GFPS Excuses, Excuses, Excuses


After a few anxious days of presumably running around like chickens with their heads cut off, local school district administrators concluded that they needed to further explain, or make excuses for, the horrendous graduation rates report issued by the Montana office of Public Instruction; Great Falls High School 75.8% and CM Russell High School 84%.

At their offices looking down over the taxpayers of Great Falls, district officials had an Archimedes moment and realized that, “Hey, this will make passing an operational levy for the customary $1.5 million this spring more difficult, if not impossible.” Of course, if this really happened, it would go down as a stellar example of deductive reasoning.

While doing the “Chicken Dance”, the district administrators came up with a two-prong narrative to explain the dismal graduation rate in Great Falls. First, a whole bunch of excuses why the problem is not their fault and second, a few heart jerking feel-good stories. No, they didn’t take any responsibility themselves.

The reported excuses included the following according to Superintendent Tammy Lacey:

  • Expelled students affect the graduation rate, and 2018 was a record year for expulsions, but the “safety of all students trumps the graduation rate.
  • The HiSet Program, (just a fancy name for a GED), which allows students to have a fast-track preparation to get the equivalent of a high school diploma earlier Than their scheduled graduation date still counts against the high school graduation percentage.
  • Lacey also said that since the “legal dropout age in Montana is 16….maybe this has some economic impacts…because right now you can get a job, two jobs in our community, and for some students, because of their life stories, that is more appealing than their high school diploma.” You bet Tammy.

Then Tammy fired the first salvo at Great Falls taxpayers in the upcoming battle for an operational levy in the May 7, 2019 school election. She said: “I noticed that the lowest dropout rates were in 1992 and 2014. That was the year after we passed a major mill levy that had value-added programming for it to support, in particular, the mental health needs of students.”

She added that since that time, they haven’t passed additional mill levies, but they’ve cut millions of dollars from the budget and 89 staff positions. Lacey said: “I’m just starting to wonder if those cuts, the number of 89 fewer people to develop a relationship with our students and our schools that those cuts aren’t coming to roost”.

Great Falls Tribune, “Graduation rate of GFPS students in 2018 dropped, 1/29/2019.

We get the message – don’t blame us for the poor graduation rates, blame the taxpayers who have voted NO for more money. In other words, if you want higher graduation rates, “Hand over yer booty you scurvy dogs!”



Posted by Philip M. Faccenda

Philip M. Faccenda is an AIA award-winning architect and planner. He is the Editor-in-Chief of E-City Beat.

Reader interactions

5 Replies to “GFPS Excuses, Excuses, Excuses”

  1. Tammy unwittingly makes the case for HB303?
    (ending compulsory attendance law)


  2. Your criticism is duly noted and so is your dislike for the school system. It’s easy to criticize. What are your thoughts on the dropout rate and what would you do about it?


    1. Philip Faccenda February 2, 2019 at 5:44 PM

      Marty, My thoughts and solutions for the horrible dropout rates would take more than three sentences, but I would start by asking students who account for the numbers. I have asked several students who have dropped out and you would be surprised by their answers.


  3. I heard that you’re running for school board. Is that correct, or just more chicken dance?


    1. Philip Faccenda February 2, 2019 at 5:36 PM

      Larry Kralj, No surprise, you heard wrong. I’m sure there will other capable candidates to choose from if you want a change and school district that is accountable.


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