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. 

Community

Lowering Academic Expectations

A few weeks back, a request came in for thoughts on grade inflation – basically lowered academic expectations.  Grade inflation is easiest observed in the Spring – high school graduation time.  The more students that share valedictorian status, the greater the statistical improbability.  It is possible to have the Lake Wobegon situation, where everyone is above average – but that is not the way to bet.

We can glance at the ACT scores – Schooldigger  ranks Montana high schools based on their students ACT performance.  It’s worth a glance – Whitefish is rated third in state.  Troy was 99th in 2018, and rose to 88th in 2019.  Lincoln County High School in Eureka was rated 78th in 2018 and went to 96th for 2019.  Libby was 58th in 2018 and 103 in 2019.   119 high schools were ranked. 

The ACT was a test to evaluate a student’s potential for college – now, with all Montana high school students taking it during their junior year, it has morphed beyond the individual student  application into a tool for evaluating each school.  The ratings were an unpleasant surprise when I looked at our high school.  This link shows the ranking data over the decade. In 2013, LCHS was in the top half.  Follow the link.  Look at the data.  I started writing this, and the data led me into a spot I didn’t want to see.

I recall taking placement tests in the fieldhouse at MSU back in 1967.  Sitting on a folding chair, with a chunk of particleboard there was a single memorable statistic shared: “42.8 percent of you will be here next Fall.”  George Bush had definitely not sold the concept of “No Child Left Behind.”  A lot rides on class rank and test scores for college selection . . . yet as I write this, I remember 2 academic full rides that I dismissed because travel costs were too high.  My freshman year travel was carpooling in Grant’s Mercury, with high school classmates, back from the cow college. 

I was pretty shocked in 2010 when I saw that 71.8% of South Dakota high school graduates were going directly to college.  Some of those new freshmen had to be below average.  Still, there are spots where kids learn a lot more in today’s high schools.  Now, high school algebra is often an 8th grade class – I had classmates back in 1967 who had taken algebra as their final math class as sophomores.  Today the kids in 8th grade learn about electron orbital configurations – that was my Junior year. 

We have to look at online education.  I can’t say I hated teaching online, but even large lecture halls gave me a chance to catch students who were having problems – I remember the girl who showed up regularly, took notes, and was flunking the class . . . and a few minutes visiting showed that she was a first-semester freshman from a small rural school and didn’t realize that ANTH 412/512 meant the class was intended for seniors and grad students.  As a teacher, I liked the opportunity to save a student who was off-course.  Online, my best students looked at the grade rubric, finished their work by mid-term, and were gone.  The advice I got to improve the class was to add busywork to keep them through the semester.  Online is a great option for the self-motivated learner who doesn’t need a teacher.

I haven’t kept on topic well.  The moment of reading the LCHS state rankings stays in my mind as I write. 

Community

Montana Gun Control

I note that the governor has signed a bill that “forbids state and local law enforcement from enforcing federal bans on guns, ammunition and magazines.“   Detractors – folks who want the gun control efforts to grow in Montana are quoted as saying that this “would make it difficult for local law enforcement to collaborate with federal authorities on issues beyond gun access when such collaboration is essential to protect public safety.”

There are times it is good to be old, and have a long memory.  Back when the first Assault Weapons Ban was law, Ravalli County Sheriff Jay Printz challenged it as unconstitutional.  Sheriff Printz thought it was wrong for congress to compel state employees and elected officials to enforce Federal law.

District court agreed with Printz, then the 9th Circuit reversed the decision, and it went to the Supreme Court.  On June 27, 1997, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, reversed the 9th Circuit, finding that the ban’s attempt to commandeer county sheriffs to perform background checks was in violation of the tenth amendment. 

Remember, I’m a scientist, not a lawyer – but it looks to me like a Hamilton Sheriff, nearly a quarter century ago, has already completed the legal defense for  “Montana Federal Firearm, Magazine, and Ammunition Ban Enforcement Prohibition Act”.   The complete bill is available.  It does reference the Printz case, and it looks like state and local employees will not be allowed to assist Federal officers in enforcing this law.

Community

TFS Volunteer Fire Department Held Annual Meeting

This past Wednesday night (24 March 2021), the TFS Volunteer Fire Department had its much-delayed annual meeting at the Trego Civic Center. The evening included a discussion of the expenses of the fire department, the activity of the department, appointment of new board members, a bylaw change, and a mention of a proposed fee increase that will be taken to the commissioners. The meeting ended with a reminder to everyone to take bread home with them.

A much delayed meeting:

The annual meeting requires at least 20 members to attend. Conventionally, the annual meeting is held in November, however there were not enough people in attendance to hold November’s meeting. Members of the department expressed their disappointment at poor attendance. Twenty-one members attended Wednesday’s meeting, making a full quorum.

Liz Williams discusses the qualifications to be a voting member of the TFS VFD corporation.

Expenses:

  • Purchased Fire Station Software Program for Record Keeping (c. $1,300 initial cost, and $200 in yearly upkeep).
  • Upgraded the electricity to the Trego Station (the lights flickered and occasionally went out when the wind blew).
  • Purchased 4 new SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) packs without bottles. Each SCBA pack cost about $4000, a considerable savings without new $1000 bottles. This brings the department to a total of 12 full packs and 4 spare bottles.
  • Acquired a 2008 F-550 type 6 fire engine on lifetime loan from the DNRC

Department Activity:

The department attended a greater number of calls, since the ambulance was attending fewer (due to fear of exposing the ambulance crew to Covid). From November of 2019 to November of 2020 the department had a total of 36 calls. Seven were aid calls, one of which was actually a cat in a tree.

The department set up WEX cards for tax-exempt fuel purchasing, ran first-aid and CPR classes, and taught emergency drills. They also passed pump testing on all three engines with no issues – to some acclaim from their testers.

Raffle:

The department’s raffle was postponed due to Covid. The firearm being raffled is a Henry 45-70. The business and firefighter to sell the most tickets will each receive a Henry 47 HMR. The department will be selling tickets at Rendezvous Days.

New Board Members:

Of the current board, three positions were up for election. Those held by: Wayne Nowacki (representing the area at large), Josh Helgert (representing Trego) and John Menke (representing Fortine): John Menke and Josh Helgert were reappointed and Dan Schenkram of Trego replaced Wayne Nowacki.

All three alternate board members positions were up for election (terms are yearly). Jacob Chrestensen of Stryker, Matthew Kelley, Justin Menke, were nominated to the at-large, Trego, and Fortine positions, respectively.

By-law Change:

Section 2. Qualifications of Members. Any person shall be qualified to be a member of the corporation if A. he or she is (1) over 18 years old, (2) is assessed a fee by Lincoln County for fire protection within the TFS Fire Service Area, and (3) is not a member of any other fire department.

TFS Volunteer Fire Department By-laws, as amended.

The amendment, which was approved, removed part 3 of the membership qualifications, so that residents of TFS Fire District that are part of Eureka’s fire department can still be voting members of TFS Volunteer Fire Department.

Proposed Fee Increase:

With the departmental budget rather tight, fee proposals are being discussed. At this stage, it’s discussion only. Later, they’ll go to the commissioners, and folks will have a chance to vote.

Currently, the department collects about $45,000 annually. The proposal is to double the fire protection fees. The current fee is 50$ for homeowners (it was raised from $25 to $50 in 2010), businesses pay more. Another suggestion was that the fee be based on taxable value, so that folks with larger houses and outbuildings would pay more for fire protection.

Get Involved:

The public is welcome to attend training nights, as well as the TFS VFD’s monthly board meetings.

Trainings happen on Monday nights at 7 PM at the Fortine Fire Hall, between the Fortine Mercantile and the greenboxes on Highway 93.

Meetings are held the Second Tuesday of each Month, at 7 PM, also at the Fortine Fire Hall.

Patches' Pieces

Backroads of Montana films at Tobacco Valley Historical Village

The filming was for a 15 minute segment of Backroads of Montana that is expected to air in mid-May.  Watch the Historical Village Facebook page for exact information when the PBS segment will air.  A special thanks to Rita Collins for serving as the Village’s media liaison and secretary.

Filming the Hand Quilting

Friday March 12, Ray Ekness of PBS Montana filmed the hand quilters in the old schoolhouse at the Tobacco Valley Historical Village in Eureka.   Ekness is the director of the Broadcast Media Center at the University of Montana.  Ekness spent the day filming, interviewing, and observing the hand quilters.

Quilts

Area quilters rejoice! In other quilting news, Scraps and Threads quilt guild will host their annual quilt show during Rendezvous, April 23-25. The quilt show is at the fairgrounds in Eureka. Other area quilt groups have been invited to participate in the quilt show. Expect to see lots of new and colorful quilts.

The Eureka Outdoor Quilt show is August 7.

The Flathead Quilters’ Guild has announced their annual Quilt Show is a go. The dates are September 18 & 19 at the Flathead Valley Fairgrounds.

-Patches

Community, Wildlife

My Goose Neighbors Are Back

First, Gander came by to check.  He and Goose are beginning their 7th year nesting on the island in the pond.  It’s a good spot for a goose nest because the water surrounding the island protects it from the coyotes and egg-raiders while the tall grass of the island makes great aerial camouflage for the nest.  He wasn’t happy, because there is still ice in the pond, and it seems that you really do have to be the first nesting goose to validate your claim.  He brought Goose along the second day – over the past seven years she has became a bit frail – so it is good to see them back again.

Living in the flyway, I became accustomed to huge flocks of migrating geese – probably an appropriate way for a demographer to view a species.  Here, I watch a pair of geese, and their offspring, through the season.  Frankly, there are some lessons in morality and responsibility to be learned from my goose neighbors.

Gander does the first recon alone anymore.  When they were young adults – call it the newlywed stage – they were inseparable, and hard to tell apart.  Gander has continued to grow, and is now an average size lesser-Canadian, Goose shows her frailty, and he works at minimizing her risks and exposure.

Courting Geese- one of the goslings and a visitor

With the nest unavailable, the two are hanging out in the Salina Wild Rye – good cover, close to the nest site, and, as soon as the ice melts, Goose will be back on her nest, hatching out another group of goslings.  Her first year, she led the flock on a hike around the pond, straight through the grass into an eagle that was dining on a road-kill cat.  Since 2015, Gander has taken responsibility for leading all the land trips.  That first year, as two eagles flew over the nest, Gander took to the air to divert them, then flew over me low, and made a couple circles as the eagles flew on away from Goose.  The next Spring, he decided to use me as part of his threat to a larger pair of geese that wanted the nest site.

I’ve watched the Fall departure delayed and delayed for a gosling who could almost fly – working at getting four or five feet above the ground for 100 yard flights, but unable to soar like her siblings.  My floating dock is taken over early in the flight lessons to teach water landings before the goslings can fly.  I’m looking forward to seeing what I learn from geese this year.

IMAGE CAMERA
Community

An Obit that Brought Good Memories

I knew I would one day read Freddie’s obit.  Few are granted long-term cancer survival.  Each of us went on with our own lives after high school – but I remember Jay Penney dragging me to a restaurant in Kalispell.  Jay was one of those half-generation older friends and coworkers who help you grow into a capable adult.  That day, because he was the type of man who shared friends, he had decided that Freddie and I needed to meet.  She knew our introduction was coming, and briefly kept a straight face – finally explaining to him that we had known each other from grade school as she poured coffee.  I’ve known two tremendously competent women who earned their livings as waitresses – and Freddie’s obit brought back good memories of Flo as well.

I don’t know how she convinced me that it was a good idea to head up Deep Creek to observe a beaver dam baptism.  I do  know that when our surreptitious observation failed, she was in the center seat of the pickup, encouraging more speed as I drove away.  My junior year, I think.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

We met at Trego grade school.  Christened Fredricka Louise Osler, she referred to her formal name as “Freddie and contraption.”  I’ve always felt that, had Bobby enlisted her help instead of grabbing the jump rope and running, we would have succeeded in capturing the bear cub and moving it into the kitchen.  Probably just as well we failed.

I recall that Freddie was walking along the highway with Alvin Rongholt when he was hit by a vehicle and died.  My memory of Alvin is of a kid who showed me his parody of “The Ballad of the Green Berets” that morning, who left only an out-of-focus photo in the school yearbook.  I guess he also left me an appreciation for parodies of Sergeant Sadler’s song, and a wish that people’s lives be remembered.

Obituaries that bring good memories are rare.  Thanks for the memories.

Community

Damage to the Civic Center

This newest hole isn’t the only damage to the entry- that post alongside the ramp is pretty twisted as well. It’s a common place to back vehicles up to when events are happening, and that puts the entrance at risk of damage.

Trego’s Civic Center is due some expensive repairs- with insurance premiums already high, filing a claim with the civic center’s insurance may cost more in the long run. Since the damage appears to be associated with backing up towards the hall (odd, since there were no events held at the hall near the time the damage occurred), the Civic Center is considering how to keep this type of damage from happening again.

The hole appears deceptively small!
May be an image of text that says 'TREGOCIVIC TREGO CENTER TICKETS $5.00 EACH OR 5 FOR $20.00 SAVAGE AXIS 6.5 CREEDMOOR WITH WEAVER SCOPE OR FLANNEL RAGGED EDGE AMERICAN FLAG QUILT OTHER PRIZES AVAILABLE BY DRAWING DATE OF MID MAY 2021 DONATIONS BENEFIT UPGRADES OF THE TREGO CIVIC CENTER TICKETS AVAILABLE FROM ANY BOARD MEMBER AND SEVERAL LOCAL BUSINESS'S'

How can we help? Buy Raffle Tickets. The Civic Center is still selling raffle tickets for the upcoming drawing. Win an American Flag Quilt or a Firearm (see picture).

Rent the Civic Center. The Civic Center is allowed to open for events once again. On a related note, Bingo should be resuming soon -keep checking the Civic Center’s Board.

If anyone has any extra sonotubes for pouring concrete, the Civic Center can use them!

Community

Trego School Ice Fishing Trip

Last week, students and their families made their way to Murphy Lake for an Ice Fishing trip. It was a warm, pleasant day with chili dogs grilled beside the lake. A successful trip, since all but one student caught fish.

Where are the kids now? Spring break runs throughout the rest of this week. Classes will resume on the 15th and we can expect to see the buses back on their usual routes.

Adults planning similar trips should remember that Fishing Licenses expired February 28th- be sure to get a new one.

More information about school field trips can be found on the school calendar.

Photos by School Board Member Michelle Linden

A Science for Everyone, Meteorology

Snow Pack on March 1

The long-term average for snow surveys were dated for the first of the month when I started measuring snow 45 years ago.  The old guys did it the hard way – up Burma Road early, skis or snowshoes to the Weasel Cabin, build a fire, sample the snow course, then overnight.  The next day they would head down the creek, then climb Stahl, build a fire, sample the snow course, then hike out the next morning, sample the course at Grave Creek, hike the rest of the way out and finish the job driving the pickup out.  As a modern, I drove a snowmobile and did 3 snow courses in a day.  Now I click a link on the home computer, and can look at the whole basin’s information in minutes.

The numbers from March 1 were kind of sacred – there had been enough winter that Jay Penney felt safe projecting the data – enough was in that he would comment that the snowpack was light, normal or heavy.

These are some of the snow courses I measured in those middle days, when we thought a snowmobile was absolutely modern, and were experimenting with measuring snow water at Noisy Basin with a radioactive source and receiver.  We were state of the art back then.     

ElevationWater EquivalentPercent of Average
Banfield Mountain5600 feet13.1 inches88%
Hawkins Lake6450 feet18.9 inches94%
Garver Creek4250 feet8.4 inches101%
Stahl Peak6030 feet24.4 inches86%
Grave Creek4300 feet13.1 inches87%
Poorman Creek5100 feet29.4 inches95%
Bear Mountain5400 feet45.6 inches87%
Hand Creek5035 feet9.2 inches102%
Noisy Basin6040 feet31.5 inches106%
To get to the data – and the map – you just click https://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/snow/ . Making the data so available makes hydrology a science for everyone.