The bright lights of Broadway beckoned to Bennett Chew. The Hillcrest High graduate last week traveled to the Great White Way to learn from the singing and dancing superstars of the stage. 

Chew earned the right to attend the National High School Musical Theater Awards — and to be considered for a Jimmy Award, the student equivalent of a Tony Award — by winning the Best Actor category at the 8th annual Utah High School Musical Theater Awards in May at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake. 

The University of Utah-bound student, who starred as Jean Valjean in Hillcrest’s “Les Miserables,” which also won the state’s award for Best Musical and Best Scenic Design, spent nine days being coached by industry professionals. Jimmy winners were then picked by a panel of judges.    

Although Chew didn’t walk away with a Jimmy, his final year as a Husky theater kid was full of honors. Not only did Hillcrest earn the top honor at the state musical-theater contest, the Hillcrest drama students won first place at the Utah High School Activities Association’s 6A drama competition and the sweepstakes award at the Utah High School Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City. 

Winning all three honors in one year — the "triple crown" of Utah prep theater — has been done once before. Led by teacher Josh Long, Hillcrest captured all three awards in 2011-2012, when the school’s production of “Aida” earned the Best Musical honor and a national award for its star, Malia Morley. 

“Our students work really, really hard,” says Long, who has directed 50 shows since starting at Hillcrest in 2009. “And they very passionate about what they do. It is great to see them be rewarded for that.” 

Gloria Swenson, who served as president of the school’s theater group, says being in leadership for her senior year, especially in a time full of buzz, applause and recognition, has been “one of the coolest things I have ever got to do … I feel very honored.” 

Swenson recalls with a smile the final performance of “Les Miserables,” which sold out every night of the show’s Nov. 16-20 run. Folks wanted to see the show so badly they were willing to pay for entrance without guarantee of a seat. “I remember the last night,” she said, “and seeing people standing in the back.” 

Three years ago, Gabriel Aina thought his high school goals would be met on the soccer field. Instead, he found his voice on the stage. Without hesitation, Aina, whose favorite production at Hillcrest was “Hamlet,” attributes the school’s success in theater to Long’s teaching style. 

“He isn’t willing to let us drop the ball,” he says. “He teaches us that we can do hard things in life.” One of those hard things, Aina said, was learning to sing in front of a crowd, which he says he “rather dislikes” doing, even though his role as Marius in “Les Miserable” was vocally demanding.

Sterling Larsen lives in the boundaries of another high school but decided to enroll at Hillcrest to be involved in the theater program. Larsen, who was accepted to Brigham Young University, has been in nearly a dozen shows while studying at the Midvale school.  “If I had not done theater,” he says, “I would be a completely different person today.”
Note: Recordings and documents for agenda items can be accessed via BoardDocs by clicking on the corresponding agenda items.

Budget Approved

Following a public hearing, the Board unanimously approved a financial plan for Canyons District for fiscal year 2018-2019.  The budget does not include a tax increase. The estimated $500 million budget, which is publicly accessible on the Canyons website, reflects the amount collected in property taxes and the basic state support via the $3,395-per-student Weighted Pupil Unit, the state’s education funding formula. This is an increase of $84 — 2.5 percent — over the 2017-2018 WPU of $3,111 per student. The state also is contributing another 1.5 percent WPU increase in flexible allocation. In addition, the budget includes the Midvale Elementary Comprehensive Restructuring Plan; costs of the negotiated agreements with the Canyons Education Association and the Canyons Education Support Professionals Association. Each full-time teacher will receive at least a $2,235 pay increase, plus a $500 bonus in November. Among other operational costs, the budget includes bond funds to pay for the ongoing construction of the new Brighton and Hillcrest high schools and the major renovation of Alta High. Other remodeling projects will be done, as well, with money from the budget. In addition, the Board unanimously approved a revised budget for fiscal year 2017-2018. 

School Construction

The Board discussed the priority list of schools to be built with proceeds from the $283 million general-obligation bond approved by voters in November. While construction work has already started at Alta, Hillcrest and Brighton high schools, and an architect has been hired to work on designs for the new Union Middle, the Board has yet to decide which elementary school is next in line to be rebuilt. The Administration is recommending a 2019 start-date for construction on a new Midvalley Elementary. As pledged at the time of the passage of the bond, the other elementary schools to be built with 2017 bond money are Peruvian Park Elementary, a new west Draper elementary, and a White City-area school. 

Cottonwood Heights CDA 

The Board heard a request to extend the Canyon Centre Community Development Area agreement into which the District entered in 2012. The redevelopment project to add commercial, residential and parking structures to an area at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon was delayed due to the recession and a legal challenge. An independent review found the current assessed valuation of the project’s budget to be reasonable. The review also determined that the use of funds would provide a public benefit, and that participation in the tax increment financing proposal is justified. The Board will take up the issue at a future meeting pending further review of a cost-benefit analysis.

Administrative Appointments

The Board of Education approved the following administrative appointments for the 2018-2019 school year: 
  • Colleen Smith, currently the Principal at Sprucewood Elementary, has been hired as a CSD Responsive Services Program Administrator. 
  • Lori Reynolds, currently an Achievement Coach at East Sandy Elementary, has been hired as Principal at Sprucewood Elementary.
  • Sara Allen, currently an Achievement Coach at Midvale Middle, will be an Assistant Principal at Butler Middle. She replaces Kip Carlsen, who has accepted a position in the Granite School District. 
College- and Career-Readiness Counseling Update

CSD School Counseling Specialist Tori Gillett reported on efforts to expand coverage of counseling supports for schools. With legislatively approved grant funding and the reallocation of some existing resources, the Department of Responsive Services has improved counselor-to-student ratios in middle school and hired counselors for elementary schools. Counseling teams also have begun basing their intervention goals on known indicators of student achievement, such as attendance, behavior, and course-understanding. These goals are coordinated with School Improvement Plans.

Walking Route Study

Sandy City notified the District of plans to add two lanes to 9000 South, a main thoroughfare that some Sandy Elementary, Mount Jordan Middle and Jordan High students must cross in order to get to and from school. Work on the road is expected to be completed before the start of the 2018-2019 school year. To aid students in navigating the 9000 South 300 East intersection, the city has decided to hire two additional crossing guards, bringing the total number of crossing guards at that intersection to four. The District asked a civil engineer to conduct a walking route analysis of the intersection, explained Assistant Superintendent Dr. Robert Dowdle. The engineer’s opinion is that, with the addition of two crossing guards, the expansion of 9000 South will not “impact the hazardous scores.” 

Public Comment

Patron Steve Van Maren objected to Information Technology line-items in Capital budget, and encouraged the District to pay for those items out of the General Fund. He also asked the Board to buy school buses with seatbelts. He also asked for more time to review the proposed budget. 

Brighton High teacher Jonnie Knoble thanked the Board for teacher salary increases.  

Recognitions

The following students, faculty and staff were honored for the achievements:
  • Midvale Middle’s Abigail Slama-Catron, for being named the state honoree for the Prudential Spirit of the Community Award.
  • Hillcrest High’s Kara Komarnitsky and Madeline Martin and Corner Canyon High’s August Burton, for being named National Merit Scholars. 
  • Corner Canyon High’s girls track team, the 5A state champions
  • Alta High’s boys soccer team, the 5A state champions
  • Jordan High’s baseball team, the 5A state champions

Consent Agenda

The Board of Education approved the Consent Agenda, including the minutes from the May 22, 2018 meeting of the Canyons Board of Education; hire and termination reports; purchasing bids; requests for student-overnight travel; May financial reports; administrative appointments; and approval of Community Eligibility Provision for free lunch program at four schools.

Policy Update

The Board of Education approved policies governing Middle School Education Requirements; Sick Leave Benefits and Retirement; sex education instruction; and Human Resource hiring procedures. The Board also approved a modified student-attendance policy.

Board Planning

In the study session, Board President Sherril Taylor asked Board members to provide topics they would like see addressed at an upcoming roundtable.

Pledge of Allegiance

School Performance Director Mike Sirois led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. The reverence was delivered by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Bob Dowdle.

Superintendent, Business Administrator Report

Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe congratulated the achievements of the Class of 2018 and thanked the Board members for their addresses at commencement exercises. He thanked Wilcox and Accounting Director Gary Warwood for their work on the proposed and revised budgets for the upcoming and previous school year. He looks forward to attending a Wednesday department meeting for Facilities.

Leon Wilcox reported on bid openings for and progress on the first several projects being completed with funds from the $283 million bond — the remodel of Alta High and rebuilds of Brighton and Hillcrest high schools.

Board Member Reports

Chad Iverson attended the end-of-year band a percussion concert for Indian Hills Middle and Alta High’s and Corner Canyon High’s graduation ceremonies. He also attended the groundbreaking for the renovation of Alta High.

Clareen Arnold also attended the Alta High groundbreaking and says it’s exciting to see we’re moving forward. She commended Business Administrator Leon Wilcox for making the complex task of budgeting look easy. She also attended the Retirees Banquet. She spoke at the Diamond Ridge High graduation ceremony and loved hearing students’ humbling stories. She applauded all the staff members who work hard all summer behind the scenes to clean, fix and prepare schools.

Nancy Tingey agrees graduation is a reward and the groundbreakings are exciting. She was able to attend the Brighton and Jordan High commencement ceremonies. This year, she took special note of the smiles of the graduates as they crossed the stage.

Amber Shill attended the Butler Middle band concert and Hillcrest High International Baccalaureate graduation ceremony. She visited the “Harry Potter”-themed escape room at Eastmont Middle and spoke at the Canyons Transitions Academy and South Park Academy commencement ceremonies. She met with Brighton students regarding the upcoming rebuild. Finally, she commended Business Administrator Leon Wilcox for his work on the budget.

Steve Wrigley thanked the External Relations staff who prepare the Retirees Banquet. He was able to hand a diploma this year to his son at Jordan High’s commencement ceremony. Five of his children have graduated from CSD schools and have thrived from the schooling they’ve received over the years. 

Sherril Taylor is thankful for all those who contribute to CSD’s college- and career-ready mission. He also thanked his fellow Board members for their service and the Communications team for all the extra hours they put in throughout the year. 
The Canyons Board of Education approved the following administrative appointments for the 2018-2019 school year: 
  • Colleen Smith, currently the Principal at Sprucewood Elementary, has been hired as a CSD Responsive Services Program Administrator. 
  • Lori Reynolds, currently an Achievement Coach at East Sandy Elementary, has been hired as Principal at Sprucewood Elementary. She replaces Smith.
  • Sara Allen, currently an Achievement Coach at Midvale Middle, will be an Assistant Principal at Butler Middle. She replaces Kip Carlsen, who has accepted a position in the Granite School District. 
For Principal Brian McGill, the long-awaited renovation of Alta High is personal.

Twenty-seven years ago, he walked the same halls that his students walk today — and he’s thrilled to see how the new additions will add to the culture and climate of the school. "Even as a student, one of the things I loved the most about this school is the sense of tradition and a drive for excellence,” McGill said at a June 7 groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction. “It’s a place that doesn’t settle for second best, whether it’s in the arts, academics or on the athletic field. This is A-Town! It’s how it’s always been — and how it will always be."

To officially kick off construction, McGill, in front of a cheering crowd gathered for the groundbreaking celebration, hopped in a massive earth-mover and pulled some levers to make a giant steel claw scoop up and dump a bucket of sand. 

Joining McGill in celebrating the improvement project were members of the Hawks’ student council, drum line, color guard, and cheerleading squad. Also in attendance were parents, alumni, teachers, members of the Canyons Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe, other District administrators, Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn, Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, and Canyons Education Foundation Board Members Suzanne Harrison and Greg Summerhays.

Alta is among the first of several improvement projects to be completed with funds from a 2017 voter-approved bond. Work also starts this summer on rebuilds of Hillcrest and Brighton high schools. A groundbreaking for the Hillcrest project was held on May 31, and a celebration for the beginning of the Brighton project will take place at the school on Thursday, Aug. 9 at 5:30 p.m.

“With all of our schools, special care is taken to involve students, parents, teachers and the broader community in the planning process,” remarked Board President Sherril H. Taylor. “We take pride in building schools that reflect the communities they serve and that serve those communities well.”

The Alta High remodel will be completed in phases over two years so as to allow students to stay inside the building. “This is going to be a complex project to do,” said Canyons District’s Business Administrator Leon Wilcox, expressing appreciation for careful attention that VCBO Architects and Hughes Construction have given the project. “We’re basically building a school on top of a school, while holding school. That’s quite a challenge and these guys are going to do it while making sure everything is safe for all involved.”

Among major additions to take shape during the first phase of construction are a new field house and 1,400-seat Performing Arts Center, which will be configured to capitalize on mountain views. A new commons area will be a space where students can gather to make new traditions. The ceiling of the commons area will be lifted to 35 feet, and the new open space will be illuminated by natural light. Traffic flow will be improved, making it easier for students, employees, and visitors to safely enter and exit the campus. 

“From day one, the focus of the design has been about creating the best learning environment for our students and a great work environment for teachers,” McGill said. “I hope you’re as thrilled as I am with the plans for the school, which will stand as a testament to our community’s investment in education for at least the next 40 years.”

See more on Facebook or the Alta High groundbreaking photo album.

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  • For Hillcrest Principal Greg Leavitt, the sight of a row of golden-tipped shovels on the school’s soccer field on Thursday was monumental.

    The shovels marked the beginning of a three-year project, made possible by a $283 million bond approved by voters in November that will result in a new building to replace the current, 55-year-old structure. But the implements also reminded Leavitt of the importance of the hard work that goes into gaining an education.

    “These shovels are signs of cultivation,” Leavitt said, "not of money, but of hearts and minds, of generations to come. The culture you’ve built here isn’t in the bricks and the desks, it’s in the community.”

    A crowd of Hillcrest students, parents, and educators gathered at the school to celebrate the old building and mark the beginning of the new project. Also in attendance were members of the Canyons Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe, other District administrators, Midvale Mayor Robert Hale, members of the Midvale city council, Utah State Board of Education member Kathleen Riebe, Sen. Brian Zehnder, R-Cottonwood Heights, and Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy. A group of alumni from the class of 1968, honored guests, including Board member and Husky alumni Mont Millerberg, in lifting the symbolic shovels to mark the beginning of the project.

    “So many people have such great memories of going to school here, myself included,” Millerberg said. “We’re thrilled to be able to build a new school so the next generation of students can build memories here, too.”

    A committee of Hillcrest administrators and District administrators is working with FFKR Architects and Westland Construction to create a new Hillcrest that will meet the demands of a 21st century education without sacrificing elements of the old building that are rooted in tradition, such as the inlaid “H” in the school’s atrium, and the DelMar Schick Stadium. The new school will have a new field house and performing arts complex, a commons area, emphasis on open spaces illuminated by natural light and collaborative spaces for students to gather and create new traditions.

    Hillcrest is among the first of several improvement projects to be completed in with funds from the 2017 bond, including new campuses at Union Middle, Midvalley and Peruvian Park elementary school and Brighton High and other locations. Alta will be remodeled extensively. Celebrations for the beginning of that project will take place at the school on June 7 at 5:30 p.m.

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