Community

Thursday Held Shakespeare in the Park

Thursday marked another season’s Shakespeare in the Park at the Historical Village.

This year’s visit offered Cymbeline. Cymbeline isn’t the only play available- which play is offered varies by location- the better known play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will be occurring in Libby this week.

While Shakespeare in the Park makes due with a much smaller cast than the original plays seem to call for, it stays true to the original spirit. Some adjustments are made; minor characters are consolidated, and names are changed to account for actresses stepping into traditionally male parts.

But the spirit remains, the jokes are made accessible despite the language barrier that Shakespeare presents, and the plays are as enjoyable by the general public as ever.

We’d like to thank Montana Shakespeare in the Parks for the lovely performance, and Sunburst Arts & Education for their part in making it possible.

Community, Patches' Pieces

Fiberfest

There are volumes written on what I don’t know about wool fiber and the process of turning fleece into yarn. Present was fiber from sheep, angora rabbits, and alpacas. Being a crafter that neither knits, crochets, or felts, I was dazzled by all the pretty yarns. There was an array of unprocessed wool fleece to completed wool garments with many examples of batts and yarn in between. Several booths featured someone spinning yarn as well as spinning wheels for sale. Outside the buildings was a petting zoo. In the youth building was a quilt show sponsored by the mini-makers.

Montana State University (MSU) representatives were available to evaluate wool quality.  They used an instrument imported from Australia. Accordingly, management recommendations are made based on the desired market.

The enthusiasm of the fiber crafters was very evident.  They find using the spinning wheel very relaxing. I enjoyed visiting with them. I am not a convert, YET. -Patches

A Science for Everyone, Community, Demography

Measuring Migration

When you work with Census data, migration numbers can be very precise – but the 10 years between each Census often make the data obsolete.  As demographers, we had to find ways to work around that – and U-Haul had the websites that let me better understand and explain migration.

For example, if I price renting a 15’ truck in Bakersfield, California, heading to Eureka, Montana, I get a price quote of $5,173 today.  On the other hand, it costs $1,109 to rent the same truck in Eureka and drive it to Bakersfield.

If I want to see beautiful Bend, Oregon in the rear view mirror of my 15’ rental truck, the website tells me the trip to Eureka, MT is $3,052.  Renting the same truck in Eureka, to go to Bend is only $654.

I didn’t learn to abuse U-Haul’s website in a classroom – I got the general idea while riding a bus seated alongside a very successful retarded guy.  He made a living riding the bus – back then there was a pass that was good for six months travel in country – and then driving a car or small truck back to Denver.  He may not have completed high school – but he gave me the foundation of a method to quantify migration.  Obviously, Bakersfield and Bend have more people trying to leave, and Eureka has more inmigration. 

If we look at the trip from Minneapolis to Eureka, it’s $1,703.  Eureka to Minneapolis is $1,362.  Park City, Utah showed up as $990 to Eureka, while Eureka to Park City was $495. 

It provides a better feel for migration in central locations like Park City – where you can go in any direction.  You can’t go north from Eureka in this time of Covid – and you can’t drive west from California.  Still, it gives data in something resembling a ratio – the challenge the rental truck industry has is getting the trucks from destination locations (inmigration) back to the places they came from (outmigration) without hiring my friend with the Greyhound pass.

TaxFoundation.org gives last year’s data, and it is massaged and compiled from more moving companies.  Guess what?  The top destination state (inmigration) is Idaho – and Idaho has a lot of similarities to western Montana.  Oregon was a destination state – and still needs the rental trucks from Eureka to keep things going.  I think the last person renting a truck to leave New Jersey might want to turn the lights off as he or she pays the last toll to drive out.

I’ve rented U-Haul trucks a couple of times – but the company has provided me a lot of comparative data on migration during my career.  It’s still science, and it’s still numbers driven. 

Community

Supporting our Local School

I’ve watched the support for a high school that fields a state championship football team.  It’s a pleasant support to watch.  I see conflict about a teacher showing an R-rated movie about the life of Frida Kahlo in class – some want punishment for the teacher, others write of the teacher’s quality.  I have to admit – if I wanted to pick a painter with more controversial components, Kahlo gives a lot more options to get excited than most.  Bisexual, Communist, an easy topic for disagreement – yet the disagreement demonstrates that we care about our schools and students. 

I guess the question boils down to what we want taught and what we would rather keep concealed from our community’s adolescents.  It looks like pride in the football team gets great support, and a film about a bisexual, communist Mexican artist gets folks picking sides.  I’m challenged in understanding high school football – but I’ve watched men who were fifty years old reliving a game they played against each other 35 years earlier.  Eureka’s high school football players get something out of the sport.  It has value.  Likewise, there is value to learning tolerance.  Whether we’re part of a large group enjoying the school’s success in football, or picking a side in favor of showing or suppressing a movie about Frida Kahlo, we’re taking an interest in the school.  But we may be on the wrong topic – a good, even a great athletic team doesn’t correlate with good or great academics.  And showing a controversial film doesn’t correlate with good academics. 

SchoolDigger provides rankings of all of Montana’s schools – well, most of Montana’s schools.  When I got on the school board at Trego, the school wasn’t ranked . . . but it was also down to 4 or 5 students, depending on when you did the count.  Last year, with Covid, the testing didn’t occur.  Still, we have some data available.

When I searched Lincoln County High School, I read “SchoolDigger: Rank 113th of 137 Montana districts.”  The chart below that statement shows that, back in 2013, Lincoln County High School rose into the top half of high schools. 

If the average is 50%, the chart shows that Montana is not making the average, and LCHS performed dramatically below average.  Staying with the percentages makes the scores easy to understand – and remember, the performance of all students has been compiled and averaged.

MTLCHSWhitefishPlentywood
ACT Composite32.4%20.7%52.0%33.3%
English49.839.7%69.9%44.4%
Math33.9%19.0%52.9%33.3%
Reading36.6%25.9%55.3%16.7%
Science28.7%15.5%46.3%33.3%
STEM13.5%5.2%25.3%16.7%

The numbers are extreme.  Only in English do LCHS students approach the state average.  Go back up and look at them.  These kids are my neighbors.  They aren’t morons.  Our schools are allowing them to be left behind.  I’m not looking at national norms – just comparing LCHS with the state average.  When I began teaching at Trinidad State Junior College, I learned a vocational education mantra: “If the student hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.”  For some reason, our students haven’t learned.

We take pride in a state high school football championship.  It feels pretty lonely to be in the group that reads of the LCHS rank on academics – nobody has mentioned it to me.   Still, I would much prefer to see LCHS ranked number 1 of 137 Montana districts on the SchoolDigger page. 

I’m not asking folks to petition the superintendent to punish or exonerate a teacher for showing an R-rated movie.  Not when the high school rank is 25th from the bottom.   The lowest fifth.  I am suggesting we press the board, the superintendent, the principal, the teachers, the guidance guy, to take a first step – LCHS needs to rise from the gutter to the curb.  The step after that can be reaching the state average.  After all, they have surpassed that goal 50 miles to the south.

I don’t know how long it will take before LCHS can rise to showing even mediocre performance on SchoolDigger.   The past couple of rankings are based on how students perform on the ACT in their junior year.  Every student takes the test.  A half-century ago, it was like the football team – the students taking the ACT were self-selecting.  Now, regardless of your beliefs about college placement exams every student in the state takes the same exam,

SchoolDigger shows that we pay $9,347 per student to achieve this ranking.  Whitefish pays $10,756 to be ranked third.  If LCHS could miraculously jump to third place just by raising the budget by 15%, I’d say “DO IT NOW.”  It is probably a part of the solution – we have to go down the list to 58th place Billings’ Skyview high school to find a lower $9,158 in per pupil expenditures.  Still, I believe that the first change is attitude – and a state athletic championship doesn’t offset this level of tested academic performance.