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In Canyons District, cafeteria food isn’t something that makes students wrinkle their noses in disgust — for some kids, it’s the very reason they go to school at all. It’s the key to helping them learn.

That’s a concept that drives Sebasthian Varas, director of Canyons Nutrition Services department, to always find new ways to provide innovatisebasthian2.jpgve, healthy, delicious nutrition for Canyons’ students. Varas’ pioneering work has earned him recognition from the School Nutrition Association as the 2017 Director of the Year for the state of Utah. The national, nonprofit professional organization also gave Varas the President’s Award of Excellence in 2016 for his accomplishments.

Since Varas became director of the Nutrition Services department, Canyons has made some major changes to its nutrition program, including switching from having fried products to having baked products, increasing its budget for fresh fruits and vegetables, adding online apps with complete nutrition and ingredient information, and implementing promotions to create a bridge from the classroom to the cafeteria as students learn about the importance of nutrition.

"Sebasthian has done a tremendous job in overseeing the District’s lunch program,” said Canyons’ Chief Financial Officer Leon Wilcox. “Under Sebathian’s leadership, the lunch workers always provide friendly and helpful service to our students. Sebasthian has performed an excellent balancing act in that the quality of the District’s meals have improved, yet lunch prices have not increased.”

One major change to Canyon’s meal program came after Varas studied how many students qualified for free breakfast and noticed students weren’t taking advantage of the service when it was offered in the cafeteria. Instead, Varas moved the program into the classrooms of Canyons’ Title 1 schools, where every student in every classroom receives a free breakfast.

Teachers report that the change has had a positive impact as students are less likely to be tardy, because they don’t want to miss the meal. Students are also more ready to settle down and learn after they have a brief opportunity to socialize with their peers as they eat their whole grain muffin, string cheese, milk and fruit. At least 90 percent of the students eat the breakfast when it is provided in the classroom, Varas says.

"If you think about it, if we are malnourished we cannot learn, and we are not going to be ready to pay attention in the classroom,” Varas said. “Ultimately, if you don’t come to school well-nourished, or you don’t have access to healthy meals, you aren’t going to succeed academically, which is the goal of the District.”
Wednesday, 23 August 2017 18:32

Students receive rousing, red carpet welcome

Rise and shine, Canyons District!  The sun had just peaked over the Wasatch Mountains when students, teachers and parents started arriving at CSD schools for the first day of the 2017-2018 school year. 

Ready and waiting to greet them with a rousing red carpet welcome were a full contingent of faculty, staff and volunteers, including Real Monarchs players who dropped by schools to help inspire students to reach for their dreams.

At Midvale Middle, coaches for the professional soccer team gave the morning announcement, encouraging students to make and set goals. At Peruvian Park Elementary, forward Chandler Hoffman signed jerseys while saluting students with high-fives and fist bumps. Every CSD student today received a two-for-one voucher to the Real Monarchs playoff game Friday, Aug. 25 night at Rio Tinto Stadium.

A proud, nine-year tradition, Red Carpet Day helps students feel welcome while underscoring the importance of school as a child’s ticket to the show of life. Celebrating CSD's college- and career-ready stars of the day is a moment relished each year by Amber Shill, second Vice President of the Canyons Board of Education. “It’s one of my favorite things to do.”

CSD students also awoke to news on Wednesday that the Board of Education had endorsed placing a $283 million, tax-rate-neutral bond on the Nov. 7, 2017 ballot. If approved by voters, the bond would fund 11 major improvement projects in all parts of the District with an emphasis on building safe, supportive learning environments.
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  • Wednesday, 23 August 2017 23:46

    Board Meeting Summary, Aug. 22, 2017

    Board Meeting Summary, Aug. 22, 2017

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

    Bond Proposal


    The Canyons Board of Education voted to seek resident approval of a $283 million, tax-rate-neutral bond on the Nov. 7 ballot. The Board also established a list of projects that would be completed with funds from bond issuances. If the bond proposal gains passage, the District will: 
    • Rebuild Hillcrest and Brighton high schools 
    • Rebuild Union Middle School
    • Renovate parts of Alta High School, including the addition of a new auditorium and gymnasium
    • Rebuild Midvalley and Peruvian Park elementary schools 
    • Rebuild a White City-area elementary school
    • Build new classroom wings at Corner Canyon High School
    • Build a new West Draper Elementary School
    • Remodel offices at Brookwood, Granite, Oakdale, Park Lane, Silver Mesa, and Sunrise elementary schools
    • Install windows and skylights for natural lighting at Altara, Bell View, Brookwood, Canyon View, Crescent, East Midvale, East Sandy, Granite, Lone Peak, Oakdale, Oak Hollow, Park Lane, Quail Hollow, Ridgecrest, Silver Mesa, Sprucewood, Sunrise and Willow Springs elementary schools.
    Before the vote, Business Administrator Leon Wilcox reviewed the resolution and the language of the proposed ballot. He also reviewed a proposed timeline for construction of the building priorities and the legal requirements to inform the public about the proposal. 

    Eric Pfieffer, research director of pollster Dan Jones and Associates, presented survey information to the Board. Of 1,204 Canyons District registered voters polled, 87 percent said the District spent proceeds from the 2010 general-obligation bond somewhat or very well. After hearing the projects under consideration to be completed with a new bond, 75 percent of respondents said they were likely to vote for the bond proposal, according to the survey. The margin of error in the survey is 2.7 percent. 

    After the vote, Board President Sherril H. Taylor issued the following statement: “What an exciting time in the history of Canyons District. As work begins in earnest on the 13th and final major construction project promised to our patrons in 2010, we aim to extend our ambitious plan to improve schools across Canyons. Just as we did seven years ago, we have developed a list of construction priorities that will have us turning dirt in every part of Canyons District. While we think our track-record speaks for itself, we reiterate our pledge to provide modern and safe schools for our community while also serving as conscientious stewards of taxpayer dollars. We have built so much momentum since our patrons graciously supported our previous facility-improvement plan, and we have great hopes the community will continue to work with us in in our efforts to build up Canyons together.”

    CTESS Update

    In response to feedback from teachers and principals, Canyons District’s teacher evaluation system continues to be updated, said Human Resources Administrator of Evaluation and Leadership Sandra Dahl-Houlihan. With these refinements in place, 83 percent of teachers polled in May 2017 strongly agree or agree that CTESS has improved. In 2017, 94 percent of CSD’s career educators, and 86 percent of provisional educators, were rated as effective or highly effective. That’s up from the 93 percent and 83 percent, respectively, who reached effective or highly effective status in 2016. The three-year-old evaluation system remains a work in progress and will continue to undergo improvements, said Dahl-Houlihan. The end goal is for it to be an effective support tool for teachers, and not punitive.

    Behavioral Supports Update

    Responsive Services Director BJ Weller updated the Board on organizational changes that will make it possible for schools and District personnel to provide needed behavioral supports and respond quickly and uniformly to crises. The changes aim to better align all support professionals toward the common goal of removing barriers to student achievement. They come as schools throughout Utah are determining how to comply with juvenile-justice system reforms that require schools to find new ways to discipline kids without sending them to court. 

    Volunteer Report

    New Region 17 PTA Director Tonya Rhodes and former President Betty Shaw gave the Board a ceremonial giant check made for the amount of $2,900,783. This figure represents the amount of money the District would have had to pay in salaries if it would have had to pay employees for the 120,940 hours of work done by PTA volunteers.

    Board Recognitions

    The following were recognized for their achievements:
    • CSD Nutrition Services Director Sebasthian Varas, who was named by the School Nutrition Association as the 2017 Director of the Year for Utah
    • Special Education Programs Administrator and former Eastmont Middle Principal Stacy Kurtzhals, who recently received the Patriot Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Program
    • Corner Canyon High freshman Arial Harp, for winning first place in speech performance at the Chinese Bridge Language Contest at the University of Maryland.

    Open Meetings Training

    Canyons District’s General Counsel Dan Harper briefed the Board on its responsibilities regarding Open and Public Meetings. The annual training is required by law.

    School Community Council Training

    Every year, CSD conducts training for new and returning School Community Council members. The trainings give council members an understanding of their statutory responsibilities and help them make the most of their time on their school’s council, explained Public Engagement Coordinator Susan Edwards.  The work of the SCCs also streamline the approval process for school improvement plans, said Alice Peck, a CSD School Performance Director. 

    Pledge of Allegiance and Reverence

    School Performance Director Joanne Ackermann led the Board and audience in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Communications Director Jeff Haney delivered the reverence.

    Consent Agenda

    The Board approved the consent agenda, which included minutes from the Aug. 2, 2017 meeting of the Board of Education; hire and termination reports; purchasing bids; student overnight travel plans; July financial reports; and CSD’s participation in the SAFE Neighborhoods Program. 

    Patron Comments

    Former Region 17 PTA President Betty Shaw thanked volunteers in Canyons Schools. She also expressed appreciation for District’s support during her tenure as the leader of the Parent-Teacher Association. She said the District needs to “keep the ball rolling” with school-improvement efforts. She said she’s 100 percent in favor of a new bond proposal. 

    CEA President Erika Bradshaw introduced herself to the Board of Education. Bradshaw says she looks forward to maintaining a positive relationship with the Board and Administration. She also says she’s in favor of the bond proposal.  She noted the vast facility differences between Mount Jordan Middle, where she previously taught, and Hillcrest High, where she teaches now.

    Superintendent and Business Administrator Reports

    Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe said the Board’s support of the bond proposal shows the members are committed to educational excellence. He applauded Z104FM for the radio station’s efforts to collect donations of back-to-school supplies for students in need, and thanked the External Relations team for their work planning the school supply donation drive. CSD joined forces with the radio station as part of its annual back-to-school Gathering for Good fundraising lunch.

    Business Administrator Leon Wilcox thanked the Board members for their diligence in weighing the bond proposal. He thanked Facilities Director Rick Conger and his team for all the hard work they’ve put in over the summer to ensure CSD’s schools are ready to welcome students at the beginning of the year. Finally, he commended Nutrition Services Director Sebasthian Varas for his award.

    Board Member Reports

    Steve Wrigley remarked on the huge crowd that attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Alta View Elementary, the 12th project completed with money from the $250 million voter-approved bond. People of all generations came to the event to see the new addition to their community. Wrigley also reported on attending CSD’s New-Teacher Orientation and sat in on a faculty meeting at Eastmont Middle, where enthusiasm is high for the coming school year.

    Mrs. Amber Shill said she looks forward to the first day of school and CSD’s traditional Red Carpet Welcomes on the first day of school. She also expressed gratitude for Sixth-Grade –Orientation, which helps new middle schoolers become acclimated to the building.    

    Mrs. Nancy Tingey reported on attending a Cottonwood Heights City-sponsored luncheon for the 2017 Teachers of the Year in Cottonwood Heights-area schools.  She remarked on her excitement for the 2017-2018 school year. She wished everyone “a wonderful first day.” Lastly, she thanked her fellow Board members for support of the 2017 bond.

    Mrs. Clareen Arnold expressed gratitude for fellow Board member Chad Iverson’s diligence in weighing the bond proposal. She thanked Business Administrator Leon Wilcox and his team for their hard work in preparing information and data on the bond. 

    Mr. Chad Iverson commended Board member Clareen Arnold for the unique perspective that she brings to the Board as a career educator. He expressed enthusiasm for the Utah State Board of Education’s willingness to reevaluate year-end testing for high school students. He added that he supports the will of the Board with regard to pursuing a bond.

    Board President Sherril Taylor recognized the hard work and diligence of teachers who worked so hard to prepare for the start of school.  He noted the excitement that is felt in the schools for the first-day-of-school celebrations.  He also thanked the police officers for providing security to the community. 
    For sixth-graders, making the leap to middle school is a big transition — but it doesn't have to be a scary one.

    For nine years, Canyons District's middle schools have opened their doors a day early to incoming 11- and 12-year-olds. This year's middle-school orientation will be held the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 22, giving newcomers a chance to find their classes, meet their teachers, and attempt to open their lockers before the hectic hustle and bustle of the first day. The event eases back-to-school jitters by walking students through a day-in-the-life of middle school, albeit a shortened one. 
     Middle School 2017
    Students are to arrive at school at the morning bell, attend shortened classes, test their lockers, and grab a snack before heading home. Some principals also held assemblies to introduce themselves, and explain school rules.  

    Also per CSD tradition, elementary and middle schools will literally roll out the red carpet to greet students on Wednesday, Aug. 23. As students enter the buildings, players from the professional soccer team, the Real Monarchs will join parents, teachers and principals in lining red carpets to cheer our up-and-coming college- and career-ready stars. Each student will receive a free pencil, enthusiastic high-five’s and two-for-one ticket voucher for Canyons District Night at Rio Tinto on Friday, Aug. 25.

    The vouchers entitle families to one free ticket for every full-price ticket they purchase to the Friday, Aug. 25 Monarchs game, which starts at 7 p.m. Tickets range in price from $8 to $15, and can be purchased at the ticket counter or online

    These celebratory starts help students feel welcome while underscoring the importance of school as a child’s ticket to the show of life.

    Questions? Please contact the Main Office of your child's school. Welcome back to another great school year!
    As Alta View students looked out of their classroom windows last year, they saw a strange shape taking place in the corner of the field behind the school.

    What looked, at first, like a jumble of beams and blocks was no mystery, however. They knew they were watching the creation of the schoolhouse that would replace the Alta View students had attended since 1963.

    The new, 700-student capacity school is the 12th in CSD to be rebuilt or renovated as part of an aggressive plan to upgrade and modernize educational facilities in all corners of the District. The school will open to the public for the first time on Thursday, Aug. 17 at a ribbon-cutting event. The ceremony will start promptly at 6 p.m., followed by an open house tour for students, families, faculty and the community.

    The new Alta View has a new address: 917 E. Larkspur Dr., in Sandy. It is the second new facility to open this year; on Tuesday, Aug. 8, Midvale Middle debuted to applause from a crowd of hundreds.

    The building will feature a security vestibule that will require all visitors to be seen by school staff before they enter the building, a large commons area filled with natural light and a grand staircase leading to second-floor rooms, a media center, activity room and a computer lab. In addition, the building will be equipped with state-of-the-art mechanical and electrical systems and voice amplification equipment for teachers in the classroom.

    With completion of these rebuilds and the remodel underway of Indian Hills Middle, CSD will have fulfilled the $250 million bond approved by voters in 2010. It’s a goal achieved without raising taxes, while maintaining CSD’s AAA bond rating, and in keeping with founding vision of the five communities who, in 2007, voted to turn CSD it into an achievement-oriented district of distinction.
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