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Great Falls Public Schools considers creating a 'magnet' school

Great Falls Public Schools considers creating a 'magnet' school
Posted at 3:13 PM, Oct 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-17 10:30:59-04

GREAT FALLS — In an effort to address challenges of teacher recruitment and retention, Great Falls Public Schools will be proposing what they refer to as "CORE School."

"There are several reasons that led to this idea," said Jackie Mainwaring, GFPS Director of Student Achievement. "It's an idea that has been talked about for quite a while. How can we better support our teachers, how can we provide more choice for our families, and how can we provide excellent instruction for our students. It's really a culmination of an idea that has been going on for quite a while and we hope to address those concerns that we have."

At the elementary level, 44 percent of teachers are in their first three years of teaching. Mainwaring said it has been an increasing challenge to hire teachers, just like the rest of the nation.

"This year especially has been hard to fill all of our teaching positions," Mainwaring said. "We are short teachers. We don't have as many applicants as we used to have, and that goes on across the state and across the nation. We're dealing with it too."

Their proposal of creating a magnet school and applying for public charter school status falls under House Bill 549 would allow the school board to have authority over the school, while at the same time developing an advisory committee.

The proposal will be presented at the October 23rd school board meeting.

Great Falls Public Schools has 15 elementary schools, one of which will be chosen and used as a learning laboratory.

GFPS hopes to partner with University of Montana-Western and Great Falls College-MSU.

"They (U of M Western) are a college partner, and also, Great Falls College-MSU to provide instruction for our big scholars which would be our college students that would be hired as paraprofessionals in our building," said Marni Napierala, who serves as Elementary Teacher On Special Assignment. "We have created that partnership already. Through Western, we have received a grant that would offset costs for our college students for tuition."

If the school is selected, the teachers will need to have masters degrees, as part of their accreditation at Western along with being Montana certified.

In terms of funding, Mainwaring said there would be no increasing costs to the general budget. She noted there could be supplemented costs such as the grant with Western as well as some potential partnerships down the road.

Speaking on the importance of this proposal, GFPS Director of Student Services, Lance Boyd said, "if we are going to combat teacher retention and teacher recruitment, and grow our opportunity to be able to have classrooms that have great educators across the board, we’ve got to get innovative and look for solutions that we can do to be able to maintain the teaching staff that we have and allow our current teachers to grow into the future.”

If approved, they aim to start the CORE School in Autumn 2024.

Two informational sessions will be hosted:
Tuesday, October 17 at 6pm - CMR High School, Bill Williamson Hall
Tuesday, October 24 at 5:30pm - Paris Gibson Education Center Cafeteria

For more information on the proposed CORE School and Frequently Asked Questions, click here.