HEART BUTTE — Shock, anger, sadness. Those are just a few of the emotions that some Heart Butte School District employees are feeling after they found out last week that their jobs could be on the chopping block.
MTN first reported on alleged misappropriation of funding in the Heart Butte School District almost a year ago.
The board says the situation has become so dire that they are proposing terminating 31 non-essential employees to get the district’s finances back on track and last week submitted a list of those who would lose their jobs.
Jody Aimsback is the district’s attendance officer, a combat veteran, and he’s worked at the school for nearly 20 years, and definitely surprised to see his name on the list.
Jody: “From my understanding, they were going on seniority,” said Aimsback, who also serves as the high school girls basketball coach. “So with that said and being the most senior person on the list, as well as a combat veteran, I mean, I thought that I would at least have a chance to continue working.”
Staff at Heart Butte describe themselves as a family. Jody’s sister Stacy has been a teacher’s assistant for nine years. Her husband, Donald Comes At Night has been a custodian for about six years.
“I was hurt. You know, it doesn't just affect me. It affects my husband, and it affects my kids,” said Aimsback. “I'm a grandmother of two, you know, and I have my kids at home. I live in teacher housing. And what does that say? You know, do I got to move on? How long do I get to keep my house?”
“My heart just dropped. I was like, what am I going to do? What are the kids going to do without me? You know, I know a lot of the kids who rely on me in my class,” said Heart Butte Schools teaching assistant Tashina Nomee.
Sadee Cree Medicine graduated from Heart Butte and followed her dream of being a teacher by becoming a kindergarten teacher assistant.
While those losing their jobs are deemed “non-essential," they don’t see it that way.
“I’m just wondering, who will be in the kindergarten, because I'm the only one in there right now because my teacher's on maternity leave,” said Cree Medicine.
Belinda Bullshoe lives in Browning, her husband is from Heart Butte, and they have come to know the community well. They too believe the school community is like a family and the thought of so many staff losing their jobs is heartbreaking.
“Some of these families have two parents working in a district,” said Bullshoe. “Where does that leave them, what happens next for them.”
The school board is holding a meeting on Tuesday, January 9th at 5:00 p.m. in the school cafeteria to address the issue.
Those in danger of losing their jobs are encouraging as many people as possible to attend.
The news came at a tough time for Stacy, just a day before the one-year anniversary of her father’s death.
“It's hard. Honestly, it is. It's really hard because my kids are worried,” said Aimsback. “You know, they're worried about our jobs. They're worried about where they're supposed to go to school.”
Despite the difficult news, others are trying to stay positive. “God always has something in store for me,” said Nomee.
MTN News has contacted Heart Butte School Board Chariman Forest Calf Boss Ribs, Heart Butte Schools Superintendent Mike Tatsey, and Heart Butte Schools Principal Sandi Campbell, who all declined to comment at this time.