SD2 Mill Levy

Superintendent of Billings Public Schools Greg Upham speaks during the campaign kickoff for a high school operational levy at the chapel on the St. John's campus in Billings on April 10.

Plans for money from the freshly approved high school levy took shape at Monday’s School District 2 trustee meeting.

Voters passed the first high school levy in 12 years on May 7 with a 60% “yes” tally.

“It was a much-needed levy,” school board chairwoman Greta Besch Moen said. “I’m very thankful to our community.”

Montana requires school to hit a minimum budget using state, local and federal money. But local voters can choose to increase their taxes to supplement that budget by up to 20 percent. 

“We asked our students to become involved with this, and I thought they did an outstanding job,” superintendent Greg Upham said.

The district is planning to hire four career counselors, one at each high school plus the Career Center, by July.

Upham said they’re looking for people with a business experience as well as an academic background.

“We want someone who’s been in business to assist us” with hiring, he said.

Most of the money raised by the levy will go toward replacing textbooks. Suggestions for science, geometry and world history that were rolled out to trustees offered a window into how that process will work. 

The district has been behind for years on updating textbooks, both for their content and condition.  

Monday's suggestions have been in the works for years. Subject area committees finished their work on selections in fall 2018.

The committees were made up of nine teachers. The groups narrowed textbook suggestions to a few models, then more teachers weighed in on the final decision.

The actual brick-books will only be purchased as classroom copies, and a digital subscription will be bought for each student. This group will be bought using about $500,000 in tuition money from Lockwood, which pays money to School District 2 to educate its high-schoolers that it doesn't offer classes for while it builds its new high school.

Lockwood previously sent high-schoolers to Billings high schools before expanding from a K-8 to K-12 district. It plans to open a freshman academy this fall, and complete its full building for the next school year. 

That means that tuition money for SD2 will get smaller and smaller until Lockwood students in Billings high schools age out for good. 

High school curriculum executive director Chris Olszewski said that the $500,000 was earmarked under previous superintendent Terry Bouck, and that it's likely the shrinking pool of money will be re-purposed in subsequent years. 

Levy money will be used for later textbook selections. 

Monday’s presentation wasn’t a final recommendation, which is expected to be made in July. After that recommendation, there’s a 30-day public review period for materials.

“We want to engage the public on the 30-day review on these materials,” Olszewski said.

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