As the superintendent of Billings Public Schools, I have experienced firsthand the overwhelming support our community has for our students and our schools. Since moving here, I have seen Billings as a generous community where people help one another.
The parents and teachers here are willing to go the extra mile to ensure our students receive a quality education by dedicating their free time to serve on the PTA or to meet with struggling students outside of class. It is clear that Billings cares about education and cares about our students.
But even with all of the extraordinary efforts exerted by our teachers, parents and stalwart volunteers, our schools need your help.
Our problem is somewhat of a success problem. Although we welcome increased economic development and more families choosing to make Billings their home, it stretches our resources in the school district. Our classrooms are overcrowded; our schools are in danger of losing accreditation with 93 of our classrooms failing to meet state mandated student to teacher ratio.
The $1 million general fund mill levy on the May 7 ballot will help to address the overcrowding in our classrooms by allowing us to hire more teachers. Smaller class sizes keep our students more engaged and allow teachers to provide individual attention to our students.
Our students also desperately need 21st century tools in order to prepare for their future education and careers. Many of our schools have not been able to purchase new computers in over a decade, so our students are not exposed to the most current technology they will be required to use later in life.
The overcrowding at our schools and lack of new computers also make it difficult for students to find an open work station in the school computer lab. Because of this, students without computers at home do not have enough computer time to conduct research or work on their homework.
When the $1.2 million technology levy passes, Billings Public Schools will purchase computers and update our existing technology so every student will have access to the tools they need to succeed.
Investing in our schools not only benefits our students but the entire community. Good schools make Billings more desirable and will help to attract new residents and businesses. This in turn increases economic development and makes Billings a better place to live. An investment in our schools is an investment in Billings.
It takes a whole community, individual by individual, to provide the quality of education that we expect in Billings Public Schools. I know Billings will continue to demonstrate its commitment to our schools by supporting these critical levies. Please cast a “yes” vote for our students when you receive your ballet in the mail this week. Remember to return your ballot by May 7.
Finally, it is important to me, that accurate information is available to you regarding these two important initiatives. Please take a moment to visit the Billings Public Schools website at www.billingsschools.org for school levy and election information.