Thursday, April 28, 2016


by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

I want to remind as many people as possible to get out and vote this coming Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Polls are open from noon to 8:00 PM.  The School District Board voted to present two general fund levies at this year's election to help pay for operational costs to the Elementary District and the High School District.

Traditionally the district has optioned to levy the maximum amount allowed by the State Funding Formula in order to maximize its budget authority within the General Fund. Even more important is the fact that this community has traditionally supported these levies without fail. Our community here in Colstrip has not only made an annual commitment to the needs our youth, but has also made education a priority by passing these annual levies.

With these two items on the ballot, I want to take the opportunity to outline what "operational costs" represent in this district. Operational costs include everything outside our payroll from toilet paper to water. This may sound over simplified, but the operational costs of this district are huge. For example our district's water bill from last year was $101,033.73. The water bill this year for the district, to date, is $115,464.98 and we still have several months before the fiscal calendar ends.  In addition to the on going and rising cost of utilities the district is also working to reduce a large deferred maintenance list.

Deferred maintenance are items that need repair or replacement in the district. Some of the largest and most expensive projects are being addressed through the building reserve levies passed last year; however, small items on the list add up. For example, large items like the roof repair and replacement of Pine Butte Elementary and the implementation of student safety and security items like access control, intrusion detection and video surveillance in all buildings are being addressed through the reserve levy. Smaller issues like the sign outside the high school, as well as other projects are budgeted as operational costs.

The bottom line is that the district is presenting these levies to the public so that it can continue to provide Colstrip the high expectations and excellence it has always known. The District is also aligning its practices with its Core Purpose.  In addition, the district wants to improve and maintain what we already have from the pool, fields and courts to the classrooms. No doubt, Colstrip has always been supportive of its schools and provided the best education possible. WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN OUT IN FRONT when it comes to educational support, SO LET'S STAY THERE! Get out and VOTE! MAKE DUST!

If you have any questions concerning the items on the election notice below, don't hesitate to call my office or Business Manager Joanne Schrupp. See you at the polls!



"Get out in front and stay there!"

See the NOTICE published on April 4, 2016 below for details.

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN by the undersigned Clerk of Colstrip School District No. 19, Rosebud County, State of Montana that the Annual School Election will be held on Tuesday May 3, 2016, at the following polling place:
Frank Brattin Middle School Auxiliary Gym
216 Olive Drive Colstrip Montana

The polls will be open between the hours of Noon and 8:00 p.m. on the day of the election.

Electors will consider the following issues at the election:  
  • Mill levy proposition to finance the school’s Elementary General Fund: To determine whether the district shall be authorized to increase local taxes in the amount of $355,873.99 which is approximately 4.58 mills to meet the normal operational costs of the Elementary District General Fund for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The levy is ongoing once approved by the voters assuming the district levies that amount at least once in the next five years. Passage of this proposal will increase the taxes on a home with market value of $100,000 by approximately $6.18 and on a home with a market value of $200,000 by approximately $12.37.  
  • Mill levy proposition to finance the school’s High School General Fund: To determine whether the district shall be authorized to increase local taxes in the amount of $168,302 which is approximately 2.17 mills to meet the normal operational costs of the High School District General Fund for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The levy is ongoing once approved by the voters assuming the district levies that amount at least once in the next five years. Passage of this proposal will increase the taxes on a home with market value of $100,000 by approximately$2.93 and on a home with a market value of $200,000 by approximately $5.86.

A qualified registered elector who will be unable to go to the polls on the day of election may request an “Application for Absentee Voter’s Ballot” from the school district clerk/election administrator’s office located at:
Frank Brattin Middle School Central Office
216 Olive Drive Colstrip, Montana

DATED this 4 th day of April, 2016
Joanne Schrupp District Clerk

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Cowboy Poet Comes To Town

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

Well he isn't a poet laureate, but he is pretty darn close here in Rosebud County. Wally McRae dropped by my office this afternoon. I am so proud of the fact that I thought I would share his visit. Mr. McRae probably didn't come to see me as much as he came to see our Business Manager, Joanne Schrupp as they are long time friends; however, the fact that I had a poet in the house is what matters.

In my life before becoming a school administrator, I was a language arts teacher. I taught English at a small school in Harrison, Nebraska called Sioux County High School. Those were some of the best days, with some great memories. At any rate, I loved reading poetry by Baxter Black and other western poets. More importantly, I had a number of students interpret their poetry in the classroom and at forensic meets across Nebraska and Eastern Wyoming. I have never met Baxter, but I now can say I have met Wally McRae. Meeting Mr. McRae gives his poem "Reincarnation" new meaning.

During his visit, he spent some of his time telling me a story about his worst teacher ever. He reminisced of the day that this infamous teacher (not to be named),  came to school and found that the mousetrap, located in the closet, had caught its pray. She had to leave the room for a bit and asked one of the students to stand guard and report any misbehavior by the class. She announced to the class that if anyone misbehaved, they would be eating the dead mouse when she returned. It wasn't long and she had returned as promised. She asked her identified classroom guard if there was anything to report. He had no choice but to identify a varmint that used foul language. Well, that being said, the teacher picked up the trap with the mouse dangling from the other end. She held the trap above the student and before she could command her follow through, the young man reluctantly drew back and then as if he had no choice lunged at the mouse with both hands and shoving the critter into his mouth with only the tail dangling from his lips.

I asked Wally if this was tall tale. He said it was true, he swears to it.

At any rate, I  immensely enjoyed this story and several others he told about his friend Baxter Black! Today is definitely one for the books.



"Get out in front and stay there!"

Colstrip Public Schools Recommended for AdvancED System Accreditation

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

Lead Evaluator, Agnes Smith, presents findings.
For the past three days Colstrip Public Schools has undergone an External Accreditation Review by AdvancED. This is the first time ever that CPS has been recommended for System-wide Accreditation!

AdvancED is the global leader in providing continuous improvement and accreditation services to over 32,000 institutions serving 20 million student worldwide.

The review team consisted of five individuals: Agnes Smith, Lead Evaluator; Shelly Weight, Associate Lead Evaluator; Shawn Hansen; Beez Lucero; and Marcus Lewton. The team of reviewers had 113 years of educational experience between the five representatives.

The External Team evaluated the Colstrip Public Schools based on three domains: Teaching and Learning Impact; Leadership Capacity and Resource Utilization. Each domain examined specific indicators that are key in evaluating educational institutions.

Results from the External Review Team are divided into three categories: (1) Powerful Practices; (2) Opportunities for Improvement; and (3) Improvement Priority.

The initial results indicated that Colstrip Public Schools had three (3) Powerful Practices these are positive attributes found in its school district that can serve as examples for other districts to model:
  • The governing body has implemented a plan to review and address the needs of the system by devoting time during each board meeting to assess implementation of the system's strategic plan.
  • Colstrip Public School District has implemented a process to identify and address the physical, social and emotional needs of the diverse student population it serves. 
  • Colstrip Public School District has developed an effective structure to provide each student an adult advocate who builds a positive relationship with the student over time.
The External Team also identified four (4) Opportunities for Improvement. These are items that the District needs to focus on and make changes to during the improvement process:
  • Implement a common evaluation process for all certified staff across the system.
  • Develop and implement systematic procedures to provide mentoring and coaching related to conditions that support learning for teachers new to the system.
  • Develop and systematically communicate instructional expectations that include formative assessments for ongoing modification of instruction based on identified objectives that consistently inform students of learning expectations.
  • Create and implement systematic procedures whereby multiple student data sources, state standards and professional practices are utilized by stakeholders to regularly evaluate programs and collaborative adjust curriculum, instruction and common assignments to ensure vertical and horizontal alignment. 
The final report category is the Improvement Priority, this must be taken care of within two (2) years: 
  • Colstrip Public Schools must develop a continuous improvement process that aligns system and school improvement efforts and provides clear direction to improve student learning. 
With these results, the External Review Team is recommending to the AdvancED Accreditation Commission that the Colstrip Public Schools earn the distinction of accreditation by AdvancEd. With that AdvancED requires the following:
  • Improvement Priorities must be addressed within two years.
  • The District must begin its journey of improvement
  • The District must implement deliberate and strategic actions to ensure that every child, every day is being prepared and achieving success for their future.
Final results will be presented to the Accreditation Commission for approval and accreditation. 

Once again, system accreditation is the first to ever be recommended for Colstrip Public Schools. It is only the beginning of rigorous improvement and an intense focus on learning that will be uniform in all schools. This accreditation isn't accomplished by one or even several individuals. It is a team effort that includes all board members, administrators, teachers, staff, students, parents and community.  

When it comes to SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT, Colstrip Public School District is MAKING DUST! Well done everyone! 



"Get out in front and stay there!"

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Russ Davidson's Excellence in History

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

Colstrip Public Schools is so proud to share that our very own Russ Davidson won the Daughters of the American Revolution state and national History Teacher of the Year Award. Never mind that it happened in 2013, this is a blast from the past that is worth reminiscing. The Billings Gazette did such a nice job presenting this information the first time in 2013, that I encourage you to visit this link today: Colstrip Teacher Named Top in the Country for History.

The nice thing about history is that we can relive our successes and failures, and this article is too good to not celebrate all over again. More important is the fact that Davidson is still one of history's best.

Since my arrival in this district, Russ Davidson has done nothing but make DUST! All you have to do is walk into his classroom. EVERYTHING SPEAKS in Davidson's room. The walls are covered with posters and sayings that take you back to a time and place in history. His lectures are not only outstanding, but the facts and the way they are presented draw you into a world of yesteryear. It truly is an opportunity to relive history. Bringing relevance to learning is what Davidson is best at.

One thing is for sure, I wish I would have had a history teacher like Davidson when I was in high school. Regardless to my history, I've got him now right here in Colstrip. We are so lucky to have teachers like Mr. Davidson.

Russ Davidson continues to MAKE DUST at Colstrip Public Schools!



"Get out in front and stay there!"

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Calendar Set for 2016-2017 School Year

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

The Colstrip School Board approved the 2016-2017 Calendar from a list of three calendars presented. As presented in the Superintendent Blog post: Request for 2016-2017 Calendar Input, Colstrip steak-holders selected the "Gold" calendar. The "Gold" calendar received 63% of the vote while the "Black" calendar got 19% and the "Green" received 17%.

The Calendar has 177 student days of which 34 are partial and 2 are half days. There are 7 PIR days for professional development scheduled. One day is reserved for staff check out. The total calendar days equals 185. See the Definitions below for more information. 

The first day of school will be August 24, 2016 and the last day will be May 25, 2017. The Administration Team will be working on providing and scheduling details into the calendar that is presented below. This is a "Stake-Holder" approved calendar that meets the needs of our community and students. Thank you for your help and input in selecting a calendar for 2016-2017.

Staff PIR: No School August 22-23
First Day of School: August 24
Labor Day: No School September 5
MEA Convention: No School October 20-21
End of First Quarter: October 28
Staff PIR: No School November 9
Thanksgiving Break: No School November 23-25
Winter Break: Half Day/Early Out December 21
Winter Break: No School December 22-January 2
End of Second Quarter: January 13
Mid-Winter Break: No School February 17
End of Third Quarter: March 17
Snow Day: No School March 24
Staff PIR: No School March 27
Spring/Easter Break: No School April 14-17
End of Fourth Quarter: Half Day/Early Out May 25
Last Day of School: May 25
Staff Check Out: No School May 26


Full Days: (WHITE COLORED DAYS) This is a regular day of school.Typical days are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday during the following times:
Elementary School: 8:15 AM - 3:30 PM
Middle School: 8:15 AM - 3:45 PM
High School: 8:05 AM - 3:35 PM

Partial Days: (GREEN COLORED DAYS) School is dismissed early. These days are scheduled on Thursdays. Staff will remain in school and continue with their professional responsibilities meeting with parents, school improvement teams, data collection and planning and preparation. These days will also be used for delivery professional development to the staff. These days will focus on school improvement through communication and collaboration efforts. Partial day times:
Elementary School: 8:15 AM - 2:30 PM
Middle School: 8:15 AM - 2:45 PM
High School: 8:05 AM - 2:35 PM

Half Days: (PURPLE COLORED DAYS) Half-days often occur right before holiday breaks. Half-day times:
Elementary School: 8:15 AM - 12:15 PM
Middle School: 8:15 AM - 12:30 PM
High School: 8:05 AM - 12:20 PM

Student Days: Days students will be in attendance at school.

PIR Days: (ORANGE COLORED DAYS) Pupil Instruction Related (PIR) or professional development/training days. No school is scheduled for students.

Vacation or Holidays: 
(YELLOW COLORED DAYS) Days recognized as holidays or breaks. There is NO SCHOOL on these days.

Colstrip Welcomes New Middle School Principal for 2016-2017

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

The Colstrip School Board put the final stamp of approval on the hire of next year's middle school principal at Frank Brattin at their April 11, 2016 Board Meeting. Interviews were held March 14, 2016 by three panels: FBMS Staff Panel, CPS Administrative Panel and the Superintendent. Pax Haslem was the recommended candidate for the job.

I am very excited about what Mr. Haslem has to offer our district. He is a certified administrator who will be in is first year as a principal. He is very enthusiastic and has experience with some of the key initiatives that our district is currently undertaking.

Mr. Haslem is a very likable individual that has a plethora of experience in middle school and serving at-risk students. I believe him to be a "no-nonsense" type of leader that is willing to embrace new ideas with the greater organization in mind.

We would like to welcome Mr. Haslem and his two daughters to our district and schools. We have high expectations that he will help our students MAKE DUST!

Congratulations Mr. Haslem! Welcome to Colstrip, Montana!



"Get out in front and stay there!"