St. Regis school board one of two recognized statewide

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The St. Regis School Board was recognized as one of two School Boards of the Year in Montana for its efforts in policies, facilities, and programs at St. Regis. School Superintendent Joe Steele, who nominated the board for the award, said he has been impressed with the school board’s vision, and those past board members who initiated their vision.

That vision is a strategic plan which includes personalized learning and mastery of learning as a way to educate its students. This approach has positively impacted student learning as evidenced by higher test scores and increased student engagement.

“The teachers are the ones who have to implement and figure out what personalized learning is, and how mastery learning changes how we educate students and how teachers teach,” Steele said. “The board recognizes, and supports, administration and teachers to transform education as we best see it from our professional experience.”

The board received the award on Oct. 18 at the Montana Conference for Education Leadership in Missoula. Part of the nomination process was to show evidence of the board’s actions in the areas of policies, facilities, and programs. This was shown by the board keeping its policies updated and making use of the flexibility and efficiency policies to save money and work with other districts.

For example, regarding facility issues, the school purchased a new boiler and replaced a majority of the roof. Along with recommendations from district clerk Tina Hill, the project reduced permissive levies by $279,000 over a three-year period.

Regarding St. Regis’ educational renovation, a variety of Flexibility and Efficiency Policies were used to enhance student learning. As one of very few personalized learning schools in Montana, the board has approved the 1005FE policy to allow students to demonstrate proficiency through testing versus seat time.

They also used the 1006FE to transfer funding for school safety initiatives, which include bullet-proof windows and installation of camera systems; and used the 1007FE Multidistrict Agreements to provide a part-time Spanish teacher to Darby using video teleconferencing software.

Another policy, 1013FE, allows Adult Education to provide dropouts with an opportunity to earn their high school diploma; and 1009FE allows to have substitutes trained on classroom management and paraprofessional is such areas as reading and math, and making use of Class 4 CTE and Class 5 alternative routes to license teachers.

The school implemented their personalized learning model during the 2016-17 school year for upper grades. Now the program is continuing to move toward a mastery-based learning model for K-6. Recently, the school district earned accreditation by AdvancEd, and they have implemented work-based programs to give students experience in the workforce.

This has lead to a GEAR Up Projects grant to develop career pathways in Biomedical and Computer Science fields. In addition, administration is working to recruit retirees to obtain a Class 4 license in building trades to pass those skills down to students. While this effort is underway, the board has taken an innovative approach to fill the vacancy using the Nelson Online Ag program through North Dakota Center for Distance Education, which allows students to continue to have access to agriculture classes and maintain an FFA program.

“There are a lot of eyes watching St. Regis due to what we have done recently in changing education. We have come a long ways since our dark days, and the direction we are headed is being noticed all the way up to the Board of Education, Office of Public Instruction, and our legislators. I couldn’t be more proud of our staff and school board,” said Steele.

On hand to receive the award were Charlee Thompson, board chair; Carole Young vice-chair; Chris West, trustee, and Joe Steele, superintendent. Unable to attend were Trustees Mark Farris and Dave Jensen.

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