Remarkable people, remarkable work

Today found me and photographer Michael Gallacher at the Early Learning Preschool at Jefferson School to interview Janice Nugent, who has been a speech therapist with Missoula County Public Schools for 41 years and is retiring in June.

Nugent has raised five children; advocated for people with disabilities; takes care of her brother, who has Down Syndrome, during summers; and earned her PhD in special education in 2011 at the age of 61. (“I wanted to prove that I could,” she said about writing a dissertation.)

After our interview, we followed her into a classroom, where she worked with a small group of students — in a coat closet.

The location seemed appropriate, she said good-naturedly.

“Speech therapists never have rooms,” she said.

It just reminds me how amazing the quality of work is that Nugent and others are able to do with limited resources.

 

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Tune in tomorrow for state graduation and dropout report, plus an award for MCPS!

Tomorrow morning in Helena State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau will officially release the latest Graduation and Dropout Report for Montana.

Her office will also use the occasion to celebrate the Graduation Matters program and the progress made by various Graduation Matters efforts around the state. Five communities and one “community partner” will be recognized with an award.

Here’s a no-brainer preview: Graduation rates in Montana have gone up, dropout rates have gone down – and Missoula’s Graduation Matters effort, which started the whole statewide program, will be among the communities getting an award.

Here’s the official statement from Juneau:

“Through the work of local Graduation Matters communities, hundreds of students’ lives have been changed for the better. When you take a statewide view of the efforts to raise graduation rates and improve college and career readiness, you can see that the economic future of Montana will be forever impacted as a result of local communities and schools working to make graduation matter.”

Details to follow tomorrow!

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Crowded students and long-range school facilities planning

I seem to remember some years ago, before I had kids in school, that Missoula County Public Schools student enrollment was in steep decline. As recently as 2004, MCPS was closing entire schools.

Now, enrollment is increasing so much that schools – including Rattlesnake, Lowell and Russell – have had to tack on extra classrooms to accommodate extra classes of students.

The new modular building at Rattlesnake is pretty nice. It looks like this:

TOM BAUER/Missoulian

But at least 200 more elementary students, 100 more middle-school students, and almost 30 high-school students are projected to join MCPS within the next four years. That would be a lot of modulars.

Fortunately, MCPS is currently entering the second phase of its facilities planning process. The process casts a wide net over the future of Missoula’s public schools, and fluctuations in student enrollment numbers is only one consideration.

A guest column from MCPS’s Hatton Littman will be on tomorrow’s Opinion page; it urges the larger Missoula community to get engaged with the process.  It also notes that the next Community Listening Session will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 6:30-8 p.m. at the Broadway Inn Hotel and Conference Center at 1609 W. Broadway.

Consider attending. If you can’t, however, there are other ways to get involved, starting here.

 

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What resources are available for teen parents in Missoula schools?

I was reading this article in today’s Daily Inter Lake about a class for young parents offered at alternative high schools in Kalispell, and it got me wondering what sorts of  resources are currently available for teen parents in Missoula’s high schools.

A while back there used to be a day care in a Missoula high school. It was called the Young Families Program, and it allowed teenage moms to take their babies to school with them and receive great care while they attended classes at Sentinel High School. Not only did the program act as a daycare for these infants, it also provided a meeting place for teenage parents to get together and talk about their experiences and share information about community resources. The employees who ran the program also helped these students connect with other forms of assistance – all with the goal of helping them stay in school and graduate.

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