OPI September Compass

OPI Compass

August 31, 2023


Calendar of Events

For OPI Unit updates please click here.


Superintendent's Message

Back to School

Click on the picture to watch Superintendent Arntzen's Welcome Back to School Message!


Parent Discussions

Upcoming Events

Local Accountability: How Recent Legislation Affects Families, Students, and Communities.

All discussions will take place from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM via Zoom and will be moderated by the Office of Public Instruction's Chief

Legal Counsel.

The discussion time and topics are

Additional discussions will take place during the fall.


Contact Jenna McKinney at Jenna.McKinney@mt.gov (406) 438-3400


School Leadership Information

OPI Communication and Support for District and County Superintendents

For the 2023-2024 school year, to support superintendents the OPI will:

  1. Starting on September 6, 2023, host weekly office hours for Superintendents every Wednesday from 10:00-11:00am. The office hours will be held in Zoom at:

Join Zoom Meeting https://mt-gov.zoom.us/j/85381842220?pwd=cXpNTjIxenlYTytWNzJLTXFVSGVyUT09

Meeting ID: 853 8184 2220 Password: 001745

Dial by Telephone +1 646 558 8656 Meeting ID: 853 8184 2220 Password: 001745 Find your local number: https://mt-gov.zoom.us/u/kvr6OdGGz

  1. Starting on September 6, 2023, publish a summary and a frequently asked questions document on the OPI webpage after the weekly office hours. The summary and FAQ will be located on the main OPI webpage at opi.mt.gov.  This will be located under a tab titled, “School Leadership Support.”
  2. Starting on September 6, 2023, District and County Superintendents can send questions or requests for additional information to be addressed during the weekly office hours to: OPIschool leadersupport@mt.gov.
  3. Send via email to the Montana Association of School Superintendents (MASS) region and Montana Association of County School Superintendents (MACSS) presidents, a monthly update that correlates with the OPI Compass. This email update will contain links to key information in the monthly Compass edition that are relevant to District and County Superintendents.

For more information, contact Dr. Julie Murgel at julie.murgel@mt.gov (406) 444-3172


DNRC Interactive Fire Map

Click on the map for current DNRC Interactive Fire Map as of August 31, 2023

DNRC Interactive Map

Click on the map for current DNRC Interactive Fire Map as of August 31, 2023

For more information, contact: Cassie Wandersee at Cassie.Wandersee@mt.gov (406) 437-4562



DNRC Fire Report Page 1
DNRC Fire Report Page 2


Join us in celebrating

Welcome to our new Deputy Superintendent Rob Stutz

Superintendent Arntzen and Chief Legal / Deputy Superintendent Rob Stutz shake hands

Superintendent Elsie Arntzen and Chief Legal /  Deputy Superintendent Rob Stutz shake hands for the first time as Rob fills the

Deputy Superintendent position! Contact Rob at rob.stutz@mt.gov or (406) 444-4399


Local Accountability Rocks!

Parental Night Discussion

Superintendent Arntzen and Attorney Brenton Craggs (not pictured: Chief Legal / Deputy Superintendent Rob Stutz and Director of Family Engagement Jenna McKinney) manning the helm during the third Local Accountability Zoom meeting on Wednesday evening for the Special Needs Equal Opportunity Act (HB 393).


Back-to-School Capitol Rotunda Event

Speaker Karen Grosz

Guest Speaker Karen Grosz spoke to OPI staff at the State Capitol rotunda on Wednesday. Thank you for your inspirational message, Karen!


Comprehensive Assessment Waiver Granted to Montana

Waiver Approval

Superintendent Arntzen and Dr. Julie Murgel, Chief Operating Officer, meeting to receive the approval of the Testing Waiver. Montana rocks as this is the only comprehensive assessment waiver granted to states!

For more information, contact Julie Murgel at Julie.Murgel@mt.gov (406) 444-3172


Teacher Residency Conference

Teacher Residency Conference

Teacher Residency meeting in Great Falls. Solutions to putting qualified teachers in our MT classroom as school doors open. We have 13 districts and 23 teacher residents participating in the Montana Teacher Residency Project. #MTTeach!

For more information Montana Teacher Residency

Thank you to Rep. Brad Barker for his hard work which will extend this opportunity.

For more information, contact: Krystal Smith, Operations Manager, 406-249-0758


Rocky Vista University Opens its Doors!

Rocky Vista Opening

In Billings, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the Rocky Vista University Medical School.


Touro Medical School in Great Falls officially Opens its Doors!

Touro Medical School Opening

Congratulations Great Falls! Another healthy example of #MTReady!


Purple Heart Schools and Champion Nominations are Open

purple star

The Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission (MIC3) has opened the Application/Nomination process for Purple Star Schools and Champions! Check here for guidelines and rules for Applicants and Nominees. Submissions will be open until November 24, 2023.

Click here for the Application

For more information, contact: Jenna McKinney at Jenna.mckinney@mt.gov 406-438-3400


School Safety Professional Development Grant: Funds to Support Safe and Supportive Schools

The School Safety Professional Development grant opportunity opened on August 1st. Montana’s Legislature created this funding opportunity for school districts to support the delivery of school safety professional development in six domains:

  • Youth suicide prevention
  • Youth substance use prevention
  • School violence and bullying prevention
  • School safety and emergency operations planning
  • Disaster drills and emergency preparedness training
  • School safety technology training

School districts can apply for grants between $1,000 and $10,000 to support professional development training during the 2023/2024 school year. School districts are encouraged to begin writing their applications now and apply as soon as possible when the application opens. Schools will be awarded on a first come, first served bases with preference going to districts who have not yet been awarded through this funding opportunity. Grant reviews will begin the week of August 15th and awards will be given on a rolling basis until the funds are expended. The grant application and more information can be found at the School Safety Professional Development Grant website. If you have questions, please reach out to Michele Henson at 406-595-1058 or michele.henson@mt.gov.


Perkins V Reauthorization is Open 

ready logo

More to come! Team OPI is; 

  • Shannon Boswell Career Technical and Adult Education Director
  • Mary Heller Montana Ready Coordinator
  • Bill Ryan Educational Coordinator for Dick Anderson Construction

Our OPI team will join OCHE team in the reauthorization of the Federal Act for CTE.

For more information, contact: Shannon Boswell Shannon.Boswell@mt.gov (406) 444-7915


Community Choice School Commission

OPI Logo

In the 2023 Legislative Session, Montana lawmakers passed HB 562, authorizing the establishment of Community Choice Schools. Section 4 of the bill establishes the Community Choice School Commission, which is responsible for approving authorizers for choice schools throughout the state. Commission members "must collectively possess substantial experience and expertise in board governance, business, finance, education, management, and philanthropy. All members of the commission must have a demonstrated understanding of and commitment to choice schools as a strategy for strengthening public education." 

The Commission is attached to the Board of Public Education for administrative purposes and falls under the supervision of the Board of Public Education. The Superintendent of Public Instruction, Elsie Arntzen, has the opportunity to appoint one member to this Commission. The Superintendent's appointee will serve an initial term of 3 years. Each member of the Commission is entitled to reimbursement for expenses upon approval of the treasurer of the Commission as provided in the Commission’s bylaws.

Here is the link to submit the Interest Form until September 8. By law, the Commission member must be picked by September 1st.

As of August 31, there are 11 nominations for the Superintendent's appointment.

The full text of the bill can be found here: https://leg.mt.gov/bills/2023/billpdf/HB0562.pdf

Thank you to Rep. Vinton for this new opportunity to put our Montana students, parents, and schools first.

For more information, contact: Chief Legal / Deputy Superintendent Rob Stutz at rob.stutz@mt.gov 

Apply to be a part of the Standards Revision Negotiated Rulemaking Committees

The Superintendent is seeking applications from interested parties to serve on the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee (NRC), one of three committees for English Learners, World Languages and Mathematics. Qualifying individuals are likely to be significantly affected by the proposed rule amendment, including individuals from the following groups:  

  • School District Trustees
  • K-12 Administrators
  • K-12 Teachers
  • Higher Education Faculty
  • School Business Officials
  • Parents
  • Taxpayers

Members of the NRCs will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Cultural Diversity
  • Geography/Location
  • Relevant Content Experience
  • District and School Size
  • Grade Levels Served

The NRCs will meet multiple times between:

  • July and August 2023 – English Language Learners
  • September and December 2023 – Math
  • September and December 2023 – World Languages

Applications for all three NRCs can be found here

For more information, contact: Marie Judisch Marie.Judisch@mt.gov (406) 410-2539


Chapter 55: School Accreditation

Learn logo
  1. Think Tank Sessions have started. We have 27 stakeholders from across the state representing school district superintendents, principals, teachers, county superintendents, co-op supervisors, curriculum directors, and student service directors.
  2. Have held 3 sessions- August/September Think Tank Tasks-

Assurance Rubric: Review the rubric for the MT Criteria Ref. Guide.


Student Performance Rubric: Review the rubric for the MT Criteria Ref. Guide 



Review rubrics and make notes of any questions and/or suggestions (for your group areas).

Provide a list of evidence for each rubric.

Provide a list of definitions for any words that need to be defined.


Provide feedback and guidance to the OPI for the Criteria Reference Guide which includes Accreditation scoring rubrics for both Assurance and Student Performance Standards. All guidance is based on Chapter 55 Accreditation rules that have been updated effective July 1, 2023.


This has been the task for our August and September meetings with a goal to have a draft from each group on September 18th to review with the whole group. 

Meeting Dates: 

September 11: 4:30-5:30

September 18: 4:30-5:30 (if necessary, or time for OPI to compile group info)

Goal: To have published with all necessary approvals and to districts on October 2, 2023.

For more information, contact: Marie Judisch at Marie.Judisch@mt.gov (406) 410-2539


Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Funds - ESSER


National and state comparison, views of allocated, spending, demographics and other categories are updated regularly.    (Select Spent on left, then ESSER on right and Select MT from the map of squares to see specific district level data.)   

Going forward OPI is continuing to ensure compliance through a broad and in-depth system of support which includes monitoring through Self-Assessment survey beginning in September and due in November along with ESSER II Final Expenditure Reporting.  The ESSER Team is also conducting Annual Reviews with districts to help them update documentation as closing dates of September 2023 (ESSER II) and September 2024 (ESSER III) approach.

OPI ESSER Review/Monitoring Process: As part of federal ESSER compliance OPI is performing several monitoring activities. OPI has been assisting LEAs in mitigating risks to avoid audit findings by reviewing requests for funding and providing assistance with compliance. From June through December, we will be contacting schools to conduct monitoring assessments and helping to strengthen ESSER documentation. Part of this process will include a Self-Monitoring Assessment Survey.  This survey was developed through feedback from the ESSER Review Committee (LEA and OPI staff), review of other state monitoring processes, and direction provided by the Department of Education ESSER Monitoring.  The Self Monitoring survey made available in September 2023 is required to be completed by the Final Expenditure Report process for ESSER II in November 2023. 

ESSER Information by district, individual request, and planned uses


For more information on ESSER please click here or contact Wendi Fawns at wendi.fawns@mt.gov.


Montana Alternative Student Testing (MAST) Pilot Program


Field-test Flexibility Waiver Update:

The big news this month is that Montana was granted its request for the field-testing waiver on Thursday, August 10, 2023. This field-testing flexibility waiver was issued by the U.S. Department of Education for the new Montana Alternative Student Testing (MAST) pilot program. This landmark program at the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI), the first in the nation, ensures that Montana students, teachers, and district leaders participating in the pilot will have the opportunity to focus their efforts on continuing to innovate without being burdened by double testing.

OPI’s pilot program will deliver real-time assessment data to educators and parents

throughout the school year, rather than a single assessment at the end of each year,

providing valuable insights into student performance. By securing the waiver, Montana educators can continue their commitment to student success and achievement without the added stress of double testing.

Upcoming Events:

As the 2023-24 school year has begun, many new changes in the Montana Alternative Student

Testing (MAST) pilot are in full swing. These include:

  • Curriculum alignment survey sent out to newly participating districts
  • Recruitment for teacher test item writing and review cadres
  • Student, parent, teacher, and community stakeholder engagement opportunities
  • Participating schools will soon be rostering students and preparing for the first window of testing in October
  • Professional development opportunities (asynchronous and live Q & A sessions) to support schools and districts as they plan and prepare for the MAST assessment

Updated Testing Windows:

■ Testing Window #1: October 23 - November 10, 2023

■ Testing Window #2: November 27 - December 15, 2023

■ Testing Window #3: January 29 - February 16, 2024

■ Testing Window #4: March 11 - April 5, 2024 (performance tasks)

■ Testing Window #5: April 15 - May 10, 2024

For more information, please contact Krystal Smith at Krystal.Smith@mt.gov.

Click the links below for important updates from OPI's units.

Accreditation & Educator Preparation

Achievement in Montana (AIM)


Coordinated School Health

Educator Licensure

Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER)

Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS)

Gifted and Talented

Indian Education for All

Montana Alternative Student Testing (MAST)

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)

School Finance

School Nutrition

Special Education

Standards, Instruction & Professional Learning

Traffic Education

Transformational Learning & Advanced Opportunities

Tribal Relations & Resiliency

Outside Opportunities

Discovery Education

Discovery Education for Montana

Questions? Contact: 

Brian O'Leary, Communications Director

Dustin Scott, Communications Associate


The OPI is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. If you need a reasonable accommodation, require an alternate format, or have questions concerning accessibility, contact the OPI ADA Coordinator, 406-444-3161, opiada@mt.gov, Relay Service: 711.