Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of six profiles on

candidates for school board.

Barbara Rush believes there are many ways the schools in Helena can be improved and she’s dedicated to making the necessary improvements.

“We are below state average in math at every grade level and we can do better,” Rush said, adding that with more academic focus scores can be improved.

Rush is one of four candidates running for a three-year seat on the Helena School Board of Trustees. She ran unsuccessfully last year, but says it’s a whole new ballgame this time around.

“I didn’t really campaign last year,” she said. “With my background and my educational experience I thought I would be a good person to be involved at this time and see if I can make a difference.”

Her husband Jon served one term on the Helena School Board in the mid-1990s.

Rush has been openly critical of the school district and its board of trustees during public comment periods after each board meeting, and has submitted numerous letters to the editor to the Independent Record.

In December, she penned a letter saying the district is not teaching children what independence and personal responsibility looks like if an entire school is giving students free breakfast and lunch, no questions asked.

“If you can make a sandwich, you should be doing it …” the letter read. “Make your children a lunch and tell the school you expect them to eat it, not the one the schools are giving out.”

Rush said schools should model responsibility, but by giving children free food, it models that parents don’t make lunches for their children.

“I agree with the free-and-reduced-lunch program, just not a blanket approach,” she said.

Another letter she wrote in September of 2009 said as a teacher she’s not surprised to hear that more than two-thirds of the Helena schools failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks for No Child Left Behind.

She said when she started teaching here in 1975, the schools here were always in the top 25 percent of national tests, and if teachers hadn’t covered a certain amount of curriculum in every academic area by mid-year, the principal would want to know why.

“The purpose of school was academics,” she wrote.

By the time she retired the principals spent time monitoring implementation of programs, sent teachers to workshops and ensured teachers went to committee meetings and primarily carried forward the government grant agenda, she said. These programs take teachers away from classroom instruction, she added.

Rush says overall there are too many out-of-state programs taking away from learning.

“We need to focus more on academics,” she said, adding that teachers shouldn’t be forced to be on any committees unless they are academic-oriented. “Teachers should be planning lessons well for the classroom and creating the best academic environment we can get.”

Having teachers in the classroom is particularly helpful for at-risk students, who Rush said need a focused, calm and consistent environment.

“We’ve gone whole child to the point where our social teaching is interfering to the point that it’s watering down our academics,” she said.

Rush said she’s not proposing that all programs go away, but that the district should do a better job at limiting them.

She also doesn’t think the district operates in a unified manner when it comes to such grants and programs.

“The school board is responsible for the direction of the school district, which includes evaluating grants and permission should be granted before the application is sent,” she said. “Many of the social programs take away from a child’s ability to learn. Each school does what they want. The board should be more active in evaluating how schools are operating just as they do the superintendent.”

She says not every elementary school is doing the same phonics program, for example, and it used to be that when materials and curriculum were adopted, everybody practiced the same. There needs to be a better process of collecting data and evaluating these programs to ensure they are effective, she said.

“I think we should have one math program and one reading program,” Rush said.

Rush openly disagreed with the health enhancement curriculum and testified against it multiple times, but not because she doesn’t feel health isn’t important to teach, but because parents, who are not district employees, were not represented during the development process, she said.

“I don’t feel parents were fairly represented,” Rush said. “But I do think we have values in common that are important — honesty, respect, discipline, hard work, personal responsibility … they don’t need to learn about anal and oral sex in the fifth grade. That’s not helpful.”

Rush agreed that there should be some sex education in high school, but an opt-out option needs to be easily and readily available, she said.

The curriculum is likely why there are so many candidates running in this election, she added.

“Sex education really got people more aware,” she said. “We all need to feel informed.”

However, her main reason for running this election is to improve academic focus, and she had planned to run again before the revised health curriculum was approved.

The school district needs to operate within its budgetary boundaries, and Rush doesn’t necessarily agree with how they manage funds. She’s particularly critical that there is no line item in the general fund budget for textbooks. Rush does believe that teachers are a good investment of dollars and in Helena they are paid fairly.

“I wouldn’t cut teachers or their supplies,” she said.

Rush says schools are a key component of the community and taxpayers put a great deal of their money into funding them. Therefore, she said, they should be able to trust that they are doing a good job. She says she will work with her fellow trustees to ensure that happens.

“We can find common ground — we all care about kids and schools,” she said.

Because she’s been around the school community most her life, Rush believes she has a lot to offer the board.

“I can bring up and ask important questions because of my background,” Rush said. “I can be useful. I work well with people — this is not a left-right world, it’s a middle world.”

Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or alana.listoe@helenair.com

(12) comments

mtbiker

Running against free and reduced school lunches is not too impressive. If "personal responsibility" is the concern, why even have public schools? We could leave individual education to "personal responsibility."

MTView

Yes, we need someone like Barbara Rush who knows how to read a budget, supports teachers & helps to push academic greatness for our students. It is time to get back to the basics & get rid of the social justice & extensive sex education promotions! BTW, sex education does not help children find a good paying job. Time is precious for our children & parents need to know that they can put their trust in their school board trustees in focusing on what is best for our students & that teachers will have the materials that will help students learn to be good productive citizens & have the skills to find good paying jobs or start their own businesses. I have a friend that owns a business & they hire many high schools students. They find that these students are unable not count change & do not have a good work ethic. Most of them could care less if they keep a job or not.

I think a major item that is missing in our public schools is a good disciplinary program. When I grew up we did not have very many unruly children because if they acted up they were out of the classroom, punished by school officials & the parents were held accountable for their children's actions. That does not occur today. Now, they just give them a slap on the wrist & the child continues to stay in the classroom disrupting the teacher & the students, which affects the rest of the students learning. Not much gets done because the teacher spends a lot of time trying to control the unruly child & the other good students do not get enough time personally from their teacher to get a good education. I hope we can get some new trustees that will have the courage to make some changes & not a group of trustees that just rubber stamp whatever our lustrous Superintendent Bruce Messinger wants!

Vote for Renshaw, Rush & Sticht on May 3, 2011.

steeline

Some people just don't get it. It is going to be very hard for those people to grasp the consept of "responsibility". We need to sweep the School Board floor, so to speak, and clean out the extreme progressive socialists. Barbara Rush is a step in the right direction. Vote for her. We have to get America Right.

TheresaLode

Bravo to Barb Rush! After living out of state for several years and then returning, my horror at what the school board here has passed still staggers me.
It is clear the Helena School district goals are more about social engineering than it is about fundamental skills in math, reading and writing.
Barb, you have my support!

Jack-Ruby
Jack-Ruby

Here is Ms. Rush. Uh..no thanks. We have to get America RIGHT...not wacky:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Kujqk59sbY&feature=player_embedded


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ShgwZkLMzkM

belle517

This echoes of the legislative, conservative candidates campaigns. She says her MAIN GOAL is to “improve academic focus”. But if she’s elected, as outspoken as she has been against this curriculum, I can see that her, and those like her, would immediately put all their efforts towards trying to have the new sex-ed curriculum overturned. The conservative legislators, who almost all said “smaller gov’t, fiscal responsibility, no Obamacare”, immediately gave themselves raises and then went after abortion rights and repealing MM, among many other their “moral causes”. For most of the conservative candidates, these were things that they never even addressed in their campaigns. When they got into office, instead of taxing and regulating medical marijuana which would have increased gov’t revenues and created many private sector jobs, they’d have it repealed in its entirety, no matter the cost to the taxpayers of this state, or the loss of jobs to the people currently working in that industry. I applaud this woman for at least providing a position on this topic, but to say it’s not a main reason why she’s running for this position is ludicrous after the way she has spoken out against it.

Blackbear

Vote for Renshaw, Rush & Sticht on May 3, 2011.

If you want changes to the school board, you have to get out and vote.
Voting for the same people that already make up a disfunctial
school board make no sense at all. Lets get some people in there that will vote for what they believe and not what Messinger wants them to believe.

Shamrock

Seems to me like Barbara Rush has nothing to gain or lose by running for school board. She has a wealth of experience and ideas and wants to improve our schools. She is definitely what the school board needs. You have my vote and support.

HLNMTALLMYLIFE

[quote]MTView said: "Yes, we need someone like Barbara Rush who knows how to read a budget, supports teachers & helps to push academic greatness for our students. It is time to get back to the basics & get rid of the social justice & extensive sex education promotions! BTW, sex education does not help children find a good paying job. Time is precious for our children & parents need to know that they can put their trust in their school board trustees in focusing on what is best for our students & that teachers will have the materials that will help students learn to be good productive citizens & have the skills to find good paying jobs or start their own businesses. I have a friend that owns a business & they hire many high schools students. They find that these students are unable not count change & do not have a good work ethic. Most of them could care less if they keep a job or not.I think a major item that is missing in our public schools is a good disciplinary program. When I grew up we did not have very many unruly children because if they acted up they were out of the classroom, punished by school officials & the parents were held accountable for their children's actions. That does not occur today. Now, they just give them a slap on the wrist & the child continues to stay in the classroom disrupting the teacher & the students, which affects the rest of the students learning. Not much gets done because the teacher spends a lot of time trying to control the unruly child & the other good students do not get enough time personally from their teacher to get a good education. I hope we can get some new trustees that will have the courage to make some changes & not a group of trustees that just rubber stamp whatever our lustrous Superintendent Bruce Messinger wants!Vote for Renshaw, Rush & Sticht on May 3, 2011. "[/quote]

I would like to remind people that This quote comes from the same group of people that endorsed the murdering of people who are LGBT. The same group that made light of Matthew Shepard's Murder. The same people that Run the group that has been compared to the West Boro Baptist group (the people who protest military funerals) The Same group that has called people unprintable names on the street. So please choose carefully how you vote!

livingfree

People that will stand up for choices, and not just what one man wants, is what we need!!

Renshaw, Sticht and Rush on May 3rd!

Limber
Limber

[quote]Jack-Ruby said: "Here is Ms. Rush. Uh..no thanks. We have to get America RIGHT...not wacky:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Kujqk59sbY&feature=player_embeddedhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ShgwZkLMzkM"[/quote]


Thanks, Jack! After viewing the items you listed, I was able to draw a reasonalbe conclusion. This woman is experienced, and well educated. But is definitely NOT what I want on my school board. Why not? Because she is elitist (unlikely to listen to any point of view but her own) and she obviously has an axe to grind! I'll take Myhre and Prezeau, thanks!

Chirish31

Bravo to Barb for stepping up to the plate and running for the school board. Were it not for Barb's candidacy I might have skipped the election but it is marked on my calendar now. In my circle of acquaintances Barb's candidacy is the topic of discussion. Talk about energizing the base. Fairly or unfairly the old adage "Birds of a feather flock together" places the "Rush" taint on Candidates Renshaw and Sticht. While I would take some pleasure at seeing Messinger working for Barb and her ilk the community will never allow that to occur. Vote for Myhre Lovshin and Prezeau.

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