Schools brainstorm solutions
Countywide school board meeting
Madison County schools discussed shared issues during the annual countywide school board meeting in Harrison Jan. 29. The meeting led to discussions on solving some of Madison County’s struggles in its school districts. Representatives from the county, schools, and school boards looked to their peers for advice or demonstrated their successes on mental health, bus drivers, E-busses, vaping and staff housing. Schools’ mental health services were fresh on the minds of those in the room. In the wake of a Harrison student’s death, it took the community of schools to provide Harrison with around the clock mental health services for its students. Schools around the area offered Harrison their counseling services. Harrison has a full-time therapist, Dorothy Berdine, who waved her fees for every student because of the emergency. “We’re a tiny school, but she stays busy,” Harrison Superintendent Fred Hofman said. Harrison is the only school in Madison County that hired a therapist to replace a counselor. They call it DorothyCare and according to Hofman, the cancelation rate is a lot less. Berdine came to Harrison through Altacare, Montana’s leading provider of in-school intensive outpatient treatment for behavioral disorders. Altacare was not working for Harrison, but DorothyCare is working. Ennis Schools also moved away from Altacare, but the provider works in Sheridan Schools. Transportation is another major issue for rural communities like Madison County. Recruitment and retainment of bus drivers and long routes are the major factors that limit rural school districts. Harrison uses E-busses, which are vehicles that have a five-star safety rating. “Rural districts in counties such as ours can use this option to transport our most precious cargo in a flexible and efficient way at a lower cost to our local tax payers,” Pam Birkeland, Madison County Superintendent of Schools said.