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As Canyons District students prepare to return to school on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, there’s one lesson Midvalley Elementary Principal Jeff Nalwalker hopes his students haven’t forgotten this summer: the importance of being kind. 

Midvalley students received a first-hand lesson in the power of kindness during the last week of school before summer break when local taco stand, Tacos El Cuñado, showed up at lunchtime and distributed 650 free tacos to Midvalley’s students, teachers and staff.

The tacos are the best in the valley and lunch was delicious. But that wasn’t the best part, Nalwalker says. The highlight of the event was the lesson Nalwalker’s students received in how much it means to perform simple acts of service for others.  

“I’m grateful they set an example for my students about random acts of kindness for others,” Nalwalker says. “The way we treat others comes back to us

Nalwalker first discovered Tacos El Cuñado, which is situated in the parking lot at 670 W. Center in Midvale and open every day from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., when he attended a community production at the playhouse across the street. The self-proclaimed “foodie” is a taco-stand aficionado after growing up in San Diego, where he used to sample local taco stands on a regular basis.

Nalwalker tried Tacos El Cuñado’s carne asada, tacos de pollo and carnitas tacos and was so impressed he’s planned lunch visits to the stand every week ever since. Eventually he invited Tacos El Cuñado to participate in Midvalley’s annual culture fair as a food vendor.

“I really love learning about other cultures by trying new food,” Nalwalker told his staff in June. “This is exactly why I think it is important to bring food trucks to our culture fair. … People who wouldn’t normally try something like Tacos El Cuñado get out of their comfort zone and try it.”

At the end of this year’s culture fair, as Nalwalker was thanking everyone who participated, one of Tacos El Cuñado’s owners offered to bring Midvalley’s students and teachers free tacos as a gesture of gratitude. Owner Gabriela Avreola then gathered her family members and worked tirelessly to prepare the food and serve Midvalley’s students on June 1.

“I felt content,” Avreola said through an interpreter after the event was over. “I was happy that all the kids were fed. … I’m happy because they loved the food.”

And Nalwalker was happy that his students and staff enjoyed one of the best street tacos in town, but more importantly, that they received a powerful lesson in what it means to be kind. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015 14:22

Headlines Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015

Around Canyons
Delicioso! CSD's Varas talks to Univision 32 about  efforts to give kids delicious, healthy meals

The Mountaineers have come home. With the snip of a red ribbon twisting in the summer afternoon wind, officials at Canyons District and Mount Jordan Middle officially opened the school for business.

The celebratory ribbon-cutting event, held Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, attracted more than 500 students, parents, teachers, staff, former students and members of the community. The crowd cheered as dignitaries and school district officials took the large, red-handled scissors and sliced through the ribbon.  Then, students were able to use the scissors to cut a piece for a keepsake.

The new Mount Jordan, which officially opens on Tuesday, Aug. 18 with a sixth-grade orientation, was built with money from a $250 million, tax-rate-neutral bon approved by Canyons voters in 2010. In the past six years, Canyons has been able to build, rebuild or renovate six schools, add air-conditioning to schools that did not previously have it, and construct new wings at Brighton and Hillcrest high schools. 

Clareen Arnold, who represents the Sandy school, thanked Mount Jordan’s teachers for the professionalism while they worked in temporary quarters since the old Mount Jordan’s demolition two years ago.

“They’ve had to pack up and move their classrooms, and they did it two times,” she said.  “They sure did a great job of making the best of a difficult time — but they did it with good cheer and an eye toward the future.  Our teachers are truly instrumental for our success as a District.  We owe them so much.”

Dr. Molly Hart, Principal of Mount Jordan Middle, said the building is not only a fantastic place for students to learn but a great place for employees to work.

The Mount Jordan community will enjoy such amenities as an elevated running track, fitness rooms, a spacious commons area and cafeteria, a 180-seat lecture hall, and an abundance of natural light in the hallways and classrooms. The school also will be wired for the high-tech demands of a 21st century education.  

Hart also thanked the crews from Hogan Construction and MHTN Architects for their hard work on the design and construction of the building. “Thank you for all your work on our school,” she said. “From now on, you are all honorary Mount Jordan Mountaineers.”

The Mount Jordan community also will enjoy a performing arts suite and a state-of-the-art theater and auditorium made possible by an investment from Sandy City.

Teachers cheered, principals gave high-fives, and friendly eighth-graders gave fist-bumps to sixth-grade students in Canyons District who arrived at their schools early Tuesday, Aug. 18 for Canyons District's seventh-annual orientation day for secondary-school first-timers.

Canyons District principals plan the day each year to help ease the jitters for the students who are attending middle school for the first time. 

The back-to-school event, which is only for sixth-grade students, has been planned to make sure the 11- and 12-year-old students, who the year before didn’t have to worry about negotiating hallways with other teens or changing classes several times a day, become used to their new surroundings — and walk away with a positive memory about their first day at middle school.

The students attended shortened classes, found their lockers, met their teachers, and grabbed a snack in the cafeteria.  Some principals also held assemblies to introduce themselves, and explain the school rules. 

Mike Sirois, Canyons District’s Executive Director of School Performance, says the aim of the sixth-grade orientation is to “cut down on the tears and frustration” of the official first day of school.  "We try to give them as much of a real-life experience as we can in a half day,” says Sirois. 

On Tuesday — the day before the first official day of the 2015-2016 school year in CSD — Canyons sixth-graders arrived at their respective middle schools by about 8 a.m. and went home at about noon. 

The annual orientation day has earned positive reviews from students, parents and teachers.  

See our Facebook page for a photo album of the 2015 Sixth-Grade Orientation.
Note: Recordings and documents for agenda items can be accessed via BoardDocs and by clicking the corresponding agenda items.

Digital Citizenship Information Campaign Upcoming

CSD is preparing to roll out training and information regarding Digital Citizenship and safety in light of a new law. HB213 intends districts, principals, schools and communities to collaborate to provide a rich education in digital citizenship and ensure leaders are placing systems and safeguards in place to protect students, Information Technology Director Scot McCombs said. CSD has many of resources in place, including teacher Internet Safety Coordinators who receive a stipend to train students, staff and patrons. Now, he said, CSD will attend to communicating with School Community Councils (SCCs) about the resources available to them.

School Performance Director Alice Peck reviewed a timeline and outline for principals and SCC training, to be provided by Internet Safety Coordinators in September and October. She also noted that SCCs will include their training and discussion in their public minutes.  

A CSD Internet Safety Week is scheduled for February. During that time, CSD will promote efforts to foster internet safety and digital citizenship and share tips for parents, Chief Internal Communications Officer Jeff Haney said. SCCs in each school would host an Internet safety night for their communities, and discuss what parents can do to ensure children stay safe online. Board Vice President Steve Wrigley suggested videotaping and sharing the SCC sessions.

Board 2nd Vice President Nancy Tingey noted the law addresses student Internet access rather than data protection. She also said that it is intended to engage communities, inform them of the tools available to them, and educate parents and students about digital citizenship and safety.

United Way Promise Partnership Update

The CSD-United Way Promise Partnership is coming together to provide targeted student interventions and promote wrap-around services by engaging several community partners in a collaborative model to improve student success. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is in its final stages, and been reviewed by the State Division of Risk Management and CSD General Counsel Dan Harper, Director of Student Advocacy and Access Karen Sterling reported. The partnership includes $190,000 per year to fund half the cost of a Community Schools Facilitator at each of CSD’s four Title I schools (Title I funds will be used to fund the other half of the salaries). The facilitators will be CSD employees supervised by the schools’ principals. They will act as liaisons with United Way; support parent engagement efforts; develop and manage partnerships; screen train and connect volunteers with students and teachers for targeted intervention; and coordinate the Mobile Food Bank, Health Van, dental services, clothing exchanges, and other services. The partnership also includes professional development and collaboration with other Promise Partnership personnel, and possible United Way support to Midvale City and Hillcrest feeder schools. CSD employees will be provided opportunities to donate to United Way as part of the partnership. United Way also will participate in Day of Caring activities Sept. 10.

For United Way to measure program impact on participating students, CSD will provide data in aggregate form and in disaggregated form by populations. Individual information about participating students will be shared with United Way only with signed, written parental consent.

Elementary Schedule Implementation and Hiring Update

Hiring is largely in place, employees are receiving training and the elementary schedule is ready to roll out. The new schedule is designed to improve student achievement by allowing teachers time to collaborate and plan during the school day.

“Brain booster” technicians, who will conduct classes when teachers are collaborating and planning during the school day, are receiving training in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); physical education; media, are and technology; and learning about classroom management, curriculum and lesson plans, Instructional Supports Director Dr. Amber Roderick Landward said. The training is aimed at giving technicians needed tools and supports, and providing fun, hands-on learning opportunities to students as an extension to the core standards. Board Member Clareen Arnold said she has been impressed by the training and collaboration she observed.

Elementary schools have communicated with parents on their websites, through Skylerts and social media channels to ensure all parents are in the know, and also plan to share information about the schedule at their back to school night events, Peck said.  School Performance Director Joanne Ackerman also said her team has met with principals about maintaining high expectations for teachers with the new schedule.   

New Name for ‘Evidence-Based Learning’

CSD’s Evidence-Based Learning Department, which oversees curriculum, instruction, professional development and coaching, will be renamed the Instructional Supports Department. The change reflects the department’s key priorities of continually improving instruction and providing outstanding supports to educators. Dr. Roderick-Landward also introduced Jesse Hennefer, Instructional Supports Administrator, and noted his strong educational background and talent for building relationships.

Looking ahead, she said Instructional Supports will continue implementation of standards-based grading and reporting; focus on science teacher support to foster improved student proficiency; and address achievement gaps in the Hillcrest feeder system.  Arnold said teachers need to be able to build positive relations with the Instructional Supports Department and know that the department is there to help and that its goals are achievable. Dr. Roderick-Landward said the team has been talking about recognizing the work teachers do outside of the classroom to care for students and their well-being to raise morale.  

Board Action

The Board voted to grant a parent request to retain a student in Kindergarten.

The Board approved the Consent Agenda, including the June 23 and July 14 Meeting Minutes; Purchasing Bids; and Board Policy clerical changes to replace Evidence-Based Learning with “Instructional Supports.” The Board also approved student overnight travel for Alta Football and Corner Canyon’s Drama Club Officers and Theatre 3 Class.

The Board approved updates the Named Gifts and Memorials and Student Conduct on Buses and Transportation policies. The updates, proposed following consultations with the corresponding departments, align the policies with practice and state and federal legal requirements. Tingey said the Policy Committee will look at the Student Conduct on Buses and Transportation policy to ensure the titling and formatting is as it should be in response to questions Wrigley posed.

Proposed Parent Support Organization Policy Revisions Discussed

The Board discussed revisions to a proposed parent-support organization policy that would create a process by which parents could form a parent-support organization that is different than that currently recognized in the school. The proposed policy was first discussed by the Board in its July 14 meeting.

The proposed adjustments include: delegating authority to the Superintendent to develop procedures and guidelines; a formal statement of Board neutrality regarding parent-school support groups; and election procedure clarifications, including limiting the election period to 15 days to minimize disruption. The adjustments were crafted by the Board’s Policy Committee following extensive feedback received by CSD parents and employees, as well as residents and groups from outside of Canyons District.

The proposed policy seeks to reaffirm the Board’s commitment to parent and community participation in Canyons schools; establish criteria and consistency for formal group formation; preserve the decision-making process at the local school level; and minimize disruption.

Board Member Chad Iverson suggested the policy address use of schoolwide messaging or e-mail communications, which he believed should not be used by either group during the election period. He strongly advised against giving out contact information of parents or employees to either group. Wrigley clarified that emails used by PTA were provided to PTA by members.

CSD Policy Coordinator Jeff Christensen said the committee discussed the possibility of a community meeting to discuss issues by both organizations, but feared such might compromise school neutrality in the matter. He noted both sides could rent facilities to host their own meetings in accordance with state law and District policy.  He noted the policy set forth a timeline, which ranged from a Nov. 1 notice of intent to a springtime election period. Tingey said the timeline was intended to provide guidelines and flexibility. She said the policy seeks to reaffirm the Board’s commitment to parent engagement and partnership in the educational process.

Board President Sherril Taylor said the committee will reconvene to discuss new feedback, and bring the proposal back with recommendations for additional Board discussion. 

Patron Comments

Holly Hendrickson, a parent at Silver Mesa, thanked the board for the proposed policy to allow for different parent school support groups. She provided input on the proposed changes before the Board, including asking for an annual opt-out instead of annual opt-in of a PTO; providing the petitioning group access to parent e-mail addresses and schoolwide communications. She said only those who are employees or who have children in the schools should be able to vote in whether a different parent school support group should be created. She also asked for clarification on votes allowed per household.

Betty Shaw, Region 17 PTA Director, said she is proud to represent Canyons in PTA. She presented information from the state PTA convention, and thanked Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe and the CSD transportation department for responding when a bus broke down. She noted the PTA fall training was this week, and thanked District administrators who were planning to attend and make presentations.

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Briscoe said professional development offered by Dr. Roderick-Landward and her staff has resulted in a more positive feeling than he’s ever before seen moving into the school year. He noted the Board’s priority to fine-tune the Canyons Teacher Effectiveness Support System (CTESS) for teacher understanding, and said that administrator Sandra Dahl-Houlihan and her team have worked hard over the summer to do so. He said the most powerful thing that happens in our District is when our teachers get in front of kids, and we never want to lose sight of that. He said it is notable when people spend an entire day in training and leave happy and thanked Dr. Roderick-Landward and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kathryn McCarrie and their team for their work. He said it helps to build morale and make people feel good about being part of what he thinks is the most outstanding school district in the state.

CFO’s Report

CFO Leon Wilcox reviewed facility projects. He noted the rebuilt Mount Jordan will be ready for school to start and that desks arrived for installation today. He noted a VIP tour Monday and ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.  He said the District still has not learned the cause of the fire at Midvale Middle, and said there is 24-hour security monitoring at the building. He said he expects abatement and demolition to be completed and materials cleared by the end of September. He said the new Butler Elementary has a few walls going up. Draper and East Midvale elementaries are receiving carpeting. New boilers will be installed by mid-October at Midvalley and Peruvian Park elementaries, and Peruvian Park has had a landscaping upgrade.

He said the Brighton High soccer field ribbon cutting is Aug. 11 and the football field ribbon-cutting is Aug. 21.  The Brighton track will be restriped in mid- to late September. The Jordan High commons area steps have been removed but the additional weight room may not be completed in time for school to start. Midvale Elementary’s four-classroom edition will be completed over fall break.

Wilcox said any additional relevant updates will be communicated to the Board. He also gave a shout out to McCombs and his staff, who took 1,500 phone calls from patrons today. He noted about 9,000 of 34,000 students registered today, the first day online registration. He noted the first security vestibules projects will be completed by January 2016. The other six will take more time because require additional design work.

Board Reports

Iverson quipped that he’s not ready for school to start because he loves summer. He thanked McCombs for the work of his team, and praised online registration as a convenient option for families. He said he’s reflected on the last year as a Board and District and feedback provided to the superintendent, and said he’s excited about the changes and improvements made, and the relationships among Board members, the Superintendent, the Administration, the public and the staff. He said we’re in a really good place, and we’ll continue to strive to make improvements.

Arnold said she enjoyed the July 4 parade with Wrigley and his family. She also enjoyed the CSD STEM technician training, and praised the collaboration with teachers and information presented there. She’s looking forward to the art and music training technician training Wednesday. She also saw a CTESS observation training and said was great to see administrators and coaches working together on the evaluations. She attended a Teaching with the Brain in Mind conference, and said good relationships between children and teachers provide for great growth outcomes, and that brain cells grow faster than we ever believed. Engagement, movement, and opportunity to do activities during the school day create brain cell growth and learning. She said children have to believe they can learn so they can achieve, and that we must look at mindsets and relationships when we expect higher student achievement.

Wrigley said the Board has been working in the summer months, and that he is looking forward to the coming school year and implementing new innovations. He said the Board Retreat helped the Board to prioritize objectives, and that he is excited to set direction and work as a team.  

Tingey said she has had a busy but enjoyable summer. She’s excited for the Brighton ribbon-cutting events, and thanked turf installation crews for completing the turf for the start of the season. She attended the National Federation for Urban and Suburban School Districts conference in Chicago with Dr. Briscoe. She said representatives from 30 different districts were there, and that the group heard from excellent speakers. NFUSSD’s fall conference is hosted by Granite School District, and she encouraged CSD representatives to attend. She attended another conference  involving states that have trust lands managed to contribute to the public school system. She said it was interesting to learn from others how their trust lands are managed, as well as some of their challenges. She said Utah has some good things in place, including engaging patrons in how funds can be used. She also participated in a panel about school community councils. She thanked Peck, Ackerman and Dr. Roderick-Landward about the progress of the elementary schedule implementation. She said good things will happen in elementary schools this year.

Amber Shill said in June she attended the meetings of the Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation and UHSAA boards of which she is a member. She said the UHSAA board voted to discontinue sanctioning of diving. She attended Cottonwood Heights City-sponsored events including movies in the park and Butlerville Days and enjoyed participating in the parade. She’s excited for the Brighton ribbon cuttings, and noted the one for the soccer field is Aug. 11 at 3 p.m. She said there will be hot dogs for those who attend the event in front of Butler Middle. She’s also excited about the elementary school schedule and looks forward to her son’s feedback on it. She thanked the District for the Skylert regarding online registration.

Robert Green said he responded to Midvale Middle during the fire, which was sad to witness even though the building was empty and set for demolition. He said he hopes investigators are successful in determining its cause. He attended some community meetings about boundary proposals. He read an article about other districts raising taxes and noted a new law revising funding of charter schools. He will attend the Midvale Harvest Days Parade with Wrigley. He said it was fun to attend July 4 parade with Wrigley and Arnold as well.  He’s excited about Brighton High’s fields, as he attended Brighton. He shared a July 4 quote that inspired him.

Taylor thanked the police officers for being here tonight and their service each day in our communities. He thanked McCombs and his team for their hard work in online registration. He said that at the beginning of each school year there’s an excitement that comes into the building. He’s looking forward to another school year and for that excitement to happen, and thanked the administration and teachers for all they do to make lives better.

Closed Session

The Board met in Closed Session for the purpose of discussing the purchase, exchange or lease of real property; and the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of an individual.
Help us swing into the new school year with the sixth-annual fall golf tournament of the Canyons Education Foundation. The Monday, Sept. 21, 2015 event will be at the River Oaks Golf Course, 9300 Riverside Dr., Sandy.

The Foundation, the fund-raising arm of Canyons District, organizes the tourney every year to pay for innovative classroom activities; support the District’s initiatives in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics; and provide scholarship opportunities to deserving and low-income students. 

Because of generous tournament participation in the past, the Canyons Education Foundation has been able to raise more than $300,000 that is given to teachers in the form of Innovation Grants. Teachers are encouraged each year to apply for the grants so they can implement creative and evidence-based approaches to education in their classrooms. Last year alone, the Foundation gave $90,000 to CSD teachers as part of the Innovation Grant program.  

“For six years, the community has really stepped up on the green to help us raise funds for our students and teachers,” said Scott Harper, Development Officer for the Canyons Education Foundation.  “So many students in our District have benefited from the generosity of our business and community partners who participate in the golf tournament.  Not only is it a good cause but it’s a lot of fun, too.” 

The two major sponsors of this year’s event are VLCM and Hogan Construction. Other sponsorship levels, including the lunch sponsor and hole sponsors, are available. Questions?  Call the Foundation at 801-826-5171.
The first school day in Canyons is rolling up quickly — students in first- through 12th grades return to classes on Wednesday, Aug. 19 — and the District’s Transportation Department is hard at work preparing for the 2015-2016 school year.

Utah laws governing transportation funding may affect some Canyons District students, particularly middle school-aged children, so parents are encouraged to review their child's transportation plans for the coming school year.   

Canyons District receives state funding for busing provided to students enrolled in kindergarten through sixth grade who live at least 1.5 miles from school and to students enrolled in grade seven through 12 who live at least 2 miles from school. 

This means that some middle school students who qualified for busing last year may not qualify again this year because they have advanced to the seventh grade and must live more than 2 miles away from the school to receive the services. 

Also, in the past, Canyons District has spent some $1.3 million to provide unreimbursed transportation services to neighborhoods where it would have been hazardous for the children to walk to school.

This year, Canyons District has slightly reduced the number of within-walking-distance bus routes that are designated as hazardous based on the risk to our pedestrian students as they negotiate the roads. Improvements made to walkways or roads, or the addition of crosswalks and crossing guards, have led to the removal of routes from the “hazardous route” list for the coming school year.

However, students who don’t qualify for transportation services are invited to submit a request for busing services so they can ride with their qualifying siblings or neighbors — if there is space available on the nearest bus. The “space-available permits” will be granted on a first-come, first-served, space-available basis.

Permit applications will be made available at schools at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4. The permit applications must be submitted to the school where the student child is enrolled. 

Families will be notified about whether they have received a permit to ride the bus by Sept. 14. 

Help us welcome the Mountaineers back home.  The community is invited to a ribbon-cutting event to celebrate the opening of the newly rebuilt Mount Jordan Middle School. 

The Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 event starts with a reception at 5:30 p.m.  A 6 p.m. ceremony will be at 9351 Mountaineer Lane — the traditional site of the Mount Jordan campus. During the two years of construction, students have attended school at the old Crescent View Middle, 11150 S.  500 East. 

The new Mount Jordan Middle was made possible by a $250 million, tax-rate-neutral bond approved by Canyons voters in 2010. The new school will be approximately 200,000 square feet and built to emphasize such areas as science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).

The school also has a gymnasium with an elevated running track, fitness rooms, a spacious commons area and cafeteria, a 180-seat lecture hall, and an abundance of natural light in the hallways and classrooms. The school also will be wired for the high-tech demands of a 21st century education.  

The Mount Jordan community also will enjoy a performing arts suite and a state-of-the- art theater and auditorium made possible by an investment from Sandy City.

The new Sandy middle school, scheduled for completion in fall 2015, is the sixth rebuilt or new school Canyons District has completed since 2009, when CSD became the first new school district to be created in Utah in 100 years.