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State student advisor presents to Arlee school board

ARLEE — Arlee High School junior Zack Felsman stood in front of the school board and administrators during the Nov. 12 meeting to report his observations as a member in the fall summit for the Graduation Matters Montana Student Advisory Board. The program was developed by Superintendent of Schools Denise Juneau to gain voice and perspective from students concerning school issues. 

“We talked about what we can do in all the schools to make them better,” he said, adding that the focus was centered on student wellness with issues ranging from school lunch programs and vending machines to texting while driving. 

“We are proud of you Zack,” Board Chair Shelly Fyant said. “Thank you for representing us.”

Two parents presented issues to the board during public comment. The first concerned a student’s grades, test scores and the school’s four-day school week. The second concern was with the temperature of the school’s third grade classrooms.

“I was appalled to discover the classrooms didn’t have heat,” parent Brandi Ries said. “I was told nothing could be done but purchasing more space heaters. I ask the school board to address this issue.”

Superintendent George Linthicum later explained the problem was due to a building design issue centered on an older coal heating system. Funding is the basis for the problem, he said.

“We’ve got some rooms that are hot and some that are cold. The colder rooms are at the end of the system. It’s a building structure problem. It’s an old school and an old heating system,” Linthicum said. “I’m not dismissing the problem. We need to open it up to the board so we can talk about what to do about it.”

Teacher Anna Baldwin reported on the development of the school’s new literacy program.

“We’ve been collecting data on students and writing personalized learning plans,” she said. “We’ve been spending time finding resources to increase literacy.”

The Yes Program – an alternative graduation program – approved at the last board meeting now has ten students officially enrolled with some on the waiting list. The board passed the program’s handbook outlining the structure of the program.

“This is all aimed at trying to get a 100 percent graduation rate,” Linthicum said. 

Elementary school principal Don Holst proudly reported a 78-percent turnout for parent teacher conferences. 

“It was a great turnout,” he said.

Coaches for the winter sports season were approved, including Ken Hill as the high school head wrestling coach, and his assistant coach Paige Carney. Sarah Stubbs was also hired as the junior high assistant basketball coach. 

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