Debbie Beninati loves teaching music. She can’t imagine doing anything else. But that’s not all the Sandy Elementary Music Specialist does in the name of the arts.

When she’s not teaching, Debbie is advocating for the importance of continuing to make comprehensive elementary music education available in public schools.

For her tireless devotion, Debbie was named Elementary Music Teacher of the Year by the Utah Music Educators Association (UMEA). The award, which is given annually to only one elementary teacher statewide, was announced earlier this month at UMEA’s Professional Development Conference in St George.

It’s not her first public recognition. In 2013, the self-described music education “junkie” received the prestigious Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education Award for her work heading up a 61-student, before-school orchestra at Lone Peak Elementary. She did it for three years on her own time and dime as a volunteer, because, as she said at the time, “It’s fun.”DSCN2715.jpg

Today, she continues to model the joys of music for children, but at Sandy Elementary as a paid Music Specialist. “She really makes music come alive for students and has an energy that is unprecedented,” says CSD’s Arts Chair Sharee Jorgensen.

Beninati was born and raised in Colorado Springs, CO, and earned a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Colorado in 1987. During her 22-year tenure traveling the country as a career Air Force spouse, she taught K-6th general music, private piano lessons, substituted in regular elementary education classrooms and autism unit classrooms, and taught early childhood music.

For a period she took a hiatus from teaching to start her own family, but remained active in public education by serving on PTA Boards and School Community Councils.

Upon her husband’s retirement from the Air Force in 2009, the Beninati family relocated for the last time to Sandy, UT.  Since arriving in Sandy, Debbie has substituted in the regular education classroom, taught elementary orchestra, K-6 general music, K-6 choir, and has written an original musical suitable for young children (grades 2-5). She earned her Level 1 Orff certification through Utah State University, and is an active member of the Utah American Orff Schulwerk Association. 

 
The American Heart Association joined the Canyons Board of Education on Tuesday in lauding the educators and support staff at Corner Canyon High who used CPR and an Automated External Defibrillator to revive a 14-year-old student who had suffered cardiac arrest at school.  

At a Feb. 21, 2017 meeting in the Board Chambers of the Canyons Administration Building-East, the association gave national HeartSaver Hero awards to Corner Canyon High Principal Darrell Jensen, Assistant Principal Christian Cowart, teacher Elisa Posey, school nurse Nancy Purcell and hall monitor Joyce Spencer for their life-saving efforts when student Porter Lewis collapsed during a physical education class. 

Through tears, and with more than a few embraces, Lewis helped hand out the awards, which included special pins that the association bestows only on those whose heroic actions contribute to the “chain of survival” for heart attack victims.

"I just want to say to thanks to everyone who helped save my life," an emotional Lewis said after presenting the honors.  "I am just very grateful to be here." 

On Jan. 10, the school called 911 and rushed to help Lewis when teacher Elisa Posey noticed the 14-year-old student slumping against a way. While Posey cleared the area of other students, Jensen, Cowart, Spencer and Purcell rushed to assist Lewis, who was unconscious and had stopped breathing. The AED was used to revive Lewis, who does not have any known medical conditions. Other emergency actions were taken to aid Lewis before the paramedics arrived at about 10 a.m. to administer care.

The quick actions of the staff and administrators, coupled with training and the immediate availability of an AED may have saved Lewis’ life.

Porter’s survival was as close to a miracle as it gets, explained Marc Watterson, Government Relations Director for the Utah chapter of the American Heart Association. Each year in the U.S., there are approximately 359,400 Emergency Medical Services-assessed cardiac arrests outside of a hospital setting, and on average, fewer than 10 percent of the victims survive, Watterson said.

Defibrillation, along with CPR, is the only way to restore the victim’s heart rhythm to normal in a lot of cases of cardiac arrest. Yet only 17 percent of the nation’s schools and government offices make AED’s available in their facilities.

Canyons placed AEDs at all of its schools four years ago under the direction of Canyons Risk Management Coordinator Kevin Ray, who maintains them to ensure they’re in working order.  Ray also received an award from the association.

"Tonight was a good example of how much our teachers and staff care," said Board President Sherril H. Taylor.  "Porter is a great young man .. He has a lot left to do in this life — and now he has the chance to do it."  



When Mount Jordan middle was demolished and rebuilt in 2015, then-principal Molly Hart saved a stack of bricks in her office to pay homage to the 59-year-old school. Later she discovered the school had an even greater treasure with a history as old as the original building: a Steinway and Sons 1954 Model B classic grand piano.

The piano was cracked, out of tune and badly in need of extensive repairs. It looked as bad as it sounded and seemed as though the cost to fix the instrument would be significantly more than it was worth. All of the hammers needed to be replaced, as well as the dampers and strings, and the soundboard needed to be fixed. There was a fleeting suggestion that perhaps the piano should just be sold to save the cost of restoring it to its former glory — but Hart had different ideas.
DSC01434.JPG
She took a look around the school’s brand-new, million-dollar auditorium built in partnership for the community with Sandy city, and she knew she couldn’t let it go. “I could just imagine performances taking place in that gorgeous auditorium,” Hart says. “That would be a really memorable experience and a life-changing experience for a middle school student to have a memory of playing a 1954 vintage Steinway B. You don’t have to be a piano player to know that.”

Hart worked with Canyons’ Art Consortium Chair Sharee Jorgensen and the Purchasing Department to orchestrate the repair with an expert who restores pianos across the state. To pay for the project, the school’s PTA donated their remaining budget for the rest of the year, the state PTA gave the school a grant, Jorgensen allocated funds from her budget and Hart used money from her furniture budget. The project cost a little more than $20,000, but the investment increased the value of the piano substantially.

“He (the restoration expert) took the piano, and between him and the person who refinished the outside, they turned it into a brand-new looking, beautiful piano that we could have never replaced for the money we spent on the restoration,” Jorgensen said.

Canyons District owns seven Steinway and Sons grand pianos, one Steinway and Sons upright piano, and 31 grand pianos by othcarryingpiano.jpger makers. The piano at Mount Jordan is the first to be completely restored, bringing its value to an estimated $60,000-70,000, Jorgensen says. However, a new Steinway and Sons Model B piano, which the company refers to as “the perfect piano” on its website, costs about $100,000. As the instruments age, their value typically increases.

“If you take care of it, it’s like an old violin,” Jorgensen says. “If you take care of it, it will eventually become priceless and last you a long time.”

To that end, the school purchased a special cover and locking case for the piano. It is used for special performances by students and members of the community, as Hart, who is now principal at Albion Middle School, had hoped.

“Mount Jordan serves a population of students that may or may not have an opportunity to play on a Steinway,” Hart said. “For the students that perform, that could be something that a pianist would have a memory of forever. I wanted kids to have that opportunity — and I wanted Canyons to have that opportunity.”



Screen_Shot_2017-02-23_at_8.55.15_AM.png
Recordings and documents for agenda items can be accessed via BoardDocs by clicking the corresponding agenda items.

American Heart Association Presents HeartSaver Award to CCHS

The American Heart Association recognized Canyons District administrators, educators and support staff who took emergency measures to revive a student who had suffered cardiac arrest during a Jan. 10, 2017 physical education class. The association presented HeartSaver Awards to Corner Canyon High Principal Darrell Jensen, Assistant Principal Christian Cowart, teacher Elisa Posey, school nurse Nancy Purcell and hall monitor Joyce Spencer. A special award of merit also was given to CSD Risk Management Coordinator Kevin Ray, who spearheaded the District’s efforts to install the AEDs in all CSD schools four years ago. The quick actions of CCHS employees that day, coupled with training and the immediate availability of an Automated External Defibrillator, may have saved the life of 14-year-old Porter Lewis, who also helped present the awards. Lewis’ survival was as close to a miracle as it gets, said Marc Watterson, Government Relations Director for the Utah chapter of the American Heart Association. Each year in the U.S., there are approximately 359,400 Emergency Medical Services-assessed cardiac arrests outside of a hospital setting, and on average, fewer than 10 percent of the victims survive, Watterson said. Defibrillation, along with CPR, is the only way to restore the victim’s heart rhythm to normal in a lot of cases of cardiac arrest. Yet only 17 percent of the nation’s schools and government offices make AED’s available in their facilities. Watterson handed Corner Canyon’s staff special pins that the Heart Association bestows on those whose heroic actions contribute to the “chain of survival” for heart attack victims.

Board Approves Administrative Appointments

The Canyons Board of Education approved a spate of administrative appointments for the 2017-2018 school year.  They are as follows: 

Stacy Kurtzhals, currently Principal at Eastmont Middle, will become a Program Administrator in the Special Education Department. 

Charisse Hilton, currently Principal of Brighton High, will become Principal of Eastmont Middle.

Tom Sherwood, currently Principal at Jordan High, will become Principal at Brighton High.

Wendy Dau, currently Principal at Midvale Middle, will become Principal at Jordan High.

Mindy Robison, currently Principal at Crescent Elementary, will become Principal at Midvale Middle.

Camie Lloyd, currently Assistant Principal at Albion Middle, will become Principal at Crescent Elementary.

Steve Bailey, currently Assistant Principal at Jordan High, will become an Assistant Principal at Alta High.

Ryan Durrant, currently an administrative intern at Jordan High, will become an Assistant Principal at Jordan High.

Sandy LeCheminant, currently an Assistant Principal at Eastmont Middle, will become an Assistant Principal at Albion Middle.

Nate Edvalson, currently an administrative intern at Draper Park Middle, will become an Assistant Principal at Eastmont Middle.

Shelley Karren, currently an administrative intern at Alta High, will become an Assistant Principal at Union Middle.

Bryan Rudes, currently an administrative intern at Midvale Middle, will become an Assistant Principal at Midvale Middle.

Brooke Rauzon, currently an Assistant Principal at Union Middle, will become Assistant Principal at Sandy Elementary.

Hillcrest Feeder Initiative Update

The Board of Education heard a proposal by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kathryn McCarrie to continue a concentrated and aligned effort to boost student achievement across schools in the Hillcrest High feeder system. The initiative, which entails tracking and transitioning Midvale-area students from one school to the next, was launched last summer and is already producing gains in student achievement. Copperview Principal Christy Waddell, Midvale Principal Chip Watts and East Midvale Principal Justin Pitcher explained how elementary school-level instructional coaches funded through the initiative have helped make classroom time more effective. More targeted instruction and collaborative lesson plans are enabling students to progress more quickly, setting them up to succeed in middle school and beyond. Progress is showing in improved test scores at the elementary and secondary levels. Midvale Middle Principal Wendy Dau told the Board that intensive professional development for teachers, coupled with targeted literacy strategies, have produced gains in SAGE scores in English language arts.  Coaching in behavioral interventions designed to encourage positive behavior, instead of discouraging negative behavior, has reduced discipline referrals to the Main Office by 50 percent, she said. The training provided teachers also has improved morale; Midvale Middle’s teacher turnover rate has fallen from 44 percent to 11 percent. The goal of the program is to provide early supports to students who are at-risk of not graduating from high school. This includes a Summer Boot Camp program for ninth-grade students entering Hillcrest High. Of the 74 students to sign up for the inaugural Boot Camp this past summer, 47 completed the program, said Hillcrest Principal Greg Leavitt. In addition to those students, Hillcrest has targeted another 17 for interventions. Of those 64 students, 19 percent have a grade-point-average of 3.0 or higher, and another 22 percent have a 2.0 or higher. Board members expressed support for the initiative and will address ongoing funding with the next year’s budget. 

Students, Employees Recognized for Achievements

The Board of Education also recognized outstanding students and employees. Honored were:
  • Brighton High students Brayden Stevens, the 5A state wrestling champion at the 152-pound weight class.
  • Corner Canyon High student Shaun Stockwell, the 4A state wrestling champion in the heavyweight division.
  • Hillcrest and Entrada counselor Eric Murdock for being named the School Counseling Educator the Year, as named by the Utah Association of Career and Technical Educators Guidance Division.
  • Brighton’s Georgia Raddon and Jordan’s Nicole Brooks, winners of Jurors’ Awards at the Springville Spring Museum’s Utah All-State Art Show.

Update on Progress at Diamond Ridge High

Student Advocacy and Access Director Karen Sterling and Diamond Ridge High administrator Amy Boettger updated the Board of Education on the progress of CSD’s alternative high school. Enrollment at Diamond Ridge has swelled from 79 to 108 this year, and has a waiting list of 14 students. Enrollment is projected to grow to 125 next fall, with 45 students on the waiting list. The school is helping students toward graduation. In fact, Diamond Ridge’s graduation rate is 77 percent. Grade point averages, as well as scores on assessments, also are on the rise, Sterling told the Board. 

Legislative Update

External Relations Director Charlie Evans updated the Board of Education on talks surrounding SB80, a school-funding equalization proposal. If approved in its current form, CSD stands to lose some $1.5 million. He urged the Board to thank legislators who have made stances against the proposed legislation. He also briefed the Board on SB240, which, among other things, would allow School Community Councils to bypass a Board of Education and approach the Utah State Board of Education to request approval to become a charter school.   

Board Meeting Schedule

The Board of Education reviewed a proposed meeting schedule for 2017-2018. 

Board Approves Policies

The Board of Education approved two policies and declared some policies obsolete. The new policies govern the hiring of employees and the administration of medication to students.

Pledge of Allegiance, Posting of the Colors

Scout Troop 4331, whose members attend Altara Elementary, posted the colors and led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Altara Principal Nicole Svee-Magann spoke to the Board about the academic improvements at the school. She also noted that an Altara parent was the driving force behind the District’s implementation of a districtwide no-idle initiative. 

Superintendent, Business Administrator Reports

Superintendent Briscoe thanked Board members for their support of the Hillcrest Feeder Initiative. He also expressed appreciation for Board members Nancy Tingey and Amber Shill, who are spending a lot of time at the legislature on behalf of CSD and public education. He also mentioned the work that is being done to update CSD’s policy manual. 

Business Administrator Leon Wilcox noted that SB80 will be discussed on Capitol Hill later this week. He also recognized Utah State Board of Education Board Member Kathleen Riebe, who attended the meeting. He also mentioned a recent meeting with the Student Advisory Committee, and thanked teachers for their hard work preparing for last week’s Parent-Teacher Conferences. 

Board members

Mr. Chad Iverson reported on attending the Alta vs. Corner Canyon boys basketball game. He commended the schools on maintaining a fierce but friendly rivalry. He encouraged legislators to vote against SB80. He mentioned the bill is sponsored by an elected representative who represents some Canyons District patrons.

Ms. Nancy Tingey commended the faculty and staff who responded to the calls for help when Corner Canyon High student Porter Lewis collapsed and needed emergency medical attention.  She expressed her appreciation to everyone in the “Canyons District family.” 

Ms. Amber Shill reported that she attended a USBA professional development session for presidents and vice presidents of school boards across Utah. She also encouraged patrons to attend District Day at the Hill on Friday in the rotunda at the state Capitol. CSD will have an informational booth, and a brass sextet from Alta High will perform at 12:30 p.m.

Mr. Steve Wrigley said he attended the Sandy Chamber Peak Awards with Mr. Wilcox and Dr. Briscoe. He also has visited Mount Jordan Middle, Eastmont Middle and Bell View, Willow Canyon, and Park Lane elementary schools. He also toured the under-construction Alta View Elementary.  He also thanked Office Max for donating goods to teachers. 

Mr. Mont Millerberg deferred his report and Ms. Clareen Arnold was excused for personal reasons.  

President Sherril H. Taylor recognized the District teachers and staff who go the extra mile for students. The presentation from the American Heart Association reminded him of how far Canyons employees will go to help students. He said he is glad Porter Lewis is recovering and wished him the best in the future. 
Canyons District is pleased to announce new leadership appointments, which were approved by the Board of Education on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. The appointments are for the coming school year. 

The appointments are: 

Stacy Kurtzhals, currently Principal at Eastmont Middle, will become a Program Administrator in the Special Education Department. 

Charisse Hilton, currently Principal of Brighton High, will become Principal of Eastmont Middle.

Tom Sherwood, currently Principal at Jordan High, will become Principal at Brighton High.

Wendy Dau, currently Principal at Midvale Middle, will become Principal at Jordan High.

Mindy Robison, currently Principal at Crescent Elementary, will become Principal at Midvale Middle.

Camie Lloyd, currently Assistant Principal at Albion Middle, will become Principal at Crescent Elementary.

Steve Bailey, currently Assistant Principal at Jordan High, will become an Assistant Principal at Alta High.

Ryan Durrant, currently an administrative intern at Jordan High, will become an Assistant Principal at Jordan High.

Sandy LeCheminant, currently an Assistant Principal at Eastmont Middle, will become an Assistant Principal at Albion Middle.

Nate Edvalson, currently an administrative intern at Draper Park Middle, will become an Assistant Principal at Eastmont Middle.

Shelley Karren, currently an administrative intern at Alta High, will become an Assistant Principal at Union Middle.

Bryan Rudes, currently an administrative intern at Midvale Middle, will become an Assistant Principal at Midvale Middle.

Brooke Rauzon, currently an Assistant Principal at Union Middle, will become Assistant Principal at Sandy Elementary.
Advocate, example, amazing — these are just a few of the words parents, coworkers and students use to describe the abilities of Eric Murdock, a counselor at Hillcrest High and Entrada.

Murdock has made such a difference in the lives of his students that the Utah Association of Career and Technical Educators’ Guidance Division has chosen him as the School Counseling Educator of the Year.

Murdock works tirelessly with all students and their families to forge individualized paths to graduation and help his students achieve their dreams. "I've never met a Counselor who cares more or gives more than Eric Murdock," wrote CTE Coordinator Lesli Covington-Taft on a Facebook post announcing Murdock's award. "He works tirelessly well into the evening most days to make certain he has given each one of his students the best support and advice available. I'm proud to call him my friend and co-worker."

He serves on CSD’s Credit Recovery Committee, which identifies students who are at risk for not graduating and helps them make up lost credits, and he helps students obtain scholarships to attend schools they could not otherwise.