The girls hoops team at Hillcrest High has a new leader who can’t contain her enthusiasm about the talent and verve she sees in the school’s returning players.

Not five hours had passed since Shannon Hurst accepted the offer to be the Lady Huskies’ head basketball coach on Friday, May 1, 2015 and she was already hard at work thinking about camps, conditioning, and camaraderie. 

“I am so excited. I know the talent we have,” said Hurst, a former Snow College player and standout at Granite High “We have a young team, so I’m excited to have them for a few more years.”

Hurst, who plans to soon have a meeting with parents and players, has been Hillcrest’s junior varsity coach for the past four seasons. Her time as the head of the JV squad has provided a good look at the athleticism of the players and the solid relationships that exist on the team.

“These girls are pretty tight-knit. They are good off the court so I am excited to see how it will work on the court,” said Hurst, who also is looking for strong assistant coaches. “I think that I’d like this team to be known for its intensity. Anytime anyone is on the floor, I’d like to see intensity. They should be giving 100 percent.”

Fundraising and summer camps are part of her plans. It’s never too early to start thinking about the challenges that will come in the fall, she said. 

She hopes her players will shoot hoops as much as possible in the summer months — and even scrimmage against the boys in their neighborhoods.  “Any time you can play, even with your guy friends,” she says, “you will get a lot better.”

Hurst is a 2011 graduate of Utah State University. She teaches physical education and health at Hillcrest.

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Hillcrest High School Theater teacher Joshua Long has received a prestigious 2015 Beverley Taylor Sorenson Legacy Award for Excellence in Arts Education, an honor comes with a $2,500 cash award for Long and another $2,500 to promote the arts at Hillcrest.

The Sorenson Legacy Awards for Excellence in Arts Education recognize distinguished public school educators who embrace the arts with excellence in their classrooms, and the positive impact their work has had on Utah schoolchildren.

Long led the Hillcrest thespians to capture the 2015 5A State Theatre Championship – and the first perfect scores ever to be earned in the competition's history. His students also have won consecutive national sweepstakes awards for their Shakespearean plays, as well as the 2012 4A State Theatre title. Long received the Utah High School Activities Association Distinguished Service Award for Theatre Teacher of the Year in 2012.

Long is among 10 Utah recipients of the 2015 Sorenson Legacy Awards. He and other honorees will be recognized Saturday, May 2, at a dinner at the University of Utah. The event is hosted by the Utah State Office of Education, with support from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation.
This is the third Sorenson award to be bestowed upon Canyons District educators. Corner Canyon High School band and orchestra teacher Randal Clark and Butler Middle School dance teacher Rebecca Crowley received the awards in 2014.
Alta's Matt Leininger Named CSD Teacher of the Year

The Board honored Alta High physics teacher Matt Leininger as the 2015 Canyons District Teacher of the Year. Leininger's energetic approach to teaching physics shows his students exactly how much they matter. His dedication and care for students are just a few of the reasons that the Alta High educator, who is affectionately called "Mr. L" by casts of Hawks, was selected as the District Teacher of the Year.

Leininger, who also coaches robotics, swimming and tennis, was selected from a field of 46 Teachers of the Year who had been nominated from every Canyons District school, including the academy at the Utah State Prison.

"He is just that type of teacher, that no matter the student that is in class, no matter their background, their demographic, he connects with all of his kids," said Alta Principal Brian McGill. "He is what I would call an exemplary teacher in Canyons District and Alta High School."

Board Honors 46 CSD Teachers of the Year

The Board hosted a Teacher of the Year Reception and Recognitions event to honor all 46 CSD Teachers of the Year. As part of the recognitions, the following educators were named as semifinalists for the CSD Teacher of the Year:

• Claudia Jimenez, Midvale Elementary
• Susan Homer, Park Lane Elementary
• Bethany Smith, Sandy Elementary
• Emily Nance, Draper Park Middle
• Kattie (KATIE) Dewald, Midvale Middle
• And Matt Leininger, Alta High

Smith and Dewald also were named as finalists for the top award, and each received $500 checks from the Canyons School District Education Foundation. Leininger received a $1,000 cash prize from the Foundation as part of his Canyons Teacher of the Year award. All 46 Teachers of the Year received additional awards and prizes at the event from dozens of community sponsors.

New Chemistry Textbook Discussed

The Board is considering adopting a new chemistry textbook recommended by a District committee of chemistry teachers. The recommended text is called Modern Chemistry, published by Holt McDougal. Dr. Hollie Pettersson, Director of Evidence-Based Learning in Secondary Schools, said a chemistry book previously brought to the Board was in fact the committee's second choice, and apologized for the mistake. Modern Chemistry will be available in the office of each high school should parents wish to view it. Board President Sherril Taylor said he believes it is a good procedure to put the textbooks in the schools before the Board votes. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kathryn McCarrie agreed, saying it shows parents and patrons what is being taught in CSD schools.

New School Fee Schedule Discussed
The Board for the second time discussed the proposed fee schedule, which would aim to assure some fees cover actual costs of some programs. The proposal would increase the Activity Fee from $45 to $50; parking permits from $10 to $15; and raise the maximum allowable fees for varsity cheerleaders and songleaders from $500 to $600.
CFO Leon Wilcox said he and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Bob Dowdle talked to principals about this fee schedule, which would be effective for the next three years. The Board also received a general accounting of school fees to aid in the discussion. Board Member Nancy Tingey asked for additional account details. Dr. Dowdle noted that the Student Advisory Committee empaneled by the Board supports the fee increases. Board members asked if parents had weighed in on the proposal. No formal input has been received at this time.

Board Action

The Board approved parts of the Consent Agenda, including Purchasing Bids; April Hires and Terminations; March Financial Reports; Board Meeting Schedule; and LAND Trust Amendments. The Board approved student overnight travel for the following groups: CSD CETEC SkillsUSA; Alta Boys Soccer, Girls Soccer, Volleyball and Dance Company; Corner Canyon Cheer and Student Government. The Board asked for travel plans to be revised for modes of transportation for the following groups: Alta Drill, Corner Canyon Yearbook, and Hillcrest Yearbook.

Closed Session

The Board met in Closed Session for the purpose of discussing collective bargaining.
Matt Leininger’s energetic approach to teaching physics shows his students exactly how much they matter. His apparent dedication and care for students are just a few of the reasons that the Alta High educator, who is affectionately called “Mr. L” by casts of Hawks, has been selected as the 2015 Canyons District Teacher of the Year.

Leininger, who also coaches robotics, swimming and tennis, was lauded during a Tuesday, April 28, 2015 ceremony hosted by the Canyons Board of Education.  He was selected from a field of 46 Teachers of the Year who had been nominated from every Canyons District school, including the academy at the Utah State Prison. 

“He is just that type of teacher, that no matter the student that is in class, no matter their background, their demographic, he connects with all of his kids,” said Alta Principal Brian McGill. “He is what I would call an exemplary teacher in Canyons District and Alta High School.” 

Watch a video tribute to Leininger that was shown at Tuesday's ceremony to announce CSD's Teacher of the Year.

Leininger said his interest in teaching was piqued when he volunteered to mentor a Chinese student during his time at Brigham Young University. “My mom was a teacher so I thought, ‘Hey, I am going to look into teaching,’” he said.  “They had me work for a semester with a little boy who only spoke Chinese … and I was able to teach him English, how to answer the phone, just basic things like that. That’s when I knew (teaching was) what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” 

Alta students say he makes them smile and laugh and is constantly moving around his classroom and engaging with students. He also goes the extra mile to build bridges of understanding to difficult concepts.  “I kind of struggle in his class,” said student Haris Sabic.  “I am not, like, the best, but he is always there to help me.”

To Mr. L, however, it’s all about showing students genuine concern for their progress. “If you care about them, then they are interested in what you have to tell them,” he said.  “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  

At the event on Tuesday, which was attended by hundreds of friends, family and colleagues of the school-based Teachers of the Year, Leininger received a $1,000 cash award from the Canyons Education Foundation and a prize package full of items from generous local merchants. 

The Board of Education also recognized two Teacher of the Year finalists — Bethany Smith, a teacher at Sandy Elementary, and Kattie Dewald, who teaches at Midvale Middle — at the special reception and recognitions event held in the Professional Development Center of the Canyons Support Services Center. Smith and Dewald received gifts and a $500 check from the Canyons Education Foundation. 

As Canyons’ top teacher, Leininger will represent the District at the Utah Teacher of the Year contest, and compete for cash, prizes and national recognition.

“I am living the dream,” Leininger said.  “And I really feel that way. I love this school. My kids are going here, my own personal children … I feel very blessed to be a part of this District. Specifically, to be in this classroom, at this school, at this time in my life.”

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  • "The part can never be well unless the whole is well." — Plato 

    Corner Canyon High is celebrating its second-annual Wellness Week April 27-May 1.

    As part of the week’s celebration, the school is hosting a presentation titled “Pornography: Fight the New Drug.” It will be on Wednesday, April 29, 2015, at 7 p.m. in Corner Canyon’s auditorium.

    Parents and students are invited. Students from all five Canyons District high schools can receive Attendance School credit for attending.
    Let the reconstruction begin. With the plunge of shovels into the ground, community leaders joined students in the ceremonial "turning of the dirt" to begin the reconstruction of Butler Elementary School. The April 22, 2015 groundbreaking celebration at the school's Cottonwood Heights campus drew a crowd of about 150 students, parents, city leaders and community members to cheer the start of a new era for the school with deep historical roots.

    "We're hosting this event for several reasons: First, to celebrate the fact that this day has finally arrived," said Board Member Amber Shill, who represents District 2, which includes the Butler Elementary community. "I have no doubt that many of you wondered if this day would actually ever be realized. But it's here, and Canyons District is proud to announce that it is holding true to its promise to build a new and improved school for the students of Butler Elementary."

    The new building's entrance will feature a school bell to pay tribute to the rich history of Butler Elementary, originally constructed as a one-room school house in the 1890s in the historic community of Butlerville. The new school also draws inspiration from the beautiful mountains just outside its doors, with exterior courtyards to be themed after local canyons. Classroom wings also will contain individual themes. The school's 27 classrooms will contain lighting controls, audio-visual equipment, and be fully wired for the high-tech demands of a 21st Century education.

    The building also will contain solar shading on all southern-facing windows, and a spacious cafeteria, kitchen and commons area in which students and community members can gather. Classrooms and hallways will feature natural light – a feature that brought cheers from students at the groundbreaking celebration.

    "From day one, the focus of the design has been about creating the best learning environment for our students, and a great work environment for our hard-working teachers," Principal Christy Waddell said. "We're proud of this new addition to the Cottonwood Heights community. ... It's exciting to think that in a little more than a year, we'll be in our new school. "

    The groundbreaking was followed by a community open house. There, members of the public could view renderings of the new school, designed by VCBO Architecture with input from students, educators and community members. They also could receive information about community access to the campus during construction.

    Construction of the new school, to be overseen by Hogan & Associates Construction, begins May 1, 2015. The school will be rebuilt on the Butler Elementary School campus, adjacent to the current building. Students will attend school in the current building during construction. The new school is scheduled to open in fall 2016.

    The Butler Elementary reconstruction is financed with proceeds from the $250 million bond that Canyons School District voters approved in 2010. It is one in a series of districtwide bond-funded projects, including the rebuilding of Butler Middle School, completed in 2013, and upgrades at Brighton High School in Cottonwood Heights.

    "Canyons District is dedicated to student achievement, innovation, customer service and community engagement. Today would not be possible without your support," Shill told attendees. "The District has been able to rebuild this school because of your vote of confidence — and especially the Butler community's tireless effort to see a new building in this neighborhood."

    The Canyons Board of Education has maintained neutral tax rates as promised to the public during the bond election, and this spring approved the issuance of the final $42 million in bonds. Canyons' AAA Bond Rating has enabled the district to secure low interest rates to save taxpayers money. In 2014, Canyons was able to refinance some of the debt issued by the former Jordan School District to save the district $4.5 million.

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  • Canyons District is hosting two Open Houses in Hillcrest’s cafeteria to introduce the new head Husky to the community.

    Greg Leavitt, the current Draper Park Middle Principal who is taking the Hillcrest reins next year, also wants to hear from students, parents, teachers and community supporters about their ideas to continue Hillcrest’s tradition of excellence.

    The Open Houses will be:
    • Monday, April 27, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
    • Wednesday, April 29, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
    Leavitt is replacing Sue Malone, who is retiring after serving for more than three decades in schools.
    “On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend's life also, in our own, to the world.” — Henry David Thoreau

    Scholarships at Brighton and Hillcrest high schools are being established to honor the late Dr. Paul Kirby, the Hillcrest High Assistant Principal who passed away April 17, 2015.

    The plan is to give annual scholarship in Dr. Kirby’s name to one Hillcrest student who excels in performing arts and one Brighton student who is a standout in world languages. Dr. Kirby, who was the 2011 Utah Assistant Principal of the Year, was a Bengal for a decade and a Husky since 2010.

    The Canyons Education Foundation is accepting donations to these scholarships.

    Hillcrest choirs are set to perform special songs at Dr. Kirby’s funeral service, scheduled for noon on Saturday, April 25 at the Murray Stake Center, 1830 E. 6400 South. Visitation for friends and family will be from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Internment will be in the Logan City Cemetery.

    Dr. Kirby will be remembered by generations of students who were touched by his dedication to education and positive approaches to student behavior. 

    “Dr. Paul Kirby was a vital part of the administrative team at Hillcrest High.  He had a special spirit, kind soul, and a deep love for the students who he greeted every day in the hallways,” said Principal Sue Malone. “Not only was Paul a consummate leader and a dependable colleague, he was a close and loyal friend. I will miss him tremendously. Hillcrest simply won’t be the same without him.”

    Dr. Kirby has been an educator since 1993, when he was hired as a Spanish teacher at Treasure Mountain Middle School in Park City and Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School in Salt Lake City. He joined the Judge Memorial faculty as a Spanish teacher in 1994 and moved to Copper Hills High School in 1995 where he also assumed the role as Foreign Languages Department Chair. In 1999, he became the Assistant Principal at West Jordan High, and was transferred a year later to Brighton High. He was an ardent supporter of the Bengals for 10 years before beginning his assignment in 2010 as an Assistant Principal of Hillcrest High. Dr. Kirby, who also has worked as an adjunct Spanish instructor at Utah State University and Salt Lake Community College, embraced his new role as one of the Huskies’ biggest cheerleaders and bridge-builder to the Hispanic community that surrounds the Midvale-area school.

    “Dr. Kirby was one of the most caring educators with whom I have had the pleasure of associating,” said Dr. Robert Dowdle, Canyons District’s Assistant Superintendent of School Performance, who worked with Dr. Kirby while both were Assistant Principals at Brighton High. 

    “With students, he was uniquely patient and always encouraged them to reach for their highest potential. With parents, he was understanding and empathic, and always sought workable solutions to challenges. With faculty and staff, he was fun, funny and trusted to be fair and straightforward,” Dr. Dowdle said. “On a professional level, we will miss his skills and talents in our schools. On a personal level, I’ll miss everything about him. He was a friend and a colleague, and I’m a better person for having known him.” 

    Dr. Kirby was a well-known and respected scholar in foreign-language instruction and Spanish language and literature. He studied Spanish and medieval literature at the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain, earned his first of two master’s degrees in Spanish Language and Medieval Literature from the University of Utah, and in 2012, as he received his Ph.D. from Utah State University, he was lauded for the high quality of the qualitative research in his doctoral dissertation, “Research into the Utility of Standards in Foreign Language Instruction.”

    Across the District, extra counseling services are being provided to students and teachers who may need additional support in the grieving process.

    “Indeed, it’s a sad day in Canyons District,” said Sherril H. Taylor, President of the Canyons Board of Education.  “The whole community is mourning the loss of Dr. Kirby, who is known throughout the Salt Lake Valley as a caring and dedicated educator and leader. While our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time, we also express our appreciation for Dr. Kirby’s years of service in our schools. His positive influence has been felt for more than two decades, and I believe it will continue to be felt for generations to come.”