How many students does it take to silence the buzz of a thousand talking teachers?
Just one. On Tuesday morning, West High student body president Kyle Krenik stepped on stage at the Alberta Bair Theater and the house quieted. He led the Billings Public Schools faculty in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, then introduced a mixed choir drawn from all three Billings public high schools. They performed several tunes a cappella and received a standing ovation.
The 16 singers’ introductions gave a snapshot of the diversity that is Billings’ student body. Before they entered, West, Senior or Skyview, some of the students attended each of the four public middle schools, and several more Billings elementary schools. Others had attended a small rural elementary, private school or home school.
Montana’s largest school district educates them all.
It was fitting that students had prominent roles in the academic year welcome.
“Thank you so much for your time and your service,” Senior High student body president Michael McCallum said to the teacher audience. Then he introduced the new superintendent, Terry Bouck, whose first words praised the student choir and student government leaders.
A majority of school trustees attended the teacher welcome, and Bouck introduced them. He also introduced guests from the larger community, including leaders of the city, local business organizations and heads of nonprofits that partner with the district on after-school programs.
The district has “a pretty brutal budget” for this year, Bouck said, noting how “the board agonized when they passed it” the night before. “But I’m glad they did; we have to operate.”
Bouck said the year will be a fight for funding and a fight to provide the guidance every student needs.
“Communication is paramount,” Bouck said. “My goal is to sustain and improve academic performance for all students.”
Bouck closed his brief remarks to teachers with a quote from America’s sixth president, John Quincy Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”
“I guarantee you all are leaders and this is going to be a great year,” Bouck added.
The school year kickoff was upbeat, student-focused and staff-supportive. The energy, respect and optimism Bouck demonstrated bodes well for Billings. He appropriately included the community. The community should respond.
If you have children or grandchildren in K-12 schools, be part of their daily education. Talk about school with your students every day. Help them establish good, consistent study habits. Communicate with their teachers regularly. Attend school events. And volunteer to help in their classrooms or school.
Those of us who don’t have students in the family can help, too. Contact the principal of the school in your home or business neighborhood and ask what you can do.
Business and community organizations may contact Partners in Education at the Foundation for Billings Public Schools to find out about group volunteer opportunities. Phone 245-4133 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together, Billings people can make this a good year for all our 16,000 students.