Friday, January 21, 2022

Here’s to a bright, healthy and collaborative New Year

by Elsie Arntzen
| January 5, 2022 1:00 AM

As we look forward to the New Year, I am excited for the opportunity to continue to serve the state of Montana’s public education system. As I’ve demonstrated to you in years past, my role has been to focus on the children, teachers, and parents in our state. Montana is unique in that public education ranges from large AA schools to small one-room schoolhouses. My focus and support remain steadfast: to provide resources to the teachers who are engaging and enriching the lives of our youth, to advocate for the parents who are our children’s first teachers and greatest supporters, and to remove barriers to learning so that Montana’s children can succeed and thrive.

I have proudly changed the dynamic at the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) since I took office in 2017 and will continue to positively reinforce changes into 2022. The agency was a top-heavy bureaucracy that couldn’t make nimble decisions. The one-size-fits-all approach to learning did not allow the diversity of our schools to flourish. The decisions that I have made at the OPI have directly benefited our teachers and students, which has been my primary goal and focus since taking office. I don’t work for the district superintendents, the school boards, or the unions. I work for the families in the state of Montana that choose public education for their children.

Our front line, the teacher, is my focus in 2022. Teachers deserve a powerful support system from the OPI with resources, professional development opportunities, and fresh perspectives. I will ensure that there isn’t time wasted in their days from unnecessary administrative requirements. We are working toward student assessments that are meaningful, rather than standardized mandated tests that take time away from learning. Our teacher’s licensing system that has been in place for over a decade has been an intensive paper-driven process. I am working to make this more user-friendly, for both the school administration and teachers. I am also working tirelessly to change licensing rules to ensure we have increased reciprocity to invite teachers to Montana.

Mental health for our children is more critical than ever before. I have dedicated stipend incentives for special education teachers and school psychologists. The OPI just secured a school safety grant for our state with monies dedicated to school resource officers partnering with mental health counselors to ensure the safety of our children. Our office received a $5 million dollar grant to allow more flexibility within our food service programs to partner with our Montana ranching and farming communities as a resource for supplying nutrition in our school lunchrooms. These are a few of the initiatives we will continue to work towards this year.

I look forward to serving the families of our great state in 2022. Our goals are within reach with hard work, unified support, and teamwork.

Join me in this effort as we continue to put our Montana students, teachers, and parents first!

Elsie Arntzen is the Montana State Superintendent of Public Instruction

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