities, he said, upgrades to the schools' climate and airflow systems are proceeding and most of it should be wrapped up by the end of the year, with a few odds and ends to finish early next year.

These upgrades, made possible by Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds made available during the pandemic, will allow for better monitoring of the buildings and more control over airflow and climate control, he said.

During the meeting, the second Pony Pride Award was also presented by last month's winner, Havre High School Vice-Principal Jeremiah Nitz, to this month's winner, Havre High School Attendance Secretary Kaci Hipple.

Nitz said he was overjoyed to give Hipple the award, someone he said is integral to the day-to-day operations of the school and whose talents as a problem solver a second to none.

He said Hipple is the first point of contact many people have with the school and is, in many ways, the face of Havre High School and for good reason.

He said she keeps track of every student at the school, knows their names, their strengths, their challenges and what they need to stay engaged and safe.

"Her effectiveness has had an amazing impact on the culture of our school," Nitz said.

He said a standout moment for Hipple happened last year, when there was a situation in Havre Middle School that required a full evacuation, and she was called upon to coordinate.

Despite having never been in that kind of situation before, he said, Hipple managed the most-efficient and safe evacuation the school ever had.

"I would trust her with my own kids in that kind of situation," he said.

Hipple was thanked for her work by the Nitz and the board.

The board also heard an update on enrollment, which Gum said is down from this time last year, but only by 13 students, which is not a significant difference, with the district going from 1,730 to 1,717.

He said enrollment numbers always change a bit from their initial estimates earlier in the school year so he wanted to make sure the board was informed as the numbers change.

The board also heard from Havre Public Schools Foundation Chair Kyle Leeds, who said he thinks that the relationship between his organization and the Board is going very well in his eyes.

Leeds said there were a couple of recent and exciting developments at the Foundation that he would like to talk about, including the increasingly significant donations they have received from Independence Bank.

About five years ago, he said, the Foundation, trustees, then-superintendent Andy Carlson helped create Havre Public School debit cards, with Independence Bank donating five cents to the district for every transaction made with the cards.

A year ago, he said the school received their yearly check from those cards, which was about $9,000.

This year, he said, the check was for almost $13,000, and that number seems to go up every year consistently, which is very exciting for them.

Leeds also said the Foundation will be holding their New Year's Eve Gala at the Boys and Girls Club of the Hi-Line so board members should save the date.

He thanked the board for their continuing support.

On the subject of upcoming events, Gum said a walk through the district buildings and facilities is scheduled for Oct. 26 at 9 a.m. for board members.

He said the board members will be able to see all the buildings in more detail and get an update on their activities and needs.

He said this tour will be followed by a discussion about what the board's priorities should be for the buildings and facilities.

The board also approved a number of changes to district policy, most of them wording changes, on first reading.

The most notable of theses was added language laying out the grounds upon which the district may deny a student for part-time enrollment.

Bills passed by the Montana Legislature this year mandate that schools offer part-time enrollment to students, which many schools, including Havre Public Schools, already did.

Havre Daily News/Patrick Johnston

Havre High School attendance secretary Kaci Hipple, third from right, poses with her Pony Pride Award with Havre school board members Kevin Johnson, Brittnee' Loch, Lorraine Larson, Havre Superintendent Brian Gum, board vice chair Christin Hileman and board member Tyler Gibson Tuesday in the Havre Middle School assembly room.

Gum said, under current legislation, denying requests for part time enrollment is more difficult, proposed changes would add language detailing the grounds the school can use to deny a prospective student.

Other changes included adding language regarding how to count attendance for students doing remote learning, and providing online education to students moving into the area that want to get a jump start before arrival, particularly military families in the process of relocation.

The policies passed on first reading unanimously.


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