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Board Meeting Summary, Sept. 6, 2016

Note: Recordings and documents for agenda items can be accessed via BoardDocs by clicking the corresponding agenda items.

CSD's Efforts to Curb Truancy

To mark the outset of School Attendance Awareness Month, Student Support Services Director Tamra Baker presented information to the Board of Education on Canyons District’s innovative approach to reducing chronic absenteeism and truancy rates. Baker was joined by representatives from 3rd District Court, which is working with the CSD on the collaborative effort to curtail the number of cases referred to juvenile court.  In Utah, one in seven students is chronically absent, defined as missing at least 10 percent of school for any reason. Students who are chronically absent on average have lower test scores, grades, and graduation rates. Those who are chronically absent in grades 8-12 are seven times more likely to drop out of high school. Under the model being followed by CSD, students who are marked as chronically absent or truant, and yet have a scant criminal or behavioral-issues record, are asked to enter into mediation before the case is sent to juvenile court. The aim: to correct the students’ path before it leads to additional and more complex legal entanglements. “We try to take away the hammer approach,” said Bob Curfew, a program coordinator with the court.  “We want it to be non-adversarial.”  The mediations are held at the students’ school; the student, parent, and school personnel are allowed to share their thoughts about the root of the problem; and then a mediator meets with both sides to find a workable solution. The parties talk about whether a class-schedule change is needed or if a switch in teachers would help the student feel more apt to attend. When both parties agree on a solution, a written Memorandum of Understanding is produced and a copy is given to both parties. The school follows the progress of the student and compliance with the agreement. In 2014-2015, the pilot year, CSD completed about 15 mediations in middle schools. Only one was referred to court as the result of a failed agreement.  Last year, CSD completed more than 30 mediations. Two of those resulted in a court referral because the agreement was not followed.

SALTA Testing Fee Proposal

The Board considered a new fee proposal for SALTA testing. Canyons offers testing to determine eligibility for the District’s magnet program for advanced learners, called SALTA (Supporting Advanced Learners Toward Achievement). About 550 students are tested annually with half of them qualifying for the program. Of those, 20 percent decline to enroll. Testing is now free for students who are enrolled in Canyons District. Non-CSD-enrolled students pay $35, which doesn’t cover the $90 per student cost of providing the test. To make testing more efficient and save money for other classroom uses, Instructional Supports Director Dr. Amber Roderick-Landward proposes charging a $25 fee for repeat testers and raising the fee for non-CSD test-takers to $50. There would continue to be no fee for CSD-enrolled students. These fees are in line with those charged by other school districts throughout Utah, explained Roderick-Landward. Some districts do not charge, but they screen students for eligibility for the testing. The Board asked for more financial details before reconsidering the proposal at its next meeting.

Advanced and Honors Diplomas Information

Canyons is unique in offering differentiated high school diplomas— Standard, Advanced and Honors Diplomas—which were adopted to create pathways of rigorous coursework to better prepare students for college and careers. Last year, 71 percent of CSD graduates qualified for Advanced or Honors diplomas by completing more rigorous coursework, said Instructional Supports Director Dr.  Amber Roderick-Landward. The degree of difficulty associated with each of the diplomas has increased since the inception of the diplomas in 2011. Most recently, in 2014, the Board of Education adopted further enhancements, including requiring a minimum GPA for Advanced and Honors Diplomas; adding the option for students to obtain a seal of bi-literacy; and updating English Language Arts requirements. These changes were implemented last year, except for the GPA threshold, which is being communicated to students in the 2017 course catalogue, said Roderick-Landward.

Open and Public Meeting Act Presentation and Training 

Canyons District’s General Counsel Dan Harper presented required training to the Board of Education about Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act, pursuant to UCA 52-4-104. The presentation included information about legal definitions of a public meeting; the required public notice of any meeting of the elected Board of Education; what kind of minutes must be taken during an official meeting of the Board; and the reasons the Board can legally close a meeting to the public.

School Community Council Presentation and Training

Public Engagement Coordinator Susan Edwards spoke to the Board about the District’s efforts to comply with the laws governing School Community Councils. The Board is responsible for training the community on SCC roles and responsibilities; assure legal compliance and meet established deadlines; encourage engagement with SCC members; and disperse funds for the approved uses.  The Board also must approve the SCC-created school plans, which should be data-driven, targeted approaches to meeting school goals and increasing student achievement.  The presentation satisfied a state requirement for Board training on SCC roles and responsibilities.

Consent Agenda

The Board approved the consent agenda, which included the minutes from the Aug. 16, 2016 meeting of the Board of Education; termination and hiring reports; purchasing bids; student overnight travel requests; and acceptance of a donation by Sandy City for the Canyons Technical Education Center’s construction program.

Pledge of Allegiance, Reverence

Scout Troop 430 of the Greater Salt Lake Council presented the colors and led the Pledge of Allegiance. Union Principal Kelly Tauteoli presented the reverence and updated the Board on Union students’ progress on their assessed reading scores. One notable piece of data: Last year, educators at Union were able to help decrease the number of students testing at below basic in reading from 21 to 12 percent. Union also is home to a Dual-Language Immersion Program in Spanish and has a thriving musical-theater program. Students this year plan to produce “Music Man” and “James and Giant Peach.” Union also is a STEM-designated school, one of only three in Utah.

Policy Updates

The Board considered proposals for removing obsolete and outdated policies, and weighed several policy updates to comply with current employment practices and changes in state policy. CSD Assistant Legal Counsel Jeff Christensen also updated the Board on a new Salt Lake County Health Department rule, which requires school-based employees to produce proof of immunization in the event of a disease outbreak.

Recognizing that schools can be vectors for the spread of vaccine preventable diseases, the Board of Health adopted the rule in June as a means to safeguard children, school employees and the communities they serve. The rule leaves compliance up to individual employees, and does not require school districts to collect or store employee vaccine records. For some employees, proof of immunity may be used in lieu of vaccine records. Employees may also request religious, medical or personal exemptions from Utah’s vaccination requirements. But during an outbreak, exempt employees will be excluded from school for as long as the Health Department deems necessary. The Board weighed a policy change to recommend that employees take the necessary steps to collect and store their immunization records. Christensen said CSD is still surveying other districts to determine whether employees who are excluded from school because they can’t provide proof of immunization would be placed on paid or unpaid leave. Even on unpaid leave, employees would still be able to draw on any available vacation and sick leave, he said. They may also be eligible to draw on CSD’s sick bank, said Christensen.

Board Mission and Vision Update

A Board subcommittee updated the full Board on progress with the creation of a mission, vision and goals statement for CSD. Board members took suggestions under advisement for discussion at a later date.

Patron Comment

Bell View Teacher and Canyons Education Association President Jen Buttars thanked the Board for the improvements to the school.  The upgrades, including the new parking lot, were done for the start of school and for this year’s 50th anniversary of the school.

Administration’s Report

Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe deferred his comments because of time. Business Administrator Leon Wilcox thanked all employees for the work they did for the start of school. 

Board Member Reports

Mr. Chad Iverson, Mrs. Clareen Arnold and Mr. Robert Green deferred their comments because of the late hour. 

Mr. Wrigley reported on receiving positive reports about renovations at CTEC, especially the cosmetology-training area. He also said his son, who attends CTEC, is excited to participate in computer-science programs at the technical education center.

Mrs. Nancy Tingey commended CSD employees, parents, patrons and students for their efforts to have a successful return to school. Tingey also said she believes Back-to-School Nights are valuable in building a strong sense of community at a school. In addition, she mentioned the parcel that was donated by Sandy City to the District so CTEC students can learn to build a house, and thanked the city for its ongoing support of CSD students and school programs. 

Mrs. Amber Shill thanked all members of the CSD community for making the red-carpet welcomes possible for the students on the first day of school. She also reported on attending Butler Middle’s Back to School Night and a faculty breakfast at Brighton High.

Mr. Sherril Taylor said he recently recollected on what it takes to get the District up and running after the summer hiatus. He expressed thanks to the employees for their hard work and dedication, and urged the community not to take it for granted all that CSD employees, parents, volunteers and community partners do to make the District a success.