2021 STATE OF EDUCATION ADDRESS: MONTANA EDUCATION SOLUTIONS
Together, Montana’s Governor, Greg Gianforte, Montana’s Attorney General, Austin Knudsen, Montana’s Secretary of State, Christi Jacobsen, and Montana’s State Auditor, Troy Downing and I serve in the best interest of Montana’s future so that it brings opportunity to everyone.
As we move forward in our service for every Montanan, we are assured that our past knowledge and values will point us in the directions we need to go. I congratulate my fellow state leaders on their newly held positions of elected office, and I look forward to all the work we can do together for Montana.
We are living in Historic Times! A time that has challenged us to identify solutions for the health and safety of our families and our communities. Since taking office as MT state superintendent, I have made my number one priority: Putting our Montana Students First!
What this past year has taught all of us, from students, families, and teachers is how to put our students first!
AS leaders of our communities, we must continually adapt and seek solutions to any challenge that arises.
Let’s pause that – think, just a short year ago what we took for granted:
- Going to school, hugging friends, and getting high fives from teachers and school secretaries
- Gathering over school lunch in the cafeteria
- Families attending and cheering while attending sporting events or any school-centered activity
- Community and family celebrations of those traditional education milestones, including graduations.
Our school leaders are searching daily for solutions to today’s unique issues with more directed communication towards students, families, and communities. Some of those challenges include:
- Focusing on the health and safety of students and staff
- Creating unique learning opportunities
- Developing the hybrid model of teaching, on-site model, off-site model
- Keeping our students engaged!
Montana, we are on the verge of profound change and our future truly depends on how we act, now.
Legislators, finding solutions is your homework! We are Montanans! In all my visits with students, parents, and school leaders . . . and many of you, there is that unique Montana Optimism that we will find solutions to any challenge we are faced with.
Today, we have the privilege of looking forward with our children at the forefront of encouragement. We will help guide them through these times and find the limitless opportunities that exist for each child.
As Conrad High school senior Abby Hutton recently shared on our School Safety panel… “Students are able to adapt to the circumstances that we face and keep learning.” Thank you, Abby, for that voice of optimism on behalf of all Montana students. And we all must move forward seeking solutions as a promise to our students.
Let’s talk about Montana Teach, Montana Hope, Montana Learn, and Montana Ready:
Montana Teach is focusing on that inspirational teacher.
I would like to thank Mrs. Linda Rost, who just this month concluded her term as Montana’s 2020 Teacher of the Year. Linda is a visionary leader in science education from the proud, rural community of Baker. Linda qualified as one of only 4 finalists for National Teacher of the Year. During this past year, her strong mentoring voice promoted learning while always keeping the safety of her students first.
I would also like to welcome Ms. Kristi Borges to her term as Montana’s 2021 Teacher of the Year! Kristi is creating amazing opportunities for her students in Polaris in Beaverhead county, through innovative personalized approaches to learning. She is a passionate proponent of family, student, and community engagement through students’ safety, mental health, and suicide prevention.
This brings me to Montana Hope with the focus on our students.
There are many challenges that face our special needs students that are in each of our 821 schools across Montana. One of my top legislative priorities is to focus on these children. Thank you, Rep. Bedey for offering a historic solution that will add special education as an integral component to our state school funding formula. I would like to celebrate the work of the bipartisan interim committee in moving forward critical equitable legislation for our Montana at-risk children who are placed in residential and psychiatric treatment facilities.
Our Montana Learn campaign focuses on placing Stars and Stripes in every classroom. We are doing this in partnership with our Montana American Legion. Civics education in every classroom means understanding the Pledge of Allegiance, the American story, our proud Montana history, and revitalizing Indian Education for All as our state Constitution requires.
Montanans, including our indigenous warriors, have served our state and nation in record numbers. Thank you to Rep. Bergoglio for creating solutions for our military children in advancing early enrollment as their families move with orders. I want to thank the dedication of our Military Children’s Commission, on which Rep. Buttery serves, as we proudly unveiled the Purple Star Award to five Montana schools this November.
Please join me in a moment of quiet gratitude for all those who have served the cause of freedom. Thank you.
I believe that each child has a mighty potential and purpose. I truly believe that you and I each have a duty to support the many paths for them to find their individual solution to success. Montana Ready – I have directed the great and dedicated staff of the Office of Public Instructions to make the building of industry partnership a priority. Many of you are involved and supporters of Montana Ready and Career Champions. I am pleased to join you in the CTE Workforce Development Superhighway. Our office has developed a one-stop website that will be a resource for all of Montana’s students and families to see the diverse opportunities and find solutions that are available for their bright Montana futures.
Remaining flexible is the pathway to finding solutions. In the OPI, I wish to thank our employees that worked tirelessly to optimize resources during these uncertain times. OPI staff sought waivers from the federal government in allowing meal service flexibilities for Montana’s schools so that nutrition was not interrupted, or out of reach of any child; OPI ensured learning continuity by enhancing local school trustees’ ability to flexibly provide continuity in education; OPI paused high stakes testing so that schools could focus on teaching and learning solutions. These are just a few examples of the heavy lifting OPI staff did in the last 10 months - these were OPI’s concerns, OPI’s solutions to put Montana students first!
In closing, let’s go back to 1859 and a beloved writer, Charles Dickens, who penned:
“It was the best of times, It was the worst of times. It was the age of Wisdom, It was the age of Foolishness. It was the season of Light, It was the season of Darkness, It was the spring of Hope . . .
Join me in extending the Spring of Hope, and in moving to a Summer of Opportunity and Actions that will put our Montana Students First, while always looking forward to finding new solutions to our challenges. The State of Education in our Great State of Montana is strong, and it will always be so! Thank you!
I want to thank you, our state’s leaders, our Montana families, and students, our teachers, our Indigenous Tribes, everyone; we are moving forward not from a place of discouragement, but from a place of encouragement – we are Montanans! We are Montana’s Solutions.