What a terrific week for public education in and around Helena.
For starters, the Helena School District Board of Trustees will greet one returning member and one new one at next week’s meeting, after incumbent Terry Beaver and “newcomer” Ellen Feaver won election to the two open seats this week. We put quotation marks around newcomer for Feaver because while she hasn’t served on the school board, she’s been on many other boards around our community for several decades, bringing both leadership experience and the insight of a CPA to the school district’s deliberations. Beaver claimed the most votes in the four-person race, which we found particularly heartening since he spent no money on campaigning at all: voters have clearly been paying attention to the school board’s machinations, and liked what they saw in Beaver. The two candidates whose campaigns came up short, Niki Whearty and Lisa Wordal, collected several thousand votes apiece, proving that they too would have been worthy of election. We hope to see them run again.
And speaking of the thousands of votes cast for each candidate, this week’s election, done completely through the mail, featured a record voter turnout of 49 percent. We don’t know whether that’s a function of the mail ballot or if it just means Helenans are really dialed into what’s going on with the schools, but whatever the reason, we should all be proud that so many of our fellow Helenans took the time to vote. Many times school board elections have turnout in the teens or even single digits, which should never be the case with something as important as the education of our next generation.
Finally, we applaud voters not only in Helena but in Broadwater County and Jefferson County as well, for approving levies to fund schools. The votes mean everyone’s property taxes will be going up a few bucks, but they also mean that schools will be spared at least a handful of painful decisions about cuts that would have been needed had the levy votes failed.
Finally, at Helena High this week we see what a lot of hard work and dedication can do, and we congratulate senior Mary Decker for being named one of just three Montanans and 141 seniors in the entire country named a 2012 Presidential Scholar. When considering some 3 million people will graduate from high school this year, it’s truly a remarkable honor. Candidates not only have to bring impeccable grades to the table (Decker is an HHS valedictorian), but they have to show community service, leadership and other extracurricular activities and skills as well. Decker is bound for Dartmouth College in the fall, and we wish her success in New Hampshire and beyond.