February 4, 2019

Superintendent’s Message

February:  Love, Leadership and Learning

Happy February!  I’m confident it’s going to shape up to be quite a month!  As we celebrate the holidays of Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day, the first makes me think of love and the second of leadership.  As we have embarked upon the second semester, I know all of you are focusing on learning.  As the 66th Montana Legislature continues in Helena, I’m hoping that those who represent us will consider all three:  love, leadership and learning.

Valentine’s Day is coming at a perfect time.  As the news cycle obsesses over national divisiveness, governmental funding, global unrest, and world-wide economic difficulties, it feels like we need to take a breath and focus on kindness, peace and love.  As a nation, it appears that we can do just that in February. Wikipedia notes that about 190 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year in the U.S., not including the hundreds of millions of cards school children exchange.  Valentine’s Day is a major source of economic activity, with total expenditures in 2017 topping $18.2 billion.  I challenge all of us to reach beyond the commercialism to truly make an effort to love others in authentic ways and to ensure we continue to show compassion and care all year long.

Presidents’ Day follows right on the heels of Valentine’s Day.  This national holiday, historically set aside to celebrate the accomplishments of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, should give us reason to reflect on all the leaders who have come before us and who have shaped what our country is today.  It’s a time of patriotic celebration and remembrance.  I think it’s also a good time for self-reflection on our own demonstration of those qualities that help us be effective in our work. It’s a good time to think about things like integrity, empathy, dedication, creativity, generosity, teamwork, graciousness, etc.  It’s a good time to commit to these kinds of ideals in our daily lives.

Lastly, February is a month of focused learning.  As I look at the school calendar, I am struck that there’s only about 80 days left in the school year.  We must cherish every single moment of learning with a sense of urgency.  Time is a precious commodity that we must use wisely this second semester.  It’s primetime for learning and February sets the stage.  The second semester is just as important as the first as we seek our mission:  GFPS successfully educating students so they can navigate their futures.  80 more days to make it happen!

I will also be sharing this sense of urgency with the Montana Legislature. We are paying attention to their actions around school funding to include monies for preschool, Career and Technical Education, and special education.  I will be speaking out on behalf of our kids, our community and our future.  I’m hoping February will motivate them to love people over party, to demonstrate effective leadership qualities and to cherish the learning that takes place in public education as much as we do.  Here’s to a great month!

Take care. Be safe.  Stay well.


Please remember that in order to be eligible for severance pay, a retiring teacher must submit a letter of resignation to the Board of Trustees no later than Friday, March 1, 2019 at 5:00 p.m., if terminating employment at the end of the second semester.  You are encouraged to forward your letter prior to this date.   You may wish to refer to Article 8.C of the Negotiated Agreement for further information.  Teacher Retirement System must be contacted and an irrevocable election form completed by March 5, 2019 in order to be eligible to deduct additional contributions from termination pay on a tax-deferred basis. The Irrevocable Election Form is available in Human Resources or Teacher’s Retirement website.  The Teacher Retirement System can be reached at 1-866-600-4045.

Human Resources Office

Angels in Action

What is Angels in Action?
Angels in Action is a non-profit program for GFPS families who are facing a crisis.  This program will provide employees a modest donation to help off-set the cost of expenses experienced because of the crisis.  Angels in Action is completely funded through donations from GFPS employees and individuals, businesses and volunteers who wish to contribute.
Learn more about the Angels in Action program.

Community Screenings Vision and Hearing

When:  Thursday, February 7, 2019, 8:00 am – 3:00 pm
Where:  City County Health Department, 115 4th St. S.

To schedule call 268-6400
Walk-ins are welcome

These screenings made possible in collaboration with Great Falls Public Schools, City County Health Department and the Early Childhood Coalition, Lions Club and Cascade Audiology

2019 Montana Region II Science and Engineering Fair 

 SScience and Engineering Fair logo Elem March 7, MS and HS March 8

Is your child looking for an opportunity outside of school to showcase his/her science or engineering talent?

If so, see below for information regarding participation in the 2019 Montana Region II
Science and Engineering Fair.

  • Registration opens February 4, 2019 and closes March 1, 2019.
  • Students may register at www.gfcmsu.edu/sciencefair/
  • This above website will give you information regarding registration cost (just $5.00 per student), schedule of events, project rules and criteria.
  • This is a great opportunity for students to be exposed to a broad range of scientific inquiry.
  • Since there will be no GFPS STEAM Expo this year, we hope students will take advantage of this opportunity.

Call for PIR Facilitators for the 2019-2020 School Year

Details about 2019-2020 PIR Proposals:

  • The date range for PIR sessions is June 8, 2019 – April 30, 2020 (priority will be given to those proposals that take place during first semester).
  • All forms are due by Friday, March 1, 2019.
  • No new proposals will be accepted after the March 1 deadline.
  • Please be sure to avoid the DD & PIR Summit dates (June 10-12 & Aug 22), any holidays, MEA days, and Wednesdays when scheduling your dates.
  • PIR Sessions can be done as a single 6-hour session, two 3-hour sessions, or three 2-hour sessions.

If you are interested in facilitating or co-facilitating a PIR offering, please use this worksheet to be sure you have all of the information you need. The link to the actual form is at the bottom of the worksheet. For more information about PIR Facilitator Obligations and Pay, please visit the following link: http://gfps.k12.mt.us/content/pir-help

Great Falls Public Schools Foundation’s
Heisey Teacher Scholarship Applications for 2019-2020 School Year


  • Twenty $1,000 scholarships will be awarded competitively to Great Falls Public Schools teachers to help fund work toward a master’s degree, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification, academic work supporting Great Falls Public Schools’ District Goals, or an Endorsement, including; counseling, administration, special education, or any other field related to education.
  • Twenty scholarships will be awarded throughout the district, with the intent of awarding support in multiple schools.  In the event that one or more schools do not have a qualified applicant, multiple scholarships may be awarded at the same school.
  • Teachers who have already completed a master’s degree may apply the scholarship to a second master’s degree or an advanced degree (Ph.D. or Ed.D.).
  • Scholarships may also be used for the purpose of working toward an advanced degree or securing an endorsement in a specific subject area, which is applicable to teaching.
  • Scholarships may be utilized to fund the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification process.
  • Scholarships may be utilized to support academic work which would directly support the professional in their capacity of supporting district level goals and initiatives.
  • All monies must be expended within six months of the date the scholarship is awarded.


  • Any teacher presently holding a teaching position in the Great Falls School District and who is committed to signing a contract to teach in the school district for the school year following the scholarship award.


  • Online applications open Wednesday, January 9, 2019
  • Application is available here.
  • Online applications will close on February 6, 2019


  • Competency as a teacher as indicated by letters of reference and other information presented to the committee.
  • Commitment to the profession as indicated by goals.
  • Availability of job vacancies in the field, as well as needs of the district.

If you have any questions regarding the online application process, please contact Lyndsay Lettre at 268-7401 or at foundation@gfps.k12.mt.us. General questions about the scholarship can be directed to Dave Crum at 268-7340 or at dave_crum@gfps.k12.mt.us.

American Indian Studies for Students and Teachers

This five course program through IEFA is available for both GFPS educators and students.

Educators will be offered a $200 honorarium towards the purchase of classroom materials after the completion of three of these courses, and an additional honorarium of $200 upon the completion of the final two (these do not have to occur in order). We will also be offering these courses for PIR units to finish out the 2019 year.
Students will be offered one half credit upon the completion of all five courses and must be completed on the offered dates or on the makeup dates listed above. This half credit is approved by the GFPS Board as a history course or as an elective.


American Indian Identity Through Imagery & Literature

Feb 9th 8:30-2:30

or Feb 23 8:30-2:30

 [Choose ONE]

This course will first examine how the images of AI people have been presented to non-Native audiences and the consequences of those portrayals. We will then examine contemporary figures in fiction, poetry, literature, art, science, philosophy, politics, and Oral Tradition to make classroom connections.
American Indian Policy in the U.S.
March 12th and 14th 4-7
or March 23 8:30-2:30
[Choose ONE]
This course will focus on the perspectives of AI and their relationship with the federal government beginning with Columbus and the Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny, Removal, Citizenship, Allotment, and the Cobell Case. We will examine each federal policy time era, and how it has contributed to contemporary circumstances among AI people.

American Indians in Film

[Schedule with Instructors]
This course is unique in the fact that it is available for take home use for students and educators. Participants will have the opportunity to check-out one of the listed films and watch at home (up to two hours), with a preparation session (.5 hours) and a debrief session (.5 hours) with Miranda or Jordann. Those who choose this course will also be given a guided questions worksheet to fill out while watching each film and the opportunity to examine social issues (both historical and contemporary in nature) that American Indians are faced with through the context of film representation and identity.

Contemporary Issues Among American Indians

March 26th 4-7
or March 28th 4-7
[Choose ONE]
This course will focus on American Indian culture in relationship to the environment and natural resources. Students will examine how these topics correlate with cultural, social, and political issues. Taking an in-depth look at water and land rights, federal policy regarding American Indian resources, and how to integrate them into your classroom.
Montana Tribes
April 2nd and 4th  4-7
or April 6th 8:30-2:30
[Choose ONE]
Students will explore each of the reservations and their tribal affiliations among our 12 Montana tribes.  This will include historical federal policy among the distinct groups as well as contemporary issues. This course will focus on the Essential Understandings and the unique and distinct qualities of Montana’s Tribes.

For more information or to express interest in these courses please contact:
Jordann Lankford-Forster: jordann_lankford@gfps.k12.mt.us or 268-7825
Miranda Murray: miranda_murray@gfps.k12.mt.us or 268-7825

Responding to Military Children with Exception Needs Training

Responding to Military Children with Exceptional Needs is a professional development institute designed to inform concerned adults about military-connected children with exceptional needs and the issues they may face as they transition from school to school.
A free training will take place on Saturday, February 9, 2019 from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm at the Great Falls Association of Realtors; 401 13th Ave South.  This training is sponsored by the U.S. Air Force and Malmstrom AFB School Liaison Office.

Registration information can me found here.

Earn Two Graduate Credits for $200

Would you like to earn a step  on the pay scale while learning something useful for your classroom?  This spring, Katie Kotynski is offering a class on creativity. Participants will read the book “Made to Stick” while designing lessons that foster innovation and vision as well as making the information learned  “stick” in your students’ minds. Your lessons will be individualized for your subject area. The class will be conducted through Google Classroom or Moodle with optional face-to-face discussion sessions. Cost is $200 plus the book (Amazon $9.84 hardbound; $14 Kindle). email Katie_kotynski@gfps.k12.mt.us if interested.

Lesley University Graduate Program in Great Falls

black graduation cap with diploma tied with a red ribbon

Starts late Spring!

Integrated Teaching through the Arts Curriculum & Instruction, M.Ed.

Program is designed for all K-12 educators
Project based – no GRE required
Skills that transfer to your everyday lessons!
Move up on the Salary Schedule as you go!
Financial aid and payment plans are available.
Regionally and nationally accredited
Financial Aid Counselor to assist Student Loan Process!
Deferred Student Loan payment 6 months after completion of your degree!
Nineteen weekends total! The entire program is completed in less than two years
$5000 Loan Forgiveness is available!  $50 application fee waiver!

Face-To-Face teaching one weekend a month: Saturday & Sunday 8am – 5pm

Contact: Cathy Kuntz


MIET Instructors Needed

Will you be a part of the last Montana Institute on Instructional Technology (MIET) June 12? We are looking for presenters on a variety of topics. Pay is $75 per two-hour sectional.
Applications due Feb. 1. If you have questions, contact katie_kotynski@gfps.k12.mt.us

Apply here.

Katie Kotynski
Creative Consulting–Home of the 100-Dollar Website



Andrew Nagengast Gallery 16 Feb Featured Artist - photo of pottery vase

Gallery 16 is proud to announce our February featured potter is North Middle School Art teacher, Andrew Nagengast.  A reception will be held on February 1, Friday, from 5:00 – 9:00 PM at Gallery 16, 600 Central Avenue.  All are welcome.  His pottery will be shown all month.




Safety Starts with You! on yellow background

Safe Schools Online Safety Training $50.00 Card Drawing

During the months of February and March, Montana School Boards Association invites you to participate in Safe Schools online safety training. Safe Schools offers online video safety training to all Great Falls Public Schools employees. Please follow the instructions below to access the video trainings:


  1. Make sure you are using Google Chrome Browser
  2. Go to the Safe Schools Link http://www.greatfalls.mt.safeschools.com
  3. Sign-in with your first name_last name
  4. Password will be your first name_last name
  5. Click “View More Courses”
  6. Choose a safety training to view
  7. Once you have viewed the safety video, please go to the provided Google Doc’s Link https://goo.gl/forms/WmxZXuuAovGasgZw2
  8. Sign into your google account to fill out a 2 question survey on the training. You will be entered in a $50.00 gift card drawing upon completion of the survey. The drawing will end March 31st with the winners being announced the following week.

6 Tips for Working Safe in Cold Weather

How to stay safe when the temperature drops

Working in cold conditions isn’t just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. Frostbite, numbness, dehydration and hypothermia are real concerns from chilly outdoor weather. If you’re working outdoors this winter, be aware of the dangers and stay safe. In this article, we’re looking at 6 tips for staying safe in the cold.

  1. Stay well nourished by eating and drinking enough
    Make sure to drink enough fluids, as you dehydrate faster in cold weather conditions. Dehydration causes headaches, dizziness and fatigue, and it’s important to stay alert outdoors. Eating enough food during the day, especially fats and carbohydrates, is also important. Your body uses those nutrients as energy to stay warm in cold temperatures.
  1. Stay well rested
    Working outdoors can be challenging and increases risks to your safety. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep to stay alert on the job when conditions are more dangerous.
  1. Plan breaks from the cold
    Just like you need to take breaks from your work throughout the day, your body needs to take breaks from the cold. Plan warm-up times throughout your day to avoid numbness and shivers.
  1. Stay dry
    Damp clothing can quickly drop your body temperature. It’s more important than ever to stay dry in the cold. Wear a moisture-wicking base layer to draw away sweat as you work. Wear waterproof gear as an outer shell to prevent your under layers from getting wet. Remove any wet clothing immediately.
  1. Dress for the conditions
    Dressing in layers is key, as it not only keeps you warm but allows you to adjust to changing temperatures. Proper gloves, socks and footwear are essential. Choose headwear that keeps your head and ears warm. Balaclavas can also help to warm your neck and warm the air you’re breathing.
  1. Keep a cold weather safety kit in your vehicle
    If you’re on the road, make sure to take a cold weather safety kit. A cold weather kit should include emergency blankets, candles, and matches. A candle burning in a vehicle could provide enough warmth to ward off hypothermia for a period of time.

Before you work outdoors in cold weather conditions, make sure that you’re well prepared. Be aware of the dangers of exposure and follow these tips to make safe choices.

Seven Statistics on Winter Workplace Injuries: Ice, Ice, Baby

  1. According to data from the National Safety Council, 25,000 slip, trip and fall accidents occur daily in the US.
  2. Snow, ice and freezing temps in the winter multiply the number of wet and slippery surfaces at work and the potential for accidents.
    a.  Ladders, scaffolding, machinery, utility poles, and even the entry and exits to a building can all be exponentially more dangerous in the winter months.
    b.  As an example, in the US in 2014, there were 42,480 workplace injuries and illnesses involving ice, sleet, or snow that required at least one day away from work to recuperate.
  3. As one might expect, most snow and ice-related slips and falls occur on outdoor surfaces.
    a.  The majority happen in parking lots, roadways, driveways and walkways where individuals travel on foot between their worksites and vehicles.
    b.  About 8 percent do occur indoors; in entryways, hallways and other rooms where ice and snow have been tracked in from outside.
  4. Practically all injuries from slips and falls on snow and ice fall under the classification of “traumatic injuries.” These injuries range from minor bruises, cuts and abrasions to serious bone fractures, spinal cord damage and concussions.
    a.  Strains, sprains and tears comprise the largest category.
    b.  The lower extremities are most often injured by these accidents, followed by multiple body part injuries, which are incidents with more than one traumatic injury to two or more unrelated parts of the body.
  5. Icicles and chunks of ice and snow can be deadly falling objects and projectiles. Most ice falls within five to ten feet of a building but can travel 50-100 feet from taller structures, such as cell towers, overpasses, or high-rise buildings.
  6. When icicles and chunks of ice fall, they fall quickly.
    a.  A half-pound icicle, three inches in diameter, can fall at a rate of 80-90 mph.
    b.  It can hit you with 1,000 pounds of deadly force.
  7. Black ice is one of the most feared hazards of winter. It is virtually impossible to see to those walking or driving on it.
    a.  The accident rate on black ice can be up to five times higher than on dry surfaces and four times higher than on wet surfaces.
    b.  Stopping distances for vehicles on ice is almost 10 times that of stopping distances for vehicles on a dry surface.

    Frozen Pipe Prevention Tips  

    With winter break approaching it’s a good time to start thinking about what steps will be taken to monitor and protect your facilities while they will be primarily vacant over the holidays.  A vacant building is much more susceptible to significant damage since nobody is there to quickly identify a problem.  Being proactive can prevent some major headaches and costly repairs for your District.  Nobody wants to get a call right before school is about to resume informing you that one of your buildings had lost heat and that it went unnoticed for days.  It doesn’t take long for Montana’s cold winter temperatures to do some significant damage to a building, especially when water lines freeze and break.

    I have personally adjusted a claim that occurred over winter break where a citizen that was passing-by the school called and informed the administration that there was water flowing out the front door of their building.  It turned out that the heating system shutdown which caused a water line to freeze which resulted in water running through the building for days.  This call came in days before kids were supposed to return to school.

    Water damage can have many negative effects on your building in both the short and long term.  Just a one-eighth inch crack in a pipe can spew out more than 250 gallons of water per day, destroying floors, ceilings, furniture and contents.  That doesn’t even account for the interruption this causes staff and students.     

    Many modern heating systems now have alarms that are meant to trigger when the temperature drops below a certain point, however, these alarms can and do fail, and should not be solely relied upon.  One of the best tools to prevent long term heat loss in a building is to have one of your staff members do a daily walk through of your buildings to make sure all mechanical systems are functioning properly.  If a heat system fails this will typically allow enough time to identify the problem and have it repaired before any significant damage occurs.  During really cold temps it may be necessary to conduct a walk through twice a day.  Below are some additional recommendations to help keep your facilities protected during our long Montana winters:

    1. Make frequent visits buildings, especially those areas that are unoccupied.
    2. Inspect all areas along the perimeter of the building to ensure they are sealed and that there are no drafts.
    3. Drain wall hydrants and fire pump test connections that may be exposed to freezing.
    4. Verify that underground water mains have adequate depth of cover. Water mains that do not have adequate cover can be isolated and shut off to protect them from freezing.
    5. Maintain an appropriate interior temperature (50°F and above). It is strongly recommend that you check your building daily to ensure the mechanical systems are functioning properly.
    6. Consider installing an automatic low temperature alarm system, but this should not be solely relied on.
    7. Know the location of your building’s main water shut-off valve. The quicker you can turn off the water, the better chance you have to minimize potential water damage.
    8. If a building is going to be vacant for an extended period of time consider shutting the main water valve and having plumber drain and winterize the lines.

    By Matt Komac, P/C Claim Examiner