Helena Public Schools rented the Last Chance Tour Train Friday to give the school district's new teachers a tour of the town.
Human Resources Director Stacy Collette said the school district hired 47 new teachers this year, which is slightly less than usual. The district also hired Laura Conwell as the new principal of Broadwater Elementary School, Brian Kessler as the new assistant principal at Helena High School, and Jilyn Chandler and Sol Jones as assistant principals at C.R. Anderson Middle School.
The school district has nine remaining vacancies due to attrition, retirement and job changes within the district, explained Collette.
"As one of the largest employers in the Helena community, we are proud to welcome our new employees and their families," Colette said.
The Last Chance Tour Train is a street vehicle retrofitted to look like a train engine pulling several open-air passenger cars. According to Barb Ridgeway, staff and student services administrator, the school district has used the tour train for new-teacher orientation for years.
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"We used to put everybody in a big conference room and talk to them for three hours, and it wasn't the best," Ridgeway said. "This is better. It's a lot of fun and the community likes it."
The morning tour train ride offers a more relaxed environment for the new teachers. They are taken to organizations around Helena and get to meet key figures. Ridgeway said this is a great way to connect the new educators to the community and to highlight the resources available to them.
"It lets them get to know our partners in the community," Ridgeway said. "Even teachers who are from Helena go, because it helps in establishing the resources and opportunities available to our students."
This year the tour began as it always does, with breakfast on the patio at Helena Middle School. The tour train then traveled to Shodair Children's Hospital, the Montana Historical Society, the Montana Federation of Public Employees, the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce, Lewis and Clark Library, the Myrna Loy, Grandstreet Theater and the Holter Museum of Art.
Several of these locations welcomed the new teachers with gift bags.