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New Year, New Faculty Lounge Since 1963

Highland High School faculty and staff returned from the winter break to one more holiday surprise: an updated faculty lounge, all courtesy of school families and community businesses. 

Spearheaded by local realtor and Highland mom, Michelle Mitchell, the goal of the glow-up was to create a dedicated space for faculty and staff to relax, reinvigorate, and reconnect with one another. 

“After the fire and the bond not passing, I felt like Highland, and specifically the teachers, needed a win,” explained Mitchell. “The staff needs to know they are loved and appreciated, not just by parents like me, but by the community businesses that we partnered with to complete this project.” 

Inspired by the idea for a major makeover, Mitchell worked first to get approval from Highland’s administration with a commitment to clear out the room. She then reached out to her go-to contact list of doers and solidified a plan. Mitchell described how within one day, she had fulfilled the entire list of wants and needs to complete the makeover. 

“I know just the right people to ask,” Mitchell said. “They are the ones who will never say no to supporting teachers and education.”

Mitchell utilized the winter break to coordinate donations for all materials, supplies, furniture, and labor for the project, which was completed covertly just in time for school to resume on January 2. 

The big reveal came with a bow on top, with the room decorated from top to bottom in festive décor and gift cards labeling all of the individuals and businesses who contributed to the project.

“We got back from break to such an amazing surprise,” said Dr. Brad Wallace, Highland High School Principal. “It was packed in here all day. We haven’t really ever had anyone use this space so it was awesome to see teachers in here mingling and see how much the effort was appreciated.” 

After earning the trust of Highland’s administration, Mitchell said she felt a little bit of pressure to avoid letting anyone down. 

“I didn’t want to overpromise and under deliver, but I think it turned out to be a great space that staff can call their own,” she said. 

The element of surprise evoked some emotional responses from staff members.

Highland’s Bursar, Shelley Huelsman, who has worked at the school for twenty-eight years, said, “We had this amazing parent and her magic elves come in over Christmas break and surprise us all. I walked in and was just in awe.” 

Huelsman described how special it was to come in after break to see everyone from teachers and paraprofessionals to substitutes and sign language  interpreters congregating in the revamped lounge.

“We had such a gathering in here all throughout the day,” she said. “Thank you to everyone who made our faculty lounge such a warm and cozy space.” 

Mitchell explained that her hope with sharing this story is that it might spark an effort within the community for people to recognize their children’s teachers for the hard work and dedication that they put in everyday to help with their educational success. 

“As a community, we need to come together to prioritize public education,” she said. 

Watch the video tour of the improved faculty lounge. 

The email note that accompanied the gift included a list of contributors. The note read:

“From your loving community of local businesses and Highland families, we hope the entire staff at Highland High School will enjoy this room as a space to relax, a space to enjoy each other’s company and to also know that we see and appreciate you for all of the time, effort and energy you put into educating our children. You deserve to be recognized and to know that you are valued and hopefully you feel loved and spoiled in this new space.”

Signed, “With grateful hearts, 

Isaac and Michelle Mitchell / Patriot Real Estate 
Nick Hottmann Art / Wall Murals 
Maple Street Sit-N-Sleep
State Farm Insurance / Aaron & Amy Moore / HHS parents 
Evans Dental & Stellar Outcome/ Evans family / HHS parents 
Denise Lane / Ellis Elementary School Principal / school parent 
Chad and Marlow Harding / Patriot Real Estate / HHS parents 
Daren Almond / First Colony Mortgage / HHS parent
Jeff & Amber Tingey / HHS parents 
Justin & Heather Jones / Sage Builders / HHS parents 
Johnathon & Tiffany Hunt / Barrie’s Ski & Sports / HHS parents 
Dustin & Megan Reno / Pocatello Wellness Clinic / HHS parents 
Nick and Lauren Hale / HHS parents 
Wheatley Funeral Home 
Lish Sprinklers / Scott and Missy Lish / HHS parents 
Highland Corporate Sponsors”

HHS Demolition Equipment

Demolition of the fire-impacted facilities at Highland High School began earlier than expected this morning due to an emergency approval granted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EFP). The demolition was originally scheduled to begin on Wednesday, August 2. The area has been secured and the demolition is being led by Paul Davis Restoration. To ensure that this process can be conducted expeditiously and safely, PCSD 25 officials ask that community members avoid the area. 

Dr. Douglas Howell said, "Beginning the demolition ahead of schedule is a great start to getting Highland prepared to welcome learners and staff back to school. We are grateful to all who played a role in initiating the process earlier than we anticipated."

Qai Gerber and Payton Carter

Qai Gerber (Century High School) and Payton Carter (Highland High School) won the two Idaho nominations for the Jimmy Awards in New York City. Sponsored and fully funded by The Broadway League, both students were flown to NYC for 9 days where they worked closely with Broadway professionals on the Juilliard campus in all three areas of acting, singing, and choreography. Out of 140,000 students across the country who auditioned for this program, Qai and Payton were among the 96 students who were chosen to participate. The 9-day program culminated with the actual Jimmy Awards ceremony hosted by Corbin Bleu this past Monday evening. Qai and Payton and the other 94 students performed musical numbers at the ceremony to a sold-out audience, which included several Broadway producers, at the Minskoff Theatre, home of Broadway's The Lion King. It's an incredible honor to be chosen for this program, and we couldn't be prouder of these two Pocatello theatre students!

Payton Carter and Qai Gerber

Payton Carter, a Junior at Highland High School, and Qai Gerber, a Senior at Century High School, made it to the final round, top 8 in the state, of auditions for the Idaho High School Theatre Awards. The top two students will be announced on June 9th and will get a paid trip to the Juilliard Campus in New York. There they will get to work with industry professionals for a week, with the top two students from every other regional program in the country. At the end of that week they will get to perform at the national theatre awards ceremony, the Jimmy Awards. Congratulations Payton and Qai.

18 Esports Team members in their official red jerseys with a rams head on the top left corner of the shirts

Highland Esports is headed to the Idaho High School Esports Association (IHSEA) state championship tournament hosted by Boise State at the BSU Esports Arena this Friday and Saturday (May 12-13th). Highland's Rocket League, Valorant, and Smash Bros. teams worked hard and qualified for the state championship tournament. We would like to send a special thanks to our Technology department who has helped provide us with equipment to compete as well as helping get our equipment moved over the PV-TEC building after the fire at Highland that allowed us to still compete in our district tournament and qualify for state. We would also like to send a special thanks to Bryan Venegas and the Idaho National Guard for helping provide our team members with official jerseys.  

We host our regular season matches and will be hosting tournament matches on our Twitch and Youtube channels.

Boise State will be hosting the state championship tournament on their Twitch channel.

Learners from Highland and Children from Mother Goose Daycare stand in front of Giant Whale Retrieved from the Highland Fire

Highland High Schools AP Bio class previously had a field trip planned for the four-year-old class at Mother Goose Preschool. Despite the losses suffered at Highland they were able to retrieve their giant whale and have the four-year-olds join them at PV-TEC. They learned all about marine wildlife, the ecosystem, and the inner workings of a giant whale. "To watch our BIG kids interact with the little kids was precious!" Jena Wilcox, Assistant Principal, HHS.

Congratulations to graduates accepted to ISU honors program

Congratulations to Highland Graduates Yiping Xu, Corinne Anderson, Briley Anderson, Cosette Wood(not pictured), Jordan Mayo, and Josiah Parrish(not pictured)! These students have been accepted into the honors program at Idaho State University. We are proud of the hard work of these students and we celebrate with them in their academic success. We are also grateful to Idaho State University for giving our Highland students the opportunity to continue to grow academically and pursue their post-graduation goals. 

District News

A legislative proposal currently under consideration in the Idaho House could have a significant impact on the final plans to rebuild Highland High School. At Tuesday’s regular board meeting, the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District Board of Trustees opted to table taking action for a May 21 bond election pending further details on the financial impact of House Bill 521, which proposes to create a new School Modernization Facilities Fund. The financial impact of that legislation remains unclear.

Board Chair, Deanna Judy, said, “Early reports indicate the promise of this bill could help reduce a bond request or potentially eliminate the need to bond altogether.”

While early in the stages of the legislative cycle, the Board recognizes that the new state facilities fund is dependent upon passing both the Idaho House and the Idaho Senate. Despite the impending legislative outcome, the Board took action on the formation of a Highland High School Rebuild and Design Committee whose purpose will be to review and discuss various options for the Highland High School rebuild project. 

“With or without new state funding, Highland High School’s needs haven’t changed. We still have a critical need to rebuild essential areas of Highland High School,” Mrs. Judy emphasized.

Since the onset of the fire, meticulous planning has been underway to rebuild and restore the affected areas of the school. While a fifty-six percent majority of the community was in favor of the November bond proposal, the final vote tally did not meet the nearly insurmountable supermajority threshold.

“We are taking the necessary steps to explore various options and make thoughtful decisions that consider both financial prudence and the imperative to uphold educational standards,” Judy said.

One option includes rebuilding Highland’s facilities to 6A standards by combining insurance replacement monies with alternative sources of funding from the district, including allocations from the Capital Improvement Program and potential property sales.

Another option is to run another bond proposal on May 21, 2024 to rebuild Highland’s lost facilities and modernize instructional, activity, athletic, and performance spaces to align with 6A standards. This option also factors in the insurance replacement monies into the financial request for the bond proposal.

The timeline for decision-making is clear. The deadline to submit the resolution language for a new bond proposal is March 22. The anticipated completion date for any of the potential scenarios the Board has under consideration, including any depending on state funding, is Fall 2027.

Several guiding goals have focused the Board’s continued deliberations, including:

  • Problem-solving with a focus on the continuity of learning while delivering a high quality educational experience.
  • Transparency and accountability to the taxpayer community.
  • Commitment to continuous improvement to safeguard the well-being of learners and staff.
  • Regular communication to keep learners, parents, staff, and the wider community informed on progress, challenges, and decisions related to the rebuilding efforts.
  • Recognizing that strong public school systems are a key driver of economic development. The long-term benefits associated with investing in new facilities include improved property values, community pride, and the ability to attract and retain learners, teachers, and staff.
  • Gratitude and resilience recognizing the community support received and the importance of remaining united to overcome challenges.

“We appreciate the Board’s painstaking efforts and thoughtful approach to rebuilding Highland,” said Dr. Douglas Howell, Superintendent of Schools.

“We cannot overemphasize the resilience and strength of the Highland High School community in overcoming adversity and moving forward towards a brighter future. Rebuilding these essential areas is not only a significant endeavor for the district, but for the community.”

C.A.K.E. Awards December 2023 Photo Collage of Jayda Jackson and Julian Pena

Congratulations to Jayda Jackson, a 1st grade learner attending Chubbuck Elementary, and Julian Pena, a 12th grade learner attending Highland High School, who were chosen as the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 December C.A.K.E. award recipients. C.A.K.E. stands for Character, Attitude, Kindness and Encouragement.

Jayda was nominated by her teacher, Ms. Katie Burrup. In her nomination letter, Ms. Burrup wrote, “Jayda is the most kind and genuine little person. She is extremely thoughtful and tries her best to make sure everyone feels included and valued in our classroom. She will partner up with everyone and will go out of her way to include classmates that don't have a buddy. Jayda will stand up for her peers; I have watched it happen out on the playground. She treats everyone with respect and kindness, even in situations where her kindness goes unnoticed. Jayda does the right thing just because she knows it is right, not because she is looking to be praised. We had a friend in our class that was having a very hard day. I knew that it was a rough day for them, but the rest of the class was oblivious, except for Jayda. Jayda checked on this person over and over; I also heard Jayda ask if she wanted to play with her at recess. After they came in from playing, I chatted with the kid that was having a rough day. She told me, "Jayda made me feel better. I hope she is always my friend." This is just one example of her kindness. She does things like this all the time! She will often bring me little notes before school that say things like, "I love you," "I hope you have a good day." I know that she genuinely means those things. We just recently did candy grams at our school. Jayda paid attention to which kids didn't receive any or less than others. She took the time to write each of them a candy gram. Jayda is a fantastic student as well. She cares for her learning and wants to get better every day. She often will help out classmates that need help with a smile on her face. She will encourage them and help them feel their own success. It seems to make her happy when those around her are happy. She enjoys school and always has a positive attitude. She is a joy to teach. I am so glad I have had the chance to be her teacher.”

Julian was nominated by his teacher, Ms. Ann Roberts. In her nomination letter, Ms. Roberts wrote, “Julian is that rare gem of a student who makes a lasting impact on everyone fortunate enough to interact with him. He is one of those people who quietly enters a room and somehow makes it brighter. What immediately set Julian apart is his innate kindness, strong work ethic, and a sense of responsibility that goes above and beyond what is expected. He doesn't call attention to himself, and probably doesn't realize the impact he makes on the world around him; however, he manifests kindness and respect and a willingness to learn that is exemplary. Julian is an outstanding student in every sense of the word. Every teacher wants to feel they are reaching their students and helping them learn; Julian gave this to me. His attentiveness during every lesson–the nods of understanding, eye contact, and responsiveness–made all the difference for me. He willingly goes above and beyond in his work. Creative writing might not come naturally or easily to him, but he puts in work. He revised his short story over and over again, carefully adding the components of each lesson, doing whatever was necessary to create quality work–even if he had already received full points on the assignment. He was willing to collaborate with any student, and put forth his best efforts to help others when asked, but the beautiful thing about his character is that I never needed to ask. After I dismissed class, I would frequently turn around and see him there straightening up my room without prompting and without staying for thanks or reward. My day was made better by his kind manners and genuine enthusiasm for my lessons, even the boring ones. Julian serves as a poignant reminder of “my why” as a teacher.”

Jayda and Julian were recognized at the Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, December 12, 2023. McDonald's provides each learner and their nominators with a gift card, along with $50 to purchase books for the school’s media center in the recipients’ names.

PCSD 25 believes a safe, supportive, caring and respectful environment is critical to student learning. The District Education Foundation, in partnership with the local Johnson Family McDonald’s, supports the Learner-of-the-Month C.A.K.E. Award to recognize students who show great character.  The district recognizes one elementary learner and one secondary learner from October through May. Nominations for the C.A.K.E. Award are submitted by a teacher who has observed the nominee’s behavior, and are approved by the school’s principal.

If you would like to nominate a learner for the C.A.K.E. award, you can do so here:

Nominations that are not chosen will carry over each month until the end of the school year. Please be as detailed as possible on your nomination.  

New Year, New Faculty Lounge Since 1963

Highland High School faculty and staff returned from the winter break to one more holiday surprise: an updated faculty lounge, all courtesy of school families and community businesses. 

Spearheaded by local realtor and Highland mom, Michelle Mitchell, the goal of the glow-up was to create a dedicated space for faculty and staff to relax, reinvigorate, and reconnect with one another. 

“After the fire and the bond not passing, I felt like Highland, and specifically the teachers, needed a win,” explained Mitchell. “The staff needs to know they are loved and appreciated, not just by parents like me, but by the community businesses that we partnered with to complete this project.” 

Inspired by the idea for a major makeover, Mitchell worked first to get approval from Highland’s administration with a commitment to clear out the room. She then reached out to her go-to contact list of doers and solidified a plan. Mitchell described how within one day, she had fulfilled the entire list of wants and needs to complete the makeover. 

“I know just the right people to ask,” Mitchell said. “They are the ones who will never say no to supporting teachers and education.”

Mitchell utilized the winter break to coordinate donations for all materials, supplies, furniture, and labor for the project, which was completed covertly just in time for school to resume on January 2. 

The big reveal came with a bow on top, with the room decorated from top to bottom in festive décor and gift cards labeling all of the individuals and businesses who contributed to the project.

“We got back from break to such an amazing surprise,” said Dr. Brad Wallace, Highland High School Principal. “It was packed in here all day. We haven’t really ever had anyone use this space so it was awesome to see teachers in here mingling and see how much the effort was appreciated.” 

After earning the trust of Highland’s administration, Mitchell said she felt a little bit of pressure to avoid letting anyone down. 

“I didn’t want to overpromise and under deliver, but I think it turned out to be a great space that staff can call their own,” she said. 

The element of surprise evoked some emotional responses from staff members.

Highland’s Bursar, Shelley Huelsman, who has worked at the school for twenty-eight years, said, “We had this amazing parent and her magic elves come in over Christmas break and surprise us all. I walked in and was just in awe.” 

Huelsman described how special it was to come in after break to see everyone from teachers and paraprofessionals to substitutes and sign language  interpreters congregating in the revamped lounge.

“We had such a gathering in here all throughout the day,” she said. “Thank you to everyone who made our faculty lounge such a warm and cozy space.” 

Mitchell explained that her hope with sharing this story is that it might spark an effort within the community for people to recognize their children’s teachers for the hard work and dedication that they put in everyday to help with their educational success. 

“As a community, we need to come together to prioritize public education,” she said. 

Watch the video tour of the improved faculty lounge. 

The email note that accompanied the gift included a list of contributors. The note read:

“From your loving community of local businesses and Highland families, we hope the entire staff at Highland High School will enjoy this room as a space to relax, a space to enjoy each other’s company and to also know that we see and appreciate you for all of the time, effort and energy you put into educating our children. You deserve to be recognized and to know that you are valued and hopefully you feel loved and spoiled in this new space.”

Signed, “With grateful hearts, 

Isaac and Michelle Mitchell / Patriot Real Estate 
Nick Hottmann Art / Wall Murals 
Maple Street Sit-N-Sleep
State Farm Insurance / Aaron & Amy Moore / HHS parents 
Evans Dental & Stellar Outcome/ Evans family / HHS parents 
Denise Lane / Ellis Elementary School Principal / school parent 
Chad and Marlow Harding / Patriot Real Estate / HHS parents 
Daren Almond / First Colony Mortgage / HHS parent
Jeff & Amber Tingey / HHS parents 
Justin & Heather Jones / Sage Builders / HHS parents 
Johnathon & Tiffany Hunt / Barrie’s Ski & Sports / HHS parents 
Dustin & Megan Reno / Pocatello Wellness Clinic / HHS parents 
Nick and Lauren Hale / HHS parents 
Wheatley Funeral Home 
Lish Sprinklers / Scott and Missy Lish / HHS parents 
Highland Corporate Sponsors”

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