Board Meeting Summary, September 7, 2021

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

State Board Rule on Equity in Schools

 A rule that governs equity in Utah schools, which went into effect on Aug. 8, 2021, was outlined by Canyons Superintendent Dr. Rick Robins. The rule, he said, was created and put into place to clarify what concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion can be taught, or not taught, in Utah’s public schools. Robins said the rule provides a definition of “equity” in Utah schools, directs districts to conduct education-equity training with teachers, and sets parameters for those trainings. The rule, Dr. Robins said, guarantees equitable access to opportunities for growth and learning — but does not guarantee outcomes. Only the hard work and commitment of students is considered in the outcome. The rule, as approved by the Utah State Board of Education, states: “’Educational equity’ means acknowledging that all students are capable of learning and distributing resources to provide equal opportunities based upon the needs of each individual student.” For examples, he mentioned such graduates as Corner Canyon’s Zach Wilson and Brighton’s Simi Fehoko, who took advantage of academic and athletic opportunities at their high schools before going to BYU and Stanford, respectively, and then earning spots on NFL teams. Robins mentioned Anthony Cheng, whose studies at Hillcrest led him to become the state all-around Sterling Scholar and a National Merit Scholar on his way to an Ivy League education. Additionally, Dr. Robins highlighted the efforts of Hillcrest gradate Abel Hagos, a refugee from Eritrea who was provided access to a high school education at Hillcrest after being placed in Utah by refugee-assistance services. Equity also means providing students opportunities to become college- and career-ready, including early-college programs like Alta High “Step to the U.,” Canyons’ alternative paths to graduation, summer academies at Hillcrest and Jordan high schools, and proven early literacy instruction. Inclusion, he noted, means the practice of ensuring students feel a sense of belonging and support. Dr. Robins said that schools should foster a learning environment and workplace that are safe and respectful of all students and educators, align teaching practices with Utah Professional Learning Standards and USBE’s Portrait of a Graduate, denounce racism, establish Professional Learning Communities, and collaborate with diverse communities and implement strategies of inclusion. Moreover, Robins noted that CSD has hired Sunlight Works to guide CSD in diversity, equity and inclusion training. A Board subcommittee for strategic planning is reviewing curriculum and instruction, policies and procedures, and students access to wellness supports. He also said CSD will redouble efforts to build and maintain safe, welcoming, and neutral spaces for exploring ideas. 

Accreditation Update

Canyons School District is undergoing accreditation, the process used by schools, colleges and universities to meet and maintain standards of educational quality and integrity. Accreditation is assurance for our families of our academic and operational excellence, explained School Performance Director Cindy Hanson and Instructional Supports Associate Director Jesse Hennefer, in an update to the Board of Education. For its accreditation review, a five-year process that began in 2019, Canyons will be using Cognia, the accrediting body endorsed by the Utah State Board of Education. More than 500 K-12 private and public schools throughout the state, including charter and private schools, are accredited through Cognia. It’s a large undertaking that involves a thorough review of the District’s strengths and areas for improvement based on a common set of standards. Principals and school personnel have provided input through surveys and focus groups, and will continue to be involved throughout the process. In September and October, families, students, community members, and other stakeholders will also be invited to participate in focus groups. An accreditation team has been created to collect data for submission to evaluators who will do a site visit Oct. 18-21 to meet with the Superintendent and Board of Education. They’ll also meet with stakeholder focus groups with the aim of providing a written report to the District. The Board directed the Administration to make detailed information about the process on the District’s website.

Social-Emotional Learning

Canyons District launched mental-health and character-education supports for students when officials saw an alarming increase in reports of suicide ideation and serious behaviors that resulted in out-of-school suspension, BJ Weller, Director of Responsive Services, said in an update to the Board of Education. Among the reasons to put social-emotional learning programs into place, he said, was to meet state-board rule and address the underlying behaviors that were leading to suicide attempts or ideation or habitual truancy or absenteeism. In response, the Board of Education adopted “Second Step” and “School-Connect” social-emotional learning programs for elementary and secondary schools. Since that time, Weller said, schools have reported fewer office referrals and teachers are saying there are fewer conflicts between students in classes. He also noted that a formal program review is being done and expected to be completed by end of 2021-2022. Weller also recommended that a committee made up of parents, teachers, administrators and student-services staff be created to review social-emotional learning curriculum. CSD also has created an SEL curriculum-implementation check list, including a school-administration and Building Leadership Team review of the curriculum, presentations to the SCC and the PTA, and a communication to parents. An implementation team will lead the effort at the school. Weller also noted the opt-out form for all curriculum that parents could sign and submit if they did not want their children to participate in social-emotional learning. Dr. Robins noted that CSD has pushed pause on high school SEL use until a review can be conducted. 

Strategic Planning Update

Education Elements’ Drew Schantz updated the Board on the focus groups held as part of the strategic-plan process. He also discussed the next steps that will be taken in the process. 

USBA Update

Board member Mont Millerberg updated the Board on upcoming events of the Utah School Boards Association, including a Leadership Academy that will be held next week in Midway.

Consent Agenda

The Board of Education approved the Consent Agenda, including approval of hire and termination reports; purchasing bids, student-overnight travel requests; Juul mass-tort lawsuit joining agreement, and the list of new Foundation Board members.

Employee Evaluations

Career and provisional educators will be evaluated this year using the established Canyons Teacher Effectiveness Support System (CTESS) and Canyons Leadership And Support System Evaluations (CLASS) systems, Shawnda Moss, CSD’s Human Resources Evaluation and APPEL Specialist, told the Board of Education. The COVID-19 modifications that were put into place during the pandemic will be removed from the evaluations for this year, Moss said. 

Patron Comment

The following patrons addressed the Board. Recordings of their comments can be found on BoardDocs:

  • Parent Stacie Petersen addressed social-emotional learning programs.
  • Parent Jennifer Nazzarro spoke about COVID-19 safety guidelines.
  • Parent Lisa Bruns spoke about accreditation and the equity audit.
  • Parent Connie Slaughter spoke about Education Elements.
  • Parent Adam Cota spoke about COVID-19 safety guidelines.
  • Parent Holly Marz spoke about social-emotional learning.
  • Parent Jessica Anderson spoke about opt-in and opt-out forms for curriculum.
  • Patron Barbara Petty spoke about social-emotional learning.
  • Patron Catherine Petty spoke about social-emotional learning.
Recognitions

The following students, faculty and staff were recognized by the Board of Education for their achievements:

  • Jordan High golfer Preston Cheney for winning a qualifying golf tournament for a national competition. 
  • Jordan High’s counseling team for winning the “FAFSA Cup” for encouraging high school seniors to complete the federal forms that qualify students for financial aid.
  • Brighton High school psychologist Scott Mitchell for providing assistance to a School Resource Officer who recently had an altercation with a student in front of the school.
  • Alarm Responder Bill Bailey who helped police apprehend a suspect in robberies at CSD schools. 
Region 17 PTA Leadership

The new Region 17 PTA Director is Terri Francis.  She succeeds Tonya Rhodes as the leader of CSD’s PTA organization. The Associate Director is Liz Miles. 

Special Education and USBE Audit Report

Special Education Director Misty Suarez updated the Board on the 14 indicators of compliance in the Utah Program Improvement Planning System (UPIPS), which is used to monitor and support adherence to federal and state requirements. UPIPS is used to develop an annual program improvement plan.  Suarez said students with disabilities in CSD are graduating at higher rates and drop-out rates have decreased. Canyons also is  consistently increasing participation/proficiency in alternative assessments, and pioneering preschool least-restrictive environments. Early Childhood Administrator Terri Mitchell said CSD is focusing on ensuring that children with disabilities have appropriate growth in preschool.  Mitchell also said internal data is showing that CSD preschoolers leave the program ready for kindergarten. Program Administrator Nate Edvalson told the Board of Education that Canyons remains committed to helping students with disabilities be prepared for post-secondary training or employment.  He said about 90 percent of students with disabilities have successfully completed a transition plan.  Among other initiatives, Edvalson said the Special Education Department has increased collaboration at the school level between work-based learning and special-education department, which also has started to administer its own post-high school survey.

504 Implementation Plan

Some 900 students in Canyons District are on 504 plans that require schools to provide accommodations for a disability, said BJ Weller, Director of Responsive Services.  Program Administrator Chanci Loran is setting up appointments with school administrators to talk about 504 implementation.

Superintendent, Business Administrator Report

Superintendent Dr. Rick Robins recognized the Region 17 PTA leadership and School Community Council leaders for attending the Superintendent Luncheons. Dr. Robins also thanked the Board for joining the mass tort lawsuit against Juul, the makers of e-cigarettes. He expressed appreciation to patrons for attending the meeting and participating in the Patron Comment portion of the meeting. 

Business Administrator Leon Wilcox thanked the CSD community — teachers, Education Support Professionals, principals and parents — who helped Canyons start the school year, considering the labor shortage, especially in our cafeterias.  He said that jobs are available in Canyons if anyone wants to work.

Board of Education Member Report

Mr. Mont Millerberg reported on attending the first day of kindergarten at Midvalley Elementary, urged the Board and Administration to continue discussions on the possible boundary changes in Midvale-area schools, and noted the quality of people who have joined the Canyons Education Foundation Board.

Mrs. Amber Shill thanked patrons for presenting their comments during Patron Comment and in emails sent to the Board members. She thanked Dr. Robins for his efforts during the Listening Tour.  She attended meetings of the Audit Committee, Calendar Committee, and the South Valley Chamber Women in Business.  She remarked on Cottonwood Heights’ tradition of giving a gift basket to the Cottonwood Heights-area Teachers of the Year

Mrs. Amanda Oaks thanked patrons for presenting their input and said children benefit when parents are invested in their kids’ education. She encouraged Board members to attend USBA trainings, and thanked Dr. Robins for organizing a visit to Arizona State University to see its online-learning emphasis. 

Mr. Steve Wrigley said he received a positive note about Sandy Elementary Principal Shawn Walker, the content of which was a stark contrast with the vitriol that is being shown to educators and school staff in many parts of the District.  He also reported on attending the ASU visit to learn more about online learning. A challenge of being on the Board, he said, is hearing from the differing voices in the community, and then finding compromises that both sides are willing to accept. 

Mrs. Holly Neibaur thanked the parents and patrons for speaking during Patron Comment and for advocating for their children. She encouraged the Board to begin discussions on how technology can be used in a positive way, both academically and socially.  She also noted the successful start of school and the fun red-carpet celebrations. Personalized education is really what equity is all about, she said.

Mrs. Clareen Arnold reported on attending the Audit Committee. 

President Tingey mentioned the School Community Council training, and said that she’s appreciated the goodness of people, even during politically charged times. 

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