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Joani Richardson is the kind of teacher who can breathe new life into words, pull magic from a page, and spark wonder in the eyes of eager-to-learn children. “I love to teach children to love to read,” says Richardson. “I have failed if I have not taught a child to love to read.”

For her dedication to inspiring her first-grade students at Altara Elementary to learn and grow, Richardson, who is beloved by scores of students, parents and fellow educators, has received one of the most prestigious awards given to public-school educators in Utah. 

On Friday, April 28, 2017, in front of cheering Altara Kittyhawks of all ages, Richardson was announced as a winner of a Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education. She’s one of 11 Utahns selected for the honor, which comes with a crystal obelisk and a $10,000 cash prize. The winners — six general education teachers, three administrators, one special-education teacher and a volunteer — are hand-picked by a panel of prominent citizens and educators after a public-nomination process. Awards will be given at a May banquet in Salt Lake.
 
2017 Huntsman Award Winner Joani Richardson

“Every year, our family has the opportunity of going all over the state of Utah,” said Karen Huntsman, the philanthropist and wife of billionaire businessman Jon M. Huntsman Sr., who delivered to the news to Richardson personally at an assembly. “You know what they we are looking for?  Outstanding teachers.” 

At the Friday morning assembly, which was attended by Richardson’s family (some had dialed in via FaceTime on iPhones), Principal Nicole Svee-Magann, Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe and School Performance Director Alice Peck, Huntsman pulled Richardson close and said, “She doesn’t teach for the money,” Huntsman said.  “She teaches for the love of teaching.” 

Svee-Magann is effusive in her praise of Richardson, who has taught for some four decades. The principal calls her a top-notch teacher who doesn’t let anything — not even breast cancer — slow her down. Even while undergoing chemotherapy treatment, she said, Richardson ran last Saturday’s Salt Lake Half-Marathon. 

“Sometimes when we have hard things happen, we have to keep going. We have to keep going forward and making a difference. This good woman is the best example of this that I know,” Huntsman added. “When hard things happen, do you think she forgets her students?  Do you think she forgets her lesson plans?  She does everything because she loves and cares about what she’s doing.  When you think about all the children she’s taught … she has impacted their lives for years and years and years.”

Richardson’s selection extends Canyons District’s streak of being home to a Huntsman award-winner. Last year’s winner from CSD, Brighton High’s Aaron Hadfield, was at Friday’s assembly to surprise Richardson with the news. But he was there in a different capacity — as a volunteer in the WatchDOG program for fathers. Also, his wife, Jody, is the School Community Council chair at Altara and was the driving force behind Richardson’s nomination.

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  • Family is important to Vinnie Vala’au, though for most of his youth, the stable home life he yearned for, and wanted to provide his two younger siblings, remained just out of reach. “Growing up, I faced a lot of trials,” says the Alta High senior.

    But sometimes home is where you find it, and Vinnie found it in Sandy, Utah, miles from his Samoan homeland, and in the caring, supportive teachers and counselors at Alta High. “Their expectations were high for me, and I’m so grateful for that,” he says.

    Vinnie first enrolled at Alta two years ago as a sophomore. He and his siblings had just moved from America Samoa to live with an aunt and uncle. “That’s a huge culture shock, a huge change in his life, and he just jumped in with two feet,” says school counselor Kelsie Court.

    The transition wasn’t easy. There were plenty of ups and downs, Vinnie says. But with perseverance, he exceled in his Honors courses and landed a position on the football team. “He impressed me with his quiet leadership and work ethic,” says Alta business teacher Kim Batey. “Nowadays students are so focused on grades, and it’s not about the learning. But Vinnie wants to learn…and that is so gratifying as a teacher.”



    Earlier this year, Vinnie encountered a few setbacks that threatened to derail him from his academic goals. Sidelined by a football injury and experiencing some trouble at home, Vinnie recalls, “things got a little bit rough.”

    He retreated into himself and stopped attending some of his classes. Worried staff and faculty reached out, offering up their classrooms after hours so that Vinnie could access computers to complete his homework. They shared their lunches and, when Vinnie was open to it, words of advice. But mostly, they were just there to lend a listening ear.

    “Vinnie doesn’t ask for anything, or want to put anyone out. But he’s the first to extend a helping hand,” says Court, who credits Vinnie, and his never-say-die attitude, for turning things around. “Pretty much everything about him inspires me; his entire outlook on life, everything he has been through. I’ve seen a lot of students go through even a fraction of what he’s gone through and they’ve just folded.”

    Vinnie says he’s “grateful for the chaos” in his life, because, “it’s made me who I am today.” He finds daily motivation in his family and his surrogate Alta High “mothers” whom he wants to make proud. His advice to other students: “Don’t be afraid to go outside your boundaries. Be uncomfortable.” And don’t be ashamed to ask for help if you need it. “It’s fun to have friends,” he says.

    This summer, Vinnie will proudly join his peers on the commencement stage to receive his diploma. Next stop: Southern Utah University where he’ll explore a career in counseling.

    Through his determination and hard work, he has demonstrated that he has what it takes to succeed at college, and beyond, says Canyons Education Foundation Officer Laura Barlow. For these reasons, and more, Vinnie is the recipient of the Foundation’s $2,500 Rising Star Scholarship, one of six scholarships awarded this year to deserving students.

    The Foundation announced the following scholarship winners at its Spring fundraising Gala, held at Corner Canyon High on Thursday, April 27. Money raised at the event will support student scholarships and grants to fund teachers’ ideas for enhancing classroom instruction.

    Rising Star Scholarship • $2.500
    Vinnie Vala’au, Alta High

    Bright Star Scholarships • $1,000
    Jennifer Pomeroy, Alta High
    Cassandra Hatcher, Brighton High
    Hailee Thorn, Corner Canyon
    Danielle Coccimiglio, Hillcrest
    Ismael Zarate-Guillen, Jordan

    Canyons Foundation Gala Photos

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    Canyons Foundation Gala Photo Booth

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  • Thursday, 27 April 2017 22:13

    Board Meeting Summary, April 25, 2017

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


    Board Summary

    The Canyons Board of Education on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 approved a new salary schedule that will boost the starting salary for a beginning teacher more than $5,000 a year while also providing salary hikes for mid-career and veteran educators. The new salary schedule pushes the starting salary for a new teacher in Canyons District to $40,500. Also, every licensed employee will see no less than a 4 percent jump, and the average increase will be 6.5 percent after the conversion to the new single-lane salary structure. Members of the Board of Education unanimously voted in favor of passing the salary schedule, which Canyons’ Human Resources Department and Principals can use to attract high-quality candidates for classrooms and special programs. The new salary schedule also continues Canyons District’s commitment to providing professional compensation packages to employees. Every year since CSD’s inception in 2009, and even during the years of the Great Recession, the Board of Education has approved some kind of salary increase for employees. In addition, the new single-lane schedule provides an opportunity for educators to make continuous, positive impacts to their lifetime earnings. The level on which teachers start is based on years of experience and educational level. An explanatory chart can be found on the CSD website. 

    Board President Sherril H. Taylor issued this statement on behalf of the Board: “In 2009, we launched an experiment in public education in Utah. On July 1 of that year, Canyons became the first new school district to be created in the state in nearly a century. On that first day, we pledged to focus on student achievement, innovation, customer service, and community engagement. We acknowledged then, as we do now, that education is the key to a successful life. Our teachers are the backbone of our efforts to ensure that every child is college- and career-ready at the time of their high school graduations. Great teachers do so much: They inspire. They encourage. They elevate. They care. Tonight, we are showing in word and deed how much we care. Not only will we be recognizing the commitment and excellence of our Teachers of the Year, we’re also putting into place a competitive salary schedule for all licensed employees in Canyons District. The new salary schedule will increase the starting yearly salary for a first-year teacher more than $5,000 while also providing salary hikes for mid-career and veteran educators. Every licensed employee will see no less than a 4 percent jump, and the average increase will be 6.5 percent. In addition, the new single-lane schedule provides an opportunity for educators to make continuous positive impacts to their lifetime earnings. The Board of Education believes it is important to invest in the District’s people. In turn, our students will benefit. Our classrooms will be led by the best and brightest educators that we can attract and retain, especially in this era of a nationwide teacher shortage. More than that, in Canyons District, we strive to create a sense of unity and common purpose. Yes, it takes a village, and our teachers, with their experience and knowledge, are a vital part of the Canyons District family. After all, teaching is the profession that teaches all other professions. Teachers, on behalf of the Board of Education, I thank you for your commitment in this noble endeavor of educating our children. Yes, you touch the future.  You teach.”

    Teacher of the Year

    Union Middle teacher Drew Fosse’s creative approach to keeping students motivated and engaged is among the reasons the Board of Education honored him as Canyons’ Teacher of the Year. The history teacher was chosen from a pool of 48 of CSD’s best educators who represent each of Canyons’ schools and programs, including Canyons Virtual High, alternative high school Diamond Ridge and the academy at the Utah State Prison. Each teacher was nominated for their abilities to inspire students and colleagues, lift their fellow educators and collaborate with their school community.  The announcement ceremony was held in the Professional Development Center of the Canyons Administration Building-East, 9361 S. 300 East. The two other finalists in this year’s selection process were Stephanie Cobabe, a teacher at East Sandy, and Janice Spencer-Wise, a physics teacher at Brighton High. The Canyons Education Foundation gave a $1,000 cash prize to Fosse. Cobabe received $750 and Spencer-Wise received $500. 

    Tentative Agreements with ESP, Administrators

    The Canyons Board of Education tentative negotiated agreements for the 2017-2018 school year with the Canyons Education Support Professionals Association and District Administrators. By accepting the tentative agreements, and with the vote to put into place a new salary schedule for licensed educators for the 2017-2018 school year, all employees in the Canyons will see a boost in compensation in the coming academic year.

    For administrators, the District agrees to fully fund increment steps for eligible employees; a 3.25 percent cost of living adjustment to the base of the Administrative Salary Schedule; and a one-time 1.25 percent stipend for the 41 administrators who are at the top step during the 2016-2017 school year. The District also agrees to the recommendations of the District Insurance Advisory Committee regarding the insurance premium increase. The total dollar increase will be 11.3 percent. The District will contribute 83.7 percent of the increase and employees will contribute the remaining 16.3 percent. The administrators also agree to the plan-design changes recommend by the DIAC. The administrators who have a master’s degree plus 30 semester hours in pursuit of additional education will receive a $2,100 stipend, which is 50 percent of the stipend for those with doctorate degrees. Also, administrators must have 240 sick days to be eligible to participate the sick-day redemption program.

    For the Education Support Professionals, the District will fully fund increment steps for eligible employees. The District also will fund a 3.25 percent cost of living adjustment to the base of the ESP salary schedule. The District will maintain the same number of working days and hours for current contracted employees. Exceptions would be governed by regular District policy and procedures. The salary schedule changes and increment increase for all ESP employees, regardless of the employee’s contracted day of work, will go into effect July 1, 2017. Changes will be retroactive if negotiations extend past that date. In 2018, there will be an 11.33 percent insurance premium increase, but the District will contribute 83.7 percent and the ESP employees will contribute the remaining 16.3 percent. The District will maintain health premiums with no increase between July 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2017.  Also, upon retirement through URS, and based solely upon sick days accrued since July 1, 2009, the District will pay $100 per day for 25 percent of the employee’s accrued, but unused sick leave.

    In addition, the negotiated agreement states that salary lane movement for promotions of current employees promoted after Jan. 1 will be given service credit from their previous hire date and eligible for step increments increase.

    Proposed Bus Route Changes

    Risk Management Coordinator Kevin Ray updated the Board on a proposal to cancel a bus route that serves students who reside in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The plan is to reimburse families for the costs of transporting their children to a pickup area somewhere in the valley at the base of the canyon. Students would then be bused from this area to Butler Elementary, Butler Middle or Brighton High. This falls in line with how the District handles transportation to and from other mountainous areas, including Little Cottonwood Canyon, Suncrest and South Mountain. Because the Big Cottonwood Canyon route services fewer than 10 students, the state only covers 50 percent of the costs. The Utah Division of Risk Management has expressed concern about the route, said Ray who drove it personally on April 10. “There is no room for driver error,” he said, referring to heavy traffic, natural hazards, such as heavy snow and rock slides, and the lack of shoulder space and adequate guard rails. The steep grade requires downhill buses to use their engine breaks the entire length of the road. Though the posted speed limit is 40 miles per hour, large buses can only safely drive at about 15 to 20 miles per hour. This poses a risk as drivers become inpatient and attempt to pass on the windy, two-lane road. Busing will continue through the end of the current school year; any changes, if approved, would take in 2017-2018. The Board will take up the issue at a future meeting, and directed the Administration to notify affected families in advance of any decision. 

    Consent Agenda

    The Board of Education approved items on the consent agenda, including minutes from the April 11, 2017 meeting of the Canyons Board of Education; hire and termination reports; purchasing bids; student overnight travel plans; March financial reports; and 2017-2018 School Land Trust Plans, which have been signed by two Board members. 

    Policy Update

    The Board approved on a third reading, proposed changes to personnel policies governing salary levels for employees returning to work after a work-related medical accident; health-insurance eligibility; long-term disability; and employee probation.
    The Canyons Board of Education on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 approved an innovative and progressive salary schedule that will boost the starting salary for a beginning teacher more than $5,000 a year while also providing salary hikes for mid-career and veteran educators.

    The new salary schedule pushes the starting salary for a new teacher in Canyons District to $40,500. Also, every licensed employee will see no less than a 4 percent jump, and the average increase will be 6.5 percent. 

    Members of the Board of Education unanimously voted in favor of passing the salary schedule, which Canyons’ Human Resources Department and Principals can use to attract high-quality candidates for classrooms and special programs in the District’s 29 elementary schools, eight middle schools, five traditional comprehensive high schools, electronic high school, alternative high school, adult high school, and school for students with severely disabled students. 

    The new salary schedule also continues Canyons District’s commitment to providing professional compensation packages to employees. Every year since CSD’s inception in 2009, and even during the years of the Great Recession, the Board of Education has approved some kind of salary increase for employees. 

    “The Board of Education believes it is important to invest in the District’s people,” said Board President Sherril H. Taylor. “In turn, our students will benefit. Our classrooms will be led by the best and brightest educators that we can attract and retain, especially in this era of a nationwide teacher shortage.”

    In addition, the new single-lane schedule provides an opportunity for educators to make continuous, positive impacts to their lifetime earnings. The level on which teachers start is based on years of experience and educational level. They find their current step and then convert it the increment level on the new schedule. 

    “In Canyons District, we strive to create a sense of unity and common purpose. Yes, it takes a village, and our teachers, with their experience and knowledge, are a vital part of the Canyons District family,” President Taylor said. “After all, teaching is the profession that teaches all other professions. Teachers, on behalf of the Board of Education, I thank you for your commitment in this noble endeavor of educating our children.”

    The Canyons Education Association lauded the vote by the Board to give across-the-board salary increases to licensed educators in the District.

    “CEA is so excited about the commitment of the school board to not only attract and retain the best and brightest but to recognize that they have the best and brightest," said CEA President Jen Buttars. "Together, we make CSD the place to be.” 

    FULL STATEMENT FROM BOARD PRESIDENT SHERRIL H. TAYLOR

    "In 2009, we launched an experiment in public education in Utah. On July 1 of that year, Canyons became the first new school district to be created in the state in nearly a century. On that first day, we pledged to focus on student achievement, innovation, customer service, and community engagement. We acknowledged then, as we do now, that education is the key to a successful life. Our teachers are the backbone of our efforts to ensure that every child is college- and career-ready at the time of their high school graduations.  Great teachers do so much: They inspire. They encourage. They elevate. They care. Tonight, we are showing in word and deed how much we care. Not only will we be recognizing the commitment and excellence of our Teachers of the Year, we’re also putting into place a competitive salary schedule for all licensed employees in Canyons District. The new salary schedule will increase the starting yearly salary for a first-year teacher more than $5,000 while also providing salary hikes for mid-career and veteran educators. Every licensed employee will see no less than a 4 percent jump, and the average increase will be 6.5 percent. In addition, the new single-lane schedule provides an opportunity for educators to make continuous positive impacts to their lifetime earnings. The Board of Education believes it is important to invest in the District’s people. In turn, our students will benefit. Our classrooms will be led by the best and brightest educators that we can attract and retain, especially in this era of a nationwide teacher shortage. More than that, in Canyons District, we strive to create a sense of unity and common purpose. Yes, it takes a village, and our teachers, with their experience and knowledge, are a vital part of the Canyons District family. After all, teaching is the profession that teaches all other professions. Teachers, on behalf of the Board of Education, I thank you for your commitment in this noble endeavor of educating our children. Yes, you touch the future.  You teach."
    This is the house that Canyons built. And it's also being put up for sale at a drastically reduced rate for any qualifying Canyons District teacher or Education Support Professional.

    The listed price of the 1,500-square-foot house, which was built as part of the Canyons Technical Education Center's construction-management program, is $285,000. That's far below the assessed value of $340,000.

    Canyons District can provide this opportunity by partnering with Sandy City, which donated the lot on which the house was constructed. The house is located at at 107 E. Benson Way in Sandy. 

    Most years, proceeds from the sale of CTEC homes fund future construction projects. However, for this year, and for several years into the future, the homes built by students will be sold at far-below-market values in order to strengthen and revitalize neighborhoods and make it easier for CSD employees to live in the District.

    Interested? Join us for an Open House on Friday, April 21 from 3-8 p.m., or on Saturday, April 22 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students who helped build the home will be ready to present a tour.

    Features of the home include a two-car garage, covered front porch, covered rear patio, master bath soaker tub, two-tone paint, and central-air. In order to be considered, interested employees must show pre-qualification documents and agree to a five-year residence agreement.

    Questions? Call CTEC Principal Ken Spurlock at 801-826-6601.


    APPLICATION PROCESS
    • Submit the pre-qualification papers to CTEC Principal Ken Spurlock (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
    • Hard copies delivered to CTEC by May 31, 2017
    • House will be sold to employee application with highest-qualifying offer
    • District committee will determine the successful application

    Want to know more? Watch Spurlock talk to KUTV Channel 2 anchor Holly Menino about the program.
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