Trustees table online policy

2010-07-20T03:00:00Z Trustees table online policyStories by Nick Gevock of The Montana Standard Montana Standard

The wave of the educational future will have to wait a few more weeks for Butte schools to be ready.

Trustees on Monday tabled a proposed policy that would lay out how many classes, who would oversee the work and other details for classes taken by students in a new statewide online learning program. Trustees said a few things need to be tweaked before the policy is ready.

Among them is language stating that a Butte teacher must serve as a mentor for all students taking online courses. Trustee Rayelynn Connole questioned whether other people could serve as mentors.

“As it is written right now, I really think you’re going to have to pay a teacher to do that,” she said.

This fall, Montana students can take classes for free with the new Montana Digital Academy. The program offers classes to help expand course offerings or for others to catch up.

Judy Jonart, Butte curriculum director, said it’s important to get a policy adopted before the end of summer.

Trustees, however, raised concerns with the proposal, which was drafted by a district committee.

Vikki O’Brien questioned why Butte was limiting freshmen, sophomores and juniors to one credit per year. And she said a rule stating that students couldn’t take any online classes that are also offered in regular Butte High classes didn’t make sense, because the digital academy offers many basic core classes such as algebra.

She said the goal of the online program is also to broaden the curriculum.

“Maybe our kids would benefit a little more by being able to take more classes,” she said.

Jonart said the policy is similar to other Class AA schools in Montana. That includes Missoula, Bozeman and Helena, where the superintendent Bruce Messinger is also chairman of the board overseeing the digital academy.

“We looked at a plethora of policies and tried to add language that fits our needs,” she said.

Trustees suggested changes. Connole, for example, said a clause allowing some students to take more classes under special, individual circumstances should be added.

Jonart said she’d make changes and bring it back to the board in August to have it ready before the fall semester.

Nick Gevock may be reached at nick.gevock@


3 mental health agencies will serve Butte schools

The Butte school board Monday voted to continue using three different agencies to provide mental heath counseling and services for special needs students.

Last month parents with kids receiving services from the Western Montana Mental Health Center packed the board meeting urging trustees to keep the agency. A school committee that scored agencies providing services, which includes AWARE and Acadia, had given Western the lowest score.

Superintendent Linda Reksten at the time said they had had billing problems with Western. But Western representatives said they’d never heard about any problems and therefore couldn’t address them.

Nearly a dozen parents last month testified that their children had improved dramatically since receiving counseling and other help from Western. They urged the board not to force a sudden change on them and work out any issues with Western.

That appeared to happen over the past month.

Kathy Cannon, of the Butte High Career Center and director of special education, said the contracts for the upcoming  year are identical to past years.

Trustee Debbie Shea asked whether the contracts included a requirement that the agencies give regular reports on what they’re providing. Cannon said that wasn’t included.

But Reksten said the district’s attorney and insurance carrier gave a checklist outlining everything that a mental health service should provide and found the contracts acceptable.

— Reporter Nick Gevock may be reached at


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(3) Comments

  1. newsfan
    Report Abuse
    newsfan - July 21, 2010 3:12 pm
    The digital academy is not a substitute for going to school. It is a way to provide added options. Just because your kid can't get his or her butt out of bed is no excuse.
  2. wal_i_luvr
    Report Abuse
    wal_i_luvr - July 20, 2010 7:33 pm
    Shame on you Trustee Connole. Don't you know that having a certified teacher with an endorsement in the field of study is a state requirement.

    Why would you even suggest that a noncertified instructor oversee and mentor the delivery of a class? Maybe you should rethink your role on he Butte & Montaa Shool Board?
  3. r d
    Report Abuse
    r d - July 20, 2010 9:19 am
    Other school districts have much more permissive policies than Butte. The Trustees raise excellent points. The Montana Digital Academy is supposed to be made available to ALL students in the state of Montana. Hopefully the revised policy will reflect the statute as well as the intent of the legislators who passed the law establishing this program. Education should not be about instituting limits, but about expanding knowledge and its pursuit.

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