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C.R. Anderson Middle School closed amid lead concerns

2014-01-14T06:49:00Z 2014-01-15T09:18:46Z C.R. Anderson Middle School closed amid lead concernsBy DEREK BROUWER Independent Record Helena Independent Record
January 14, 2014 6:49 am  • 

Doors to C.R. Anderson Middle School were shut abruptly Tuesday after lead dust sampling found levels above federal standards, and the school likely will remain closed for the next week or longer.

Helena school district officials decided late Monday evening to close the middle school, the state’s largest, as a precaution while further testing can be conducted and contaminated areas cleaned.

Principal Bruce Campbell announced the closure to parents of the more than 1,000 C.R.A. students in an email sent around 10 p.m. Monday.

“Limited lead tests were conducted at C.R. Anderson and the results have revealed elevated levels of lead in isolated areas of C.R.A. Thus out of caution, we have decided to close C.R. Anderson temporarily to conduct more intensive tests," the email reads.

The district also made around 3,000 phone calls Monday night using a new notification system, Superintendent Kent Kultgen said.

“We did understand we’re sending this out at 10 at night,” Kultgen told a group of parents Tuesday afternoon, during a regularly scheduled meeting. “I balked at this, because I kind of learned my lesson last year,” he said, referring to the sudden closure of Central School 10 months ago.

However, Kultgen said he wasn’t willing to allow students into the school knowing it may be contaminated.

“I know that parents depend on the school,” he said. “All of a sudden we pull that out from under them at 10 p.m., but we were concerned about safety in that building.”

Custodians were dismissed around 10 p.m. Monday, Kultgen said, while front office employees worked and staff retrieved personal belongings until the building closed around noon Tuesday for additional testing.

Eight students arrived at the school Tuesday expecting to go to class, according to officials.

“Today has been a rather tumultuous day for everyone,” school Board of Trustees Chair Libby Goldes said at the start of Tuesday evening’s board meeting.

The limited testing for lead was commissioned after Goldes inquired during a November meeting about a shooting range that previously operated in the school’s basement, officials said. An indoor shooting range was the suspected source of lead contamination that forced the sudden and ongoing closure of the state-owned Armory building in October.

Goldes said she didn’t realize at the time that her question might lead to the closure of the building.

“I had no idea about what repercussions that would have,” she said.

Director of Support Services John Carter said he has been unable to find records regarding the history of the shooting range inside C.R. Anderson, but said information gathered from staff and community members suggest that the range was removed prior to 1993.

The basement, part of an addition to the school constructed in 1965, was unfinished and had dirt floors before being converted to classroom space.

“Finding no documentation that lead testing and/or abatement were performed, the district authorized A.L.M. Consulting to conduct a preliminary investigation for potential lead contamination,” Kultgen wrote in a press release issued Tuesday afternoon.

Wipe tests conducted in the exposed ductwork in rooms near the former shooting range yielded lead dust concentrations many times greater than the federal HUD clearance level of 40 micrograms per square foot.

“We had rates over 1,000,” Kultgen told members of the district’s Parent Advisory Council Tuesday.

Ryan McGee, of A.L.M. Consulting, was reluctant to cite specific lead concentration levels Tuesday, saying lab analysis of the lead samples was still being validated. He emphasized that the high concentrations were found in isolated areas and that additional testing will determine whether any lead is in direct contact with students and staff.

Lead dust concentrations above 800 micrograms per square foot were found on the exposed ductwork in classroom B-1, on the site of the former range, and around the basement elevator, McGee said.

The situation warranted the building’s closure, he said, in part because the elevated samples were found on the surface of exposed ductwork inside the classroom.

“There was no proof that it wasn’t on surfaces,” McGee said.

McGee and a subcontractor conducted tests Tuesday on touchable surfaces such as tables and desks and collected air samples throughout the building. Analysis of those samples will provide a clearer picture of the potential contamination, McGee said.

“By having results (Wednesday), we’re hoping to be able to have a much better scope of where the cleanup is going to go,” he said.

Officials with the Lewis and Clark City-County Health Department met with Kultgen Tuesday morning to offer their services and develop a procedure for those who may be have been exposed to lead at C.R. Anderson. Children, whose brains are still developing, are much more susceptible to the affects of lead than adults.

Those health guidelines will be issued Wednesday, the department said in a news release.

“We know that parents are worried,” county Health Officer Melanie Reynolds said at the school board meeting Tuesday evening.

“Until we have more information, we’re not making any recommendations about who needs to be (blood) tested,” she said.

Kultgen said the district has not received any health-related complaints tied to contamination at C.R. Anderson.

However, he told parents and school board trustees Tuesday that the district plans to offer free blood tests in accordance with the county health department’s recommendation. The cost to the district is roughly $70 per test, he said.

School officials said they received the results of the initial lead dust sampling Monday afternoon. Kultgen said he was informed of the data around 8 p.m., after a school bond committee meeting ended.

The decision to close the school was made about an hour later, he said.

“The first thing that went through my mind was that we can’t close a school,” Kultgen said. “The consulting firm came right out and said, ‘You need to remove all staff and students from the building.’”

He further said that the firm’s recommendation was to close the school immediately, rather than wait a day or two.

A.L.M. Consulting also conducted the lead tests that prompted the recent closing of the Armory building in Helena. Similar lead dust samples taken in plenum areas above ceiling tiles at the Armory yielded concentrations that ranged from undetectable to 1,600 micrograms per square foot.

“You can’t treat this differently than the armory,” McGee said.

Kultgen told parents to expect the school to be closed through Jan. 21, though he said the closure could be longer. Kultgen also said a portion of the building could reopen if testing shows the contamination is confined to the west wing.

A meeting with parents and community members is scheduled for 7 p.m Wednesday in the Capital High School auditorium. Officials said they hope to have data from Tuesday’s additional testing in-hand before that meeting.

Campbell, C.R. Anderson principal, directed an inquiry about the closure Tuesday morning to Kultgen, but is working to determine how the school will make up the missed instructional time, according to the district news release.

Schedule adjustments may include changes to the length of recess and passing periods as well as the school day itself, Kultgen said. He added that the district isn’t looking to shorten spring break or lengthen the academic year, but may increase the school day by 10 minutes or more for the rest of the year.

All contaminated areas of the building will be abated, or cleaned, to levels within federal standards before students and staff return. McGee and Kultgen said they intend to use a more stringent level of 25 micrograms per square foot when clearing the building.

McGee said clean-up crews may be able to abate contaminated areas by Jan. 21, the current target date to reopen some or all of the school.

“(C.R. Anderson) is kind of a different animal than the Armory, in that we can’t keep this closed for a year,” he said.

The method and timing of the closure, as well as not telling parents about the potential lead contamination, irritated Shawn Whyte, the mother of an 11-year-old C.R. Anderson student. She wanted to know how long the school district had known about the potential contamination, why they waited until the last minute to tell the parents about the closure, and what potential health risks it had for students.

“It seems like they don’t trust the parents and aren’t working with us as partners,” Whyte said. “The fact that this is the third major event that they’ve had and they still don’t know how to talk to parents is irritating.”

Last March, parents were notified when they picked up their students after school that Central Elementary school would be closed abruptly for the rest of the year due to structural concerns if an earthquake were to occur. In 2006, parents of students at Hawthorne Elementary were told on a Friday that the school wouldn’t be open on the following Monday due to concerns it wouldn’t withstand a “significant seismic event.”

“Dropping the bomb on everybody after 10 o’clock at night is poor planning, poor communication and poor protocol,” Whyte said. “We have an amazing public school system, but they need to address this. They’re not helping us plan for 1,200 kids, and that’s a lot of families that are affected.”

C.R. Anderson parent Cynthia Brooks was briefed about the closure by Kultgen during Tuesday’s meeting of the Parent Advisory Council, at which Brooks represents the school.

“At this point, based on what you (Kultgen) have told me, I’m not that concerned,” she said during the meeting.

Brooks works for the Department of Environmental Quality and was herself displaced by the Armory closure. When her husband informed her of the C.R. Anderson closure late Monday, Brooks said it felt like déjà vu.

“I was satisfied with the explanation (Kultgen) gave,” she said after the meeting.

Brooks has fielded calls from other parents with questions about student safety, reasons for the closure and the district’s plan to make up lost instruction time.

She said her family received an automated call from the district at 10:15 p.m. Monday.

“That’s pretty efficient,” she said, adding that closing the school “is a tough call for them to make.”

“I feel satisfied that the school is proceeding appropriately,” she said.

Trustees, who were not involved in the decision to close the building, discussed the closure during a regular executive committee meeting Tuesday and placed it on the agenda for the evening’s school board meeting.

Goldes said superintendent Kultgen was right to heed the advice of the contamination experts.

“We want to not have those students in the building until we make it safe,” she said.

Reporter Derek Brouwer: 447-4081 or derek.brouwer@helenair.com. Follow Derek on Twitter @IR_DerekBrouwer.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(49) Comments

  1. You'reFiredDon'tComeBackEVER
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    You'reFiredDon'tComeBackEVER - January 21, 2014 2:24 am
    OK so they dismissed custodians at 10PM. So that is most likely a swing shift. So that shift was nearly over. Logic would follow that the desktops tested were tested after they had been cleaned. Couldn't pin point if they tested the air ducts but have they ever been tested or cleaned for that matter, if so how often over the past 20 years.

    I agree with Agent Smith. Not through concrete.

    Build a BIG new school. Lets have some progress for a change.
    We're not just beating a dead horse over and over, we're dancing over that corpse by not moving forward.
  2. Agent Smith
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    Agent Smith - January 20, 2014 10:37 pm
    How does lead dust pass through concrete? Isn't it possible that the dust came from outside the school?
  3. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - January 16, 2014 8:24 am
    Who exactly do you hold responsible for this You'reFiredDon'tComeBackEVER ? Seems to me you are holding people responsible that had no knowledge there was a shooting range over 20 years ago. Did you ask Board of Trustees Chair Libby Goldes, who identified this back in Nov when she knew about it? Seriously, you'd have to show that a facility manager knew about the range and also knew that, due to a range being there whether the entire area was concreted over or not would need a lead testing.

    How many people would actually know to test for lead in a building that had a range on it over 20 years ago that was concreted over? If you guys remember, the folks that took over the armory didn't and I think everyone in town knew that was an armory. They only tested it recently and it was that testing that more then likely sparked Goldes to wonder if CRA was tested.

  4. Bidnessman
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    Bidnessman - January 16, 2014 7:28 am
    Thanks for the interest dietz. A building built in the mid 80s. I had a bit of a remodel done. At the time, I was told by the DEQ that should I replace the flooring, I would be required to check materials for asbestos still again. Which again leads me to the question of why the DEQ is so insistent that a small business be checked for hazardous materials at any given improvement, but a school is not.
  5. AndySez
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    AndySez - January 16, 2014 7:20 am
    "The sky is Falling" Hearing loss and low IQ" I wonder?
  6. JVH77
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    JVH77 - January 15, 2014 11:44 pm
    Who's talking about teachers feeling cheated? I'm simply interested in dispelling the myth that they somehow have a better deal than anyone else. They work far more than 40 hours a week both in the classroom and out.

    I never heard a single word of complaint about compensation from any of the teachers I had in the many years I went to school here. You're anecdote is either an aberration or wildly exaggerated. Helena public schools provide an excellent education and any insistence otherwise simply isn't supported by available statistics and facts.

    Complaining about teacher compensation was the idea I took issue with in the post I responded to, and it very much does relate to anti-government sentiments. It's one of the cornerstone arguments of those who argue in favor of public money going to charter schools and the "school choice" crowd. There's more than a few in there that wouldn't mind seeing the Department of Education disappear.
  7. turner
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    turner - January 15, 2014 10:08 pm
    Surprised you'd be referring us to the same outfit that brought us the concept of the individual mandate but then maybe they know something about education.
  8. You'reFiredDon'tComeBackEVER
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    You'reFiredDon'tComeBackEVER - January 15, 2014 9:17 pm
    So there was more dancing around at that meeting than any musical I've ever seen.
    The one guy in the audience was spot on, that most questions weren't getting straight answers and district responses to them just raised more questions. Their timelines are so off, apparently they forgot about 2005 and earthquake concerns at CRA and Carter was the district's own engineer in charge, the guy with so many hazmat certs and -how was it that this didn't get swept under the rug back then? Too many excuses and so much dancing around the questions put to them. When that last super left he didn't take all his baggage with him.

    This community, our families, our children, our teachers and staff, and all the tax payers deserve to be treated like we matter! This meeting was an insult to our intelligence and points to the state of mind and attitude that department has and the depth of the lack of respect it has for anyone and everyone it can't fool when these follies come up.

    When the public get lied to, the liars steal from the victims of their abuses. Put the thieves out! Stop PAYING these people HUGE 6 figure salaries to sit there and lie and cheat and steal the life, health and safety from our children in school and our families working for the district.
  9. MTnAllMyLive
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    MTnAllMyLive - January 15, 2014 5:04 pm
    I'm almost sure it was shut down summer of 1992. I took lifetime sports from Mr. Dalton at HHS junior and senior year. Junior year we used the shooting range, and Senior year we were told it was closed.
  10. HLNMT
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    HLNMT - January 15, 2014 4:56 pm
    I don't think it has anything to do with anti-government. If teachers feel so cheated why don't they get a different job? Additionally, most professionals are scheduled to work 40 hours a week (teachers in Helena are not) and most professionals put in extra time - a two week pay period that is 80 hours per week often becomes a 120 to a 167 hour two week pay period (which is not compensated they just get a salary based on the 80 hours) . . .and as important a job as teaching is having kids come home explaining how the teacher(s) took the class period to complain about how they don't get paid as much as a babysitter per hour showcases how little education goes on in the classroom and how many teachers choose not to understand (or can't comprehend) benefits, time and job security and spend too much time obsessing about what others have - think of all the students in Helena who have two parents working that don't get benefits and make less than the teachers. . .
  11. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - January 15, 2014 4:31 pm
    I knew it was a fall out shelter, never knew there was target practicing though. So when did it go away?
  12. HLNMT
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    HLNMT - January 15, 2014 4:18 pm
    Students at CRA (when it was a junior high) in the early 1980's could take a class where you practiced target shooting with 22's and on alternate days played shuffleboard. Many people from the community practiced shooting targets on the weekends . . .They also had a fallout shelter down their with barrels of dry food.
  13. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - January 15, 2014 3:14 pm
    Meant Goldes...
  14. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - January 15, 2014 3:14 pm
    So those of you upset about this, when you go to the meeting tonight see if they can tell you how long Giddes knew about this. Seems to me if she knew she should have said something years ago. I for one would like to know from which years shooting in the basement of the school was allowed.
  15. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - January 15, 2014 3:09 pm
    What I also find odd is that Board of Trustees Chair Libby Goldes is the one who, according to the article, had knowledge of this shooting range. According to her bio, she's been in Helena for 24 years so I'm wondering when/where/how she found out about this and why its only now being brought up.
  16. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - January 15, 2014 3:05 pm
    That is a good question. What type of facility do you have? Only experience with something like this I have was in my AF days. OSHA has a requirement for maintenance facilities to be tested for these things a minimum of every two years. Bioenvironmental engineering would do the test.

    I grew up here, had friends that went to CRA, their parents went to CRA (I was a HMS kid back in the day), asked around and no one knew there was ever a range in the basement so that either had to be a very well kept secret or was back in the 1960s.
  17. Bidnessman
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    Bidnessman - January 15, 2014 1:10 pm
    I have to wonder how this escaped DEQ or anyone for the past 20 years. They have been in my small business building 3 times in the past year, requiring me to check for asbestos, lead, water quality, and have my waste water system checked. Of course everything checked out fine with my building, but 3 times? I would have gladly given up 2 of those inspections for the school system. That might be a little "tongue in cheek", but these are our children and the way this took place is a show of major administrative failure.
  18. dolphind3
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    dolphind3 - January 15, 2014 9:30 am
    I agree with Otismule. I can't believe the sense of entitlement we have here anymore. How dare they inconvenience any of you. Oh the humanity!
  19. gemini_chick
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    gemini_chick - January 15, 2014 9:28 am
    bizemom, you must not read too many of the comments in the IR. There are chronic complainers and Negative Nancy's that have nothing but time to complain, whine and moan about everything. I'll be attending the meeting as I have a child at CRA and I for one am not thrilled about the closure, but understand the need to protect our children and I'd rather be safe than sorry. I'd also like to thank our wonderful educators in the Helena School district for educating our children as well as administrators and everyone who works for the School District. I don't think teachers are paid ENOUGH and no, I'm not a teacher.
  20. otis mule
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    otis mule - January 15, 2014 7:50 am
    Hmmm. Lead dust layin' around for at least 20 years and we're suddenly in a state of emergency? Unless the CDC can point the finger of "Outbreak" at Helena, I'd say y'all dodged one nicely and now it's time to get back to work.
  21. CoolHnadLuke
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    CoolHnadLuke - January 15, 2014 12:47 am
    Beware folks. Let me quote: "Captain: You gonna get used to wearing them chains after a while, Luke. Don't you never stop listening to them clinking, 'cause they gonna remind you what I been saying for your own good.
    Luke: I wish you'd stop being so good to me, Cap'n."

    Ironic isn't it? Just how this situation can remind a person of a re-run of an old movie. Wondering why?

    Because: "What we've got here is a failure to communicate". Ditto! Mr.Kultgen might be too new to Helena to get it. But its a sad and wearisome fact.
  22. weston149
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    weston149 - January 15, 2014 12:24 am
    Looks lkie ya all need to get a public meetin with the board of trustees and make em get an outside agency to investigate the head of that department. Otherwise ya all are gonna hear it again. That one gal, from the article, said this is the 3rd time. I can guarantee it won't be the last.

  23. You'reFiredDon'tComeBackEVER
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    You'reFiredDon'tComeBackEVER - January 14, 2014 11:57 pm
    I don't think anyone here has any issues with the staff at CRA. Just a very few people and the way they conduct business which usually ends in damages to the taxpayers.

    The article reads:
    Director of Support Services John Carter said he has been unable to find records regarding the history of the shooting range inside C.R. Anderson, but said information gathered from staff and community members suggest that the range was removed prior to 1993.

    “I couldn't find any drawings that would give me an exact date,” Carter said.

    That would actually be true. My co-worker was grumbling to me today about his neighbor . Supposedly missing district records were moved to the warehouse years ago for storing. When Carter moved his office into the maintenance shop he had that department haul it all to the dump.

    But he was employed for the district when the shooting range was remodeled. No doubt he also knew about the asbestos that was not abated found at Linc/Pal when a carpet on the east side of the bldg. was removed and replaced with tile, right over the top, a couple years ago.

    History repeats. The definition of insanity is doing things over and over an expecting a different result. Not demanding accountability brings us back to this same place over and over.

  24. JVH77
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    JVH77 - January 14, 2014 11:37 pm
    Given there isn't a more important job really anywhere than educating our children I'd say they deserve a lot more than what they get and any time off is well deserved. But I'm the child of two teachers so I'm a bit biased. Though I can say unequivocally we didn't live luxuriously by any means growing up. And the actual classroom time put in by the average teacher is not at all representative of the effort they put in. You can certainly paint a picture of teachers getting a pretty sweet deal but once you look beyond the anti-government talking points it's not nearly as simple as it's made out to be.
  25. bizemom
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    bizemom - January 14, 2014 8:45 pm
    Yes, the information is coming out as it is gathered. So everyone making accusations, and theories needs to take a break and wait for the facts. Freaking out, and "stirring the pot" to get people all worked up is not helpful to anyone.
  26. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - January 14, 2014 8:13 pm
    I'd just say read the article briefly as to how this was identified.
  27. dogbones
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    dogbones - January 14, 2014 6:51 pm
    Isn't this a fairly simple informational article?
  28. LCCtaxpayer
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    LCCtaxpayer - January 14, 2014 5:35 pm
    This is all about money and budgets. If you don’t go to meetings you can’t pick up on it. It’s pretty obvious that some of our neighbors on here, know what’s up.


    Dear Refining
    At least one head can’t roll until you make it’s owner accountable for every issue. The budgets are so messy, and so twisted together it will take an army to unravel that fur ball. Make him sit there and explain, line item by line item. No generalizing. Too much money has gone back and forth from the left hand to right and back again whenever there was a question. No checks and balances when one person can play with so much money. Let’s get it all out on the table for all of us to review.
  29. bizemom
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    bizemom - January 14, 2014 4:49 pm
    I have students at CRA, we received a call, and an email at 10:15 last night. If people's contact information is up to date, they would have been notified. The school system is doing its best to keep everyone up to date as information develops.
    What is with everyone's conspiracy theories here? For crying out loud people, does everything have to be a conspiracy or about money? If you have such huge problems with the school system, pull your kids out.
    If there is a lead problem, the school was closed for the safety of the students. The end. Safety. Safety from sue-happy people looking to blame others for any problem they or their kids have.
    Get over it.
  30. CarrollQueer
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    CarrollQueer - January 14, 2014 2:35 pm

    Suspicious? no doubt, this is what government and bureaucracies do.
    They create "problems" only to "solve" them which results in even more costs, administration and red tape for the taxpayers. Wasn't there talk last fall about needing another middle school?
    Regarding teacher salaries/benefits HLNMT is right on!
    Helena teachers receive 30 days paid leave - 15 days vacation/12 days sick/3 days personal use or lose, in the school year of only 180 class days.
    They also get 23 days of vacation, 2 days to attend the state convention, 8 days "professional development" and 2 half days for "records".
    Not only do all the paid leave days cost taxpayers money for the needed substitute teachers (not to mention the lack of continuity in the classroom instruction) but the other days they are not in school require a cost and/or time to parents to find child care.
    Think closing down CRA for a week isn't a hardship for many parents?
  31. You'reFiredDon'tComeBackEVER
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    You'reFiredDon'tComeBackEVER - January 14, 2014 2:01 pm
    Don't think age is what was being referred to. I believe its transparency and accountability. Not sure why dietz1963 is defending this school administration unless there are some ties there.


    Nor do I think the acid test comment is understood,-proving fools gold from pure gold. The real deal.


    If the people running this show were the real deal we wouldn't be here AGAIN with parents wondering why there was no notice when the lead was known about months ago, and wondering why it was OK to continue to expose children and staff despite that information, until it suited some alternate plan. I think the public needs to work fast and look past whatever excuses arise at the meeting and get an in-depth investigation going.
  32. HLNMT
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    HLNMT - January 14, 2014 1:57 pm
    The timing does seem suspicious - why not do the retests during the summer or Winter Break?

    In regard to teacher pay - Read the article at the following Link http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/10/assessing-the-compensation-of-public-school-teachers

    Montana Reports a Family Median wage of 45,000 on the last census. Teachers in Helena start at 36,600 this year - that is an individual income not a family income. Additionally teachers get paid leave days while working a 9 month job and can earn more by working summers (dispatching, firefighting and more). Many teachers can coach and some can make 6,000+ for coaching for a 10 week season - often times skimping on their classes to do so. If you read the article you can see that students planning on going into education score less on the SAT than those in other majors. The same is true for teachers taking the GRE to get a masters or doctorate. Also a non teaching worker tends to make about 3% more by becoming a teacher (remember over a 9 month period versus a 12 month period). Teachers who leave education tend to make 9% less when taking a non teaching job - This really makes you wonder if the average teacher can tolerate the academic rigors of any other major.
  33. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - January 14, 2014 1:21 pm
    At the end of the day folks have the most basic information they initially need (school closed, why, when it will open again) but are upset about this and in particular the short notice portion wanting to vent. And they'd be venting to people who had absolutely nothing to do with this, still not getting the answers they're looking for and won't until tomorrows meeting.
  34. hep
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    hep - January 14, 2014 12:36 pm
    You are right Montanachick, that's an incredibly misleading message that Campbell put out for the public. He makes it makes it sound like people are answering the phone and fielding questions or something; what he should have said was call 324-2800 if you'd like to hear a voice recorded message containing all the information that you already have-actual questions will be addressed later at CHS. It's always fun to learn that you, your children, your friends, family and neighbors have been exposed to lead poisoning over a span of decades...
  35. LCCtaxpayer
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    LCCtaxpayer - January 14, 2014 12:19 pm
    I just read YourFired's ref and things appear to have been brewing awhile. Check this out:

    "CitizenKane - July 23, 2012 10:31 am
    Once again people are missing the points here. Mr. Carter and Mr. Meyer broke the law. Montana bid laws state that you can’t break a project up into pieces to get out from having to send it out to bid! They don’t say well since you really needed the work done for years that it is OK. Just because the district and their lawyers say that there was no intention to break the law doesn’t mean that they law wasn’t broken. Both of these school district employees have overseen many projects in the past, they were well aware of what they were doing when the split up the project. The project was the Helena High practice field. Not the Helena High practice field dirt; sod; irrigation; grading projects. One piece of the project alone exceeded the bid law limits. Someone should be going to jail.

    And where is the school board on this? Why didn’t they know about the project? Why aren’t they calling for Mr. Carter’s head on a pike out in front of the administrative offices as a warning to the other administrators? If they don’t come right out this morning and fire Mr. Carter they are just as guilty has he is.

    Mr. Cohn works for Mr. Carter. Why is Mr. Carter giving out projects without bidding them to employees that work for him? Can you say ethics violation? Mr. Hindoien said that “In fact, the relationship between Cohn and Carter may have resulted in better pricing on the project.” Well the voters will never know that since the PROJECT WAS NOT PUT OUT TO BID!

    Mr. Meyer said that he had asked Mr. Hindoien to review the project after Ms. Harris questioned the project and no action was taken because they were both “preparing” to leave their positions. Mr. Meyer still had eight months left on his contract in October when the Warren project was called into question. Should the public say it’s OK for every school district employee to stop doing their job eight months in advance of them leaving their positions? Did Mr. Hindoien get paid for not doing anything about it? Since Mr. Meyer was the one to OK the project and the one to look into any wrong doing, isn’t this like letting the fox guard the chicken coup? Let me suggest this to the board, the district needs an ethics committee to look into questions like these so that the superintendent can’t override an investigation.

    Now to the money. Do the readers know that where the money came from to pay for these projects? It was end of year money. That is why they didn’t bid the job or tell anyone about it. They are hiding the fact that there were surpluses in the budget. It would be very hard to go to the voters and ask for mill levies when there are surpluses each year. Over $500,000 this year alone.

    School board: Clear up the district’s act. Transparency, transparency, transparency, ethics, ethics, ethics. Tell the voters what is going on. Publish the amount of surpluses each year so the voters can make an informed decision as to if they what to give you any more money. And hang those responsible for breaking laws like these as a deterrent to others thinking about trying to put one over on the voters."

    Perhaps we need reminders. DAILY! Out of sight out of mind with this district. And it goes deeper, I hear. So I can't wait to read about how the district's hiring process (preferences) and the HR department comes under fire. One more broken cog in the SS Director's Wheel Of Fortune! Another is the Transportation department and the buses.
  36. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - January 14, 2014 12:02 pm
    I like that statement "These folks ARE the 60s children. They think they don't have to answer to us." To that I say, whatever. Not sure what child year you are ItDoesntTakeADogsNose , would guess probably late 80's early 90s child or later. That crowd seems to have an answer to nobody, everything has to be handed to me babied crowd.
  37. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - January 14, 2014 11:57 am
    Its a good point, sure. It may have been better to say for those that have questions or concerns, please attend the 7:00 p.m. meeting tomorrow evening. Location will be posted on our website when we know where the meeting will be held.
  38. ItDoesntTakeADogsNose
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    ItDoesntTakeADogsNose - January 14, 2014 11:41 am
    Call 324-2030 In the staff directory on the district webpage you'll find John Carter. This is his number.
  39. ItDoesntTakeADogsNose
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    ItDoesntTakeADogsNose - January 14, 2014 11:38 am
    Note to Gaylord: Stop messing with my PC!!
  40. Montanachick1
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    Montanachick1 - January 14, 2014 11:32 am
    My point is why would you put "Please don't hesitate to contact the school at 324-2800 if have additional questions or concerns".... In the newspaper if you intend to not be there or have any one to answer questions or concerns
  41. ItDoesntTakeADogsNose
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    ItDoesntTakeADogsNose - January 14, 2014 11:24 am
    Refining Fire said they can't "pass the acid test". LMAO! These folks ARE the 60s children.
    They think they don't have to answer to us.

    TO: DogsNose, great ID.

    RE: salaries, big diff from top to bottom. Too big a spread from bottom at 27K to top 3 at over 200K. Teachers are in between in the bottom half while the lowest paid are paras and the really overloaded ones are the crews trying to keep up on maintenance and cleanup on all a shoe string while their boss is buying shrubs for the public see so taxpayers don't know what's really up.

    Who wants to run for office? Bet we have vacancies sooner than later.
  42. TheRefiningFire
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    TheRefiningFire - January 14, 2014 10:48 am
    YES!!!! CarrollQueer is on spot with the right people.

    So now its "out of caution". Hmmm. REALLY? The dates don't jive with the testing? No surprise there either. Can we say 'way too many blankets' over everything? What's that quote from Al Pacino? ..."You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They're out of order!" It's the same with our school district management. We've been dealin with at least one carpet bagger for waaaayyy too long. Time to cut that umbilical cord, take away the cow's teat, and cut out the fat.

    When that's done the public will see what's really been going on. Cuz, well, it's like ya know, everyone in the district knows, but everyone's too afraid to lose their job to speak up.

    Next they'll be tellin' us how hard they've been workin' on this and how *responsible* they are to this community and our kids. Bolderdash! Can anyone spell w-h-i-t-e-w-a-s-h? How about F-O-L-L-O-W the M-O-N-E-Y? For crying out loud! This should've been over with that last Superintendent. It ain't,.. cuz the dude with the purse strings to the budget is still with us.

    We need to start right at the very top of that department, top of that line of command with the decision makers. It is after all, Our money that we need to protect. What's that line, uh, 'absolute power'? Yeah that's the one! Why does the board answer to the super? Shouldn't that be the other way around? Oh,. sorry, I forgot. Messenger had the governance changed. So they answer to the super ...and he answers to the Support Services Director, the guy in charge of all the money And all the properties aaaaand the maintenance contracts! The same guy always cryin' for more money but cant show us where it went.
    Our (school) house is upside down! This has been a magic show worth millions. We're paying for smoke and spent MILLIONS in mirrors. Go see for yourselves. Go INSIDE the buildings and look around. Open your eyes. Broken windows and doors, peeling paint. rotted floors, falling ceilings. Check out the urinals at HMS -cracked top to bottom. Look at the walls in Helena High. Actually look at the ceiling and floors. AND there no money! You can blame the help all you want, but the ALL decision making and ALL the planning is done at the top. Therein lies the trouble, the dysfunction and your challenge.

    As for me, I don't think, ..no I KNOW, our 'leaders' can't Pass The Acid Test. Heads should roll.
  43. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - January 14, 2014 10:40 am
    What are you looking for Montanachick1? I called the number, voice mail says the school is closed, why its closed, and when normal operations will open. Also says to check on the website for updates. Going to the website, says the same thing that also says there will be a parent meeting tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. at the CHS auditorium.

    Seems pretty straight forward to me. Better to address questions to a mass audience (for those that have questions/concerns) then attempt to call back over a thousand parents that may call in. Particularily when many here have commented about salaries.

    No, I think you're upset this happened and want to vent your frustrations. But here again, sounds like that will be possible tomorrow night.
  44. Montanachick1
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    Montanachick1 - January 14, 2014 10:22 am
    Please don't hesitate to contact the school at 324-2800 if have additional questions or concerns.

    Sincerely,

    Bruce Campbell

    Odd you call the school it is a voice mail that tells you the school is closed and you can not leave a message.
  45. dietz1963
    Report Abuse
    dietz1963 - January 14, 2014 10:18 am
    Folks commenting on salaries is interesting. How much do you folks think they make? Better yet, how much would any of you want to be paid to be a teacher? The average is $45000 and I doubt that is beginning wage. Probably why not too many people become teachers at below college level. I couldn't be a teacher getting just that for what they have to put up with. Kids have more power then adults these days.

    Everyone agrees we need bigger schools, is everyone ready to pay the price for one or more? I know I'm not, property tax went up again, strangely enough, my pay didn't. Its not just property owners that feel the pain, if you're renting, your renter is going to raise rent as their property tax increases. CRA folks, no way they can expand where they are at that I can see. Interested to know where you'd want a new school to be built. No real estate close to the area I know large enough to build a bigger school on. Means purchasing new real estate, probably out of town. Also means probably expanding transportation for those using school buses.
  46. CarrollQueer
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    CarrollQueer - January 14, 2014 9:56 am
    This is the inevitable outcome of a school district rife with nepotism, good old boys and political correctness.
    Money being spent for the latest and greatest "program", the highest teacher salaries in the state and athletic fields while the entire infrastructure is crumbling.
    Be prepared for more double talk from the school board, Kultgen and John Carter.
  47. ItDoesntTakeADogsNose
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    ItDoesntTakeADogsNose - January 14, 2014 9:12 am
    I smell something fishy. Taxpayers pay a heck of a LOT of taxes to keep this stuff from happening.

    The train derailment is not the only train wreck happening here in Helena.
    Who's the conductor in this derailment?

    Who's in charge of maintaining our district properties? Who's in charge of planning?

    If it's serious enough to do an emergency shut down then why wasn't this done over Christmas break when it came up sooner?

    Must be time to pullout our magnifiers and take a hard look into what's really going on with all this mismanagement.

    This kind of thing can only originate at the highest levels of administration.

    I recall during the Central fiasco that our district engineer made the call.

    As a parent at a recent meeting we were told the modulars were a half million dollars and good for just 5 years. What kind of planning is that with tax dollars? Why is it that the recent levy monies are spent mostly on really cosmetic stuff, like parking lot paint, and shrubs rather than repairing, replacing, remodeling and rebuilding?

    We keep funding these levees but we don't seem to see the fruits of our labor. The buildings are in worse shape than ever. It appears that the only time we get remodeling or repairs is when there is grant funding so where is all that levee money going?

    Its the same old song and dance we've heard for a decade. Who is directing this lousy concert? Isn't it time for a new conductor?
  48. LCCtaxpayer
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    LCCtaxpayer - January 14, 2014 8:34 am
    Not again? How many times are Helenans going to be put through this?

    Money! Money! Money! shouts the barker on the street. We got our levies but we need more!

    Its an 'emergency'. That's one way to get the contractors you want without going through the bid process, just wait until its too late to put out bids and then claim you have a new emergency so you can't wait for the timely process.

    The lead testing was done last spring in all the schools. Its' all documented. This investigative 'testing' could have been performed during summer break instead of having little kids stuck shivering in the snow waiting for buses that won't be coming because their parents went to work not knowing the school was closed after 10PM last night (but no one in the district mentioned it to the paper until 7:30 this morning).

    We need to put a stop to this type of inefficient planning. This district needs someone who will answer to US. When we have questions we need answers right then, instead of being ignored and then inconvenienced with all of these 'so called' emergencies which are apparently to the benefit of 'someone' in the support services department who manages all of this.

    We got a new Superintendent but we didn't get a new person in the very position that needed the most change. So here we are again succumbing to poor management and poor planning practices and suffering yet one more slap in the face.

  49. You'reFiredDon'tComeBackEVER
    Report Abuse
    You'reFiredDon'tComeBackEVER - January 14, 2014 8:03 am
    Parents, students, and staff (approx 3500 people) all inconvenienced again in less than 12 months.How many times and how much more is this community going to put up with the district's failure to operate efficiently and effectively even with their own engineer at the helm? Eleven million a year in an operating budget and landscaping has been the main concern of the support services department. This has been going on for over 15 years. Messenger never built a new school. Haven't we had enough? Haven't we been failed miserably by the head of plant operations who is in charge of all that money? Its one excuse after another and all of it at the taxpayers' expense. We need to stand up and demand an overhaul at the Very TOP of the chain of failures. Poor bidding practices, questionable contracts, ref 2 years ago: "No bids for two school district projects" The Helena School District may have violated state law for failing to get seek competitive bids on two recent projects, including one that was awarded to a company linked to a district employee.July 22, 2012 1:06 am(19) . Why can one person continue to do this to all of us? Why can't our district administrators say enough is enough and put a stop to it instead of looking the other way? We need new schools! Making the work crews in maintenance and custodial departments smaller and smaller is a red flag and does not help fix the buildings while things are broken at the very top. We need a public meeting and we need to put questions to the plant operations manager and we need answers. We needed answers and action 15 years ago.

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