The Panthers have clawed their way to the top. Peruvian Park Elementary has been named by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School.

The 2018 recognition, given to only two other Utah schools, was based on the school’s overall academic performance as measured by state assessments. The school celebrated the announcement today at an assembly, during which they watched a video by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and waited patiently to see if their name would appear on the screen. 

When the school's picture popped up, the students and teachers roared in delight. Blue balloons bounced around and confetti was sprayed into the crowd of cheering youngsters.

The prestigious award, earned by 349 public and private schools across the country, affirms the hard work of Peruvian Park’s administration and faculty in building a culture of excellence at the school. In fact, the results of test scores for neighborhood students has nearly doubled, and the students in the magnet SALTA advanced-learner program are achieving at highly-proficient levels.

"We asked you to be brave enough to make goals that would be hard for you," Principal Leslie Jewkes told the students while congratulating them on achieving their goals. She also thanked the "fearless" teachers who committed themselves to collaboration and stellar classroom instruction.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe also congratulated the students, 30 percent of whom qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches, for earning the coveted national honor. "We are really proud of what you have been able to accomplish and to bring this kind of recognition to our community," he said.

This is the 36th year the federal education department has announced National Blue Ribbon honors for schools that are achieving at high levels or doing strong work in closing the achievement gap. DeVos will honor the winning schools during a ceremony Nov. 7-8 in Washington, D.C.

See the District's Facebook page for a gallery of photos and a video of the cheering children and teachers.
Eighteen Canyons District students have advanced in a rigorous race to claim one of the country’s most prestigious scholarships for high school seniors. 

Students from Alta, Brighton, Corner Canyon and Hillcrest high schools today were announced as semifinalists in the 2019 National Merit Scholar competition.  

The high-achieving CSD students join about 16,000 other top scholars who remain eligible to vie for 7,500 scholarships worth $31 million.

The roster of semifinalists was chosen from a field of 1.6 million students at more than 22,000 high schools. The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents fewer than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors. The number is proportional to the state's percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

Candidates for National Merit Scholar awards must write an essay and take a prequalifying test, as well as submit SAT scores. Also required is a detailed scholarship application in which the students must provide academic-record and community-involvement information. The students must note their leadership experiences, voluntarism, employment and any other honors received, too.

The finalists and winners of 2019 scholarships will be announced in the spring

The students and their schools are: 

Alta High
  • Abigail Hardy 
  • Joshua Mickelson 
  • Joshua Pomeroy
Brighton High
  • Alex Fankhauser 
  • Sofia Maw 
  • Jenna Rupper
Corner Canyon
  • Sebastian Lee 
  • Peter Oldham
Hillcrest High
  • Alex Chang 
  • Anthony Grimshaw 
  • Bryan Guo 
  • Saey Kamtekar 
  • Emily Langie 
  • Hongying Liu 
  • Warren McCarthy 
  • Landon Nipko 
  • Eric Yu 
  • Alan Zhao
Jordan High opened its doors to patrons near and far on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018 as parents, students, children, and friends gathered to watch a screening of an anxiety-themed documentary called “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety,”  

Visitors travelled from as far as Provo and Bountiful to watch the film and listen to a panel of experts discuss the prevalence of anxiety among youth and teens today. In partnership with the Deseret News, Canyons District hosted the event as a kick-off to Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which takes place in September. 

Some 400 people attended the screening and posed questions to a panel of experts, including Tori Gillett, Canyons’ school counseling program specialist; Lizbeth Velazquez, a Canyons social worker at Jordan High and Mount Jordan Middle; Karin Gornick, the film’s producer; and Jenny Howe, a therapist featured in the film. Canyons’ Director of Responsive Services BJ Weller introduced Deseret News opinion editor Boyd Matheson, who moderated a panel discussion that centered around what causes anxiety, whether parents are responsible for causing it, and what students can do to cope.

“We need to talk about how to tackle the problem of suicide,” Matheson said. “As much as this is about preventing a tragic end, it’s also about taking advantage of all of our resources to help our youth and teens.”

Canyons District provides help to students in crisis through the Department of Responsive Services. The department offers crisis support, counseling services and at-risk prevention, among other services. The District is taking a “blended approach” to making sure students have access to mental health professionals while at school. 

This year, 10 extra student support specialists have been hired, and every CSD schools has been assigned a school psychologist and a counselor and/or social worker. This ensures that schools have the advantage of using the varied skills that school psychologists, counselors and social workers all bring to the table.

The problem of anxiety is one that troubles both parents and youth throughout the country, but it is important to confront the issue, rather than run away from it, experts from the panel said. The first step to accepting anxiety is to share it with others. 

“Start talking about it with someone you trust,” Velazquez said.

Parents can help their students by acknowledging their students’ struggle, but not necessarily taking away the thing that is making them uncomfortable, such as, picking them up from school if the student calls and asks to come home because of anxiety, Howe said. 

“As parents, we want to fix, and we want to shelter, and that’s OK to some extent, but we’re not allowing our kids the opportunity to not be OK,” Howe said.

The documentary screening was the fourth showing of the movie at an event hosted by the Deseret News. The newspaper s hosting eight events throughout the state to raise the conversation about anxiety and share information on how to respond. More information from the Deseret News is available on the newspaper's website.

“I hope as you walk out of here tonight you will know you are not alone,” Matheson told the audience Thursday. “You are one of us. And we need to keep this conversation going.”
It seems like life moves so much faster and forceful than for previous generations, resulting in feelings of angst for many teenagers. While anxiety is typical for students who are growing, maturing and facing challenging peer-pressure issues, an increasing number of students develop anxiety disorders that greatly impact how they can approach day-to-day activities. 

As part of Suicide Awareness Month in September, Canyons District is partnering with the Deseret News to host a free screening of the IndieFlix documentary “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety” for parents and teens. The film addresses what anxiety is — its causes and effects, and what can be done about it.

The 6 p.m. event will be Thursday, Sept. 6 at Jordan High, 95 Beetdigger Blvd.   The film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring local mental-health experts, including Canyons District counselors and social workers. 

The documentary raises awareness about anxiety through the stories of such people as gold-medal swimmer Michael Phelps, who opens up in the film about suffering from anxiety. 

The producers of the film say they have one goal: to start a global conversation and raise awareness around anxiety. Through candid interviews, they utilize the power of film to tell the stories of many kids and teens who discuss their anxiety and its impacts on their lives and relationships, as well as how they’ve found solutions and hope.

In addition, the documentary provides discussions with mental health experts about the causes of anxiety and its sociological effects, along with the help, resources and tools available to address the condition.

Click here to reserve your spot at the event.
Note: Recordings and documents for agenda items can be accessed via BoardDocs by clicking on the corresponding agenda items.

Proposed Bond Resolution 

The Board of Education discussed the potential issuance of bonds for up to $75 million. Canyons patrons in November voted on a proposal that, in effect, gives the District approval to bond to up to $283 million for new-school construction and building renovations. A proposed bond resolution states the term of the bond payments would be 21 years at a maximum annual interest rate of 5 percent. The Board took the proposal under advisement.  The resolution is scheduled to be considered for approval on Sept. 4. 

Major Improvement Projects

Business Administrator Leon Wilcox presented information about the current and upcoming major construction and renovation projects in Canyons School District. The Board of Education has approved construction bids related to the Alta, Brighton and Hillcrest projects, which were all promised to the public at passage of the 2017 $283 million bond.  Between October and December, the Board will be asked to review bid packages for additional classrooms at Corner Canyon High; an addition to Canyons Administration Building-East; and additional work at Alta, Brighton and Hillcrest high schools. In the spring, the Board is expected to review bid packages for the rebuild at Midvalley Elementary. 

Draper CEA

The Board of Education approved a proposed interlocal tax-increment agreement between the Canyons District and the Draper City RDA for a development inside the South Mountain Community Reinvestment Project Area.

Special Education Update

Canyons District’s Special Education Director Misty Suarez updated the Board on the programs provided to students who qualify for special-education services. Suarez discussed staffing and recruiting, new initiatives, and the change in location for some intensive programs.

New Administrators

The Board of Education met this year’s new administrators. They welcomed Amy Boettger, Principal at Diamond Ridge and Entrada; Mark Mataya, Assistant Principal of Diamond Ridge and Entrada; David Briggs, Special Education Administrator; Colleen Smith, Program Manager in Responsive Services; Beverly Herrmann, Program Administrator at Student Advocacy and Access;  Transportation Director Jeremy Wardle; Sara Allen, the new Assistant Principal at Butler Middle; Ashley McKinney, Assistant Principal at Midvale Elementary;  Matt Nelson, Principal at East Midvale Elementary; Scott Jameson, Principal at Alta View Elementary; and Lori Reynolds, Principal at Sprucewood Elementary. 

Pledge, Reverence

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by School Performance Director Joanne Ackerman.  Public Engagement Coordinator Susan Edwards delivered the Reverence.

Recognitions

The following students, faculty and staff were recognized for their achievements:
  • Redd Owen, Brighton High student, 5A state champion, first-singles boys tennis
  • Brighton High Boys Tennis Team, 5A state champions
  • Mary Hardy, Lone Peak Head Secretary, Think Safe Award
Consent Agenda

The Board of Education approved the consent agenda, including the minutes from the Aug. 7, 2018 meeting of the Canyons Board of Education; hiring and termination reports, purchasing bids; student overnight travel requests; July financial reports; and a letter of support for a Midvale community pool. 

Policy Update

With an affirmative vote, the Board complied with a state law requiring updates to policies governing bullying, cyber-bullying, hazing, and retaliation to include abusive conduct.  The policy needed to be updated by Sept. 1. 

Patron Comments

Parent Julie Cluff told the Board she’s concerned about the length of time her children on the bus. She also expressed concern about the District’s special education services, including ensuring schools are appropriately placing special-education students in a “least restrictive environment,” according to federal law. 

Reports by Superintendent, Business Administrator

Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe expressed sadness at the passing of a Hillcrest student and the long-term illness of another. He also asked the communities at Alta, Brighton and Hillcrest to be patient with the available parking spaces, which have been reduced with construction on the new buildings. He attended the groundbreaking of Brighton High and the ribbon-cutting at Indian Hills Middle.  He’s excited about the first day of school, and will be traveling the District visiting students, teachers and staff. 

Business Administrator Leon Wilcox thanked the Facilities Department for working hard on the summer projects.  He also reported on the full roster of bus drivers that have been hired for the school year. Bus drivers recently were given an increase in salary in an effort to attract and retain bus drivers. 

Board of Education Reports

Mr. Mont Millerberg reported on attending the Brighton High groundbreaking and the Indian Hills Middle ribbon-cutting event. The updated schools give teachers the ability to enhance instruction and prepare students for college and careers. He said he participated in the Harvest Days Parade in a CSD bus.  He represented the District and the Canyons Education Foundation at the Cottonwood Heights golf tournament. He recognized Hillcrest Principal Greg Leavitt for personally conducting a tour of the school with alumni and discussing the plans for the future. He also mentioned the Letter of Support the Board approved for a Midvale community pool. 

Mrs. Amber Shill reported on attending Cottonwood Heights’ annual luncheon for the Teachers of the Year from city-area schools.  She noted the excitement surrounding the construction of a new Brighton. Mrs. Shill also noted that support from the community was evident at the groundbreaking event.  She is excited for the first day of school.

Mr. Chad Iverson noted the energy at the Indian Hills Middle ribbon-cutting. He attended sporting events where CSD student-athletes competed.  He wished the CSD community a safe start to school. 

Mrs. Clareen Arnold recognized the special energy surrounding the red carpet welcome events on the first day of school.  She attended the ribbon-cutting event at Indian Hills and the groundbreaking at Brighton High. 

Mrs. Nancy Tingey expressed appreciation for the traditions of holding groundbreaking and ribbon-cutting ceremonies for our projects. She also attended the Tools for Schools donation-drive that benefitted children in nine school districts.  She thanked the staff and administration for striving to be leaders in important issues. 

President Sherril Taylor spoke about the excitement surrounding the ribbon-cutting for Indian Hills Middle.  He says he judged the success of the Back-to-School Night by looking at the faces of the kids at the event. The students looked so excited. He also thanked the administration for holding professional development classes to help teachers as they prepare for the school year.  In addition, he lauded the people in the social-emotional support systems that CSD has in place to aid ailing or distressed families and students. 
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