This meanderings was originally published in the January 30th, 2015 edition of the Yellowstone County News print edition.
Keeping an eye on Billings schools superintendent Terry Bouck
by Jonathan McNiven
Meander means: 1. To follow a winding and turning course: 2. To move aimlessly and idly without fixed direction. 3. A circuitous journey or excursion; ramble. Often used in the plural. 4. An ornamental pattern of winding or intertwining lines, used in art and architecture.
What a week! I’m sure by now its apparent I made it through the first week at the paper on the production side of things. The future looks bright as we continue to stay involved in the communities. Some thoughts that I’ll expound on at a later time but here were some highlights from last week.
I actually watched the whole Senate Bill 107 hearing regarding Lockwood wanting to expand its K-8 school district into a high school district. (That was before I started the paper production this week, of course). After years of trying to address some issues with their students dropping out of Billings School District 2, Lockwood representatives and residents took to the Montana Legislature to address their own concerns in allowing the community to have their own conversation in a possible high school. They are asking for local control since it was reported that a dozen students from Lockwood are dropping out of the Billings School District 2 every semester. Did you hear that? EVERY SEMESTER! I found it very puzzling that School District 2 administrators went to Helena to oppose the bill because it would take away their money. Yes, that’s right; they were opposing SB107 for that very purpose.
If “Graduation Matters” are that important to Superintendent Terry Bouck of School District 2, then ask him how many times School District 2 has addressed the drop-out rate of Lockwood students as the number is staggering at the least. In fact, I was surprised that during the hearing last week, Helena School District Superintendent Kent Kultgen testified that they have met with East Helena eight times in specific meetings. When Terry Bouck was asked if they were addressing the alarming numbers from Lockwood, he stated that he was on it and in fact stated during the hearing that he was meeting with Lockwood in a week regarding the issue. However, that did not appear to be the case as what happened as the Montana governor came to Lockwood to talk and visit about his Pre-Kindergarten program last Thursday and Terry Bouck was in attendance at Lockwood School learning about the Pre-K program, not to discuss the drop-out rate in Lockwood at the high school level.
That is what was perceived as I didn’t hear any talk about the drop-out rates. To Superintendent Bouck’s credit, I was not personally in the meeting 100 percent of the time but my reporter mentioned she did not hear anything about it either. However, I followed up with Lockwood Superintendent Tobin Navasio and he did mention that the drop-out rates and Lockwood concerns were brought up just recently in another meeting with other school administrators, and Terry Bouck assured he would follow up on it and address it.
As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding and actions speak louder than words (how fitting as these are my words you are reading) as to what School District 2 is able to offer as a solution to the problem if any.
As for the importance of education to Billings School District 2 administrators, one would hope that they would find a better angle to oppose Senate Bill 107. I give Lockwood credit for trying something different. As another saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over expecting a different result. It appears that Lockwood representatives and residents are tired of doing the same thing over and over and now want to take their own future into their own hands and plead for local control in trying to expand their K-8 school district into a high school as a way to address Lockwood’s concerns and future.
As the Billings Chamber of Commerce has been highly in favor of supporting education in the past year or so and concerned about education, it will be interesting to see if the Chamber supports Lockwood and its education desires in expanding the K-8 district. It was reported that an optimal high school size is between 600-900 students and Lockwood high school, if created, would fit right in the middle and be considered the fourth largest Class A school in the state.
Just food for thought.
See you in the paper!