Thumbs up

Many public officials like to say they are committed to transparency – but Helena Public Schools’ Interim Superintendent Jack Copps has demonstrated it.

Though he has only been at the helm of Helena Public Schools for a short time, Copps has never denied our interview requests or dodged questions about school district issues. Even when conversations get difficult, he is upfront and honest with the press and the public about what is going on in our schools.

Copps even waived his right to privacy during his performance evaluation this week, demonstrating that he understands the community’s right to know supersedes his right to protect his own ego.

Not everyone was thrilled about Copps’ decision to be evaluated publicly, and we heard about concerns that this would set a precedent for future superintendents.

In our view, it would be good for Copps’ successor to feel pressure to be this open and honest with the community. And we hope other public officials will follow his good example, too.


Thumbs down

Burning wood on poor air-quality days in the Helena Valley could hurt not just your health, but possibly your bank account as well.

As of Thursday, the air quality in our area was rated as “poor” on 15 of the 26 days this month.

Sensitive groups such as children, the elderly and those with aggravated heart or lung disease and cardiopulmonary disease may experience an increased likelihood of respiratory symptoms during “poor” air-quality days, Lewis and Clark Public Health reports.

And anyone caught burning wood on “poor” air-quality days could receive a violation notice for their first offense and a fine of $100 to $500 on second and subsequent offenses. County officials have issued 60 notices and one fine so far this year.

We empathize with those who prefer burning wood instead of using electricity or natural gas for heat, but we also hope people will take Helena’s air-quality issues seriously.

For current air-quality conditions, call the air-quality hotline at 406-447-1644 or visit