Written by John Plestina
A second round of interviews of candidates for district superintendent will be held Thursday, June 4, with two former Wolf Point School District administrators vying for the job, including a rerun of an interview with one past finalist for the position.
The newly elected school board last week whittled the latest list of applicants from 12 to four finalists, with each traveling to Wolf Point and interviewing Thursday.
The finalists will tour the district and community beginning at 2 p.m.
A public meet and greet, sponsored by the Wolf Point Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, will be held from 5 to 5:30 p.m. in the Wolf Point High School lobby prior to the formal interviews.
The most recent period of advertising the position and extending invitations to applicants for interviews was the third go-around for the district. The former school board conducted previous applicant screenings and interviews. New trustees elected in May have filled all six board positions.
Former WPHS teacher, athletic director and girls’ basketball coach Jim Baldwin was the top finalist among three people interviewed in late April. He was interviewed, offered the job and turned down an offered contract on April 29.
Baldwin, originally from Cul-
bertson and currently of St. John, Wash., has 39 years experience in education, taught at WPHS for nearly a decade from the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s. Baldwin is also a former superintendent in Choteau.
Former Wolf Point Junior High principal Les McCormick was at Wolf Point for the 2006-07 school year. In Montana, he was a superintendent and principal at Belfry for two years. McCormick is currently a principal and athletic director for the Denali Borough School District in Healy, Alaska, a position he has held since 2013. He worked for two other school districts in Alaska between 2009 and 2013.
Matt Kleinsasser, currently superintendent and principal in Rosebud since 2011, has been a superintendent at Huntley Project and Ashland. Kleinsasser, who has worked in education since 2001, taught at Circle.
Gary Scott of Billings is a retired educator with about 40 years experience. He was a superintendent in Harlowton. He has taught in Idaho and North Dakota.
Written by John Plestina
Montana state Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, at left and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, are presented with star quilts at the Fort Peck Tribes Language and Culture Department in Poplar, Wednesday, May 27. Orlando Young, Iyan Growing Thunder, Ethan Three Stars, all of Poplar, are behind Windy Boy and Tester. The three language and culture students participated in the Dakota Language Bowl in St. Paul, Minn., in April. (Photo by John Plestina)
An announcement of federal legislation to establish or expand native language immersion programs nationwide was made at the Fort Peck Tribes Language and Culture Department in Poplar, Wednesday, May 27.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, announced that he would reintroduce a language immersion bill to help preserve endangered Native American languages.
He told tribal officials, language and culture instructors, and students that the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act would provide a $5 million per year for five years grant initiative program for tribes through the U.S. Department of Education to improve or expand existing Native language programs, such as the one in Poplar and establish new immersion programs. The grants will support the revitalization and maintenance of tribal languages while increasing educational opportunities for Native American students from preschool through post-secondary education levels.
“Native languages connect students with their culture, history and heritage,” Tester said. “This bill increases access to critical funding for language immersion programs and ensures the survival of Native languages before it is too late.”
The bill offers a streamlined application and reporting process compared to existing Native language grant programs authorized through other agencies.
The bill seeks to limit overhead costs and reduce the resource demands on tribal and school administrators seeking language immersion funding.
Tester said inaction could result in 148 remaining Native American lang-
uages falling silent.
He said language immersion programs lead to higher student achievement in math and other subjects and better ACT scores.
“It’s so critically important,” Tester said.
“I will tell you, as a white guy looking in, it keeps kids in school,” he said.
Ronn Moccasin of Frazer, a Nakona language instructor and former Wolf Point High School teacher said the Assiniboine language is losing its influence.
“We’re trying to get our people saying something in our language,” Moccasin said.
He said he is doing it for the younger generation.
The Fort Peck Tribes offer immersion programs in the Dakota [Sioux] and Nakona [Assiniboine] languages.
Tester and the tribes recognized Iyan Growing Thunder, Ethan Three Stars and Orlando Young, all of Poplar. The three students participated in the Dakota Language Bowl in St. Paul, Minn., in April.
Written by John Plestina
The last Frontier School eighth grade class to graduate on the orange carpet received diplomas Thursday, May 28. The eight eighth-graders will be freshmen at Wolf Point High School in August.
The eight 2015 graduates are Imani Catherine Bighorn, Trevor Dean Bushman, Quilanna Rose Cheff, Jonathan Thomas Eanes, Billy D. Lindsay Jr., Cole Anthony Melbourne, Ernest Claude Corneju Uy and Ezekiel Paul Zimmer.
Frontier guidance counselor David Riggin was the speaker.
“Where did time go?” Riggin asked.
“I can guarantee you that the next four years will go by just as fast if not a little faster,” he said.
Riggin told the graduates to make personal goals, to write them down. He encouraged the graduates to become involved in multiple activities in high school including sports, speech and drama, band and choir, and school clubs.
Then Riggin told the soon to be WPHS freshmen to live by the five Ps as high school students. They are proper planning prevents poor performance.
He also made individual predictions for each of the graduates.
Written by John Plestina
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, called the delay by the Wolf Point City Council for a decision for the city to connect to the Assiniboine and Sioux Rural Water System “not good judgment” during a meeting in Poplar with the Land Committee of the Fort Peck Tribes Executive Board, Wednesday, May 27.
Tester responded to Land Committee chairman Grant Stafne saying Wolf Point won’t make a decision.
“At some point, make the call and go around them,” Tester said. “It’s their mistake if they don’t do it.”
Wolf Point mayor Chris Dschaak, who was not present at the meeting, was not pleased with Tester for making the comments without speaking to city officials.
“It’s nice that he didn’t take the time to talk to us,” Dschaak said. “I will be calling his office and asking why he didn’t talk to us specifically.”
Dschaak questioned whether Tester understands water rights issues.
He added that connecting to the water system is an expensive endeavor for the city and issues remain that must be addressed.
The potential loss of the city’s water rights for no use were discussed during at least two past City Council meetings.
“We’re getting closer. There are a few issues with the contract with the tribes we have to hammer out,” Dschaak said.
“It’s a two-sided thing. It’s not a one-sided thing. Everybody has to be happy,” he said.
Tribal leaders, the Culbertson-headquartered Dry Prairie Rural Water Authority and the Bureau of Indian Affairs signed an historic water agreement on March 31, for the delivery of water from the Tribes’ intake and treatment facilities near Wolf Point to Dry Prairie customers throughout northeastern Montana.
The tribal and Dry Prairie water systems agreement was a result of more than two decades of work that resulted in a collaboration between the Tribes and their non-Indian neighbors.
There is not enough money appropriated for water projects, Tester told the committee.
“You’ve done a great job and you need to be commended for that,” Tester said.
It was said in the meeting that Frazer and some rural areas will be connected to the water system after June 15.
Written by John Plestina
The Poplar School Board placed the beleaguered district superintendent on administrative leave and appointed interim co-superintendents, Thursday, May 14.
Elementary principal Keith Erickson and high school principal Dwain Haggard will serve as co-superintendents.
The board placed Dr. Kim Harding on administrative leave and began dialog leading to a possible contract buyout. Harding held the school district’s top post since the beginning of the school year.
A petition asking that Harding be removed was reported to have circulated in the Poplar community earlier in May. That came after the Fort Peck Tribes Executive Board voted 9-1, April 27, to banish Harding from the reservation. Numerous allegations alleged issues with Harding not getting along with teachers and she was accused of referring to several Poplar teachers as “renegades” in an email dated March 6. A Poplar teacher publicized the email from Harding on March 11.
Harding was taken to task because of historical uses of the word “renegade” that are considered offensive by Native Americans.
Harding told The Herald-News in early May that the email was portrayed in the press [not in The Herald-News] as racist in nature and described situations that had been happening at staff meetings.
“I absolutely wish I had never used the word renegade. I come from Ronan [on the Flathead Reservation]. We raised our family there and have our ranch there,” Harding said.