- Missoula County Public Schools
Meet the Superintendent
In April 2019, Rob Watson was selected as the incoming Superintendent of Missoula County Public Schools. For the past 7 years he has served as the Superintendent of Bozeman Public Schools. Previously, Rob worked as the Principal of Bozeman High School (2009-2012) and as a middle and high school principal in Missoula County Public Schools (2001-2009). Rob has also worked as a school administrator in Great Falls and began his career as a math and science teacher in Anchorage, Alaska.
Rob has a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from Montana State University, a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Alaska, and received his Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Montana in 2009. Currently, Rob is a member of the Certification Standards and Practices Advisory Council for the Montana Board of Public Education. Rob also has experience as a board member for several local organizations: the Bozeman Public Library Foundation, Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, and Greater Gallatin United Way.
In 2015, Rob was in the inaugural group, joining 27 fellow superintendents from around the country, to achieve National Superintendent Certification. In 2016, Rob was honored by the School Administrators of Montana with the GV Erickson Award - the highest recognition given to a school administrator for notable service and dedication. In 2019, Rob was named Montana’s Superintendent of the Year.
Rob believes that providing positive leadership for the local education community is important in creating opportunities to help all students succeed.
Back to School 2019
December 20, 2019Posted by Tracy Long on 12/20/2019
Dear MCPS Education Team and Community Supporters,
Welcome to the busy holiday season!
I have spent the past few weeks attending various concerts around the district, which I have greatly enjoyed. I have seen so many smiling faces and excitement. This reminded me to stop and say THANK YOU to all our talented staff for the many hours of practice, organization and efforts that go into the performances. We appreciate everything you do for our District, our students and our community. I have posted a few pictures from around the district on my twitter account. You can view these and other various happenings from around the district on my twitter feed.
Hawthorne Music Program - December 2019
What will be the direction for the next 3-5 Years?
I am positive I am not the only person who wonders about this important question. If you are also interested in this topic, I would encourage you to participate in our strategic planning process. The MCPS Board has invited the Montana School Boards Association to help us and facilitate our strategic planning process. This process will kick-off in January. Please watch for important announcements regarding dates and times. In addition, we will be asking you to participate in a stakeholder survey to be launched in January. The survey results will help define our work towards creating the vision for MCPS. Thanks for your interest and participation in this important process.
Superintendent Advisory Council (SAC)
You may have heard about the formation of the SAC groups. There are actually three separate SAC groups. One for certified, one for classified and one for parents. These meetings will start in January. The purpose of the SAC is for me to gain valuable feedback from our team and our parent community. I have asked building Principals to help nominate representatives for each group. At the meetings, I will share some District updates as well as discuss next steps for some of our important work. We will focus on issues that are important to the entire District. It is my hope that you will be sharing questions with your building SAC reps and they will be sharing some of the items that we have discussed at our meetings. I am looking forward to the time for reflection and discussion.
Feedback from my first five months on the job.
On July 9, 2019, I presented an entry plan to the Board of Trustees. The purpose of the plan was to guide my work as I transitioned into the Superintendent position at MCPS. The anticipated timeline of the plan was 3-6 months. As such, the plan became known as the 100-day plan. The plan included the following components: (1) Listening and Learning: engagement of stakeholders and (2) Reporting: sharing results with the Board and community.
At the past two board meetings, I presented some preliminary results of the 100-day plan and engaged the Board in a discussion around some of the emerging themes from the learning and listening sessions. For more information, visit my presentation slides. You can also view the MCAT coverage of the Board meetings on our YouTube channel.
Please enjoy a well-deserved and restful break with family and friends. I am looking forward to seeing everyone in the new year.
Thanks for reading! Rob
November MessagePosted by Rob Watson on 11/7/2019 6:00:00 PM
Winter Weather and school delays and closures
We are approaching the winter season and we want to make sure you know where to find information regarding any weather related delays or cancellations to our normal school schedule.
When school is delayed or cancelled due to weather, it is our District’s goal to notify families, students and the public by 6:15 a.m. This decision is based on input from local law enforcement, our transportation partner Beach Transportation, and our own staff research of current road conditions.
We post notifications about delays or cancellations on our district website homepage at www.mcpsmt.org. This information will also be posted on each school’s website homepage. We also post the information on our district Mobile App, as well as the MCPS Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
For those families that opt to receive emails, phone calls and text messages from the Districts mass notification system, you will receive a notice directly via phone, email and text.
Finally, you will see the information reported by local media on the radio and television as well as their own websites. When looking at reports on local media, be sure that you look for notices related to Missoula County Public Schools or School District #1. Sometimes other schools in the area are affected and our 18 schools remain on normal schedules. If in doubt, check one of our MCPS websites or social media accounts.
For more information visit the MCPS Communications Office webpage.
Serious health issues tied to vaping
As you know, vaping is on the rise among teens across the country and the data from the Montana Youth Risk Behavior Study shows that over 55% of our high school students and 31% of our 7th and 8th grade students have tried vaping at least once. At the state level, 58% of high school students and 28% of 7th and 8th grade students report that they have tried vaping at least once. While many of our students report they have experimented with these devices, most are not current users. As an educator, I share the concerns of many regarding these statistics and the dangers of these products.
The Surgeon General has stated that we should protect our children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated health risks by immediately addressing the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. According to the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program:
- Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm brain development, which continues until age 25.
- E-cigarette aerosol can contain ultrafine particles and cancer-causing chemicals.
- Youth who use e-cigarettes are 4 times more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.
- The long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are unknown.
There are now over 20 reported deaths nationwide and one in Montana due to mysterious lung illnesses tied to vaping and vaping products.
In light of this public health issue, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) announced this week that they will implement emergency administrative rules starting on October 22, 2019 to temporarily prohibit the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products, including flavored nicotine, THC, and CBD vaping products, in-store and online.
Please visit our www.mcpsmt.org/vaping for information about:
- What have we done as a school community to address vaping
- The consequences of a student at possessing, using or selling tobacco products on campus
- What you can do as a parent
Thank you for your consideration in this important matter.
English Language Arts and Math Curriculum work in classrooms across the District
English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum is in the second year of implementation district wide. Elementary classrooms have started the year setting up their Daily 5 systems with students in their classrooms. By the end of this year, all schools will be implementing the IRLA, which is part of the three-legged foundation of our elementary ELA curriculum model. This independent reading level assessment developed by the American Reading Company provides teachers with specific data that can direct their actions for individual students around building reading proficiency.
Jeannette Rankin, Lowell, and Paxson Elementary will be implementing the IRLA with the support of reading coaches from the American Reading Company and the Teaching & Learning coaches.
Middle and high school teachers are continuing with their Engage NY implementation.
At the high school level, we are seeing where teacher insights have informed our implementation to make sure we are bringing Indian Education for All (IEFA) into our teaching of ELA curriculum. High school English teachers in collaboration with the Indian Education Department selected the novel There There for use in 10th grade classrooms and many of those teachers participated in the UM President’s Lecture Series last week with the author Tommy Orange.
Math curriculum is in its first year of implementation in K-9 classrooms. In our elementary schools, this year’s focus is learning about the pedagogical approach found in our new Ready Classroom math materials. Three main components in the new materials are discourse-driven mathematical classrooms, connecting mathematical understandings across grade levels, and empowering all learners. These materials also reflect the new mathematical standards that came out when we adopted the Montana Standards. After focusing on the pedagogical approach found in the Ready Classroom and iReady (online) math materials in three trainings this school year, the elementary classrooms will roll out the new teaching materials to students in 2020-21.
In 6-9th grade classrooms, the new math curriculum materials (also known as Carnegie) are being rolled out with the primary goal of having teachers learn about the materials and become familiar with the new content. Math teachers came together in 3-day trainings this summer to be ready to roll out the new content in their classrooms this school year. These teachers are also using their collaborative Professional Learning Community (PLC) time to problem solve and focus on prioritized standards found in the curriculum. The Carnegie curriculum materials are aligned with the Montana Standards and they focus on creating collaborative rather than individual learning about math along with a shift to students doing more of the cognitive work in their math classrooms. The online Mathia component of our math curriculum provides students with individualized attention on an adaptive system that also provides teachers with data about students’ areas of strength and weakness that need to be addressed. Students should spend 70-90 minutes per week on Mathia. This instructional resource is being used within the math classes as well as during intervention and enrichment time in middle schools. Carnegie coaches will travel to our district monthly to work with teachers and will rotate through every classroom throughout the year to ensure that every math teacher receives side by side coaching and support in the first year of implementation.
Superintendent's UpdatesPosted by Rob Watson on 9/30/2019 8:30:00 AM
Dear MCPS Staff, Parents and Community Partners,
First 100 Days
As I move through my first 100 days as your new Superintendent, I am intentionally engaging with our staff, our parents and our community. In the past few weeks, I have met with the noon Kiwanis club, the Rose Park Neighborhood Council, noon Rotary, the Exchange Club, Arts Missoula, and the Missoula Pachyderm club. I have also been meeting with community leaders in health care and city/county governance. It has been great talking with everyone about district updates and sharing some thoughts about work to be done this year. I am also learning about District partnerships and how can improve our connection to the community.
Our student enrollment is up this year. We won’t have the official count until the first Monday in October. In order to meet this increased enrollment need, we did add a few teachers during the first few weeks of the school year. We created a new K classroom at Russell, 1st at Chief Charlo and 8th at C.S. Porter. It is always difficult to add teachers and shuffle student schedules at the start of the school year. However, we received more students at those grade levels – more than we anticipated. Although it seems like a last minute decision, it was necessary to meet accreditation standards regarding class size. I appreciate the flexibility of students, staff and parents as these additional staff bring schedule changes.
Hawthorne Elementary earned National Blue Ribbon Status
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos this week recognized 362 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2019. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Hawthorne Elementary School was selected as an Exemplary High Performing School. This distinction carries significance due to the fact that Hawthorne is also one of four elementary schools in the District that receive Title I funding to support the high numbers of students who are impacted by poverty.
I share the pride of our entire District in celebrating Hawthorne’s student and staff achievement. This is a significant distinction and brings the total number of National Blue Ribbon Schools in our District to four. Hawthorne joins Franklin (2006), Russell (2011) and Cold Springs (2011 now Jeannette Rankin Elementary) in this honor.
August 2019 marked the 109th first day of school at Hawthorne Elementary. Throughout the years, the school community has grown and changed while their Tradition of Excellence remained strong.
Due to the rural influence, nearby rivers and open spaces, the Hawthorne community has traditionally valued outdoor education and the sciences. Community partnerships have become an important part of their instructional program. Grade level teams partner with nearby farms and agencies to study local ecosystems. In addition, each grade level includes a minimum of two Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) units. Hawthorne teachers are also national trainers of STEM education within the Project Lead The Way organization. Using the Engineering Design Process, students learn problem solving strategies and perseverance. Our goal is to teach content area standards while students make connections to real world situations.
There are two factors that have significantly impacted student achievement at Hawthorne. The first is the use of the Professional Learning Community (PLC) model of collaboration. PLCs use data to plan for instruction, intervention, and enrichment. Teachers study best practices and work together to use them effectively. The second factor is a focus on building community in classrooms, across grade levels, and throughout the school. Teachers explicitly model and teach our school expectations- Be Responsible, Respectful, Safe, and Kind. Positive and specific feedback is provided to students in class and in common areas. Using video announcements and a corps of Student Reporters, we showcase classroom and school activities. We host monthly family events such as a Health Fair and STEAM night.
As we help students build stamina for reading, writing, and problem solving, we promote achievement and Hawk Pride throughout the Hawthorne School community.
The school has high numbers of students scoring advanced in Math, an area where our District and our State are still trying to make large gains in student achievement. In 2019, 44% of 5th graders were advanced on the Math portion of the Smarter Balanced Assessment while the state average was 20% and our District average was 31%. In the same year, 40% of 4th graders were advanced on the Math portion of the Smarter Balanced Assessment while the state average was 17% and the District average was 24% and 44% of third graders were advanced on the Math portion of the Smarter Balanced Assessment while the state average was 18% and the District average was 22%. In the past two years, Hawthorne’s math scores have been 25-30% points above the state. This is the result of the school’s common language across the school, their instructional time (60-75 minutes per day) dedicated to teaching math and the implementation of the What I Need (WIN) time to meet individual student needs with intervention and enrichment activities.
“Whenever we can, we push in support rather than pull student out of the classroom,” noted Principal Becky Sorenson. “Our teachers and para educators take the professional learning seriously. They study together at a Professional Learning Community and they hold themselves and our students to high standards. The collaboration and professionalism of all staff is, in my opinion, what sets us apart.”
Although we have no confirmed cases in our District as of today, there are positive cases in neighboring school districts as well as day-care centers. We sent an email to all parents with information about potential pertussis recurrence and the protocols.
If you have questions about pertussis symptoms, exclusions procedures, or immunizations, contact the Missoula City-County Health Department’s Infectious Disease Nurse at (406) 258-3896 Monday-Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
On September 20, there was student organization around a school strike to call attention to climate change, as part of an international movement. Below is communication that was sent to high school and middle school parents prior to the strike.
Our teachers, support staff, and administrators won’t discourage or resist student efforts to participate in the climate strike events. We also can’t encourage student participation in such events. School Board policy and state law prohibits employees of public organizations from participating in political speech while at work.
The school district can, and does, engage in the academic pursuit of knowledge about climate change as well as practical, implementable solutions to the problems connected with climate change. We know that climate change is real and we are committed to doing our part to create solutions to stop its devastating impact on our planet. As a District, we have adopted Zero by Fifty goals aligned with the city of Missoula’s Zero by Fifty plan. We have actions connected to those goals across the district, including the solar installations being completed at four of our urban high school campuses which allow for student research; the recycling and composting pilot at Jeannette Rankin Elementary; and the 5th grade Zero Waste Ambassadors Program (ZWAP) conducted at all nine of our elementary schools in coordination with Home ReSource. We teach about climate change in our science classes following the Next Generation Science Standards. There are also inspiring instances of student leadership within the S.A.V.E. club at Hellgate and the Eco Club at Sentinel. These represent just a few examples of what we are doing to demonstrate our commitment to this issue, but as a District we know we can do more. In the coming months, District administration has committed to engaging student leadership on this important issue in an effort to create future actionable steps.
Within our school environments, our first priority is to create safe learning spaces for our students. This includes providing a safe environment that allows students to learn about controversial issues and develop and express educated opinions on these issues. It is reasonable that students may discuss the strike in the normal course of classroom conversation on current events or in connection with other elements of District curriculum. Civil discourse of controversial issues is an important part of our democratic process and as such should be practiced and encouraged in our educational environments. This practice is also supported by school district policy.
As we do each day, we will follow existing school-based procedures for reporting and managing absences during the period of climate strike events.
Thanks for reading!
Welcome to the 2019-2020 School Year!Posted by Rob Watson on 8/28/2019
Dear MCPS Families,
I am excited to welcome you and your students to another great school year in MCPS. Some of you are just joining our school district for the first time as parents of high school freshman, or you have recently moved to Missoula and this is your first time in our schools.
I too am starting my first school year as your Superintendent and I can say with pride that our school staff are excited to work with your students this year. We share a common goal of seeing your student succeed and we know that it will be an important partnership between the school and the family to make that happen.
I also wanted to share a few exciting updates as we start the school year:
Seatbelts on school buses: Last Friday I sent you a message about the seatbelts that have been added to two-thirds of our school buses. Please remind your student to buckle up if they are on a bus with seatbelts installed.
MCPS ParentLink: This week you will receive some exciting news from Hatton Littman, our Communications Director, about MCPS ParentLink. This is our upgraded mass notification system that will enable you to customize your communication preferences and allow all teachers as well as schools and the district to share important information with you via text, email, and phone. Keep an eye out for her message and be sure to log into ParentLink.
Smart Snacks in School: Since 2014, we have been in implementing various stages of our District Wellness Policy. This school year, we are focusing on encouraging healthy snacks when food is served during classroom parties and school celebrations. We are also taking a look at fundraisers and encouraging healthy snacks that align with our District Wellness Policy. Keep an eye out for messages related to our District Wellness Policy in the coming weeks.
Changes in the school lunch program at Hawthorne, Russell, Lowell and Franklin, C.S. Porter: Previously, Missoula County Public Schools offered breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students at eight of our schools each day through an opportunity called Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). This program was phased out in three schools in the fall of 2018 (Chief Charlo, Paxson and Meadow Hill) and phased out in five additional schools (Franklin, Hawthorne, Lowell, Russell and C.S. Porter) at the end of the 2019 school year.
Due to a negative financial impact on food service, CEP is no longer a viable option for Missoula County Public Schools. MCPS will continue to offer a healthy breakfast and lunch to students during the school day, but will return to the previous system of collecting household applications for households that wish to apply for free or reduced price meals.
Keep an eye out for letters with Free and Reduced Price Lunch applications from from your school this fall. Even if the paperwork has not been submitted yet, we make sure that every student who needs a meal is served a breakfast or lunch while we await the paperwork.
If any member of your household receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) benefits, your child automatically qualifies for free meals. You should receive a notification from MCPS informing you that you do not need to submit an application. If you or a household member receives SNAP, TANF, or FDIPR benefits, but you do not receive a notification, you may submit an application with your case number to qualify for free meals.
If you have any questions, or need assistance completing your application for free or reduced price meals, please contact Stacey Rossmller at 728-2400 ext. 3023 or email at email@example.com
English Language Arts and Math curriculum implementation: This year marks the second year of implementation on our new English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum. Elementary parents will be learning about how they can help at home with student reading goals. Middle and high school parents should continue to see evidence of their student learning through marked-up reading passages and in-depth writing assignments.
We will start the implementation of our new math curriculum this year with a focus on our middle school and 9th grade math classrooms. If you have specific questions regarding the new curriculum, I would encourage you to reach out to your child’s math teacher.
School Year Calendar Change: At our August board meeting, MCPS Trustees approved adjustments to the school calendar for the Preschool Program, Early Kindergarten Program, as well as all elementary, middle and urban high schools. The calendar change does not impact Seeley Swan High School.
MCPS was selected to host the AA and Class C high schools state track meets on May 22 & 23, 2020, as well as the state AA Softball tournament to occur the same weekend. Given the large amount of students who may participate in these events, as well as the staff who will help support the events as volunteers, Friday May 22, 2020 will now be an unscheduled/no school day for K-12, and the last day of the school year will be modified to June 11, 2020.
I look forward to meeting many of you as I make the rounds of the District on our first few days of school and at upcoming school events.
Thanks for your partnership in education,
Missoula County Public Schools