in the News

Here you'll find instances of the GFPS Foundation featured in the local media outlets.

Great Falls husband surprises wife with elementary school library for her birthday

Sarah Dettmer,

Talcott Construction



Linda Caricaburu is an advocate for Great Falls Public Schools.


Now, there will be a physical representation of her love and support for the schools in the new Giant Springs Elementary School library and media center.


Giant Springs Elementary is under construction and will be completed in time for the 2017-2018 school year. Roosevelt students will be moved to the new school.


In honor of Caricaburu's 60th birthday, her husband Brad Talcott of James Talcott Construction donated $100,000 to the school for library furnishings. The donation includes everything from shelving, chairs and desks to computers.


"It was a surprise birthday present," Caricaburu said. "On the morning of my birthday, Dave Crum from the (Great Falls Public Schools) Foundation, board members, Tammy Lacey and a few cabinet members were at my front door with balloons. They broke the news."


Talcott said the gift was an obvious choice for his wife for her dedication to the schools, for the students of Roosevelt Elementary and for their family's legacy within the district. Talcott said at least a dozen members of his family attended Roosevelt and his own daughters are alumni.


"We just feel that it's the oldest school in the district so the students there are inherently at a disadvantage in some ways," Talcott said. "It's their turn to have something special—the opportunity to learn at a different level."


Roosevelt also 62 percent free and reduced lunch.


"It's not the most privileged neighborhood," Caricaburu said. "A lot of those students don't have much."


Rhonda Zobrak, the principal at Roosevelt Elementary, said she is thankful for the gift and knows it will be used for generations to come.


Caricaburu and Talcott were present at the regular meeting of the school board on Nov. 13 to speak about the gift. Caricaburu encouraged everyone to consider giving donations on behalf of their loved ones no matter how large or small the sum.


During her time with the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation, Caricaburu said she saw how gifts large and small can directly help classrooms.


"What a great way to honor anyone," Caricaburu said.

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Discovery Grant brings Mountain View library into 21st century

Sarah Dettmer,


The library and media center at Mountain View Elementary has graduated to this century.Thanks to the collaborative work of five teachers and a $14,788 grant from the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation, students now have a modern place to learn and study.

"It used to look like that avocado green, golden harvest, Brady Bunch decor," 

Mountain View Elementary's library was upgraded thanks to a $15,000 grant awarded to five teachers. (Photo: Tribune Photo/Sarah Dettmer)

Lainie Warneke, Mountain View gifted education teacher, said. "Now it's more comfortable. It's a hub. It's the center of the school."

Warneke, along with teachers Patricia Korman, Rachel O'Neill, Librarian Jennifer Crisman and school psychologist Carly Nason, each applied for the maximum $3,000 grant, and then pooled their funds to improve the library.

The funds were used to upgrade to the latest interactive technologies.

Warneke said creating a 21st-century learning center for students is invaluable.

"Kids do their homework on computers and turn in their homework online," Warneke said. "Students today have literacy in technology. It's second-nature for them. These students will be creating the new technologies."

The library upgrade included a touch screen monitor that was installed last week. (Photo: Tribune Photo/Sarah Dettmer)

The importance of creating a comfortable and inviting learning hub was also paramount.

The remaining funds were used to repaint the yellow walls with crisp turquoise, white and gray paint and to buy new tables and chairs.

"All of the chairs used to be mismatched, and there were a bunch of bookshelves that were mismatched," sixth-grader Adrienn Jasumback said. "It was very bland. There wasn't much color. Now, I like it a lot because blue is one of my favorite colors, and I like the chairs a lot. They're comfortable. It's cool when we do get to spend time in here."

The school's PTA funded the bookshelf project. 

The Mountain View library is in the interior of the building and doesn't have any windows. Students will be working with Art Teacher Kristi Wasson to bring the outside in with an aspen tree mural.


In total, the foundation awarded $93,188 in grants. There were 33 individual projects awarded a total of $63,400 and three group projects awarded a total of $29,788.

Discovery Grants are intended to encourage innovation and creativity within the district by providing students with the opportunity to expand their learning environment and experiences. Teachers can apply for funding ranging from $500 to $3,000.

(From the left) Sixth-graders Adrienn Jasumback, Sydney Graf, Neva Clark, Andrew Schoenen, Kyle Scott and Paige Mackenstadt said the new library is a big improvement. (Photo: Tribune Photo/Sarah Dettmer)

Since the Foundation began awarding Discovery Grants in 2011, 182 projects have been funded for a total of $400,150. 

Discovery Grant recipients 2017


  • It's MY Book!!; Robin Western; $3,000
  • Preschool Conscious Discipline; Jennifer Lambert; $3,000


  • 6th Grade Winter Ecology Field Investigation (Year 2); Cramer Caouette; District-wide $3,000
  • 21st Century Media Center; Jennifer Crisman, Patricia Korman, Carly Nason, Rachel O'Neill, Lainie Warneke; Mountain View; $14,788
  • Bullying Prevention Library; Tiffany Sweeney; Mountain View; $1,000
  • Chromebooks and Google Classroom in Sunnyside Elementary Library; Cathy Allen; Sunnyside; $3,000
  • Classroom Moves; Alissa Kline; Roosevelt; $1,500
  • Connecting Families, Weaving Memories; Laurie Matteson; Lincoln; $1,968.50
  • Discover, Interact, Play and Learn; Dana Freshly; West; $2,000
  • Dry Erase Boards; Leslie Kynett; Lincoln; $1,097.84
  • Flexible Seating; Kim Ray; Loy; $3,000
  • Floor No More Part 2; Kelsey Lowry; West; $1,500
  • Keep Calm and be Successful!; Nikki Ritland; Riverview; $900
  • NewsELA; Pamela Mackiel; Roosevelt; $2,700
  • Oral Health program - Grades K-5; Ruth Uecker; District-wide; $1,800
  • Parkour Curriculum; David Lietz; Loy; $1,600
  • Play to Learn; Learn to Play; Alex Kosanda; Longfellow; $1,640.96
  • Sensory Enrichment and Exploration; Stacey Dobbyn; Loy; $1,500
  • Trials for Increased Academic Success; Tiffani Fox-Sunchild; Lewis and Clark; $502.66
  • Tumblebooks; Miwa Combs; Lincoln; $795

Middle School

  • Dynamo Gates of Learning; Leesa Halcro; East; $3,000
  • IXL for Literacy; Melissa VanSickle; North; $3,000
  • Technology Integration and Enhancement; Bobbie Dart, Nick Herd, Zack Ringler; East; $9,000

High School

  • Auto Fuel Mileage Project; Shawn Kohut; CMR; $3,000
  • Bison Piano Project; Patrick Ryan, Jordan Spicher; GFH; $6,000
  • Fieldhouse Weight Room; Chris Napierala; GFH; $1,500
  • Film Renaissance; Theresa Jacobs; CMR; $450
  • Microphones for language learners; Lisa Frank; GFH; $745
  • Native American Bison Experience; Drew Uecker; Paris Gibson Education Center; $2,800
  • Raspberry Pi School 2.0; Stacy Dolderer; GFH; $2,000
  • Updating graphing technology for the math classroom; Brad Packer; CMR; $3,000
  • Young Masters Art Show; Tess Jacobs; CMR; $1,000

Not grade specific

  • GFPS Beginning Instrumental Camp; Dusty Molyneaux; District-wide; $1,500
  • littleBits Project Based Learning; Jeff Rieger; Extended Curriculum; District-wide; $2,399.90
  • Summer Read 6! 2017; Carol Paul; District-wide; $2,500Image result for great falls tribune logo



Great Falls Public Schools Foundation awarded with $10,000 donation

Sarah Dettmer, sdettmer@greatfallstribune.comPublished 3:24 p.m. MT Sept. 8, 2017
Students in need have found a safe haven in Great Falls.

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Great Falls Realtor Association and the Young Professional Network, every food pantry in the district received a box, or two, of toiletries.

The groups also presented the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation with a check for $10,000.

Dave Crum, executive director of the GFPSF, said he was both grateful and astounded by the success of the organizations.

"Especially at the elementary level, this will give principals and teachers the things they need to make kids presentable before they go into class," Crum said. "It will help kids who don't have a parent there to get them ready."

The simple donation of toiletries also help lessen instances of bullying at school, Crum continued.

GFRA and YPN collected more than 3,000 toiletry donations from a drive that ran between July and August. Bins were set out business around town and barrels were placed at Super 1 Foods, Walgreens' 3rd St. location and McKenzie River Pizza.


Then, on Aug. 22, they hosted a Stand Up for Students fundraising event at McKenzie River Pizza. The public could donate money, buy raffle tickets for items and a 50/50 drawing and buy food and drinks with 20 percent of the proceeds going towards the cause.

Additional funds were raised through participation in the GFPSF Truck Raffle. They received 60 percent of the proceeds from raffle ticket sales.

"It's just amazing," Crum said. "I give them some guidance, but they do all of the work."

Principals and teachers from the district met at Paris Gibson Education Center on Sept. 8 to thank the organizations and collect toiletries to bring back to their schools.



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$105,000 donation brings soccer to Memorial Stadium

Sarah Dettmer ,

Work was already underway to complete upgrades at Memorial Stadium when the Great Falls Public School Foundation was approached by a donor willing to add to the improvements.

Thanks to a $105,000 donation from Willie and Melissa Pyette, part owners of Outback Power Company and Red Rock Power Inc., the new Memorial Stadium turf will include soccer lines.

“The Foundation is so excited about this,” Linda Caricaburu, GFPSF board chair, said. “When we formed, this is exactly what we hoped would happen. We wanted to leverage the goodwill and generosity of the community. We’ve only been around for a few years and look what has happened.”

The Pyettes' donation came with two requests.


The first is that a minimum of four soccer games be played on the new field per year. The second is for the donation to be recognized by signage on either side of the field. The signage will read, “Power Soccer Field at Memorial Stadium donated by Red Rock Power Inc.” and “Power Soccer Field at Memorial Stadium donated by Outback Power Company.”

After the donation was offered, GFPSF Executive Director Dave Crum assembled a committee to review the donation and make a recommendation to the board. Crum said the committee wanted to expand on the Pyettes' requests and said it hopes the district will use the field for more than four games.

At the July 17 regular meeting of the Great Falls Public Schools board, the trustees unanimously voted to accept the donation and its subsequent requests.

The district will not receive the entire sum at once. The Pyettes have contributed $15,000 and will pay out the rest of the donation in $10,000-a-year increments between January 2018 and January 2026. 

Willie is the head girls’ soccer coach at C.M. Russell High School. 

“We believe in Great Falls,” Willie said. “We’re from Chinook, Melissa is my high school sweetheart, and we moved here in 1992. Since we’re from Chinook, we think Great Falls is huge. Great Falls has always been good to us, and this is one way we can give back. We can’t wait to get down there and get some games in.”

The final rendering of the new turf at Memorial Stadium has been completed and includes the new soccer lines. The field will alternate light green and dark green turf with white football lines and silver soccer lines.

The design of the field has been simplified from earlier renderings due to unforeseen costs associated with the foundation beneath the field.

Each end zone will say “Great Falls” and “Memorial Stadium” will be written on each 25-yard line.

The track around the field will be cinder red instead of black.


On Aug. 7, crews will begin laying the new artificial turf. Barring any complications, the turf will be finished by the first football game of the year. Superintendent Tammy Lacey said the track might not be finished by that time, but will be completed in September.

“I’m excited about this and ready to get this project checked off our list because we have a lot of other projects to get going,” Lacey said.

The public can monitor these and other facilities projects by visiting a new link on the GFPS website under the “Community” tab by clicking “Facility Action,” “Facility Projects and Timelines” and then “Facility Project Update With Pictures.” Lacey said the link will be updated approximately every two weeks.

Community members will also start noticing signage placed outside construction sites that thank the community for committing tax dollars to improve the schools as well as a list the projects occurring on the site, the projects’ timelines and who to contact with questions.

Discovery Grants bring music to students’ ears

Sarah Dettmer , October 13, 2016

Five students were hammering away on their keyboards in North Middle School on Thursday afternoon, but not a single note was heard by those in the room.

Thanks to a $3,000 Discovery Grant awarded to Ellen Forslund, music director at North, by the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation, music students have 15 new electronic piano keyboards with headphones that allow students to play over each other without disruption.

In total, the foundation awarded $54,799 for preschool through secondary school projects.

“Teachers who traditionally pay for special events and projects out of pocket can now look outside the classroom for learning opportunities,” said Linda Caricaburu, the foundation’s chairwoman. We have some phenomenal teachers in the district. We’re giving them the opportunity to expand how they teach, and they’ve really stepped up.”

Teachers, administrators, faculty and staff can apply for Discovery Grants and may ask for a maximum of $3,000. Grant applications are evaluated by a community board made up of other teachers, community members and GFPSF board members.

This year, 26 of the 38 applicants received grants.

Students gathered in the North music room to demonstrate how they have benefited from their Discovery Grant. The new keyboards allow students to record their own music onto a USB device and download it to other school projects and presentations. The keyboards also show students the name of the notes they are playing and have prerecorded songs students can play along with.

“These keyboards really help us expand our music knowledge,” said Aaron Kelly, an eighth-grade student at North. “Last year we were using floppy disks to save our music. I don’t even know what a floppy disk is.”

This year was also the first year the foundation awarded $9,000 to a single project. Three Great Falls High School teachers got together and applied for three collaborative grants to fund the opening of a coffee kiosk and mobile coffee cart at the school.

Caricaburu said the teachers reached out to local coffee shops for advice on what products they needed to buy and how to effectively run the business. Students will be able to learn about financial planning and management, how to run a business and how to be baristas, she said.

“This gives these students the skills for a job after graduation or a part-time job during college,” said Dave Crum, GFPSF executive director.

The foundation has awarded a total of $306,962.12 since 2011. Nearly 48,350 students have been impacted by the funds.

The money for Discovery Grants is raised by the GFPSF through fundraising efforts. The amount the foundation has to give is directly based on how much the community gives to the cause.

Crum estimated the annual truck raffle alone brings in almost $50,000 for the foundation. Discovery Grants are also funded by the Cross-town Clash at Centene Stadium and Gold Star Awards – awards purchased by students and parents to give to teachers and staff the would like to honor.

“We’re grateful to the community for buying raffle tickets and supporting the foundation,” Caricaburu said. “This doesn’t just affect a few students. It reaches thousands across the district.”

Get your tickets for the School Foundation truck raffle

Money raised by event benefits local students



 Last year’s raffle helped send these five CMR HOSA members to a national competition: left, Erynn Murphy,  Megan Bahnmiller, Courtney Schroeder, Isabelle Pellot and Maddison Handa.


Adviser Christi Virts calls the annual Great Falls Schools Foundation Truck Raffle the “bread and butter” of funding raising for Health Occupations Students of America at C. M. Russell High School.

The money raised from the raffle meant that she could take 22 students to state competition in Missoula last spring and five state champions to Nashville for national competition last summer.

The Oakland family, which owns City Motors, donated a 2017 Toyota Tacoma truck valued at $25,000 for the raffle, which benefits not only the foundation, but any school organizations that sells the $10 tickets. This is the fourth year the Oaklands have donated a vehicle to the foundation for a raffle.

Those organizations, ranging from PTAs, to speech and debate teams, to music programs and athletic teams, keep $6 of each $10 ticket sold, with the other $4 going to the foundation. All money raised stays with local schools and students.

This year there is an added incentive to buy tickets, the North 40 Outfitters Store has also donated a $1,000 gift certificate as part of the raffle.

The winning truck and gift certificate raffle tickets will be drawn at halftime of the CMR-GFH Crosstown Football Game Oct. 28.

The CMR HOSA chapter will be selling the tickets at the “What Women Want Expo” Friday, Oct. 7, and the Great Falls High School Cross Country team will be there Saturday, Oct. 8.

The raffle started in late July and some 36 school organizations have joined with the foundation to sell tickets. Last year 11,490 tickets were sold, raising $114,500. This year’s goal is $120,000 and more than 5,000 tickets have been sold, ahead of last year’s pace.

Erynn Murphy, a CMR HOSA officer and a senior, hopes to go to Montana State University or Carroll College when she graduates and to study nursing. She was impressed by national competition where 10,000 students competed as medical professionals.

“These tickets aren’t hard to sell,” said Murphy. “People know they go to something good.”

Students must raise their own expense for the conferences, $700 each for state, and $2,000-$2,500 for nationals, and are required to buy their own plane ticket. This school year state is in Helena and nationals in Orlando.

The $2,000 HOSA students raised by selling raffle tickets last year meant more students were able to go to the competitions, said Virts, a CMR health occupations teacher. “This is a learning and life experience. Some of these students have never been on a plane before.”

If you would like to purchase a raffle ticket, but are unable to attend the Expo, contact Foundation Executive Director Dave Crum at 406-268-7340 or check the foundation Web site at: www.gfpsfoundation. org for a list of organizations selling tickets.

You may also “Like” the foundation on Facebook for updates on the drawing and other foundation activities. You do not need to be present to win.

CMR, GFH holding scholarship nights

Tribune Staff10:04 p.m. MDT September 29, 2016

Two college scholarship information nights will be held in October to give high school seniors and their parents what they need to apply online for 43 scholarships that are managed by the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation.

The first will be Tuesday, Oct. 4, at C.M. Russell High School in the Bill Williamson Auditorium. The second will be Tuesday, Oct. 11, at Great Falls High School’s auditorium.

Both begin at 6:30 p.m.

School counselors, scholarship reviewers and foundation staff will be present to explain the do’s and don’ts of applying online.

The foundation plans to post the scholarship applications on its website,, and will announce when it goes live.

The scholarships include those that can be renewed annually to multiple years. There are scholarships for the financially disadvantaged, the academically accomplished and for career and technical education. They range from $6,250 a year for two years to few hundred dollars.

There are 24 scholarships specific to Great Falls High School, and 19 for C.M. Russell High School students.

For more information contact the schools’ counseling offices or the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation at 268-7340.

Great Falls Realtors Association helps homeless students

By: Margaret DeMarco - MTN News
Great Falls Realtors Association helps homeless students.Great Falls Realtors Association helps homeless students. 

School food pantries throughout Great Falls Public Schools got a boost on Friday through a special donation. 

The Great Falls Realtors Association presented nearly 2,000 toiletry items they have collected to the Homeless Student Program.

195 students are homeless in the Great Falls School District and are in need of simple items. 

When the association heard about the this, they wanted to help with some of the needs these students have. 

This year they were also able to raise over $7,500 at the "Stand Up for Students" event in August.

"This year was seeing the community get involved. And it was just really touching how giving people are. Once they found out the number, they are concerned with helping out and making a difference. For me that is my favorite part, is seeing the community get involved. As well as just making a difference and helping these kids out," Ashley Friesen, Great Falls Realtors Association said. 

The Homeless Student Program is a part of the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation.

My Best Day 5K honors Jake Arntson’s team spirit

JO DEE BLACK jblack@greatfallstribune.com2:19 p.m. MDT September 4, 2016

Seven-year-old first-grader Jacob Roy "Jake" Arntson had a contagious giggle. He was gifted at making friends with people of all ages and made everyone feel comfortable.

When his sister Rylee or his parents helped Jake get ready for the day each morning, he would tell them that day was going to be his best day.

Jake’s short life ended in a tragic car accident on Dec. 31, 2012, when he and his dad, John Arntson, who is originally from Great Falls, were traveling back to their home in Clackamas, Ore., after visiting family in the Electric City.

On Sunday, Sept. 11,  Jake’s memory will be honored in Great Falls at the “My Best Day” 5K Fun Run and Kid’s Dash, events that will raise money for annual scholarships that will be presented to three C.M. Russell High School seniors. Jake’s dad John is a C.M. Russell High School alumni.

“A group of friends who grew up with John (Arntson) wanted to do something in Jake’s memory and in his home town of Clackamas a ‘My Best Day’ 5K and Kids’ Dash was started, so we are mirroring that,” said Cyndy Grinde, an organizer of the event. Others are Jason Bliss, now of Billings, Stephanie Cummings, Rob and Stacie Skawinski, and Joanie Agamenoni, who is John Arntson’s sister.

Two $500 scholarships and a $2,500 scholarship will be awarded in the spring to graduating athletes from C.M. Russell High School who will be nominated by coaches.

“The scholarships will be presented to athletes who display Jake’s great attitude, ones who embrace an attitude that ‘This is going to be my best day’ and are great teammates,” Grinde said.

Corporate sponsors have donated $10,000, enough to underwrite the costs of the race and provide seed money for the Jake Arntson Teammate of the Year Scholarship Fund. The scholarships will be awarded each year until 2024, the year Jake would have graduated from high school.

His parents, John and Tracy Arntson will be at the event, along with his sister Rylee. The Arntsons recently welcomed a baby girl named Ava to their family.

There were about 200 people registered to participate as of Sept. 4 and registrations are available the night before and day of the event.

“This is a fun run, there will be a lot of walkers,” Grinde said. “There are two Kids’ Dashes, basically one that is about one length of a football field and another that is two lengths of a football field.”

After the race the Great Falls band Allegedly Red will perform in the parking lot of The Front. Vocalist Sonya Brundege is a classmate of John Arntson’s.

Donations to the Jake Arntson Teammate of the Year Scholarship Fund may also be made through the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation.

Summer brings happy reading

Sarah Dettmer11:53 a.m. MDT August 21, 2016

Super Summer Read 6 completed its fourth year of providing books to the children of the community.

For five weeks this summer, Carol Paul and her mobile library took to the streets. Over the course of the summer, 2,612 books were distributed to 1,496 students. The literary trailer made 38 stops around the community.

The Super Summer Read 6 library made about four stops a night, often to parks with hordes of children, their parents and their dogs waiting to trade in their books for new ones.

Mountain View third-grader Audrina excitedly ran up to the trailer and asked for “100 Ways to Annoy a Teacher.”

“I like funny, nice, weird books,” Audrina said.

Audrina settled for a Junie B. Jones chapter book and went to Tim Paul’s mobile circulation desk to check it out.

Audrina was also given a Popsicle.

“This is a multiservice-type organization we have here,” Tim told her.

Great Falls Public Schools employees and community members volunteer their time talking to kids and sorting out their literary interests.


For the second year in a row, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” topped the charts as the most requested series. The “Bad Kitty” series was a close second. GFPS librarians give Paul a top 10 list at the end of every school year so she knows what to order for the program.

“People donate books every night,” Paul said. “Once, a sixth-grader came with a boxes of books to donate. He asked for a picture with them because, he told us, ‘This is my childhood!’”

Super Summer Read 6 is supported by GFPS and the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation. In the past, it has received a Discovery grant and a United Way grant to buy books and support the program. Last year, Paul said it received a $10,000 anonymous donation.

“We use to give gas coupons to our trailer drivers,” Paul said. “But they started saying no.”

Super Summer Read 6 made 38 stops this summer, all book ended by the cheerful voice of Paul calling out, “Happy reading!” to the community.

GFPS Foundation surpasses own goals

Sarah Dettmer7:59 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016

The Great Falls Public Schools Foundation completed its fifth annual report this evening, highlighting the completion of their five-year plan.

The foundation met all of their goals, namely meeting and surpassing their three to five year fundraising goal in one year.

Among other achievements, the foundation distributed almost $15,000 to school food pantries, donated $40,000 to windows at Great Falls High School and raised almost $115,000 during their Toyota Rav4 raffle.

$53,102 from the raffle went towards the schools, with the remainder going to the foundation.

The foundation also worked heavily on five year student centered programming.

Through their Dream Big Grant, $100,000 was awarded to the Prairie Expedition Project. The project allows students to experience an integrated curriculum in and out of the classroom.

The Great Falls Public Schools Foundation manages 61 scholarships and awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships to students.

“Nothing is more gratifying than receiving a personalized thank you from a student whose life was really changed, sometimes by just a few dollars,” Linda Caricaburu, Great Falls Public Schools Foundation chair, said.

Due to the resounding success of their five-year plan, the foundation plans to set even higher goals for themselves for the coming years.

ConocoPhillips CEO to give keynote address in Great Falls

 David Murray, dmurray@greatfallstribune.com10:08 p.m. MDT May 4, 2016

It is likely that most Montanan’s are unaware that the chief executive officer of one of the world’s largest oil companies is a Great Falls High School graduate.

Ryan Lance is a petroleum engineer with 31 years’ experience in the oil and gas industry. Four years ago he was promoted as CEO of ConocoPhillips.

Thirty-two years before that he was an academic standout at Great Falls High.

Lance was in Great Falls to present the keynote address at the Excellence in Education ceremony, an annual celebration of local educators presented by the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation.

“When they called and asked if I would come up, it was just a little something that I could do to give back to what was a great education that I had here in Great Falls,” Lance said. “It’s what led me on to Montana Tech, and forward onto the path that I’ve been on for the last 30-some years.”

Lance was born into a military family. His father was from Billings, his mom grew up in Wolf Point. The couple met while attending classes at Montana State University before Lance’s father enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.

“We had lived all over the U.S., and my dad was fortunate to get his last assignment back here at Malmstrom,” Lance said of his childhood. “We came back here in 1977 and I went to Great Falls High. It was great we were able to come home.”

Lance spent three years attending classes at Great Falls High, and credits several of his teachers with having a profound influence in his life.

“Peggy Blythe was a biology teacher at Great Falls High who had a huge influence on me,” he said. “Gene Cook, Larry Lucero; they were teachers who were institutions at Great Falls High that really gave a lot back. They didn’t get famous in the process, but they certainly educated some people who went on to do some pretty outstanding things. It a testament to those guys who spent 20- and 30-year careers giving back to the kids.”

Lance said his presentation at the Excellence in Education ceremony would emphasize the importance of science, technology, engineering and math in education.

“In the work that we’ve done in the oil and gas industry and as a company, you realize you’ve got to start reading and mathematics at an early age,” he said. “If you can pass algebra in the eighth or ninth grade your chances of going on to college are tripled.”

“Really, this is about how important it is to support our schools here in Montana and give the kids the opportunities that they have here,” Lance added.

The Great Falls Public Schools Foundation honored Stacey Krahe, a math teacher at East Middle School, and Karen Spencer, a chemistry teacher from C.M. Russell High, as the teachers of the year.

Thirty-three teachers were nominated.

“These educators are passionate about making their subjects interesting and their classrooms a place for problem solving and critical thinking,” BNSF railway representative Matt Jones. BNSF sponsored the event said.

BNSF and GFPS Foundation celebrate 'Excellence in Education'

Great Falls High School Choir Teacher Patrick Ryan if one of 33 teachers up for the high school"Teacher of the Year" award.Great Falls High School Choir Teacher Patrick Ryan if one of 33 teachers up for the high school"Teacher of the Year" award.
The GFPS Foundation will honor it's student scholars at the 'Excellence in Education' ceremony and banquet Wednesday, May 4th, 2016The GFPS Foundation will honor it's student scholars at the 'Excellence in Education' ceremony and banquet Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

The Great Falls Public School Foundation and the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway honored 33 distinguished students and educators at the 'Excellence in Education' ceremony and banquet on Wednesday evening. 

The GFPS Foundation started the 'Excellence in Education' program five years ago.

The first half of the program aims to acknowledge students who have excelled academically, possess the ability to overcome problems, and demonstrate leadership skills in and outside of the classroom.

Great Falls High School senior and GFPS Foundation student scholar Renee Wanke's interests have ranged from serving as president of the local National Honor Society to acting in theater performances and running cross country. Wanke also plays the oboe and is a member of the symphonic band.

However, it was her love for singing that introduced her to high school choir teacher Patrick Ryan. 

"He's more than just a choir teacher, he teaches us so many different things not related- well they are related to choir- but it's not just music," said Wanke.

Ryan says he teaches his students that the songs they sing involve much more than the notes on the page and that music and life are closely intertwined.

"I use my art as a way to teach all about life, and so that's going to intersect with algebra, it's going to intersect with personal finance, it's going to intersect with visual art and English literature and you name it," said Ryan.

The Excellence in Education program also seeks to highlight recognition teachers deserve but often don't receive with two 'Educators of the Year' awards to be given to one Great Falls Public Schools elementary and junior high teacher and one high school teacher. 

"They have a huge impact on kids, they spend more time with kids then the parents do-waking moments. And we felt it important at the Foundation to make sure they get that recognition," said GFPS Foundation director Dave Crum. 

Students honored by the Foundation selected one teacher who has had an impact on their education. Mr. Ryan says simply being nominated by Wanke for the award is already an honor.

"It's why you do what you do and to, to hear from one of your  students that you've made an impact, it's one of the most affirming, nice feelings that you get in your whole career," said Ryan.

Along with the 'Educator of the Year' title, the GFPS Foundation also awards each teacher $2,500 to be put toward furthering their students' education in the classroom.

This year's winners are Stacey Krahe, a math teacher at East Middle School; and Karen Spencer, a CMR High School chemistry teacher. 

The guest speaker at the banquet was Great Falls High School alum Ryan Lance, who is the chairman and chief executive officer of ConocoPhillips. ConocoPhillips is currently the world's largest independent multinational energy corporation. 

High school juniors honored by GFPS Foundation

The Great Falls Public Schools Foundation hosted the Outstanding Junior Awards Breakfast on Tuesday. (GFPS Foundation photo)The Great Falls Public Schools Foundation hosted the Outstanding Junior Awards Breakfast on Tuesday. (GFPS Foundation photo)
The Great Falls Public Schools Foundation hosted the Outstanding Junior Awards Breakfast on Tuesday. (GFPS Foundation photo)The Great Falls Public Schools Foundation hosted the Outstanding Junior Awards Breakfast on Tuesday. (GFPS Foundation photo)

The Great Falls Public Schools Foundation hosted the Outstanding Junior Awards Breakfast on Tuesday.

A press release from the Foundation explains that each year, it honors high school juniors who have excelled in various departments at their schools.

The 31 juniors were honored during a breakfast at Paris Gibson Education Center.  

They were accompanied by their parents and/or guardians and their nominating teachers. The nominating teacher was asked to prepare a short paragraph on why they chose that student and it was read by their school principal.  

The event was attended by Foundation board members, teachers, administrators, and a District trustee.  Each student received a certificate from the Foundation for their outstanding achievement.

The guest speaker for the event was Zander Blewett, a trial attorney in Great Falls and a GFHS graduate. 

Here is the list of 2016 Outstanding Juniors

C. M. Russell High School
Dorie Cameron – Art Department
Jake Horner – Business Department
Kyrstin Hagins – Theatre Arts Department
Nicholas Rowe – English Department
Jaetiana Taylor – Family & Consumer Science Department
Lane Jensen – Health Enhancement Department
Taylor Williams – Industrial Technology Department
Terryn Premo – Journalism Department
Max Sechena – Math Department
Andrew Spragg – Med Prep/Health Occupations Department
Kyle Korb – Performing Arts Department
Paige Petersen – Science Department
Quincey Borggard – Social Studies Department
Izac Trainor-Brickey – World Language Department
Great Falls High School
Baylee Schippers – Art Department
Ryan Johnson – Business Department
Alissa Tabaracci – Theatre Arts Department
Cade Habel – English Department
Riley Boswell – Family & Consumer Science Department
Kody Torgerson – Health Enhancement Department
Colby Friede – Industrial Technology Department
Alec Vanderkolk – Video Productions Department
Faith Quinlisk – Math Department
Helen Margaris – Med Prep/Health Occupations Department
Kayla Slavik – Performing Arts Department
Israel Bonilla – Science Department
Kye Burchard – Social Studies Department
Schafer Paladichuk – World Language Department

Paris Gibson Education Center
Aaron Brubaker
Sierra Merrick
Ben Brockway

GFPS Foundation awards Dream Big Grant to "Prairie Expedition"



Teachers involved with the Prairie Expedition (MTN News photo)Teachers involved with the Prairie Expedition (MTN News photo)

This is the first time the Great Fall Public School Foundation awarded the "Dream Big" grant. Teachers and administrators could apply for the grant for an individual, a school or program demonstrating fresh and creative approaches to education.

Linda Caricuburu, Great Falls Public Schools Foundation Board President, said "We weren't thinking of more books or more computers, we were thinking of something that can really impact students, a lot of students we hope, in a different way, and that's exactly what our winning combination came up with."

Grant programs like "Dream Big" allow students and teachers to take the learning outside of the classroom and into living history.

The grant will benefit the "Prairie Expedition" project, a collaborative effort between six Great Falls High 9th grade teachers, that will have a hands-on approach to preserving Montana's lands while including areas of learning such math, science and physical education. 

Geoff Habel, Associate Principal at Great Falls High School, explained "It's across the board it's not just hitting one particular subject so for the kids to be able to experience real world application to what it is that we do every day is really great, it's exciting."

Among many things, next year's freshman class will research Great Plains history, visit the First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park and participate in community service and conservation projects.

The freshman class will also submit job resumes and cover letters in order to be one of the 30 students selected to visit the American Prairie Reserve in Malta. 

Upon returning they'll give presentations to the rest of the class on what they learned.

Freshman English teacher Emily Parzynski added, "Hopefully we can get them involved and passionate enough about caring for the land, forming an opinion and having the kind of experience to back it up."

While months went into the Prairie Expedition project proposal the real work is still ahead in planning out the details. 

However, the teachers say their passion to educate kids makes the effort worth it.

"We try to be innovative and 21st Century teachers and move the classroom outside of the four walls that the students are in, and we can, when we think that way, we all  grow; the teachers, we're going to learn just as much as the students,” said teacher Mary Wren.

Great Falls High teachers win ‘big idea’ $100,000 grant

Kristen Cates, GreatFalls9:04 a.m. MST March 3, 2016

When the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation encouraged teachers to dream big to earn a $100,000 grant, a team of teachers at Great Falls High began thinking “what if.”

What if there was a subject that could be taught across all curriculum areas to their freshmen students? What if they could get their students out of the classroom to study the material and could teach them a little bit about conservation and Montana history in the process?

On Wednesday afternoon, teachers Beth Thomas (science), Mary Wren (math), Mark Schulte (social studies), Emily Parzynski (English), Kathy Nelson (literacy) and Jana Mora (technology) learned their “Prairie Expedition” grant application was picked as the winner in the GFPS Foundation’s first-ever “Dream Big” grant contest. There are a lot of components to the grant, but one big feature will be taking kids to the American Prairie Reserve outside of Malta next spring.

“We just felt like we had written and put our best proposal forward,” Thomas said.

Gerry Jennings, a member of the GFPS Foundation board of directors, sat on the committee that reviewed all eight grant applications. The committee would have liked to have funded all eight ideas. But the one presented by Great Falls High freshmen teachers was well-rounded.

“This one, it expanded our geographic area and it expands our community,” Jennings said. “It’s an active project and we felt it was multi-faceted. They had really done their homework.”

The project will impact approximately 450 students, including special education students, who will be freshmen in Thomas, Wren, Schulte and Parzynski’s classrooms next year. Students will read the book “Last Child in the Woods” and will learn about ecosystems, native plants, Montana land math and geography, great plains history and more.

Students will visit First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park an will study everything from Native people to prairie landscape, vegetation and wildlife while there. Students will then create a digital project reflecting their learning and understanding, with Mora, a technology coach for the district assisting.

Parzynski, with the assistance of Nelson, who is a literacy coach for the district, will help her freshmen students prepare a cover letter and resume in order to apply for a trip to the American Prairie Reserve outside of Malta.

Thomas said they’ll only be able to take 30 kids on the trip, but the grant is also providing funds for the teachers to purchase 30 bikes so that the students can move around the reserve while there. After the trip, the bikes will be used for either student fitness classes or employee wellness activities, Schulte said.

“We wanted to think outside of the box and move the classroom outside of the four walls,” Wren said.

Though the grant is limited to one year, the teachers are hoping they can build up funding to sustain the program, or some component of the program in the future. There’s hope of working with other teachers in other districts on future projects based on student research. The students will also have to give a report on their trip to other freshmen. Parzynski hopes students will want to start some sort of conservation club after visiting and doing service work at the American Prairie Reserve.

“We want them to be conservation-minded,” she said.

Schulte said they have a lot of students who have never been outside of Great Falls. Thomas said there is a lot of Montana for students to explore with this project.

“It’s good to learn about where we live,” she said.

Raffle generates $114,000 for GFPS Foundation

Kristen Cates, GreatFalls5:22 p.m. MST November 4, 2015

Darrin Maas may have won a 2015 Toyota Rav4, but he wasn’t the only winner in the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation raffle.

The Billings man was able to get a brand-new vehicle from the raffle but more than $60,000 also was raised for 48 different student organizations and $53,000 will go to the GFPS Foundation.

“We’ll push that money out,” said Dave Crum, executive director of the GFPS Foundation. “Every dollar stays in Great Falls.”

City Motor Company, owned by Leslie Oakland and her family, has donated a vehicle for the last three years to raise money for students and classrooms. Oakland said her family will happily do it again in 2016.

“It’s a great way for everybody to find out about the foundation,” Oakland said.

Crum said because of Oakland’s donations and other community partnerships, it only cost the Foundation $850 to print the raffle tickets.

“Everyone donated everything for us,” Crum said. “That’s almost unheard of.”

The tickets were $10 a piece, with $6 of every ticket sold going to the student organization selling the tickets and $4 going to the Foundation. The Great Falls High Bison football team sold the most tickets, raising more than $9,000. But everyone from the CMR cheer team to Morningside PTA and North Middle School’s music program got involved.

Maas said he bought the ticket from his niece and her family who attend Valley View Elementary School. She called him. Actually, he bought two tickets. He purchased those tickets just before the raffle ended before the Crosstown football game last week.

“I’m very happy and very lucky that I got a phone call,” Maas said.

GFPS Foundation awards Discovery Grants to classrooms

 Kristen Cates, kcates@greatfallstribune.com6:31 p.m. MDT October 14, 2015

Beth Britton dreamed about being able to bring her journalism class at C.M. Russell High School more into the digital age with a professional video camera.

Thanks to a grant from the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation, Britton was able to purchase a video camera and become familiar with the software this summer.

She's one of 27 recipients of $53,379 in grant funds from the nonprofit foundation, which supports the school district.

"(The Discovery Grants allow) teachers to dream about a little chunk of equipment for their classroom," Britton said. "I'm not super familiar with video, but this is where we needed to go."

The GFPS Foundation has now awarded more than $200,000 in Discovery Grants over the last four years, board president Linda Caricaburu said. Teachers across the district can apply for grants totaling no more than $3,000. Britton's camera and associated equipment cost $1,937.

"This is going to allow you to be right out front in journalism," Caricaburu told Britton's class.

Instructors from preschool teachers at the Early Learning Family Center to middle school industrial technology teachers and high school art teachers received grants that support learning toys, an upgraded planer for the woodshop and frames to display student art.

Dave Crum, executive director of the GFPS Foundation, said the committee tries to keep the grant application simple and streamlined for teachers for a reason.

"We want them to focus on teaching and not working on a complicated grant," Crum said.

Andrew Aron, a junior at CMR, is interested in pursuing a career as a documentary filmmaker. Britton's journalism class is helping him explore the possibility. And he appreciates any technology that helps make his class more similar to real-life.

"This situation is something I won't be able to experience anywhere else," he said.

GFPS Foundation Discovery Grant recipients for 2015:

Rustlers News, CMR, Beth Britton, $1,937. Video equipment to be used for Rustler News website.

The Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet, CMR, Paul Hogan, $3,000. Twenty-five new Auto-Darkening Welding Helmets will be purchased for enhancing welding and metals fabrication units of instruction.

GFPS High School Framing Systems, CMR, Cortni King, $1,765. This project builds an inventory of frames that will be used to display student work both on and off campus in a professional manner for all three GFPS high schools.

Oral Health Program- Grades K-5, DOB, Ruth Uecker, $1,800. Will screen students for dental problems, teach effective dental hygiene practices and provide them with toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss to be used with lessons.

Strength & Conditioning, EMS, Luis Carranza, $2,843. East Middle School will purchase more equipment to use with the strength and conditioning program. 

East Middle School Industrial Tech Planer replacement, EMS, Melvin Mikkola, $3,000. East Middle School will upgrade the planer in the woodshop to a machine that is safer and more dependable.

East Middle School Industrial Tech Planer Request, EMS, Steven Krogstad, $3,000. East Middle School will upgrade the planer in the woodshop to a machine that is safer and more dependable.

Microscopes, GFH, Cynthia Jacobsen, $3,000. Purchase microscopes for Biology I and II classrooms.

Pre-construction, GFH, Derik Senger, $400. The Great Falls High School pre-construction class will purchase a pneumatic siding nailer that will aid in the construction of the sheds.

Bison Welding Works, Powder Coater, GFH, Jake Spearson, $1,500. The Bison Welding Works will purchase a new powder coating gun to help boost the production and quality of the products the club is producing.

READ TO ME!, GFPS Preschool, Colette Getten, $1,500. A volunteer will read a book to preschool children in the month of their birthday and they will then be able to take the book home.

Time to Tinker - Preschool IT, GFPS Preschool, Ryan Beam, $3,000. Preschool students, ages 3-5, will have exposure to basic shop working skills that correspond to preschool curriculum in a variety of concept areas.

GFPS Art Department Portable Display Panels, music and art department, Dusty Molyneaux, $2,283. The GFPS Art program will purchase an additional 12 panel pack of Pro Panels. This will allow art teachers to display more art work in their respective schools with much more flexibility and will allow for more displays.

Bison Sound Studio, GFH, Kelly Wiles, $3,000. GFHS journalism, yearbook and video electives will create a sound studio that allows students to participate in audio recording and interviews for multimedia projects.

ApPROXimate Communication, Lewis and Clark Elementary, Tiffani Fox-Palmer, $2,040. The ProxPad is a single location communication and learning aid that will increase functional communication abilities in students with severe communication deficits.

Logan ProxTalker: Communication for All, Longfellow, Alex Kosanda, $2,495. The purchase of a Logan ProxTalker will be used to help support and facilitate communication skills of students.

eBeam, Morningside, Stacey Hansen, $1,300. The eBeam Projection system turns any flat surface into an interactive white board.

Grizz Biz & I/T Router Box Joint Production, NMS, Pat Volkmar, $1,514. Grizz Biz is a student-run class specializing in custom laser-engraved products. The Industrial Tech students will use the new tool to build projects that are more complex.

All-Northwest Spokane, NMS, Elizabeth Quinby, $1,500. Will provide hunds to help pay for North Middle School Philharmonic Orchestra's trip to the All- Northwest National Association of Music Education conference in Spokane last spring. 

"Literacy without Limits! - Clicker 6", PGEC, Sanna Beerman, $1,100. The purchase of a laptop with the Clicker 6 software will provide a dedicated device for students to independently demonstrate their knowledge of classroom curriculum.

"Looking" for Learning Options, PGEC, Amy Gilbertson, $1,710. The purchase of the EyeGaze Foundations will provide students with significant motor deficits with a system that will allow them access to computers for learning as well as computer programs to help them be able to express their knowledge.

TreasuresWithin Mythology, Sacajawea, Colleen Way, $1,956. Fourth-grade Sacajawea teachers will order "Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes and Monsters and National Geographic Kids Everything Mythology" books.

AcademicParentTeacher Teams, Valley View, Alana Adkins, $2,069. Valley View is piloting the new program that uses class to look at student academic data with parents and build understanding of grade level academic goals and teaching parents about Common Core standards.

Academic Parent Teacher Team, Valley View, Jill Christensen, $889. By showing the parents the Common Core standards and teaching them the foundational skills, they will be able to reinforce the classroom lessons at home and support their child's academic success.

Academic Parent Teacher Team, Valley View, Lindsey Wicks-O'Brien, $889. Same as above.

Academic Parent Teacher Team, Valley View, Ande Brinka, $889. Same as above.

Listening Is Learning!, Roosevelt, Kristina Heisler, $3,000. Roosevelt kindergarten through second-grade classrooms will purchase listening centers and books with tapes or CDs in order to appropriately teach the fundamentals of reading, speaking and listening skills.

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