Helena Public Schools

Helena Public Schools

In their 2009-2011 Master Agreement , Helena Public Schools and the Helena Education Association set forth to "embrace a problem-solving approach that will encompass a shared decision-making process fostering trust and respect." Superintendent Bruce Messinger describes it as a unique situation of "labor, management, and community working together in consensus and collaboration."

Key to this collaboration, with the goal of attracting and keeping exceptional teachers, was the negotiation of the Professional Compensation Alternative Plan (PCAP) in 2004-2005. This innovative compensation plan is designed to be "attainable, affordable, and accountable" and to provide opportunities and rewards for professional growth. The PCAP pay scale offers a career ladder with 25 steps. The top step's salary is almost $10,000 higher than that of the traditional scale. Rather than years of service, moving up on the PCAP scale requires completion of an approved career development plan, including an educational component and professional-service component, and a positive evaluation by the supervisor. Newly hired teachers are automatically put on the PCAP; those hired prior to 2004 can choose which salary schedule they prefer.

Helena provides support for new teachers by placing them with experienced, master mentors. Mentors and new teachers are given time to observe each other or other master teachers.

The school board and district leaders established a fund to provide money for professional development for teachers, including sabbatical leaves, tuition and fee reimbursements, and other "professional growth opportunities." A committee made up of two members appointed by the superintendent and three appointed by the association is selected each year to approve proposals and distribute the funds.

Helena teachers are placed on one of two evaluation "strands." Non-tenured teachers transitioning into the profession are in the "Accountability Strand" and are evaluated every year based on criteria in the contract. Tenured teachers can choose to be a part of the "Professional Growth Strand," whose purpose is to "promote professional growth through goal setting, to involve the teacher and administrator in cooperative discussions and planning, and to encourage collegial interaction for the accomplishment of goals." Innovations include peer collaboration, observation, and data collection, with supervisors serving as coaches and facilitators.

student achievement graph

Data at a glance:
Total students 8,145
Total certified teachers588
Total full-time staff1,011
Number of schools16
Enrollment, by race/ethnicity
—White: 90%
—American Indian:5%
—Asian/Pacific Islander: 1%
—African American: 1%
—Other: 2%
Students eligible for free and reduced-price meals37%
English learners6%
Graduation rate 78%


Bruce Messinger, Superintendent, Helena Public Schools
Larry Nielsen, Field Consultant, MEA-MFT
Michael O'Neil, Board Chair, Helena Public Schools
Tammy Pilcher, President, Helena Education Association


District Website: http://www.helena.k12.mt.us
District Contract: http://www.helena.k12.mt.us/staff/helenaed/document/index.dhtm