Education

Prezeau, Myhre, and Lovshin Win. Levies Pass

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The people of Helena have spoken—and have chosen reason over raw emotion and experience over anger, retaining Aidan Myhre and Cherche Prezeau for three year terms and electing Libbi Lovshin for a two year term to replace Trevor Wilkerson.

With over 90% of ballots in, these are the results:

Trustee Election:  3 Year Term

Aidan Myhre: 4144
Cherche Prezeau: 3879
Brittany Renshaw:  2569
Barbara Rush:  2844

Trustee Election:  2 Year Term

Libbi Lovshin:  3963
Jeanne Sticht Jr.: 3004

Elementary School District Operational Levy

For: 4184
Against: 3240

High School District Operation Levy

For:  4672
Against: 4006

The relatively close results show that this is a community still deeply divided over the adoption of the health curriculum, and that all parties have work to do to heal the divide. The School District does need to work on its process for meetings and curriculum development—and if serious introspection in that area hasn’t happened already, it needs to begin, with broad involvement. The Board needs to continue to be sensitive to the perspective of people opposed to their vision for the schools and work towards more inclusion from the public. Finally, though, those who ran against the School District and Board also have a responsibility: if they are truly interested in improving the schools, they need to realize that vitriol and fear mongering are not part of sensible policymaking nor conducive to consensus.

I hope, but I can’t say that I’m optimistic, that in the aftermath of this election, we’ll start to see more dialogue and fewer disputes that degenerate into such naked hostility.

The results also show that this is a community that believes in its schools and effective, reason-based oversight. The fact that both levies passed is a wonderful sign of the community’s faith in the promise of its students.

Helena should be proud of its schools and realize that there are significant issues we need to continue to work on, from student engagement to graduation rates. The way forward is for a whole community to discuss what we can do for our students and what we can expect from them. Let’s hope all sides—winner and losers—can remember that.

Update: It would appear at least one person won’t be able to see it that way:

This is the second defeat for Rush who unsuccessfully ran last year, but says she is proud that she helped get a conversation going in the schools.
“I’m disappointed for Helena,” she said Tuesday night. “It’s a machine that’s able to get the vote out. I think more people will be pulling their kids out of school.”
While certainly not a surprising example of bitterness from Mrs. Rush, it’s disappointing.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

16 Comments

  • Don, I agree with you except that you say the vote was relatively close. Aidan’s 5155 votes over Rush’s 3966 is a 30% better and Cherche’s 4893 votes are 23% better than Rush. The margins are wider compared to Rensahaw, Aidan got 1479 more votes than Renshaw (40%) and Cherche got 1217 more or 33%.
    I often disagree with the IR however – this years turnout was much, much higher than a year ago. The most number of votes was Libby Goldes with 3704. And 7300 votes (for and agin) were cast then for the HS mill levy and this year 11,012 votes were cast in the mill levy. That’s 50% more voter turnout. …. “Typical” says their headline. Who writes those headlines anyway?
    It seems Helena does care about our schools. Hooray.

  • Congrats Pogie and Helena. Missoula passed its four school bond levies, and our school board election results weren’t exactly what I had hoped for but not bad. We didn’t have nearly the controversial races that you had.

    On the other hand, our outlying areas got hammered — not a single levy passed in the Bitterroot, or up in Polson. And poor Frenchtown, after its major revenue source closed its doors (Smurfit-Stone) the good folks there also voted down their school’s mil levy. There will be teacher lay-offs. The downward spiral continues. Let’s hope there are some decent service sector jobs out there for the kids graduating from the Mission Valley, the Bitterroot and Frenchtown; they won’t be qualified for much else.

  • I think you are absolutely right, EF. A more precise way of phrasing it would have been to say that the turnout was closer than it should have been.

    @Pete: Tough night in a lot of places for levies. It’s the mentality of the Legislature coming home to roost, I think. Cutbacks that reduce our investment in our most vital resources, our kids.

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