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Canyons District, U. Forge Innovative Partnership


The Canyons Board of Education embraced a first-of-its-kind partnership with the University of Utah that will give flight to the higher-education aspirations of stellar students attending Alta High School. A Memo of Understanding between CSD and the U. was approved during the Board of Education’s business meeting. The alliance is the U.’s second academic, early-college partnership with a secondary school. However, it is the tier-one, PAC 12 research institution’s first official collaboration with a traditional, comprehensive public high school. The Canyons program — called Step2theU — will grant a select cohort of Alta-enrolled students the opportunity to study with U. professors and instructors at the U.’s Sandy Campus. Alta’s administration aims to open the first competitive application process in the coming months. Those selected would need to be prepared to start in summer 2017. Hawks seeking to become Utes through the program will submit applications during the fall of their junior years. If accepted, the students will be introduced to Step2theU during a summer-block program. Coursework would begin between the students’ junior and senior years, and provide an opportunity for students to finish one semester of college. Then, in the summer months after high school graduation and before the start of their freshman years, the students would take enough general-education coursework to complete another semester. In essence, by the time the Alta students reach their first day of school at the U., they would have two complete semesters completed. By participating, Alta Principal Brian McGill says, Alta students could expect to save $8,000 to $10,000 in tuition, fees and other associated college costs. The first-ever cohort would be made up of 30-35 students. The target audience of students would include current Alta students who have solid grade-point averages, as well as involvement in AP and concurrent enrollment. However, the students who submit applications will be asked to detail their engagement in school extracurriculars, demonstrate leadership and personal engagement with the community, and declare a preference in continuing their studies at the U. In addition, McGill said, the program would be heavily marketed to first-generation, minority, and low-income students. The program is expected to cost the District $70,000 per year. 

Budget Hearing

Fiscal Year 2017 will be the seventh consecutive year without a property tax increase in the Canyons District. Following a public hearing, the Board unanimously approved a financial plan for Canyons District for fiscal year 2016-2017. Major items in the nearly $405 million budget include:
  • A legislatively approved 3 percent increase in per pupil spending.
  • Negotiated contracts with teachers, staff and administrators, which include cost-of-living pay increases and cover a rise in heath insurance premiums.
  • A Board-approved effort to bolster the achievement of the schools in the Hillcrest High feeder system. The pilot initiative will put into place a method for tracking and transitioning Midvale-area students from one school to the next, as well as start an intensive summer-school program to help address the academic needs of struggling teen students.
  • A first-of-its-kind partnership with the University of Utah that will give flight to higher-education aspirations of students attending Alta High School. The program — called Step2theU — will grant a select co-hort of Alta-enrolled students the opportunity to study with University of Utah professors and instructors at the U.’s Sandy Campus and earn college credit while still in high school.
  • More money for school supplies and utilities.
  • Money to keep class sizes at current levels.
The Board also unanimously approved a revised budget for fiscal year 2015-2016, which accounts for higher-than-expected property tax collections; budget carryovers from 2014-2015; the purchase of elementary math textbooks; elementary office remodels for security; and completion of the new Mount Jordan Middle School.

“Prosperity 20/20” Presents Referendum Idea for School Funding

The Board of Education heard a presentation by Rich Kendell from “Prosperity 20/20,” a business-led movement that acts to forward education innovation, especially in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The organization proposes to allow Utah residents to vote on whether we increase taxes 7/8ths of one percent to bolster Utah public education. He said the money would be earmarked only for education and would be run through local school boards.  Kendell gave information to the Board detailing how much each CSD school would receive if such a referendum were approved by Utah residents. 

Board OK’s Resolution Thanking CSD Legislators

The Board of Education approved a resolution thanking the members of the Utah Senate and House of Representatives for their service during the 2016 General Session of the Utah Legislature. In the resolution, the Board thanked the lawmakers for their responsiveness to the needs of the District, such as a reasonable cost-of-living-adjustment for employees; ongoing benefit, retirements and salary commitments; resources for a program to bolster academic achievement in the Hillcrest feeder system; and summer education activities for The Road Home in Midvale The Board also thanked Utah Speaker Greg Hughes for recognizing the cooperative relationships between the legislature and CSD. Specifically, the resolution named Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Speaker Hughes; Sens. Brian Shiozowa and Howard Stephenson; and Reps. Steve Eliason, Bruce Cutler, Marie Poulson, Robert Spendlove and LaVar Christensen.

Proposed Changes to Parent School Support Group Policy

Proposed minor procedural changes to a policy that was created in 2015 to govern parent school support associations were presented to the Board for consideration. The changes to the Parent School Support Association/Organization came about after receiving feedback from the public. The changes would allow for a school community election to determine the designated parent-support group every five years. The group that seeks to be the official parent group also would need to submit to the District a notice of intent and application before Oct. 1 of the school year. In addition, according to the proposed changes, school employees who want to receive information regarding a parent school-support group would need to express the interest in writing to the Superintendent or designee.  The proposed changes also would give 30 days from the day the Board gives a notice of approval and verification for the group to file a petition for election. A community meeting also would be held to allow for all parents to hear from both the current official parent-support group and the petitioners. The Board will consider the proposed changes at a future meeting. 

Homeless-Student Summer Program

The Board of Education heard a report from Student Advocacy and Access Director Karen Sterling about summer programming for children who are finding housing at The Road Home homeless shelter in Midvale. Several dozen children whose families now use the Midvale shelter recently began receiving educational services after the Utah State Board of Education approved a one-time request to fund the program through July 1. The State Board unanimously approved allocating $15,000, money that comes from Federal Mineral Lease revenue in the State Board’s discretionary account and at the request of legislators who earlier this year funded a portion of the summer program. Together with a private $10,000 donation, the allocation will secure the program throughout June. It is anticipated that federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) dollars will be available on July 1. Until this year, The Road Home in Midvale has been open from November through March. Students there were, and will continue to be, welcomed to neighborhood schools in the Canyons District or transported back to their school of origin during the regular school year. Over the past few years, the shelter has been reconstructed and will now operate year-round. The educational program will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and include meals, academic instruction from Canyons certified teachers, field trips, and other activities. The Midvale Boys and Girls Club has partnered with Canyons in providing services.

Commencement Discussion

The Board of Education discussed the various commencement rites they attended.  Board member commented on positive parts of the events, such as touching student speeches, and challenges, such as sound systems that didn’t work well. In all, 2,540 students received CSD diplomas this year. Sixty-two percent received the unique-to-CSD Advanced or Honors Diplomas, which signify the students went above and beyond the state requirements for graduation.

Consent Agenda

The Board approved the consent agenda, including purchasing bids; student overnight travel; hire and terminations; May financial reports; 2016-2017 Board meeting dates; and a resolution of appreciation to area legislators. 

Adoption of High School Earth Science Textbook

The Board asked the Administration to seek input from the public on a high school Earth Science textbook that is up for adoption. The public review process will last two weeks. The textbook was recommended by a review committee made up of CSD secondary-school teachers. Board members said they wanted more time to review the book and receive public comment. The text that committee members selected is Pearson’s 14th edition of “Earth Science,” by Tarbuck and Lutgens. The teachers said the book aligns with the Utah State Earth Science Standards and contains an appropriate level of rigor and descriptions and diagrams of Earth processes that are easy to understand. The book also has QR codes that take students directly to short video lessons. There also is a Spanish version of the text. 

Sandy City Redevelopment Proposal



The Board listened to a presentation about proposed inter-local agreements to approve CDAs for a downtown Sandy project. The Board decided to continue the discussion at another meeting.

Decision Regarding Termination Appeal 

The Board decided to hear additional testimony regarding an appeal of an employee termination. According to policy, that testimony will come at a future Board meeting, as determined by the Board of Education’s leadership team. 

Patron Comments

Patron Steve VanMaren urged the Board members to post commencement addresses online so those who didn’t attend could read what was said during the rites. 

Superintendent, Business Administrator Reports

Superintendent Briscoe thanked Business Administrator Leon Wilcox for his work on the budget.  He also expressed appreciation for Assistant Superintendent Dr. Bob Dowdle and Principal Brian McGill, the two CSD administrators spearheading the partnerships with the University of Utah.  He also lauded Denise Haycock for her work as the new assistant to the Superintendent, CFO and the Board.

Wilcox said the Board would continue to receive updates on facility projects in the District. He also wished Tyler Toone, the CSD’s web master for the past seven years, much luck as he moves to another professional opportunity. 

Board Member Reports

Mr. Chad Iverson asked the Board to discuss CTESS during the upcoming Board retreat. He also urged the Board to discuss how the District can continue to drive academic achievement. Mr. Iverson also said Lagoon Day is an important tradition in CSD for students to have fun together as they leave middle school for high school.

Mrs. Clareen Arnold thanked Mr. Wilcox for explaining the budget in a simple way. She also thanked those who worked hard to make commencement special for the students, parents and teachers. She told Board leadership she’d like to review the evaluation systems, and examine how we retain our teachers. She also would like the District to look at how free time and play time can help students not be so stressed after working hard in a subject for an hour.  She also said the Board should discuss how the District could focus on guiding students toward careers in the arts.

Mr. Steve Wrigley reported on being part of the audit committee. He is looking forward to the upcoming Board retreat. He asked the Board to focus not only college- and career-readiness but readiness for the rigors of life.

Mrs. Nancy Tingey asked the Board, in its upcoming retreat, to discuss values, indicators and targets. Key performance indicators also are topics the Board may do well to discuss, she said.  Tingey also said USBA is hosting a seminar at the Little America in downtown Salt Lake City with national experts on the Every Student Succeeds Act, the reauthorization on the No Child Left Behind Act. Board members and the Administration are invited to attend. 

Mrs. Amber Shill said she’d like to talk about a grading policy in the District. At the retreat, she’d also like to discuss building a vision statement and goals, and increasing student achievement.

Mr. Robert Green visited Midvale Middle’s construction site. He also urged other Board members to take a tour of the still-under-construction school. Green also said the Board should revisit the topic of gifted and talented services in the District. 

Mr. Sherril H. Taylor congratulated the Class of 2016, their parents, teachers, and the administrators who helped oversee the schools during the year. He’d like a timeline for when information is submitted to the Board for consideration.

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