Montana’s Benevolent Community

As humans, we are storytellers. How my Scottish great grandfather came to America only to pine for his homeland love until he earned enough money to send for her is a family story of devotion, adventure and hard work. How George Washington confessed to cutting down the cherry tree is a public story of honesty and character in light of human imperfection.

Some stories have such a pull on our imagination that variations are told over and over again. These familiar storylines help us to understand life and we (consciously or not) often interpret new events through the lens of our dominant storylines. The Horatio Alger story of “pulling one up by one’s boot straps” is an example of a dominant storyline: when we see someone rise from poverty to power through hard work, grit and gumption, we celebrate that the little guy sometimes comes out on top.

There are, economist Robert Reich observed, four dominant storylines in America:   Continue reading “Montana’s Benevolent Community”

Five Essential Lessons of Graduation Matters Montana

by Deb Halliday – April 24, 2014

Keynote presentation, Title I Conference – Billings, Montana

Thank you for inviting me – we have some of the best folks at OPI working with you right here in this room. I am honored to be here. I also want to share with you my deep pleasure in having my daughter Mae here – she is a 7th grader at Helena Middle School, and it is National Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, so I have taken her on the road with me.

Later on today State Superintendent Denise Juneau and I will be opening our statewide Student Advisory Board meeting at the Yellowstone Art Museum. The theme is student voice in civic life. We will learn from high school students across the state what public policy issues are of greatest concern to them, and how well they feel our schools and our communities are equipping them to make a difference in their lives. I look forward to learning from them.


I was born in upstate New York – a landscape of cornfields and Finger Lakes – into a family that for generations were either teachers, or preachers.   Continue reading “Five Essential Lessons of Graduation Matters Montana”

“They want me for my cupcakes”

That’s what noted educational psychologist Dr. Marcia Gentry thought when she offered to help at her daughter’s school. Bake sales are a common enough way to engage family, but parents are more than cupcake-making machines.


When I joined the Office of Public Instruction, my Dad called to tell me I was the great great grand niece of Ida Clapp, a teacher in the Carolinas in the mid-1800s. As a young teacher in a young nation, Ida spent her days in the classroom and her evenings in town: hosting sewing circles, organizing potlucks and attending county dances.  Continue reading ““They want me for my cupcakes””