Roy McKenzie

Roy McKenzie moved to Montana in 2017. Roy is the Publisher of Western Montana News. Get in touch with him on Truth Social (@royalton) or Telegram (@royaltonpatrick).

After todays ruling from the US Supreme Court striking Roe vs Wade, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte said he is “in discussions with legislative leaders on next steps as we work to protect life in Montana.”

In another blow to Montana’s specious constitution and other states with similar constitutional provisions, the Supreme Court said Tuesday that excluding private religious schools from receiving public money is a violation of the First Amendment in Carson v. Makin in the state of Maine.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Tuesday that a Maine tuition assistance program violated the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause for excluding religious schools from eligibility.

The program provides tuition assistance for students without a local public school to attend private institutions – as long as the funding is not used for religious or “sectarian” teaching. 

In 2020, the Supreme Court admonished the Montana Supreme Court for striking a scholarship program passed by the legislature that provided money to private religious schools saying it violated the state constitution. 

Justice John Roberts wrote in an opinion regarding the scholarship program, “A state need not subsidize private education, but once it decides to do so it cannot disqualify some private schools because they are religious.”

Montana’s constitution states in Article 10, Part 10, Section 6,

Aid prohibited to sectarian schools. (1) The legislature, counties, cities, towns, school districts, and public corporations shall not make any direct or indirect appropriation or payment from any public fund or monies, or any grant of lands or other property for any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.

The Montana constitution should be amended to remove this unconstitutional provision targeting religion in the state.

City Council Member Daniel Carlino Suggested “Decriminalizing Nature” Could Ease Missoulians Housing Woes

Missoula’s newest Ward 3 City Council member, Daniel Carlino, suggested that the City should consider official business regarding Decriminalize Nature, a group who spoke in support of “decriminalizing all natural substances in Missoula” at the Zoom-only Missoula City Council meeting this afternoon.

The website for the group states that they want to decriminalize “fungi,” more commonly referred to as mushrooms. Like many left astroturf and political advocacy organizations, the group masks their priorities in academic language calling the substance “entheogenic” from the greek “God within,” virtue-signalling that, “Entheogenic plants and fungi are sacred, and should not be commodified or taxed.”

Carlino said that Decriminalize Nature’s goals “matches up” with the city’s racialized policy priorities under its Justice Equity Diversity Inclusion rules that the Missoula City Council adopted in August of last year.

“I think the Decriminalize Nature idea really matches up with the city’s JEDI [Justice Equity Diversity Inclusion] goals and with criminal justice reform and just not punishing people,” Carlino said. “I wanted to show support for that idea and hope to continue that conversation.”

Carlino said that the “decriminalize nature” policy idea could actually help ease Missoulians housing woes.

“This helps with securing rent and housing. When people are arrested on felony charges for possessing natural substances, that makes it harder to find a rental,” Carlino tweeted.

The freshman councilor posted a poll on Twitter to promote the idea, but deleted his tweet some time after publishing this report.

Update (March 8, 2022): Carlino deleted the tweet he made Monday evening, but an archive of his tweet is available in the Internet Archive.

Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Watson Resigning Ahead of New Board Elections

Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Watson is resigning his position as the head of Missoula area public schools effective June 30th, 2022. Watson’s resignation was announced in a letter emailed to MCPS families today.

The email stated that the MCPS Board of Trustees would be discussing the selection of a new superintendent at their next meeting, Tuesday, February 22nd.

According to the letter, Superintendent Watson is leaving his post to take a position with the School Administrators of Montana association, an advocacy group and professional development resource for Montana’s school superintendents and administrators. The association provides bureaucratic guidance to school admins.

Throughout 2021, Superintendent Watson maintained an antagonistic relationship with parents of Missoula County Public School students dismissing impassioned and informed pleas from Missoula parents at school board meetings to move away from forced-masking policies for students and staff.

Some area parents are concerned that the current board will move to find a replacement before the new board is elected in May.

“The new board should choose the superintendent,” one parent Mrs. Erin D. said. “Candidates should be there and insist on it. [Parents] should write letters.”

MCPS School Board member Mike Gehl said that Watson’s departure provides an opportunity for the school board to choose a “new direction for the future” of Missoula County Public Schools.

“As Rob Watson moves onto a new chapter in his life, this affords the board of MCPS to think of the districts own future and direction,” Mr. Gehl said. “This now gives the board an opportunity to select a new superintendent and maybe a new direction for the future.”

Mr. Gehl announced his candidacy for MCPS School Board District C at the end of January.

Letter:

Dear MCPS families:

Today Superintendent Dr. Rob Watson is announcing that he will be leaving his position with MCPS effective June 30, 2022.

Dr. Watson would like to express his deepest gratitude for the opportunity to serve as superintendent of MCPS for the past three years:

“My time with MCPS, including my former time as a principal, has been some of the most rewarding of my 29 years in public education. I will leave with many happy memories and proud to have served with each of you. While I have learned many important lessons during this pandemic, my most treasured memory will be how we all worked together to keep our kids learning. I have witnessed an incredible amount of empathy, compassion and grace.”

While he will no longer be with MCPS, Dr. Watson will maintain his connection to education in the state as the new executive director of the School Administrators of Montana (SAM). The SAM organization represents more than 1,000 active members and has a 50-year history of advocating for public education in Montana.

“From now until the end of the school year, I remain committed to our work,” Dr. Watson says. “I am looking forward to wrapping up a great school year and establishing our plans for next year. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your superintendent.”

The MCPS Board of Trustees will be discussing the succession plan for the Superintendent position at their next meeting on February 22.

Missoula County Public Schools

WATCH: Washougal High School Student Explains Rules of Peaceful Mask Protest to Classmates

A high-school student in Washington explains to classmates the rules of a peaceful protest of forced-masking policies at Washougal High School in Washougal, WA.

Simple rules:

  1. Be respectful to teachers and staff.
  2. Walk in maskless together.
  3. When anyone tells you to put on a mask, tell them politely, “No, thank you” and keep walking.
  4. If they send you home, go home.
  5. Parents are available to take kids home.

School board trustee Mike Gehl has announced his candidacy for Missoula County Public Schools Board of Trustees district C today.

“I wanted to thank you again for your support during my tenure as a Trustee for Missoula County Public Schools,” Gehl said. “If it wasn’t for the support of folks like you, I wouldn’t have the ability to serve, or to run for election. I have officially filed as a candidate for MCPS District C, Hellgate.”

School Board Trustee candidate Mike Gehl with wife Sharon and two sons

Gehl is former law enforcement officer and was appointed unanimously to the school board in 2021 to fill a vacant seat. Since then, Gehl has been an outspoken proponent for parental choice regarding forced-masking by the school district and a vocal opponent of critical race theory-based curriculum being taught in schools.

Because of the extremism of the public schools, Gehl and his wife took their children out of Missoula’s public schools for home instruction.

“Recently Sharon and I made the choice to begin homeschooling our boys. We are disheartened by the extremism taking place in the public schools in Missoula,” Gehl said. “It seems that parent’s opinions and rights of their children are no longer valued in the public education system.  There appears to be an attitude that the administration knows what is best for your child(ren) and that parents should just drop them off and not ask any questions.  Children seem to be more indoctrinated than educated as students are taught to blindly follow directions/instructions.”

Gehl said he is running to bring openness and accountability to the school board.

“When something happens in schools, we need to own it, good, bad and ugly. We shouldn’t hide behind attorneys, or be afraid of changing course,” Gehl said. “Administrators need to be reminded that they work for the board and that we the board work for you – the parents who trust and send their children into our public education system everyday.”

Former Missoula City Council member Jesse Ramos and Montana House member Brad Tschida (HD-97) endorsed Gehl for the school board trustee position.

“Mike exemplifies effective leadership through intelligence, strength, and courage,” said Ramos.

“Mike Gehl is an ideal MCPS Board member. His focuses are, principally, on the best interest of students and parents (not himself or an autocratic ideology) and on following the law. He acts with principle and reason, commodities in apparent short supply on the MCPS Board,” Tschida said.

Gehl launched his campaign website MikeForMontana.com where you can learn more about him, volunteer for his campaign, and donate to support his run.

“Please check out the website, but most importantly, share with your friends in my district,” Gehl said. “Ultimately, to be successful, I need their support as well. This is about leading our schools into the future and for the future of our kids.”