“Better Days Ahead In Heart Butte School”

This story was originally published Oct. 6, 2015 in the Great Falls Tribune

“It would be easy to dismiss Heart Butte Schools as a failure.

The school has been through eight administrators in just a few years, has a dropout rate in the double digits, had a 50 percent staff turnover this year, has a student body living in poverty and struggled to meet proficiency standards on state and federal assessments in math and English for more than a decade.

But not all is lost in this K-12 school with 187 students sitting on 40 acres next to the Rocky Mountain Front in the southwest corner of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. In fact things are very much on the rise for the Heart Butte Warriors and will hopefully continue to improve thanks to a new investment from the Montana Office of Public Instruction’s $1.4 million Schools of Promise grant program.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” said Jody Aimsback, a parent and coach at the school.

The $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s school improvement grant fund will be spread out over four years. State Superintendent Denise Juneau said Heart Butte is the sixth school in Montana identified for the Schools of Promise program. The program launched in 2010 to raise standards and expectations in the poorest performing 5 percent of schools in the state. All of the schools identified have been on or next to reservations.

“It’s some of the most important work we do,” Juneau said.”

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