When the sun rose 10 years ago on a hot August morning, change was in the air. Bus drivers were heading out on brand new routes. Nutrition workers were starting from scratch as they planned students’ meals. Principals and teachers were preparing to welcome students for the first time to a school they’d always known, but now it was different. It was the first day of school, Aug. 26, 2009, in the first school district to be created in Utah in nearly 100 years. The momentum of days and weeks leading up to this important day in Canyons District began two years earlier, on Nov. 6, 2007, when residents of Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Midvale, Sandy and the town of Alta voted to create a new school district with a blank slate and a mandate from the people that it be responsive to the community and guided by innovative ideals. From that historic vote and those first days, the Canyons Board of Education has directed its vision toward one clear goal: to help every student graduate college- and career-ready in a world-class school District built on the tenets of student achievement, community engagement, customer service, innovation and fiscal accountability. With these guiding principles, CSD, as one of the largest school district’s in Utah, has kept close to the desires of its original founders — the patrons of Canyons School District — in creating learning environments with cutting-edge technological capabilities, instructional scaffolding that supports teachers and administrators, and developing innovative programs that lead students to educational and personal success.
As CSD’s first superintendent, Dr. David Doty, wasted no time building the groundwork for a new District that was determined to research and implement the best ways of operating, rather than following old traditions. In a short time, math and reading curriculums were streamlined in each school so that teachers in any given grade were using the same materials and assessments for instruction. Key pieces were put into place to realign school boundaries so that sixth-graders would enter middle school and ninth-graders would enter high school, and a new standard for graduation in CSD was implemented through the creation of Advanced and Honors Diplomas. In 2010, Canyons’ voters approved a $250 million bond campaign to start an ambitious school-improvement program to upgrade and replace aging schools.
After five years, Doty stepped down to purse a new professional opportunity, and Dr. Ginger Rhode, previously the Deputy Superintendent, began her term as Interim Superintendent. Rhode oversaw the implementation of a major grade shift as sixth-graders moved into middle school, and she maintained a construction schedule that furthered work on remodeling and rebuilding schools at breakneck speed.
In 2014, the Canyons Board of Education hired Dr. Jim Briscoe to guide the District forward. In his tenure, Briscoe oversaw the completion of construction projects from a $250 million bond from 2010 and a successful bond campaign for $283 million in 2017. Under Dr. Briscoe, Canyons’ graduation rate reached 90 percent and CSD students continued to best their peers statewide on year-end exams. He helped pave the way for the launch of: Canyons’ alternative high school, Diamond Ridge High; a tuition-based Supplemental Kindergarten Program for families looking for the full kindergarten experience; and Alta High’s Step2theU program through which students can get a jump on college while in high school. More than a builder of school buildings and innovative programs, Dr. Briscoe was a builder of relationships and always looking for ways to strengthen school communities and the school-to-home connection. Under his watch, the Board of Education approved some kind of compensation increase every year, including historic pay increases for teachers.
In April, 2020, shortly after Dr. Briscoe announced his retirement, the Board appointed Dr. Rick L. Robins as Superintendent and tasked him with overseeing the District’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic while charting a course for the near and distant future. With the goal of keeping schools open and students safely learning, Canyons contributed to coronavirus monitoring and testing innovations that have been adopted by school systems throughout the country. The District also launched Canyons Online, a remote-learning program that allows organized, self-driven students to learn at their own pace and from the location of their choosing. Under Robins, Canyons became the third school district in Utah to earn systemwide accreditation through Cognia and underwent a strategic planning review, which will serve as a guidepost for coming years.
Since its creation, Canyons has followed a trajectory of innovation and excellence with the quality of student education as its lodestar. From the first day Canyons became a district on July 1, 2009, teachers, administrators, and the Canyons Board of Education have brought passion, creativity, and a mindset that anything is possible to Canyons’ communities. The beginning years have been remarkable, but all eyes are on the future. We invite you to come be a part of building something great. Come be a part of Canyons.