Libby Public Schools pursuit of better education through intense grant writing

Left to right: Robi Hughes, Elise Erickson, Ruby Martin, Sally Weber, Isaac O’Roark, and Maverick Owens. Maddi Broden is not pictured. Photo courtesy of Renee Rose, The Montanian

By Tyler Whitney

 

The human brain is amazing at ignoring the everyday goings-on that live in the periphery of our fast-moving lives filled with our main characters and never-ceasing drama. Most of the time, we don’t even notice our heart beating or the guy who checks the water meter when we’re away at work. But parts of the world hidden from view don’t make them any less valuable or important. One of these hidden parts of the world that Libby specifically requires to thrive is propped up by Scott Beagle who works as the Curriculum, Special Programs, and Grant Coordinator in the Superintendent’s Office in the Libby School district. Most recently, in applying to the Montana Comprehensive Literacy State Development Program (MCLSDP), Beagle and his team have acquired $450,000 a year for the next five years from the state to improve the education of disadvantaged students in Libby’s schools.

Marking the fourth year at his current post, Beagle has dedicated over two decades to working alongside the parents and students of Libby in pursuit of better education.

A native “Libby-ite”, Beagle grew up truly loving math and numbers, and after graduating from Gonzaga, he wanted to return and give something back to the community that raised him. In 1997, he found a job as an elementary math teacher, and though he adored what he did, Beagle felt a pull to do more and became the principal of the elementary school in 2009. Then, when the elementary schools consolidated, he transitioned into the vice principal role for the new elementary school.

In 2016, however, Beagle joined what is now his current position, and was tasked with an important undertaking of acquiring a portion of the 24 million-dollar Montana Comprehensive Literacy Program (MCLP) grant. He succeeded, and the Libby School District improved as evidenced by the 9.8 percentage points proficiency increase in math and 5.6 percentage points increase in literacy proficiency between grades 3-8 from 2016 to 2019. Graduation rates too have seen an increase, rising from 35% to 65% in the last five years.

Unfortunately, the MCLP grant ends this year, and though nearly $200,000 will carry over into this Fall, Libby schools will sorely miss the grant money they were receiving. However, with the old grant’s expiration, Beagle immediately began his work to apply to the new 50 million dollar 5-year MCLSDP grant. Though the final iteration of the grant application was only 30 pages, to reach that point,

Beagle and his team of English teachers along with his wife, wrote, rewrote, edited, and revised hundreds of pages. The process takes so long due to the technical nature of grant writing. Strict rubrics and standards are given by the Office of Public Instruction for the final document, requiring years of data and charts showing how education is operating in the school district and a slew of other criteria. What is the district doing well? How so? What could they be doing better? What is stopping them? What are the goals if the school receives the money? What is the five-year plan for the money? How are these questions answered differently for Kindergarten? Middle School? Elementary? Highschool?

These questions, along with a mountain of others, have to be answered meticulously and efficiently if there is a hope at receiving money in the highly competitive process.

 

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Students’ research projects bring rewards & recognition

By McKenzie Williams

 

The University of Montana has been sponsoring and supporting original research in middle and high school classrooms across the state for a number of years. Currently they are working under a program called REACH (Research Education on Air and Cardiovascular Health). Students in rural and medically underserved communities may face unique challenges and they do not always have adequate access to educational opportunities  that cultivate biomedical knowledge and an interest in scientific careers. The REACH program aims to fill those possible gaps by offering students an opportunity to explore scientific careers.

Participating students from across the state are asked to first choose and then design a research project involving air quality, particularly radon and particulate matter. Next, they are asked to conduct their research and present their findings at an annual symposium held in Missoula. This year, the symposium was held virtually due to Coronavirus. Students’ research projects and results had to be submitted as slide presentations to be judged.

Science teacher and REACH coach, Renee Rose wrote, “Libby High School has participated successfully in this program a number of times over the years. This year was no exception. One of the three projects submitted by Libby High School earned a second place at the virtual symposium. Isaac O’Roark and Elise Erickson were awarded one hundred dollars each for their project, Does Radon Affect Plant Growth?”

Thirty-three projects were submitted altogether by five different schools. Overall, Libby earned the highest average score for their projects, an honor in and of itself.

The other projects submitted by Libby students were called, “Scent Products’ PM 2.5 Emission Levels,”  by Maddi Broden, Ruby Martin, and Sally Weber, and “Air Temperature Inversions and Their Effect on Air Pollution For Libby, Montana October to February, 2017 to 2020,” by Maverick Owens.

Kootenai Muzzleloaders Two Rivers Rendezvous

By Brian Baxter

 

The July 2020 Two Rivers Rendezvous will be held from July 9 to 12 at the Fawn Creek  Campground near Libby. Camp will open on Thursday, July 9, then on Friday and Saturday, there will be events for rifle, pistol, smoothbore, tomahawk and knife, and primitive archery trails.

On Sunday, muzzle loader shotgun contests will be held and awards will follow. Contest conditions will include load from the pouch, patched round ball, open iron sights, single shot pistols only, and points for period dress.

This year, there will also be food vendors at the event, but not smoking or alcohol will be allowed anywhere on any trail. Camps include separate primitive and modern camps. Fees will include a $15 camp fee, and $5 per shooter, with a blanket prize for each shooter. Voluntary donations from traders are accepted.

There may be fire restrictions, so be prepared to have no open fires, and participants are required to bring a fire bucket, shovel, and ax. Please bring your own drinking water, but there will be non-potable water available. Also be prepared to shoot early in the day due to fire restrictions.

This unique event has historical accents as one walks through the primitive camps, mixing with the men, women, and children in characteristic dress of the period. The mountain man era in the areas of Northwest Montana ranged from 1800-1880, with the peak around 1840.

Famous explorer and surveyor, David Thompson, and his party lived, traveled, and traded with indigenous peoples and early mountain men who trapped beaver, otter, pine marten and mink in this area. Along the Kootenai and now named Fisher River, they traded with the Kootenai, Salish, and Flathead peoples, and archaeological records have been verified to show ancient campgrounds and mountain man era trading posts in this immediate area.

The cast of colorful Rocky Mountain Men includes Seth Kinman, who was reportedly known to have hunted down scores of grizzly bears. And John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, who as the story goes escaped following capture by the Blackfeet Tribe, naked and alone and ran into the wild seeking freedom. He survived the ordeal, and the legend of his story became known as Colter’s Run. Then there was also John “Liver Eating” Johnson (1824-1900), who worked Wyoming  and Montana trapping beaver, hunting bison, and trapping wolves. Local legend has it he wintered and lived within miles of the Fawn Creek Campground. Elements of Johnson’s story are profiled in a biography of this mountain man by author Dennis McLelland, and in the film Jeremiah Johnson. Mountain men often partnered with Native Indigenous women, who knew the land, the tribal languages, and rich locations to harvest game and furs.

To get to Fawn Creek Camp and the rendezvous from Libby, go north on Hwy. 37 for 14 miles, and just after crossing the Fisher / Kootenai River Bridge, turn right and continue for eight miles. Fawn Creek will be on your right. Enter the gate and follow your nose.

The organizers expressed a need for volunteers, and relayed that any help would be greatly appreciated. Volunteers are needed during the days prior to the event for set up, mowing, hanging targets, and setting up the archery range and rifle / pistol trail walks.

For more information and to volunteer, contact Dave Windom at 283-1916, or email him at dwindom@rocket mail.com. Potential volunteers can also contact Mark Morain at 293-8239, and email him at mmorain@frontiernet.net, or call Gary Beal at 295-5271. Visit their event’s Facebook page, or contact them by mail at Kootenai Muzzleloaders, P.O. Box 460, Libby, Montana, 59923.

About the event, Windom told The Montanian of his optimism when he said, “This is one of the few Rendezvous held in western Montana, and in such a beautiful location.”

Tom Oar (middle) hanging with some fellow mountain men at the Two Rivers Rendezvous on July 11, 2019. Photo by Brian Baxter, The Montanian.