By the time recent graduate Braxton Beers finished his senior year at Alta High School, he had acquired more volunteer hours over the course of his life than he could count.

In his senior year alone, Beers offered thousands of hours of service to the community and his fellow students by fundraising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, helping students with special needs, volunteering at the Utah Food Bank and collecting blankets for the homeless shelter, among other things.

Still, the fact that Beers received the highest recognition in the country for voluntary service came as a surprise when he opened his graduation packet. There, along with his diploma, was the Presidential Volunteer Service Award — a commendation created in 2003 by former president George W. Bush to recognize the contributions volunteers make in their communities.

“It’s a pretty rare award,” Beers said. “I’m very honored by it.”

Volunteer requirements for the award range from 100-250 hours for Beers’ age group. Beers surpassed that threshold by thousands of hours, but to him, it’s not about the time he spends helping others — it’s about making others’ dreams become a reality.

 “Just thinking about it, the hours don’t seem so much like service hours as a goal to try to make those wishes come true,” Beers said.

In addition to helping students with special needs learn science and make arts and crafts as part of a class he took, Beers also helped organize a fundraiser that earned a school record-breaking $30,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

If that weren't enough, Beers also worked as an Alta student body officer, and participated in the Future Business Leaders of America and DECA organizations. The Utah State University-bound student (on a full scholarship) says his high level of involvement kept him busy, but he learned how to prioritize his time to do it all.

 Besides, the time was worth it in the end, Beers says.

“I really like people and I like helping people out,” he says. “Even just talking to them about their problems and just making them happy and seeing them be happy — it’s just a need and a want.”

Canyons District has become known as a hive of volunteer activity. Last year, 12,284 members of the community registered to volunteer in CSD schools. So far this academic year, more than 7,000 adults – and counting – have registered, and gone through the appropriate background checks, to volunteer in CSD schools.

To express appreciation, Canyons District is holding Volunteer Appreciation Week Sept. 15-19. In addition to the activities held at schools to extend thanks to volunteers, the Canyons Board of Education is naming a Canyons District Volunteer of the Year at the by-invitation-only Tuesday, Sept. 9 Apex Awards banquet, and is hosting a Tuesday, Sept. 16 Volunteer Appreciation Reception at the Canyons Support Services Center, 9361 S. 300 East. Also, Superintendent Jim Briscoe has invited PTA/PTSA Presidents and School Community Council Chairpersons to a luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 18.

Utah College Application Week Coming to CSD

Canyons District, in partnership with the Utah State Board of Regents, is poised to participate in Utah College Application Week, scheduled for Nov. 17-21, 2014. Dr. Hollie Pettersson, Director of Evidence-Based Learning in Secondary Schools, noted the national initiative is aimed at ensuring every high school senior applies for college – and is able to navigate the process with the help of an adult. She said the effort in CSD will include students all five high schools, including students receiving special education services in the high schools and at the Canyons Transitions Academy. College applications will be filled out during the school day in attempts to remove college access barriers. Middle and high schools will engage in awareness-building activities in the weeks prior to the event. District employees also have been posting personalized "Ask Me About College" signs in their offices. The week of the event, banners will be distributed to the high schools, students will receive an "I applied" sticker after their applications are complete. Dr. Pettersson said she has requested financial aid from the CSD Education Foundation to fund application fees for students in need.

For more information, please visit BoardDocs  and click Agenda Item 2C.

Educator Evaluation Policy Discussed

The Board discussed a policy that will revise educator evaluation programs to comply with a new state law. The law requires Utah school districts to adopt more uniform evaluation programs for teachers and licensed administrators. CSD's evaluation systems seek to promote professional practices via professional development, goal-setting, and reflection. The evaluation systems, created with feedback from the Canyons Education Association, personnel and the public, will examine professional performance, student growth and stakeholder input. The State Office of Education has not yet determined how the components will be weighted in the overall evaluation. CSD system field tests begin this year; full implementation is scheduled for 2015-2016.

Board Vice President Steve Wrigley noted some educators have expressed apprehension about the use of student growth and parent surveys. Dimond emphasized that CSD's goal in the state-mandated system is to encourage and develop great teachers. Dimond expressed appreciation for the feedback, and said support is being provided to employees during the field tests. The Board will discuss the policy once more before voting. To view the policy or listen to the discussion, please visit BoardDocs and click Agenda Item 7B.

Legislative Update

The Board received an update from Chief of Staff Charles Evans regarding new state laws and how the District Administration is complying. The new laws include school building cost reporting; amendments on placing returning home school students in the class or grade of a parent's choice; a law that allows districts to reallocate instructional hours for teacher prep time or professional development; Advanced Placement fee reductions for eligible students; and requirements that school comprehensive emergency response plans include procedures to notify students who are off campus for school or released-time activities.

To view the presentation or listen to the discussion, please visit BoardDocs and click Agenda Item 2A.

Mount Jordan Property Update

Board Member Tracy Scott Cowdell said a committee, which includes Board Members and District administrators, is meeting about the possibility of creating additional modern facilities in terms of offices and possibly career and technical education on the Mount Jordan Middle School property. He said those discussions are continuing, and requested the matter be placed on a future Board meeting for discussion once more firm data is available. Board Member Kim Horiuchi asked whether the discussions included possibly relocating the nearby bus barns or creating a swimming pool. Cowdell noted the discussion has been more narrowly defined and has not included those possibilities. In a related matter, he noted that the committee is looking at the performance of a Community Development Area (CDA) that the district entered with Draper City that could provide financial benefits to the District.

To listen to the discussion, please visit BoardDocs and click Agenda Item 2B.

Policy Committee Update

Second Vice President Nancy Tingey reported on the progress of the Board's Standing Committee for Policy Review. The committee will meet twice monthly to identify policies needing revision, and bring those policies to the Board for discussion. The committee has examined the work of the Utah School Boards Association and Salt Lake City School District, which recently updated its policies, to form its approach to the task. She noted CSD has 12 policy sections 208 individual polices; by comparison, Salt Lake District has seven policy sections with 79 individual policies. To listen to the presentation, please visit BoardDocs and click Agenda Item 2E.

School Boundaries Discussed for New Apartments

The Board discussed boundaries for a new apartment complex under construction at 910 E. 9000 South in Sandy, which without Board action would split residents of the new Cobblegate Apartments into two schools. Planning and Enrollment Director Ben Lems presented maps and data to the Board, and recommended the boundary be adjusted to allow all students living at Cobblegate to attend the same school: either East Sandy or Edgemont. Lems said he has contacted members of the School Community Councils of both schools. He noted there are more developments coming in the Edgemont boundary, and that the East Sandy would be able to accommodate the projected enrollments. President Sherril Taylor urged Lems to get feedback from more parents at the potentially affected schools. To view the presentation or listen to the discussion, please visit BoardDocs and click Agenda Item 2D.

Board Action

The Board approved the Consent Agenda, which includes the Aug. 19 Minutes; Purchasing Bids; and Student Overnight Travel for Alta Baseball and Wrestling, Corner Canyon Band/Orchestra/Choir and Cross Country, and Jordan Cross Country and Volleyball. The purchasing bid to refurbish portables was cut to $100,000 instead of $362,000 in light of upcoming facility committee discussions. To listen to the discussion, please visit BoardDocs and click Agenda Item 6.

The Board received a pictorial presentation about the first few days of school from Communications Directors Jennifer Toomer-Cook and Jeff Haney. The presentation included the Back-to-School Call Center, which, in its sixth year, received 1,547 calls from the public Aug. 18-27; Superintendent Briscoe's appearance on Good Morning Utah; Red Carpet Events at elementary and middle schools to welcome students and underscore the importance of education; the #IamCanyons social media campaign; and Kindergarten College-Ready Day events. To view the presentation, please visit BoardDocs and click Agenda Item 7A.

Superintendent's Report

Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe said he was pleased with the District Administration debriefing of the first day of school, and praised the Transportation Department's work to ensure on time routes. He attributed the smooth start of the school year to the past five years of hard work. He praised Tingey's Capitol Hill testimony about the importance of highly effective principals and building school leadership. He said CSD is doing well in preparing principals for leadership, and noted the District is hiring more internal candidates as principals. He noted Mount Jordan Middle School is piloting a 1:1 classroom technology, and has asked a CSD team to examine costs of expanding the initiative districtwide. He noted the facility committee begins its work on Sept. 10 and said the committee would have short-term recommendations for the Board to consider in November.

CFO's Report

Chief Financial Officer Leon Wilcox noted he experienced a smooth first day of school while visiting Draper Park Middle School. He said District officials will meet next week with State Risk Management about school safety updates that may be needed. He noted the District's contract with a pharmaceutical benefits provider is up for review, and noted the District is looking at options that could save money and provide a seamless transition for employees. He said an update on the matter likely would be available next Board meeting.

Board Reports

Chad Iverson said he is looking forward to the policy committee and the facilities committee beginning their work.

Wrigley said he had a chance to visit three schools on the first day of classes. He visited Willow Canyon, where he thanked teachers for choosing to work there, and noted their appreciation for Dr. Briscoe for reaching out to meet employees and community members. He also thanked Dr. Briscoe for his work. He noted Thursday is the last Meet the Superintendent town hall meeting, which will be at Silver Mesa Elementary at 7 p.m. He said he will be meeting with White City leaders and school communities about the rebuilding of an elementary school there.

Tingey thanked Dr. Pettersson, Director of Evidence-Based Learning in Elementary Schools Amber Roderick-Landward, and Dr. Kathryn McCarrie for helping her prepare for her Capitol Hill testimony, and Dr. Briscoe for accompanying her. She attended first day of school activities at Albion Middle and Brookwood and Park Lane elementaries, and said she could feel the excitement in the air. She attended Kindergarten College-Ready Day, and enjoyed watching the students and teachers interact about all the great things they can become. She started to imagine what the world will be like in 2027 when the kindergartners graduate high school, and noted her gratitude for the thousands of people who have dedicated their careers to help CSD students prepare for the future. She said students are the reason CSD employees and leaders are passionate about their work, and the she knows students can be successful.

Horiuchi attended as a CSD representative the meeting of the Utah High School Activities Association Board of Trustees, where they discussed a complicated formula for football that would account for win-loss records and enrollment. A public hearing was held last week, in which Timpview, Provo and Duchesne school representatives spoke against the proposal, and the Trustees subsequently abandoned the formula. However, she said the Trustees will allow flexibility for schools that are on the bubble to use other factors in terms of determining their classification. She called that a good first step. She said the Trustees will consider a classification realignment proposal Nov. 20, hold a public hearing Dec. 3, and meet Dec. 4 to discuss the input. She attended the meeting with VCBO and Butler principal Christine Waddell about plans to rebuild the school, and noted the architects said they will try to implement largest classrooms possible by using space use innovations. She said construction is expected to start in June. She also mentioned her visit to Ridgecrest on the first day of school, and thanked Facilities Director Rick Conger, Wilcox, and the facilities team for completing projects at the school.

Robert Green reported on his attendance at the Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Meeting. There, they discussed adjustments to the fee schedule and the budget. He noted the county is moving forward with renting an accessible pool that the Granite District used to use.

Taylor thanked Dr. Briscoe and his staff for putting together a facilities and planning committee, which is important for examining how to keep moving forward into the future. He said he wants Canyons to be the best school district in the nation, and that quality facilities for students is an important piece of that goal. He also thanked the teachers, staff and employees in schools and the central office for a great first day, and noted all the planning that went into making that happen.

Closed Session

The Board met in Closed Session for the purpose of discussing the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of an individual.
We’re all wet in Canyons District — for a good cause.

Many principals, students, teachers and parents — and, yes, even Canyons' new Superintendent, Dr. Jim Briscoe — have joined such celebrities as Justin Timberlake, Tim McGraw and Lady Gaga in the ALS Association’s “Ice Bucket Challenge.”  On Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, Dr. Briscoe joined Assistant Superintendent Bob Dowdle and School Performance Directors Mike Sirois, Alice Peck and Joanne Ackerman in completing the challenge.

They called out their counterparts in the Jordan District. Sirois said that the creation of Canyons District six years ago should be "water under the bridge ... or, rather, on top of our heads."  Dr. Briscoe, as a new school district superintendent in Utah, thanked Utah Gov. Gary Herbert for sending warm correpondence upon his arrival to  Canyons District — and then challenged the governor to do the chilly ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. 

The challenge requires the participant to pour a bucket of ice water over her or his head — and challenge others to do the same within 24 hours.  At that point, those who are “called out” can choose either to be soaked with cold water or make a donation to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Videos and photos of people being doused in the challenge, which started July 29, have flooded social media. To date, the campaign has raised an estimated $80 million.

Alta High's Brian McGill volunteered to complete his challenge on live TV.  Principal Charisse Hilton and her crew at Brighton High accepted the challenge from their faculty and staff. PTSA students at Corner Canyon High did the challenge in honor of a student's father who is living with ALS. New Albion Principal Darrell Jensen and his team of administrators did it in front of a screaming middle-school crowd. Members of Union Middle's administrative team were soaked by students during a lunch period — and they called out Mount Jordan's principal and assistant principals. Even Hillcrest High Principal Sue Malone was called out by a member of the Utah State Legislature.

There have been countless other instances of our teachers, students, parents, principals, PTA leaders and District Office administrators doing the challenge to raise awareness and raise funds to help the ALS Association. See our Facebook for videos and photos of many more in CSD who are completing the challenge. 

There’s only one drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ALS. As a result, ALS is 100 percent fatal. In addition to acclimating to the challenges that come with losing control of voluntary muscle movement, people with the disease progressively lose their ability to eat, speak, walk, and eventually breathe, according to the association.
Friday, 29 August 2014 00:00

Kindergartners: 'I Will Be College-Ready'

What will students in the Class of 2027 be when they grow up? Doctors, zoo keepers, pilots, judges – even Iron Man.

Canyons School District kindergartners capped their first week of school Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 with a special day dedicated to getting ready for the future. Canyons' Kindergarten College-Ready Day, now in its sixth year, is an opportunity for Canyons District teachers and principals to start talking about college and careers with their youngest students.

Throughout the District, some 2,500 kindergartners in 29 elementary schools engaged in activities and discussions about how college can help them achieve their dreams. Each received a wristband imprinted with the message, "I will be college-ready ... Class of 2027." At Quail Hollow Elementary, students drew pictures of what they want to be when they grow up. Students at Sandy and Park Lane elementaries were greeted by teachers and school leaders wearing academic regalia. Edgemont Elementary students dressed as chefs, firefighters and soldiers or in college logo-emblazoned T-shirts and received "diplomas" and three cheers for college-readiness from the Jordan High School cheer squad.

Canyons District is focused on ensuring all students are college- and career-ready when they graduate high school, and recognizes the importance of expressing this goal early in a child's education. Kindergarten College-Ready Day premiered in 2009, the first academic year for Utah's first voter-created school district in a century.
Friday, 29 August 2014 00:00

Headlines Monday, Sept. 2, 2014

Around Canyons
Football: Kafentzis, Beetdiggers roll past East 42-26

Girls Soccer: Brighton outlasts Hillcrest

Football: Brighton downs Fremont, 30-22

Football: Corner Canyon holds off Springville for win

Football: Alta falls to Lone Peak

From special ed to superintendent: New Tintic schools chief shares his story

KSL explores Common Core myths

Residents seek to save old Draper school

SLC schools, library partner to give library cards to students at registration

Do Zzz's get degrees?

International students seek biz, math, science degrees in Utah

California appeals teacher tenure ruling

Florez: State School Board should take a breath, form a vision

Letter: Invest in teacher training

UHSAA mostly scraps realignment proposal; now what?

Evensen: Utahns support Common Core, even if they oppose it

Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00

CSD Employees Named Utah's Best

The Utah Parent Center has named CSD Special Education Director Robin Collett the Utah Administrator of the Year, and Eastmont Middle School's Laurie Hofstetter the Paraeducator of the Year, for their advocacy of students with disabilities.

Collett, who has worked 26 years in special education, is recognized for balancing a "masterful understanding of Special Education law" with sensitivity to the needs of students and parents.

"She understands the stressors and consequently the needs of families and responds compassionately to support them," the Center writes. "Robin is well respected throughout Utah and is viewed as a leader among her education colleagues."

Hofstetter, who completed her work at Eastmont in spring 2014, is known for her sunny disposition and attitude, her calming effect on students, and her efforts to make every child feel special.

"She makes sure to compliment each child throughout the day, and points out their positive behavior instead of focusing on the negative ones," a parent nominator writes. "It is obvious how much she cares ... and how much she wants them to succeed."

The Utah Parent Center is a state organization created to help families help children with disabilities to live productive lives.
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 00:00

Headlines Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014

Around Canyons
CTEC's CODE class encourages girls to pursue STEM careers

CSD's Jared Ward talks flipped classrooms on Rod Arquette Show (starts at 16:00)

CSD honors special education employees

Draper Elementary whistles for watchdogs

Live on 2News: Alta principal gives tips for parent involvement in school, takes 'Ice Bucket Challenge'

Corner Canyon hopes to capitalize on gridiron experience

Would tuition incentive encourage college completion?

Successful programs speak against UHSAA classification reassignment proposal

Louisiana governor sues Obama Administration over Common Core

Trib: Anti-Common Core mood smacks of ignorance

WaPo: School start times don't jibe with teens' biological clock

Letters: Lockhart not qualified to lead Utah public schools
Before schools welcomed students for the first time this school year, Canyons District’s Special Education Department gathered for some professional development and to acknowledge the accomplishments of seven of their colleagues. 

On Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, some 200 teachers and related-service providers filled the auditorium and classrooms at Corner Canyon High School as they participated in the District’s sixth annual Special Education Opening Institute.  After Superintendent Jim Briscoe addressed the audience, this year, for the first time, the District honored seven individuals nominated by their colleagues for their excellent work with students.

“Last spring each of you were given an opportunity to nominate individuals who you, as teachers and related-service providers, want to recognize as the individuals in our schools who routinely take the ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary,” Canyons District Special Education Director Robin Collett told the crowd. “Your choices represent us well and we look forward to this tradition continuing for years to come.”

The professionals recognized in seven different areas are as follows:

  • Preschool: Deborah Willoughby, Sandy Elementary and Midvale Elementary
  • Elementary School: Shelley Phillips, Park Lane Elementary Accommodated Core
  • Middle School: Melody Andrus, Butler Middle School
  • High School: Anne Behrent, Alta High School
  • School Psychologist: Megan Terry, Copperview Elementary
  • Speech Language Pathologist: Amy Tyrell, Copperview Elementary
  • Related-Service Provider: Sue Mikel, physical therapist

Colleagues nominated Willoughby for her ability to create learning opportunities that help her students grow and progress. She works to build a positive relationship with each student and brings a positive energy into the preschool.

Phillips was nominated for her skills in working with students with autism. She effectively keeps all of her students engaged in classroom learning and provides much needed structure.

Andrus goes above and beyond to make sure her students have every opportunity to be successful, her colleagues have observed. She is an advocate for her students, a great mentor and friend for teachers, and she is a leader at Butler Middle School.

Behrent has helped to make Alta High more accessible for all special education students. She was nominated for her dedication to excellence in education for all students and for all teachers, but she is especially a champion of special education students.

Terry’s patience and enthusiasm while working with students and others is inspiring to her colleagues. She is recognized for her calm, precise thinking and dependability in stressful situation.

Colleagues nominated Tyrell for her willingness to share her expertise and experiential knowledge. She looks at the positive aspects of what her students can do and taps into their deficits, all while providing skills for life.

As a physical therapist, Mikel works with students at all of Canyons’ schools, except for Jordan Valley. Colleagues say her enthusiasm for work is contagious and her problem-solving skills are inspiring.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014 00:00

National Honor for CSD Community Schools

Canyons School District has received the prestigious Youth and Family Partnership Award from the National Center for School Mental Health.

The Center each year selects just one exemplary school district, organization or school mental health program nationwide that effectively partners with youth and families in delivering quality school mental health programming. This year's award went to CSD Community Schools, which are located at Copperview, East Midvale, Midvale and Sandy elementary schools.

"This award is a tribute to every staff member who has been willing to work in new ways to meet student needs using CARE Teams, on-site therapists and youth development professionals," said Karen Sterling, Director of Student Advocacy and Access for Canyons School District. She and her team were surprised with the award in an announcement at the Title I Community Schools Conference held in August 2014 at Salt Lake Community College.

The award recognizes CSD community schools, and the community partners who work with CSD to improve student achievement at Title I schools. The partners are: Valley Mental Health; Boys and Girls Club of South Valley; PLAYWorks; and the Canyons Family Learning Centers. The award also recognizes the foundational work of Ohio State University Professor Dr. Dawn Anderson-Butcher and Carol Anderson of the Utah State Office of Education, who worked to implement Community Schools as a model of School Improvement.

The national honors will be awarded to District and CSD community partners on Sept. 19, 2014 at the Center's annual conference in Pittsburgh.

The Center for School Mental Health is located at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.