Anywhere else, if someone cried, “rain storm,” all eyes would scan the horizon for foreboding clouds. But at Midvale Elementary, it’s a call-and-response technique to get chatty students to snap to attention. Upon hearing those words, students stop what they’re doing and vocalize a “whoosh” sound while motioning their hands to signify water coming down—and suddenly all is quiet.

The widespread use of such attention-getters is the mark of Playworks Utah, a non-profit that uses power of play to help schools cultivate safe, healthy and productive learning environments. The organization has a growing presence in Utah and a goal of reaching half the state’s school-age children by 2020, says its Executive Director Christopher Conrad.

Currently, 35 of the state’s schools benefit from some level of Playworks programming or training. Canyons is unique in that has deployed Playworks at every one of its elementary schools, including Midvale Elementary where on Thursday, Larry Miller Charities presented Playworks with a $10,000 donation. The employee and corporate giving arm of Larry Miller Group donated more than $1 million last year to charitable causes in seven states with most of that money coming to Utah, says Jay Francis, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Miller Family Philanthropy.

The money will support Playworks programs, which use play as a force for learning. Something as simple as a game of four-square can teach kids the social and behavioral skills needed to follow rules, set goals, learn from failure, manage tough emotions, and resolve conflict. An impromptu game of ro-sham-bo, or rock-paper-scissors, can stop a playground argument from escalating to the point of requiring a teacher or the principal to intervene, says Midvale Principal Chip Watts who credits Playworks’ influence for an 80 percent drop in office referrals at his school from 2014 to 2016.

Freeing teachers from having to manage social and behavioral issues allows them to spend more of their precious classroom time on academics, he said. Playworks also builds leadership skills by recruiting fourth and fifth grade students to serve as “junior coaches” who promote fair play during recess and strive to ensure that everyone feels included. 

It’s the first day school, and Butler Elementary teacher Nancy Bauman has good news for her fifth grade classroom. Because they have to wait longest for lunch, they’re given a special snack at recess. “But don’t lose track of your trash, and leave it on the playground,” Bauman warns, “or you’ll lose the sneak-a-snack privilege.”

Classrooms across Utah came to life on Wednesday as the 2016-2017 school year got underway, and a good portion of the day was spent rehearsing the ground rules. What do you do if you need to use the bathroom or sharpen your pencil? When is recess? What’s for lunch? How do we walk in the hallway—quietly, with purpose, and without signaling to friends who are studiously working in nearby classrooms, says Butler’s Jane Hart to her first-graders.

It takes discipline and constancy, but setting the right tone now makes for an academically successful rest of the year. Integral to setting the right tone in Canyons District is the unique tradition of—literally—rolling out the red carpet for new and returning students. Parents, grandparents, teachers and community partners turned out in droves this year to cheer students—the true "stars" of the day—as they posed for photos and gave high five’s to their teachers. The event conveys a warm welcome while underscoring the importance of school as a child’s ticket to success in college and careers.

“You're off to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” — Dr. Seuss
Wide hallways, lockers that won’t open, multiple class periods and heavier homework loads—starting middle school for the first time can be a little daunting.

But it doesn’t have to be. For eights years, Canyons District’s middle schools have opened their doors to incoming sixth-graders a day early to allow them to orient themselves and ease into their new surroundings before the official start of school. “It’s a great tradition. We’ve found that it really cuts down on the nerves and the tears and helps students get acclimated,” Mount Jordan’s new principal Cindy Hansen told a KTVX reporter who profiled the event.

With elementary school, and all of its colorful comforts a distant memory, it’s important to give first-timers a primer on things, such as, opening stubborn lockers and using their school planners.

At Albion Middle’s half-day orientation, students were greeted by trumpets as they walked a red carpet and received high-five’s from their teachers. At Union Middle, math teacher Stephanie Knighton reminded her class, “You know there’s no recess? There are four minutes between classes — we’ve been giving you five today.”

Students arrived in time to hear the morning bell ring. They sat through shortened versions of all their classes, giving them a chance to walk the hallways and see how much time it takes to get from one class period to the next — or to find the cafeteria, restrooms and gym. Some schools heldintroductory assemblies and handed out snacks to tide over grumbly bellies until lunch. Students met their teachers and made new friends. “They’re just in awe of the newness of it all,” Midvale Middle assistant principal Kerry Schroeppel said as his students filed into the cafeteria to have an Otter pop and learn the rules of the cafeteria. “There’s no reason to be scared, and that’s what we try to instill in them with our enthusiasm. We are excited for this new year and we are excited for them to feel that.”

As Mount Jordan students filed out to catch their busses, an announcement rang out, “Thanks for being with us today. We look forward to seeing you tomorrow.”

Hundreds witnessed history on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016  as the doors to a brand new Butler Elementary opened and generations of students and former students, teachers, parents, and local dignitaries walked into the halls of the state-of-the-art building.

They passed under a replica of the school’s original bell, which hearkens back to Butler’s beginnings in 1877, and passed an originally curated bronze statue of a bobcat, which local residents purchased with donated money to represent the school’s 139-year history, as school leaders and students explored the spaces in which they plan to create their own history.

“We have come so far from the one-room school house that was built in Butlerville so many years ago,” Butler Elementary Principal Christy Waddell told a crowd gathered Thursday night to celebrate a ribbon cutting ceremony in honor of the building’s completion. “Can you imagine what the early settlers of this area would say if they saw our new school?”

The school, which was made possible by a $250 million voter-approved bond in 2010, features nearly 30 classrooms with lighting controls, audio-visual equipment and wiring for high-tech needs; large windows with stunning views of the surrounding mountains; a commons area, gymnasium and recreation room; and a lot of natural light in the classrooms and hallways.

Unique features, such as textured walls and original artwork throughout the school, were highlighted by VCBO Architecture — which designed the school — and completed by Hogan and Associates Construction.

Canyons District leaders, including Canyons Board of Education President Sherril Taylor and members Amber Shill and Nancy Tingey, as well as CSD Superintendent Jim Briscoe, Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvin Cullimore and City Council members Mike Shelton, Mike Peterson and Tee Tyler attended the ceremony with hundreds of parents and students from the community who searched for their assigned classrooms.

The school will be open for the beginning of the 2016-2017 academic year, which begins Wednesday, Aug. 24.

“I have no doubt that many of you wondered if the school would be ready on time for the first day of school,” Shill, who represents the area, told the crowd. “Today would not be possible without your support. Thank you so much for your patience while we worked on your new school.”

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  • Note: Recordings and documents for agenda items can be accessed via BoardDocs by clicking the corresponding agenda items.

    Board Approves Proposal to Use ACT For 11
    th Grade Measure 

    The Board of Education voted unanimously to take advantage of the provisions of HB200, which was passed in the 2016 Legislative session. The legislation allows school districts to request a waiver on the requirement to have 11th graders participate in the end-of-year summative SAGE testing. The District now plans to use the ACT as the measurement of how well high school juniors are performing academically. The benefits of doing so include gaining valuable instructional time in other classes, particularly Advanced Placement courses. There also could be an uptick in demonstrated competency because students have incentive to do well on the ACT, a commonly accepted college-entrance exam. 

    Bell-Efficiency Study

    Could small changes to the start times of some of Canyons District’s schools save in transportation costs? Such was the focus of a recent bell-efficiency study presented to the Board by Assistant Superintendent Bob Dowdle. Using data to simulate the affects of consolidating, or piggybacking, bus routes, the study looked at two possible scenarios. Option No. 1 would entail moving the start times at some schools back or forward by 15 minutes, thereby giving drivers an extra 30 minutes to complete the longer routes. Doing so would remove 21 buses from daily operation and save up to $340,000 in bus driver labor and $360,000 in fuel and maintenance costs. Option No. 2 would alter bell times by 30 minutes and remove 33 buses from daily circulation for a potential savings of $1 million or more in labor, fuel and maintenance costs. Both options create efficiencies by combining bus routes. The longer bus routes could have the added benefit of helping to recruit and retain drivers, because the District would be able to hire more drivers on a full-time basis with benefits. Dowdle made no policy recommendations; there is currently no formal proposal before the Board. The discussion was for informational purposes only. Board President Sherril Taylor asked Dowdle to schedule time throughout the 2016-2017 school year to share the study’s findings with School Community Councils.

    Purchase of Land for Future Elementary School

    The Board of Education approved the expenditure of $6,276,596 for 13.02 acres at 11500 S. Lone Peak Parkway. It’s expected the land will be used for a future new elementary school. The sale price is equal or slightly below market value. The Board also directed Business Administrator Leon Wilcox to approve and sign all documents related to the property transaction. 


    The following faculty and staff were recognized by the Board of Education:

    Aaron Hadfield, Brighton High teacher, for winning the Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education. 

    Sebasthian Varas, Canyons District’s Nutrition Services Director, for winning the President’s Award of Excellence from School Nutrition Association

    Principals and Athletic Directors at Alta, Brighton, Corner Canyon, Hillcrest and Jordan High schools for receiving honors in the UHSAA’s “Raise the Bar” sportsmanship program. 

    Leslie Robinette, CSD English Arts Instructional Support Specialist, for her work on the National Speech and Debate Association, held this summer in Canyons District.

    The Board also recognized CSD’s new Special Education Director Misty Suarez and Union Middle Assistant Principal Taylor Hansen. 

    Consent Agenda

    The Board of Education approved the consent agenda, including purchasing bids; July’s financial reports; student overnight travel requests; hire and termination reports; the United Way agreement for 2016-2017 and the Midvale Elementary Parent-Teacher Conference date change.

    Patron Comments

    Jen Buttars, president of the Canyons Education Association, addressed the new state rule, Academic Pathway to Teaching Level 1 License, which allows non-educators to teach in Utah public schools.  She thanked CSD’s Human Resource Department for their hard work, and expressed concern that non-educators without training or mentoring would be in Canyons classrooms.

    Randy Olsen, a teacher at Jordan High, said that while he finds some merit to the new, alternative pathway regulation, it’s not a sustainable remedy to the teacher shortage. True reform will entail paying teachers more and scrutinizing college-level teacher training programs, he said.

    Mark Bessendorfer, fifth-grade teacher in CSD, said he was disappointed in the Academic Pathways to Teaching rule. He said the rule sends the message that trained educators are not valued. He said the Instructional Supports Department does a good job with professional-development for the District’s teachers.  He said that he’s concerned about the program because non-educators will be assigned to teach children. 

    Kathleen Riebe, parent and candidate for the Utah State Board of Education, said she worries about how the Academic Pathways to Teaching will be implemented, and how it will affect schools and students. She applauded the work that CSD is doing, and encouraged the Board and Administration to keep high standards when hiring men and women for classroom teaching jobs.

    Superintendent’s Report

    Dr. Briscoe said he has been pleased by back-to-school preparations as he's visited all five traditional high schools, stopped by the new Butler Elementary, and some of the elementary and middle schools. He invited the community to the Thursday, Aug. 18 ribbon-cutting ceremony. 

    Business Administrator’s Report

    Leon Wilcox said the water heaters and the boilers at Alta High are installed, He also gave an update on the Bell View parking lot project, which is expected to be done by Friday. New carpet has been installed at Bell View, as well. He thanked CSD’s IT department for their work on online registration. He also said there are some spots still available in CSD’s Supplemental Hours of Instruction for Kindergarten program. 

    Board of Education Reports

    Mr. Robert Green said he participated in the Midvale Harvest Days Parade with Mr. Steve Wrigley. He also toured the construction site of Midvale Middle. He also commented on the new APT rule. 

    Mrs. Amber Shill invited the community to the Butler Elementary ribbon-cutting. She also said she’s looking forward to attending the annual lunch that Cottonwood Heights holds for the Teachers of the Year in the city’s schools and the first-day-of-activities throughout Canyons District.

    Mr. Nancy Tingey addressed the Board’s vote to request the waiver from the state to not administer the SAGE test to juniors. She said she hoped the public would see that the District is not decreasing the rigor of the junior year, but instead putting emphasis on measures, such as the ACT, that would give schools a better look at the students’ preparedness for college and careers.  She also reported on her attendance at Hillcrest’s “academic boot camp.” 

    Mr. Steve Wrigley, participating via telephone, said he is looking forward to the coming school year. He also said he enjoyed participating in the Midvale Harvest Days Parade. 

    Mrs. Clareen Arnold expressed appreciation for all administrators, teachers and staff who have worked hard to get the District prepared for the start of school

    Mr. Chad Iverson also thanked employees for their hard work and dedication in preparing schools for the first day. 

    President Taylor said APT is a “slippery slope” and the District needs to be careful in how we handle it. He said the employees who addressed the Board were “spot on” in their comments and urged the Administration to be cautious as the District moves forward. He also thanked the Sandy City Police Officers for attending and providing security at the Board meeting.
    This cat can swim.
    Former Bengal Long Gutierrez, who shattered more than 40 Utah High School Activity Association swimming records while competing for Brighton High, vied this week for Olympic gold at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio De Janeiro against such history-making swimmers as Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
    Gutierrez, one of just three swimmers competing for the Mexican Olympic swim team, finished seventh in his 100-meter butterfly heat on Thursday. His time of 53.34 seconds wasn't enough to qualify for the semifinals — but Gutierrez says it was an experience he’s been dreaming of since he started swimming competitively.
    “Not the results I was hoping for but this was one of the best experiences I have had in my swimming career so far,” he wrote on his Instagram page. “Proud to be able to represent Mexico and have so many people support me on my Olympic journey.”
    His fans at Brighton High anxiously awaited the news about his heat on Thursday.  “We are just so proud he is there,” said Brighton High Principal Charisse Hilton.
    Gutierrez’s, whose parents moved to Cottonwood Heights from Mexico when he was 2 in order to give their son more opportunities, led the Brighton High boys swim team to consecutive 5A state titles.  The dual citizen is now a senior at University of Calfornia, Berkeley,, and will return to school on scholarship this fall. When not in the pool, the dual citizen hits the books in pursuit of a degree in integrated biology.  
    “I’m just excited to be here,” Gutierrez told the Deseret News about his Olympic experience.  “Even with that like, that swim not being where I wanted. I’m stoked to be here. That feeling is incredible.”
    Educators work their hearts out every day to ensure children excel academically. But many of their students start the school year without the basic supplies they need to succeed.

    So, when the Canyons Education Foundation announced it was holding a donation drive to fill backpacks for homeless students  — teachers delivered. Hundreds of educators, administrators and support staff participated in Canyons District’s inaugural back-to-school “Gathering for Good” on Friday where they enjoyed a BBQ lunch and then lined up to help stuff backpacks. Sandy-based Sodaholics sold cold drinks, gifting half of all proceeds to the foundation. By midday, dozens of boxes of supplies and nearly 400 fully stocked backpacks had been loaded into a truck bound for students in transition or residing at the Road Home homeless shelter in Midvale.

    Located within Canyons School District’s (CSD) boundaries is Utah’s largest family shelter where demand has grown 300 percent in five years, according to CSD’s Homeless Liaison Connie Crosby. Her caseload, as of July, exceeded 350 school children.

    “The need is high, but thankfully, we have a very generous community,” she said. “I couldn’t do my job without the community behind me. I’m so very appreciative.”

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  • A new year. A new home. A fresh look. There are a lot of changes in store for Butler Elementary.

    Not only will students be attending classes in a new school building this fall, but when they enter the lobby for the first time, they’ll be greeted by a modernized version of their Bobcat logo. And if ever they need a little academic inspiration, they can pay a visit to the bronze bobcat statue perched in the main hall, which patrons commissioned from a local artist to serve as a reminder of the Butler’s 139-year history. “Our hope is that students can touch the Bobcat in passing as a reminder to work for good grades,” said Debbie Tyler, a member of the “Friends of Butler Elementary” committee that raised $9,500 to pay for the sculpture.

    Students, their families and members of the community are invited to a sneak preview of the new Butler Elementary — and its new logo and statue — at a ribbon-cutting ceremony and Open House on Thursday, Aug. 18. A reception starts at 5:30 p.m., and the ceremony will begin promptly at 6 p.m. 

    First established in 1877, Butler Elementary has “a wonderful history and loyal following” of community members who are eager to see the inside of the new facility, which they’ve watched take shape over the past year, Tyler says. The rebuild was completed with proceeds from a $250 million bond that voters approved in June 2010.

    Of the building’s features, most remarkable of all are its uninterrupted, 360-degree views of the mountain-rimmed Salt Lake Valley. West-facing classrooms look out upon the Oquirrh range, and east-facing rooms offer a close-up of the Wasatch. Look north and it’s possible to spot Mount Olympus. Gaze south and see just past the Point of the Mountain. 

    So it’s fitting that this latest addition to the Canyons District be themed around world-famous canyons. Each learning suite is designated by a color to correspond with renowned hikes in Utah (Buckskin Gulch), California (Kings Canyon), Hawaii (Waimea Canyon), Alaska (Keystone Canyon), Arizona (Antelope Canyon) and Texas (Palo Duro). “It helps with wayfinding. This way any child, no matter what age, can identify with the different areas of the building,” explains Alex Booth, one of the architects at VCBO. 

    The building, with its jutting stairwells that lead to a balcony overlooking the school’s cafeteria was designed to leave students with that top-of-the-world feeling — and artist David Jackson hopes his statue does much the same. “I want kids to be able to walk around it and touch it so that they can relate to it and it becomes a special, cool thing at the school. It should be a way to help develop school pride; I envision kids taking pictures by it or even holding classroom discussions around it.”

    Jackson has been working as a professional artist for more than 40 years. Known for his accurate depictions of wildlife and western landscapes, the Ogden native is often called upon to produce sculptures for colleges and universities. But he says the Butler project has special meaning for him. “I taught high school art for 27 years at Bonneville High in South Ogden,” he says. “And I used to do a lot of artist-in-residence work with elementary-age kids.”

    Jackson’s interest in art began at a young age, and he says his parents recognized his talent and encouraged it. “That’s what good teachers do, whether they’re teaching art, English or math. They recognize kids who have a passion or a talent and look for ways to reinforce them.”

    Perhaps the bobcat will inspire students to follow their passion. “I would say if something brings you joy,” says Jackson, “then pursue it, and practice, practice, practice.”


    ·      Butler Elementary was first established in 1877

    ·      With its rock base, the life-sized bronze bobcat weighs well over 500 pounds

    ·      Since its inception in 2009, Canyons District has completed an average of two construction projects each year.

    Monday, 08 August 2016 19:22

    Online Registration

    All returning students must register online through their Skyward account beginning on August 4th. This registration confirms to the school that you will be attending Canyons Transition Academy this year and gives you the opportunity to update contact information.
    A new school year brings lots of changes and challenges for kids of all ages. But if there’s one year that’s especially critical — and often the most unsettling — for students, it’s the 9th grade.

    Ninth grade has become known as the “make or break” year of high school, because how students perform in the first months of their freshman year can determine whether they drop out or graduate. But the stakes don’t have to be that high, believes Hillcrest High Principal Greg Leavitt who test-piloted a summer boot camp this year to ease the transition for entering freshmen and put them on the path to excel their first year and beyond.

    About 80 students attended the inaugural program where for 30 days they received four hours of daily instruction in math, science, English and geography. The voluntary program was a commitment for students and teachers who had to forgo their summer breaks. But students who completed the coursework will start high school ahead of their peers, with a quarter of an elective credit under their belts. On Friday at a special ceremony, they received certificates of completion. Those with perfect attendance, or who finished all their work on time, also received cash incentives of up to $400 provided by the United Way of Greater Salt Lake.

    “A high school diploma is the ticket to the show of life,” Leavitt told students and their families. “There’s not a parent in here who doesn’t want their child to succeed.” But 9th grade is a period of struggle for many students.  There’s the newness of the school, and teachers, and the fact that for the first time, students have to earn passing grades in some pretty tough classes. As a result, studies show, freshmen have lower grade point averages and more absences, failing grades and behavior referrals than their older peers.bootcamp4.jpg

    In a house editorial, the Deseret News called the boot camp a cost-effective, "smart, sensible and innovative" fix for a persistent problem in education. “Improving the quality of public education in Utah has and will forever present unique challenges. Our demographics make it difficult to fund schools on a per-pupil basis as generously as do other states, even though we contribute a proportionately large percentage of public funds to education," reads the opinion piece. "The Canyons School District’s boot camp experiment is a commendable example of a tactical approach to dealing with a specific problem — one that happens to be at the heart of any education system’s principal mission — to make sure students who show up on the first day of school are still there when the bell rings on graduation day.”

    Hillcrest worked with middle schools in its feeder system to identify students who would most benefit from the boot camp, and invited them to sign a contract saying they would show up each day. Roughly 88 percent honored the contract and finished the program. “The fact that these kids who face a lot of challenges in their lives came here and completed the rigorous coursework is a testament to their character,” said Leavitt. Some students gave their stipends to their parents to supplement family food budgets.

    The boot camp is part of a larger, Board of Education-approved initiative to boost student achievement at Hillcrest by identifying struggling learners before they reach high school and offering them early supports. The investment is tangible proof of the Board’s commitment to Canyons School District’s mission of preparing all students for the rigors of college and careers, said Superintendent Jim Briscoe who advised students at Friday’s celebration to put aside the goal of graduation for now and focus on more immediate tasks. 

    “All I want you to do is get to school on time and get through the first eight weeks with no failing grades,” he said. People often set big college and career goals for themselves, and then get overwwhelmed by them because they neglect the intermediary steps, Briscoe explained while urging students to focus on the now. With small successes will come bigger successes, he added. “You came here during the summer while your buddies were skateboarding and at the swimming pool. Do you know what that tells me? It tells me that you have what it takes to succeed.”