More than three-fourths of Canyons residents surveyed said they would support a hypothetical $200 million bond with no tax increase to repair school buildings in Canyons School District, a Dan Jones & Associates survey shows.
Of 402 registered voters surveyed, 41 percent said they definitely would support a $200 million bond that would not raise taxes. Another 35 percent said they probably would support such a bond, according to the survey, conducted Feb. 16-23. Seven percent said they probably would oppose such a bond, and 11 percent said they definitely would oppose such a bond. Two percent said it depends, and 3 percent didn’t know. Dr. Jones called the level of support “off the charts.” The survey has a plus- or minus 5 percent error margin. For full details, click here.
The Board could seek $255 million in building bonds without a tax increase, CFO and General Counsel Keith Bradford said. The Board also could use $50 million from its capital outlay fund balance to take on a total $305 million in projects, also without a tax increase. An MHTN Architects study found Canyons schools require $647 million in renovations. The Board expressed desire, based on Dr. Jones’ recommendation, to seek a bond in June. It began discussions on building priorities, including seismic and air-conditioning upgrades, school rebuilds and a new high school in Draper to enable grade reconfiguration, and plans to firm up a three-phase plan by month’s end. The Board must adopt a bond resolution by April 8 in order to set a June bond election.
Canyons School District may face up to an $11.7 million revenue cut, depending on legislative action, Mr. Bradford reported. The Board received information about several potential cuts and cost-saving measures, including administrative furloughs. The Board will continue to study the issues over the next several months, with a legal budget deadline falling June 30.
Government Relations Director Charlie Evans reported on HB292 (Equalization of Funding for Divided School Districts). He also discussed bills that would shift taxes to help school district operation budgets and equalization, the latter of which presents a twist: Canyons District under the current equalization law would pay $2 million less, or a total of $1.4 million, next year, and Granite would become a recipient, because of the change in districts’ assessed valuation. Currently, all Salt Lake County school districts pay for equalization, with Jordan District the only district receiving the money.
Board Approves Differentiated Diplomas, Grade Reconfiguration
The Board approved offering students differentiated diplomas and endorsements as well as reconfiguring school grade levels to put grades K-5 in elementaries, 6-8 in middle schools and 9-12 in high schools to better address student academic needs and prepare every student for the demands of college and the workplace.
Canyons becomes Utah's first school district to offer students differentiated diplomas, starting as early as spring 2011. The diploma options are:
Standard Diploma: In place now, the Standard Diploma requires students to complete the State Office of Education's required 18 core subject credits, plus 9 (with the opportunity for 13) elective credits.
Advanced Diploma: The Advanced Diploma will require 20 core credits -- the State Office of Education's required 18 core credits, plus two credits of world language. It also requires credits to be earned in more rigorous laboratory sciences, college-prep English and Algebra II.
Honors Diploma: To earn the Honors Diploma, students will have to complete the Advanced Diploma's requirements, plus meet College Readiness Benchmark Scores on the ACT college-entrance exam, which are: 18 in English; 21 in Reading; 22 in Mathematics; and 24 in Science. All four Benchmark scores must be achieved in the same test administration. This diploma also would include a weighted GPA requirement (to be determined) as recommended by Canyons high school principals. The District also proposes a new budget item for an ACT test-preparation course and ACT administration for all Canyons students.
Endorsements: Students would have an opportunity to pursue endorsements to signify advanced knowledge in a specific subject area, regardless of whether the student chooses to pursue the Standard, Advanced or Honors diploma. An endorsement can be earned by guiding two credits with specific emphasis, such as Career and Technical Education, Arts, or other content areas to be determined.
The District had proposed a 22-credit "Apex" diploma, offering specialization in Arts, Career and Technology Education, or Regents Scholarship coursework. While endorsed by businesses and higher education leaders, the option was revised following public input and concerns that the diploma would unduly restrict student choice, inadvertently harm school visual or performing arts programs, and narrow elective options.
The modified proposal reflects a national, research-based standard for college- and career-readiness and encourages students to take challenging courses while respecting their freedom to select elective courses, Superintendent David Doty said. It also is proficiency-based and tied to preparedness standards recognized by virtually every college and university in the country, regardless of the institution's admissions requirements.
Canyons' career- and college-ready diplomas are endorsed by the Commissioner of Higher Education and the Utah Board of Regents, the Salt Lake Chamber, and the Utah Technology Council.
Additionally, the Board voted to move the sixth grade into middle school and the ninth grade into high school to better address students' academic needs. It is aimed at providing ninth-graders with the full college- and career-prep high school curriculum, middle school students with a nurturing, rigorous and high-school preparatory focus, and elementary schools with room to offer additional school-choice programs. The Board also approved changing the names of the middle schools to "preparatory schools" to better reflect their academic mission.
Dr. Doty presented a report from the National Middle School Association that shows more districts nationwide are choosing similar grade configurations as a way to better deliver instruction and support students. In 1970, the United States had 4,711 public junior high schools (grades 7-9); by 2001, it had just 632. Middle schools with grades 5- through 8 or 6- through 8 are able to better focus on students' needs and boost their chances for academic success during a challenging developmental time, the report states. See the full report here: Grade Organization Trends
Report: Canyons Schools Need $647 Million in Repairs
Canyons District schools need more than $647 million in repairs, MHTN Architects reported in the Board's Study Session. The figure includes all District buildings, including three currently not in use. MHTN prepared a report for every school. Each report includes a detailed analysis of structural, electrical, mechanical, seismic code and other issues, plus repair cost estimates. The Board of Education will use the information to set building priorities and adopt a short- and long-term capital improvement plan. CFO and General Counsel Keith Bradford suggested a timeline for a June 22 bond election, including setting proposed bond-funded projects on March 2, and filing a Bond Resolution on April 8, with public hearings to follow.Students, Black History Month Recognized
Patron Comments: Debbie Horton expressed concerns about moving sixth grade to middle schools, citing research from universities including Duke supporting keeping them in elementary schools to cut down on disciplinary problems, academic struggles and peer pressure.
Canyons Education Association President Tony Romanello thanked the Board for listening to the public and tweaking the diplomas proposal. He said staff feelings of uncertainty will work themselves out. He also said Jordan District once tried grade reconfiguration for enrollment, not academic, reasons -- much different than what Canyons is doing. He said not reconfiguring grades could put some schools at risk for closure or consolidation. He noted it's tough to please everyone when making tough decisions.
Carolyn Buma said she was concerned that she didn't hear about the academic and facilities proposal until December's SCC training meeting, and felt the community meeting at Eastmont didn't provide constituents with a voice. She also has concerns about grade reconfiguration, and that rigorous alternatives in place, like the Regents Scholarship, are not being communicated to parents. She said quality learning is the main issue the Board must address.
Marci Nilsson thanked the Board for seeking solutions in education, but worried the Board was moving too quickly and not addressing the overarching issue of teacher quality. She suggested more public involvement on the diplomas proposal was needed.
Parent and teacher Leslie Trelease said she is excited about the District's direction, focus on rigor, and diplomas and grade reconfiguration proposal. But she said she feels disconnected from Board decisions and fears the Board is moving too fast, creating uncertainty and stress among employees.
Parent David Dawes said he supports the advanced diplomas, but urged the Board not to leave behind children who learn differently in its desire to increase rigor. He also said good teachers should be better compensated.
Hillcrest teacher Joshua Long said he prefers the revised diplomas proposal, but urged the Board to take its time to determine how it might affect programs and find solutions to preempt problems.
Parent Whit Johnson urged the board to look at crowded schools and boundary changes as it examines other building and infrastructure issues.
Parent and Alta High alumna Liz Graul said she likes the diploma proposal changes, but asked the Board to delay its vote to allow more time for review.
Superintendent's Report: Superintendent Doty said the District likely will start screening applicants for the Oakdale principalship as early as next week. He congratulated the Brighton and Alta swim teams' showing at the 5A State Championship, thanked the State Board of Education for recognizing the contributions of Midvale Middle's Shelley Allen, a National Board Certified P.E. teacher and the school's International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme coordinator. He noted Canyons' Ski and Shred night at Brighton Ski Resort is Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. (download a discount coupon here).
Board Reports: Board President Tracy Cowdell noted the MHTN study found Canyons buildings need $647 million in repairs and renovations, and said that even a $200 million bond, which could be done without a tax increase, would address a mere fraction of the issues. He said that information is being left out of the public discussion about Jordan District and equalization bills on Capitol Hill. He called HB292 a shocking proposal that would take $15 million Canyons sorely needs and give it Jordan District. He said the idea that Canyons is wealthy and Jordan is struggling is untrue. He said Canyons is looking at budget cuts, too, but he is optimistic about the District's direction.
Ellen Wallace offered condolences to Region 17 PTA Vice President Betty Shaw, whose mother died. She praised the Butler Middle School and CTEC open houses and the Brighton High constituency meeting. She said the Utah School Boards Association holds a legislative lunch meeting at the Capitol every Friday at 11:30 a.m.
Kim Horiuchi thanked Utah System of Higher Education Commissioner William A. Sederburg for coming to the last Board meeting. She also thanked the Commissioner, the Salt Lake Chamber, and the Utah Technology Council for publicly endorsing the advanced diplomas proposal. She praised the USBA for adopting a "no position" stance on HB292, Equalization of Funding for Divided School Districts, which would cost Canyons about $15.4 million. She also requested staff look into weight room issues at Brighton High School, and praised Ridgecrest Elementary's talent night.
Kevin Cromar also attended the USBA meeting with Ms. Horiuchi, and said it needs to be made clear that the Jordan District budget issue is about state funding, which makes up the majority of school district funding, not property taxes, noting the flat tax has affected public education revenues. He also praised Canyons' individual winners at the 5A State Wrestling Championship and Brighton High's championship swim teams, and the Butler Middle School Open House.
Paul McCarty thanked Deputy Superintendent Ginger Rhode and Evidence-Based Learning Directors Hollie Pettersson and Amber Roderick-Landward for their presentation on the Response to Intervention model.
Mont Millerberg praised the CTEC Open House, Renaissance Fair at Hillcrest High, and the opportunity to discuss issues with a small group at his constituency meeting.
Study Session: Dr. Pettersson and Ms. Roderick-Landward explained the RTI framework for examining ways to serve students and match instruction to individual student needs, be they advanced or in special education. Canyons Government Relations Director Charlie Evans reported on the Legislature, including revenue shortfalls exceeding $50 million and bills that seek to alter state retirement benefits and address building money equalization.