Naomi Damron Named Canyons Teacher of the Year
Congratulations to Quail Hollow Elementary teacher Naomi Damron, named the 2011 Canyons School District Teacher of the Year. Ms. Damron is being honored for her individualized instruction and high expectations for students and for inspiring children for 30 years. Ms. Damron will be nominated for State Teacher of the Year honors, which is part of the National Teacher of the Year program. The Board also recognized 44 Teachers of the Year named at each Canyons school. Teacher of the Year prizes are sponsored by the South Jordan Sam’s, LaCaille, Real Salt Lake, Wasatch Baskets, and the Firehouse Car Wash.
New Alta, Jordan Valley Principals Announced
Fidel Montero, Assistant Principal of Timpview High School since 2006, has been named the new principal of Alta High School. He replaces Mont Widerberg, who retired in March 2011. Veteran principal and educator Raymond Jenson has been leading Alta in the interim.
Mark Donnelly, Canyons Coordinator of Speech, Language and Hearing Services since 2009, will be the new principal of Jordan Valley School next school year. He replaces Mark Riding, who is retiring.
Both appointments are effective July 1.
Boundary Committee Submits Recommendations
The Boundary Steering Committee submitted revisions for middle and high school boundary options and one preferred option for elementary schools based on community input. The Committee read input submitted by 1,472 patrons using the online input form. The Committee also dialogued with 288 patrons at eight open houses and one meeting to address special education services. Board President Tracy Cowdell said the Board will discuss the recommendations in June.
Ten patrons from neighborhoods in Sandy and Draper spoke to the Boundary proposals. Patrons in the Sandy neighborhood, bordered by 9400 South and 9800 South, and Highland Drive and 2300 East, urged the Board to keep neighborhood students at Granite, Albion and Brighton. They presented a petition with 55 signatures. Draper residents living west of I-15 want to be included in boundaries for the new high school and Crescent View or Indian Hills middle schools, rather than have their children spend an hour on the bus to Mount Jordan Middle and Jordan High School. They said they supported the District’s $250 million bond because it would put a new high school in their community. They presented a study about how long bus rides affect children, and a petition with 60 signatures and said more would be coming.
To hear patron comments, click here and select item 3C.
Budget Information Presented
Chief Financial Officer Keith Bradford presented budget information showing a deficit as high as $11.3 million. The shortfall is largely due to a $3.7 million drop in state funding and the restoration of five furlough days used this year to save $3.5 million. It also accounts for costs of funding steps and lanes ($3.8 million) on the salary schedule and all seven professional development days – high and above the state’s average of 1.5 professional development days funded by Utah school districts – at a cost of $3.6 million.
Bradford noted there may be a way to address, in the coming year only, the gap between revenues and expenditures under a new law that caps school districts’ abilities to increase local tax levies. Canyons could combine some levies, and decrease the capital levy to remain revenue-neutral, to accomplish two goals: 1) give the Board more headroom under the levies cap in the future; and 2) shift more than $9 million from the capital, or buildings, fund to the general operating fund for the coming fiscal year.
The Board of Education will discuss the budget in the next Board meeting. The new budget year begins July 1.
Silver Mesa Lottery Upheld
After meeting with parents and weighing their concerns, the Board voted to uphold the second lottery determining which students would enter Silver Mesa Elementary’s Dual Immersion program. Board members praised colleague Steve Wrigley for listening to his constituents and exploring alternatives with them.
The Board recognized Brookwood Elementary student Isabella Curatolo, who won National Award of Merit at the National PTA Reflections Contest for her watercolor titled, “Together, we can,” and showed a congratulatory video message from National PTA President Chuck Saylors. Two other Canyons students -- Erin Kaseda of Midvale Middle (Literature), and Zoe Woolsey of Oak Hollow Elementary (Photography) -- also won state Awards of Excellence to advance to the National PTA Reflections Competition.
The Board also recognized the following students who excelled at the Canyons Art Show: Middle School Award of Excellence: Melissa Paulsen, “Italian Tea Party,” and Noel Hoffman, “A Rural Afternoon,” Crescent View; Paola Ramirez, untitled, Albion; Hannah Peterson, “Mask,” Midvale. Middle School Best in Show: Autumn Bate, “2D,” Butler; and Adriann Allan, “3D,” Crescent View Middle. High School Awards of Excellence: Erin Hunt “Mtalimansa” and “Snow Day,” Alta; and Tri Lam, “Just a Girl,” Hillcrest.
State PTA Reflections Winners Are: Honorable Mention: Photography, Elizabeth Walker, Brookwood Elementary; Theater, Melinda Schwendiman, Willlow Canyon Elementary. Awards of Merit: Dance, Carter Williams, Quail Hollow Elementary; Music Composition, Roxanne Bartee, Albion Middle; Three-Dimensional Art, Michaela Sivertsen, Alta High; Theater, Chandler Carr, Bellview Elementary, Heidi Schwendiman, Eastmont Middle, and Abigail Slama-Catron, Altara Elementary.
One patron addressed the Dual Immersion lottery at Silver Mesa. Eight teachers expressed concerns about removing three of 25 negotiated policies on advisory committees and student discipline from the negotiations process because the Board contends those policies are outside the realm of working conditions. Teachers said they want to preserve their voices and employee morale, and noted they are the ones on the District’s front line. Others asked the Board to not balance the budget by making teachers disproportionately bear potential cuts, and instead urged them to cut unnecessary expenditures.
Board president Tracy Cowdell thanked Canyons Education Association President Tony Romanello for his comments and leadership in the District’s transition, and for maintaining a friendly yet healthy tension with the Board of Education during his tenure.
To hear patron comments, click here and select item 5E.
The Board approved the Consent Agenda, which includes the April 26 minutes, purchasing bids, summer capital construction/repair projects, Board hires and terminations, April financial reports, CSIP plans, fund balance commitments, Perkins Local Plan, bell schedule amendment, Policy GBAC – Criminal Background Checks, establishment of a School Safety Task Force; home school affidavit; and administrative appointments. The Board also approved student overnight travel for Alta Boys and Girls Soccer, Cheer, Drill, Girls Soccer, and Student Government; Brighton Boys Basketball, Dance Company and Shakespeare Team; and Jordan High Girls Tennis.
Superintendent David Doty reported on his visit to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, and said he is scheduling dates for tolerance training in schools. He traveled to Los Angeles to view the center’s production of Horizon Line, which depicts what causes some students to embrace hateful acts, and visit Hillcrest and Brighton students competing in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. He praised the District’s working relationship with CEA President Romanello.
President Cowdell thanked Bradford for his budget presentation. He thanked Romanello for his service, advocacy for teachers, and friendship. He thanked teachers for expressing their opinions, and invited them to come more often to Board meeting. He said the Board will discuss the 2013-2014 boundary recommendations in a study session in June, and invited parents to provide feedback to the Board via e-mail.
Kim Horiuchi attended the Recreation Board meeting and likes the idea of bringing a Lego League event, in partnership with the University of Utah, to Canyons. She talked about new legislation requiring all sporting organizations to be trained to recognize and treat concussions. She attended the Cottonwood Heights town meeting about the park at Mountview Elementary, which is nearly torn down, and called the park to replace it a perfect example for a city-District partnership. She enjoyed the opportunity to speak at the Butler Middle School Career Fair.
Kevin Cromar thanked teachers for attending the Board Meeting. He praised the Board’s approval of a School Safety Task Force, and noted the Utah School Boards Association is offering an earthquake emergency preparedness workshop next spring. He asked Board members to start thinking about legislative priorities for next year to present to USBA. He said USBA is gathering school board best practices, and recommends Canyons submit Hillcrest students’ space shuttle experiment to the USBA for its “Telling Your Story” convention theme.
The Board discussed employee volunteer guidelines allowing employees to volunteer at the schools where they work so long as the work is significantly different from employment duties in accordance with labor laws. It discussed meeting June 21 at 5 p.m., holding no Board Meetings in July, and scheduling a daylong Board retreat, tentatively Aug. 2.
The Board met in Closed Session to discuss the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of an individual; pending or reasonably imminent litigation; collective bargaining; and the purchase, exchange, or lease of real property.
Boundary Options Presented; Public Input Sought
The Board received proposed boundary options from the Boundary Steering Committee released the options for a three-week public input period. The Board last September established the Committee of parents, teachers and administrators to accomplish three goals: create a master plan for elementary, middle and high school boundaries; address enrollment and capacity issues; and pave the way for a new high school and school grade adjustments. The Board received two proposed boundary options each for elementary, middle and high schools. It also received a rationale for each proposal and supporting school enrollment, capacity, and feeder system data. All information presented to the Board has been posted at www.canyonsdistrict.org. The public is invited to give input on the options via an online input form, and at eight public open houses, scheduled for May 4 – 12.The Committee will weigh input, adjust options where needed, and make recommendations to the Board on May 17.
Board Receives Special Program Location Recommendations
In support of a proposal made by parents and teachers, Chief Academic Officer Ginger Rhode recommends consolidating four elementary SALTA locations to two, one in the north and one in the south, in the 2013-2014 school year. The proposed SALTA locations would be Peruvian Park and Sunrise elementaries, both of which currently house SALTA. She noted the other two current SALTA locations, Alta View and Ridgecrest elementaries, also house Dual Immersion language programs and special education cluster units. On the middle school level, Dr. Rhode recommended leaving SALTA at Midvale Middle and a bus route to serve middle school SALTA students who live in Draper. The recommendations are based on public input gathered last winter on proposed options for gifted and talented program services.
Dr. Rhode also requested adding a cluster classroom at Jordan High next school year and other cluster location adjustments for the 2013-2014 school year in consideration of future space needs. Click here see these and preschool proposals, listed under "Additional Information."
Silver Mesa Dual Immersion Options Proposed
Dr. Rhode presented four options to resolve community concerns over the Dual Immersion magnet program selection process at Silver Mesa Elementary. Options include: maintaining the current placement, as requested by the principal to maintain program integrity; offering nine, in-boundary students not selected in the second lottery a place at Ridgecrest’s Dual Immersion Chinese Program, and offering similar placement to seven out-of-boundary students at other schools; and placing the nine students in Silver Mesa’s program, increasing class size and adding an aide if needed. The latter option could cut in half the number of regular first-grade classes to one, which several parents say would cause them to attend school elsewhere, Dr. Rhode reported. The options are to be presented to parents at a School Community Council meeting.
Dual Immersion participants are selected by lottery, and about half live outside the school's boundaries. Due to error, Silver Mesa’s lottery for next school year was conducted a second time. Sixteen students chosen the first time were not selected the second time, though some were accommodated in other Dual Immersion programs. The Board earlier this month asked staff to seek solutions following parent complaints President Tracy Cowdell said the Board will make a decision on the matter in the May 17 meeting.
School Safety Task Force Weighed
The Board of Education discussed creating a School Safety Task Force and whether membership should include a Board member. The task force would be established to study and make recommendations to the Board on issues including safety and security procedures, training, and agency coordination. The Board will put the matter on the Consent Agenda in the next meeting.
The new Canyons Education Foundation is hosting a Foundation Author Night Dinner to help recruit Board members, Development Officer Allison Spencer said. The Foundation also has continued existing scholarships, and funded a trip to the Shuttle Endeavour launch for Hillcrest students, whose science project was selected to fly aboard the shuttle through the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. Board members praised Spencer’s efforts, and discussed possible next steps, including hiring a full-time director.
The Board approved the Consent Agenda, which includes the April 5 minutes, purchasing bids, March expense reports, Board hires and terminations, AVID contract, sewer easement for a new high school in Draper, and ratification of a Board decision regarding an employee appeal. The Board also approved overnight student travel for the following groups: Alta Football; Brighton Cheerleaders, Drill Team, and Student Body Officers; CTE FBLA, FCCLA, HOSA, and SkillsUSA; Hillcrest Cheer/Song Squad, Drill Team, and Girls Soccer; and Jordan Boys Basketball and Drill Team. The Board voted to remove from the Consent Agenda the Sandy CDA Agreement to allow more time for examination and the proposed T-Mobile cell tower at Alta High School as a procedural matter. The Board also assigned members to cover commencement exercises.
Tracy Bennett of the Alta School Community Council expressed concerns that a cell tower was on the Consent Agenda when the item had not yet been brought to the SCC or administration as per District policy.
Silver Mesa parent Janna Kimura noted that three other students were not included in the Silver Mesa lottery and should be included in the proposed resolutions. She also wants the District to consider opening a third Dual Immersion class at Silver Mesa.
Robin Cecil, parent of a Silver Mesa Dual Immersion student, said the selection process has divided the community. She is seeking information on how other districts conduct the selection process. Due to the botched lottery and a long waiting list, she wants another section of Dual Immersion.
The Board met in Closed Session to discuss the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of an individual; pending or reasonably imminent litigation; collective bargaining; and the purchase, exchange, or lease of real property.
Board Issues $68 Million in Bonds
The Board unanimously voted to issue and sell $68 million in bonds to allow the District to break ground on all five Phase 1 building projects this summer.
The District was able to secure an extraordinarily low 3.79 percent, 20-year interest rate from J.P. Morgan on the bonds after securing the highest-possible bond rating of Aaa from Moody’s Investors, and a AA+ bond rating, the second-highest possible, from Fitch Ratings. The low interest rate saves the District about $3 million, George K. Baum & Co. bond counsel Dustin Matsumori said.
The Board cast its vote on the same day Canyons School District was featured on the front page of The Bond Buyer, a highly respected daily newspaper of public finance.
The Phase 1 building projects are rebuilds of Midvale Elementary and Butler Middle; a seismic retrofit for Sandy Elementary, a renovation of Albion Middle and the building of a new high school in Draper. All of the projects are expected to begin by the end of the summer and be completed between the summer of 2012 and the fall of 2013.
The bond issuance is the first in the $250 million bond Canyons voters approved in June 2010 to renovate or rebuild aging schools, build a new high school in Draper, and forward the District’s efforts to better prepare students for college and careers. The Board on March 1 approved a resolution to authorize the issuance of up to $70 million in bonds.
Mountview Demolition Contract Awarded
The Board awarded the contract to demolish Mountview Elementary, which has stood vacant since the former Jordan Board of Education shuttered it in 2005. The contract was awarded to Bob’s Tree Service for $145,000. Five vendors bid on the demolition. Board member Kim Horiuchi called the demolition bittersweet, as Mountview was her neighborhood school, but said the demolition is in the community's best interest. The Board is examining the possibility of partnering with Cottonwood Heights City so the District’s property and green space can be optimized for community use.
Mountview Property Development Explored
The Board is examining the possibility of partnering with Cottonwood Heights City to redevelop the Mountview Elementary property, to help fund a larger auditorium at the new Butler Middle School, and to create tennis courts on city property adjacent to Cottonwood Heights Elementary. The District is taking bids now to demolish the vacant Mountview Elementary school, and is expected to present recommendations to the Board in its March 22 meeting.
Under a potential city partnership, the Mountview property could be converted into four soccer fields and other open space, which would help Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center and Salt Lake County accommodate little league football, soccer, and lacrosse during the reconstruction of Butler Middle School and provide community field space afterward. The Board will discuss costs of demolishing the building and adding sod and watering systems, and the terms of a potential partnership with the City and Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center.
Proposed Butler Middle School Designs Presented
The Board received design proposals for Butler Middle School that will be presented to the school’s Design Committee. Proposed designs include separate wings for all grades, including placing the sixth grade on the second level to address parent concerns with grade reconfiguration. The gym would have an exterior entrance leading to the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center, which provides P.E. opportunities for students. The building would contain several windows for natural light throughout. The auditorium also would have an exterior entrance and a plaza area. Parking would accommodate 420 vehicles – more than double the current parking slots. Green space would be nearly 2 additional acres larger than the current configuration, and include three regulation-sized fields for soccer and lacrosse. The auditorium would seat 1,000; Cottonwood Heights City has expressed interest in shouldering costs to make it bigger. The Board accepted the information; designs will be presented at a community meeting and solidified following public input.
Board Receives ‘Active Shooter’ Safety Presentation
The Board expressed interest in proceeding with an Active Shooter training, sponsored by the Utah School Boards Association and supported by law enforcement and emergency preparedness officials from Sandy, Draper, and Cottonwood Heights. The training, which the Board viewed in a video taken at a South Summit High School training event, involves some 200 volunteer students and faculty creating a mock emergency scenario in which a shooter opens fire in a school. The officers responding to the mock emergency are participating in S.W.A.T. training, but District and school officials also can use the exercise to improve emergency preparedness and response plans. Participating volunteers are debriefed afterward and can stop if the exercise becomes too stressful.
Special Education Classroom Needs Presented
Executive Director of Special Education Dr. Kathryn McCarrie asked the Board to prioritize space needs of special education students in bond building projects and potential boundary adjustments due to grade reconfiguration. Federal law mandates students with disabilities receive services with non-disabled peers whenever possible. Special education services may require special classroom space, such as physical therapy, adaptive P.E., or nursing services. Canyons also provides more intense special education services in cluster units placed at various schools. Dr. McCarrie suggested providing special education services in classrooms as close as possible to students’ home communities, and recommended an additional high school cluster unit. She also expressed a need to replace the Jordan Resource Center at Midvale Elementary, which serves students with serious emotional needs, and added she is negotiating to continue the service partnership with Jordan School District. She also proposed moving cluster units from either Bella Vista or Ridgecrest to Oak Hollow Elementary, and Butler Elementary clusters to a more central location such as Altara Elementary. Dr. McCarrie has provided this information to the Boundary Steering Committee to inform their recommendations.
Executive Director of Government Relations and Chief of Staff Charles Evans updated the Board on some of the 71 education bills – out of 115 introduced – that passed in the 2011 Legislative Session. His team worked with legislators to fine-tune bills including the school-grading bill and the K-3 reading bill. Lawmakers also passed a bill to eliminate districts from considering seniority in layoffs and to allow per-student dollars to transfer to public institutions from which the student receives online education. Board President Tracy Cowdell suggested looking into providing online education in a District-chartered school, which could help students earn one of Canyons’ career- and college-ready Advanced or Honors diplomas. While lawmakers funded enrollment growth, CFO Keith Bradford noted Canyons faces a reduction of up to $3.5 million in state funds because lawmakers changed the way state money is distributed to districts.
Three Cottonwood Heights residents – Woody Noxon; William McCarvill, President of CH Voters citizen advocacy group; and James A. Kromer, who has a background in investment banking – asked the Board not to participate in a proposed Cottonwood Heights CDA at the former Snowbird Racquet Club site due to financial concerns and the possibility of deferring tax dollars that could go to public education if the property were otherwise developed. President Cowdell said the City has not presented the Board with the proposal, but invited the men to return, listen and provide input should the item be placed on the agenda.
The Board approved the Consent Agenda, which includes the March 1 minutes; student overnight travel for Alta Football and CTE ProStart; 2011-2012 school calendar modification to accommodate later secondary parent-teacher conferences and adjust compensatory and teacher development days; purchasing bids, February financial reports; home school affidavit; and February Board hires and terminations. Bids for demolition on the Mountview property will be presented to the Board next week.
The Retirement Banquet will be May 10 at Hidden Valley Country Club; Canyons District day at Real Salt Lake is Saturday, May 7, with the game at 2 p.m. and Canyons students performing at the Carnival Stage from noon to 1:30 p.m. The District also has received the highest possible bond rating of Aaa from Moody’s Investors, and a AA+ – the second-highest rating – from Fitch Ratings; Dr. Doty praised Mr. Bradford’s prudent planning to help secure the rating. Twelve schools are gearing up to pilot using Facebook for academic and communication purposes in the remainder of the school year. District officials are working to require passwords to limit the time a student or teacher can be on Facebook during the school day, and create training for teachers and students to use the this unique social media platform safely and effectively.
Mr. Bradford called the District’s Aaa and AA+ bond ratings astonishing, considering the District has operated just two years and has a limited financial history. Rating agencies cited low debt burden, healthy fund balances and well-funded pension and other post-retirement benefits for employees among reasons for the high bond rating.
Mont Millerberg recommended discussing the possibility of hosting an Active Shooter training in the April Board meeting.
President Cowdell thanked Vice President Sherril Taylor for officiating last Board Meeting in his stead while he recovered from illness. He noted next week’s meeting will last just 15 minutes, and said Board Members could attend via conference call if needed. The Board is expected to address the resolution from bond counsel and Mountview demolition bids.
Kevin Cromar attended the Eastmont production of “The Music Man,” and praised the students’ high-quality performance.
Kim Horiuchi noted the Mountview property was taken off the consent agenda to wait for demolition bids, which are expected to come before the Board next week.
Steve Wrigley spent time at Midvale Middle School, where he enjoyed interacting with students and learning about the SALTA program.
The Board met in closed session for the purpose of discussing collective bargaining and the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of an individual.