January 8, 2018

Superintendent’s Message

 “The Fierce Urgency of Now”

This week and next, students across GFPS will be learning about Martin Luther King Jr. as we prepare to celebrate his birthday with celebrations across our community.  Given that there is no school next Monday, I hope that you can take a moment to reflect on the work of this great man. 
Last year, I had the privilege of giving the keynote address as the Mount Olive Christian Fellowship’s annual MLK celebration.  I have excerpted a portion of my speech below and hope that you take a moment to peruse the entire piece.  Here’s a bit of what I said:
We look to Dr. King and his teachings.  We turn to his words in 1967 when he told us about “The Fierce Urgency of Now!”  Dr. King said, in 1967, “We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood – it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, ‘too late’.”
I can’t let myself believe it’s too late.  I have to believe in the urgency of now.  So what is today’s “now?” We have expanded the concept of civil rights to beyond that of race. It is now one of ethnicity.  It is now one of gender.  It is now one of love and marriage. It is now one of creed and religion.  Civil rights is now about a plethora of characteristics that differentiate us, and unfortunately divide us.
Despite our progress, if Dr. King were here today, he would remind us that there’s still much work to be done. He would urge us to work harder to ease discord and to fight injustice in our communities. And he would lead us to bring an end to the culture of violence tearing communities apart across not just our nation, but our globe.  And he would urge us to not procrastinate, to not hope someone else will solve our problems, to not bury our heads in the sand.  He would demand that we take action. 
So we must ask ourselves today, right now, what action should we take? Where can we reject despair and turn to hope?  How can we make Dr. King’s calls for justice, equality and opportunity be a reality for all our people? In my mind, there is one thing that has great potential to do all that and more, and that’s the institution of public education.  That’s right, public education is an entity that has the horsepower to make a difference.  Public education is a synonym for hope.  Only by educating our citizens can there be any hope to face our nation’s challenges to ensure civil rights for us all…
To read the speech in its entirety, click here.  Perhaps there is a snippet of inspiration that speaks to you as we celebrate this great man.  Thank you for sharing Dr. King’s messages this week, next week and every day of the year.  Thank you for being a part of the one entity that can make change happen.
Take care.  Be safe.  Stay well.

IRS Tax Update

With the passage of the new Federal Tax Law on December 22, the IRS is working to develop withholding guidance to implement the tax reform bill.   The IRS anticipates issuing the initial withholding guidance in January, and our district has set a target of February to implement the changes. Initial information from the IRS has indicated that the new tax changes will work with the existing Forms W-4 that employees have already filed, and no further action by our employees will be needed at this time. 
The new 2018 withholding guidelines will allow our staff to begin seeing the changes in their paychecks as early as February.  In the meantime, we have been directed to continue to use the existing 2017 withholding tables and systems. 

Two Credit Graduate-Level Class

Come learn about presentation tools while earning two graduate credits. Cost is $200. Bring check or credit card to first meeting Jan. 11, 4 pm. GFEA offices. Class has three face-to-facde meetings and the rest online. Contact katie_kotynski@gfps.k12.mt.us for more information. 

Heisey Teacher Scholarships, 2018

Great Falls Public Schools Foundation’s
Heisey Teacher Scholarship Applications for 2018-2019 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 Tuesday, January 9, 2018
  • Application is available here.
  • Online applications will close on February 9, 2018
  • 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

Safety Tips, January 2018


Safety Tips to Prevent Winter-Related Workplace Accidents

By ~ Corey Berghoefer | Jan 09, 2017

A strong safety culture extends to all seasons, even in winter when cold stress is common among outdoor workers.

This time of year, cold stress that can result in hypothermia or frostbite is a hazard of which employers must be aware, particularly if they have outdoor workers. With the right preparation and presence of mind, both employers and employees can prevent these injuries.

One of the most effective prevention techniques is adopting the attitude that safety is an area of responsibility for everyone in the organization – both the employer and workers. Companies must initiate and reinforce safety protocols and clearly spell out safety responsibilities and expectations.

Including your staff in all aspects of your safety plan – from hazard identification to problem solving – not only will encourage a strong safety culture within your organization, it also will allow for an open dialogue that leads to continuous improvement. This includes seasonal safety policies.

Slips, Trips and Falls

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced that slips, trips and falls accounted for 800 workplace fatalities in 2015 at a time when workplace deaths in the U.S. reached a six-year high.  Slips, trips and falls happen year-round, of course, but winter ice and snow create a more hazardous environment that increases the risk of worker injuries.  A proactive safety plan that specifically addresses slips, trips and falls not only enhances worker safety but also minimizes potential costs from workers’ compensation payments, government fines or equipment/facility remediation requirements.  No shortage of information exists on safety measures to reduce slip, trip and fall incidents, and your insurance carrier may have specific suggestions pertaining to your facility.  For employers, an active effort needs to be made to prevent ice build-up on walkways, de-icing walkways and clearing walkways. Parking areas and outside break areas are often the most commonly overlooked. 

Snow removal companies often allow snow and other debris to build up in areas which directly are in employees’ pathways or otherwise obstruct a safe pathway.  The parking lot needs to be addressed as many winter falls occur when someone is getting in/out of his/her car or walking toward a cleared sidewalk.  This oversight, or simply the reliance on de-icing efforts alone, creates more potential hazards. In other words, there needs to be eyes on the parking areas, outside break areas and walkways at all times.

Here are six simple tips to avoid slips, trips and falls during the winter season: 

  1. Keep walkways, stairways and other work areas clear.
  2. Remove hazards, such as water on floors and snow on sidewalks, immediately.
  3. When walking, look where you are going and have your hands ready to steady yourself should you slip.
  4. Avoid carrying heavy loads that may compromise your balance.
  5. Mark hazardous areas. Use temporary signs, cones, barricades or floor stands to warn passing workers.
  6. Outside, wear footwear with heavy treads for increased traction. Walk along grassy areas if a walkway is covered in ice. Make yourself visible to drivers by wearing some brightly colored jacket or clothes.

Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite and hypothermia are the consequences of cold exposure, and both can have long-lasting effects. If you suspect either condition, call for help.

Know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite:


  • Shivering or shaking
  • Lack of coordination
  • Drowsiness or confusion
  • Slurred speech


  • Skin that is very cold and turns numb, hard and pale
  • Blisters or swelling
  • Joint or muscle stiffness
  • Keep the affected body part elevated in order to reduce swelling, and move the person to a warm area to prevent further heat loss. Remove all wet clothing and apply a dry, sterile bandage to the affected area or place cotton between any involved fingers or toes. Seek proper medical care as soon as possible.

Add a Layer of Protection to Your Bottom Line

Even the most well-designed safety programs ultimately will be ineffective without the active participation and input of employees. In fact, a 2016 Gallup study revealed that employers with high levels of employee engagement had 70 percent fewer safety incidents than those with lower levels of engagement.

General guidelines include these standard safety precautions:

  • Identify potential slip, trip and fall hazards in your workplace: review incident records, inspect locations and consider the impact of changing environmental conditions.
  • Evaluate the potential risk of each hazard: number of employees who could be affected, the potential frequency of risk and the potential impact of the surrounding area or equipment.
  • Determine controls that can be instituted to reduce each hazard: relocating or removing dangerous environmental factors, limiting accessibility to higher-risk areas and providing appropriate footwear or personal protective equipment.
  • Regularly review the work environment: maintain regular housekeeping, ensure good lighting and keep equipment in proper working condition.
  • Maintain records of all incidents and continually review and improve the work environment and safety initiatives: make employees feel “safe” to report safety concerns and make changes when necessary.
  • Creating an environment where your staff is comfortable enough to share responsibility of your safety plan may take time. The most vital component to building that trust is communication.
  • Effective communication does not rely on a one-directional flow from management to associates, but should instead actively seek upward feedback and input from employees to better understand and improve safety and health programs.
  • When leaders take the time to listen to their workers’ perspectives and insights, it promotes an environment of respect and upholds safety as a fundamental organizational value.


Fitness Center 101 Class

Fitness Center 101 Class….A Few Spots Left!
Finally we have it scheduled! Several staff members have  been asking for a one time class like this!  Here are the details:
  • Fitness Center 101 is a one time class to demonstrate to participants how to use the FREE GFPS Fitness Center to the fullest.
  • The instructor will be Laurie Roberts, who teaches our GFPS Circuit Training classes on Monday and Wednesday.
  • The class will be offered at two different times, choose only one:
+ January 9, 2018 @ 4:30 pm (Tues) OR
+ January 18, 2018 @ 5:30 pm (Thur)
  • The class will be about 45 minutes with 15 minutes for questions or additional comments.
  • The cap will be 10 participants for each session.
I have decided to participate what is my next step?
  • Choose one of the days and RSVP to jody_murray@gfps.k12.mt.us  OR call 268-6770 to reserve your spot.
  • We may add additional times/days in later months, depending on the response.