Montana Gets $11.5 Million for Struggling Public Schools

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Montana will receive an $11.5 million federal grant to help turn around up to seven of the state’s struggling schools, the state’s top education official said Thursday.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau said high schools in Frazer, Lame Deer, Pryor and Lodge Grass will receive the grants, along with two elementary schools in Pryor. The Hays Lodge Pole school district is also eligible and plans to apply for a portion of the money this summer.

They have been identified as the state’s persistently lowest achieving schools, defined as either ranking in the lowest 5 percent of public schools or having a graduation rate lower than 60 percent.

To receive the money, federal guidelines dictate the school districts must implement one of four dramatic reform plans that range from closing the problem school to firing the principal and at least half of the teachers.

The state will implement a “transformation model” that calls for replacing the schools’ principals, reforming the curricula, extending the school day or year and revising teacher and principal evaluation practices.

Office of Public Instruction spokeswoman Jessica Rhoades said the principals in Lodge Grass and Lame Deer have been reassigned to other positions and the principal in Frazier has retired.

The principal of the high school and one elementary school in Pryor has been on the job for less than three years and does not need to be replaced under the federal guidelines, Rhoades said.

A new superintendent is to fill the principal’s role at the other elementary school in Pryor, she said.

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