I am running for the school board because I am deeply concerned about the shockingly poor academic performance of the Great Falls Public School system.
According to the Every Student Succeeds Act report card which can be found on the school district website, only 46% of the students that will graduate this spring from the public high schools in Great Falls are considered ready for either college or career. This is a failure to educate. The ESSA report card also shows that a shocking 73% of the high school students in Great Falls are less than proficient in math, science comes in even worse at 78%, and reading is 62% NOT proficient. These are young people on the threshold of adulthood, yet stunningly the majority are not considered proficient in the three most basic academic subjects, math, science, and reading.
I will grant that both the local and national response to covid has impacted education. It has proven that online school doesn’t work well for most school aged children, especially for those students already struggling. The result is that over half of this year’s graduating seniors will not be career or college ready.
Our school district will face a number of challenges in the coming years, perhaps none more daunting than the recruitment and retention of teachers that can provide the instruction necessary to turn the tide and prepare our youngsters for adulthood. While there are some efforts to address this, it will continue to be an issue in the years ahead. Leadership and innovation from the board will be essential for finding solutions to attract and keep the best teachers.
Parents are rightly concerned with the direction our school system has taken, their voices must be heard and considered. After all, they are placing their trust in the schools to educate their kids and to keep them safe while doing so.
While academic performance has been allowed to fall, parents have been reporting increased concerns with a slide into a woke agenda of social emotional learning, social grade promotion, social justice, sexualization, identity politics, and mandates. The priorities of the school system seem to be misdirected and off mission. We must shift our focus back to academic achievement, classroom attendance, and fulfilling the requirements of a class or course to achieve advancement.
As a lifelong Montanan, I think it’s essential that we reverse the decline of academic achievement that the ESSA numbers show. My kids go to school here, my family and I live, work, and go to church here. I am a licensed Respiratory Therapist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Respiratory Care for Boise State University, working remotely from my home here in Great Falls, with students all across the nation. I understand the value of education.
As parents and community members, we must remember the mission of our school system is to “successfully educate students to navigate their futures.” If elected, I pledge I will not forget that mission.