This past week showcased more reasons why I am proud to be a part of the Helena-West Helena School District and provided more evidence to support that the district’s upward trajectory continues. Our community can have confidence that we are moving in the right direction and parents should feel confident about enrolling their children in our schools.
Last week we highlighted athletic activities with the reopening of the track. This week it’s our music department that brought positive exposure to the district and showed us another aspect of our schools rising to meet the challenge of being a top-notch public school.
The annual Martin Luther King parade was held downtown this weekend after being postponed in January due to inclement weather. It was a very nice event and there was beautiful weather on a day when there was a large amount of positive activity in our city. HWHSD had three entries in that parade and all did an outstanding job.
First, our 21st Century Program at J. F. Wahl has a bucket drum line. It was my privilege to walk with them during the parade. They stopped at several spots and performed. Those students, in Kindergarten through third grade, did an excellent job. Nicole Baker, the director of the program, and Patrick Mugridge, our high school and elementary band director, did an excellent job working with these students. I was gratified when it was announced that this group won 3rd place overall in the parade. J. F. Wahl was the only school with a group to place in the parade. This was quite an accomplishment.
Second, our Eliza Miller Drum Line, also under the direction of Mr. Mugridge, entertained the crowd at a high level. This group has steadily gotten better over the years and helped to spawn the restart of our elementary band program this year, which I was proud to support. I was ecstatic that our board unanimously voted to invest in our music program at the elementary level. This year, we have over 20 kids in the elementary band. We will immediately see the benefit to our high school band program next year as these students enter the 7th grade and continue their band careers.
Third, Mr. Mugridge took over the high school band in January. Since that time, I have been amazed at the progress of the group. While still small in number, the sound of the band and the musical capability being demonstrated has improved steadily. I admit to a little personal bias on this one. My son is in the band. He loves it. Those kids in that band are going to be a strong core as we move forward rebuilding this very important program. They did a very good job on Saturday and received wide praise from the crowd.
All of this shows that HWHSD is making a commitment to excellence in music and the arts, and we are working on the programming simultaneously with the facilities work that is ongoing. At this writing, which is occurring just prior to our monthly school board meeting, the district is considering a partnership with Thrive, Inc. to greatly enhance our art and East lab programs. I am excited about this partnership that will take advantage of the artists-in-residence programs and design skill expertise of Thirve to give our students additional training and provide our teachers with additional resources to improve the quality of our programs. In fact, it will result in four facilitators from Thrive coming into our classrooms three days per week for the entire school year. They will work with East lab programs two of those days and in our art classrooms each Friday. This is an exciting plan and an example of the kinds of community partnerships necessary to have great schools and a great community. I anticipate this partnership being approved just like the one we had with the Helena Health Foundation on the track.
The Helena-West Helena School District continues to work hard to make sure that our district is a source of pride for this community and provides the best public school education in the region. We have made steady progress and continue to work hard to improve what we are doing for our students and our community each day. With each passing week, momentum slowly increases.
In closing, parents around the community are making decisions about the schools their child will attend next year. I encourage every parent to give the Helena-West Helena School District an opportunity to educate your children. Our Academies at the elementary level will be even better next year with a year’s worth of experience and data to evaluate. We are ramping up Advanced Placement instruction with the implementation of the AAIMS program at Central High School. New facilities will be in place for our youngest students at J. F. Wahl Elementary and new high school facility construction will begin later this year. We have quality extracurricular activities. Enroll in HWHSD! You will be glad you did. Until next time, GO COUGARS!