Paula Hill 4 School Board

February 5, 2013

JANUARY 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 5:10 am

JANUARY 8 BOARD MEETING

NEW BOARD MEMBERS     The first Board meeting of 2013 began with the swearing in of two new board members and the re-installation of another. Brian Halladay will represent the Pleasant Grove cluster and Scott Carlson the newly-formed Lehi cluster. Lehi has been my area for the past two years, giving me two high schools, three middle schools and twenty elementary schools in one hundred square miles, 25,000 of the 70,000 students in ASD. Whew! While I have loved my Lehi constituents and worked hard to cover our vigorously growing region, true local control demands a Board member representing Lehi. So with both reluctance and relief I welcome the new configuration, which reduced the Orem Board members from three to two—Terry Peterson retired, and Debbie Taylor now represents both the Timpanogas and Orem High clusters. JoDee Sundberg (Mountain View cluster) was elected with me (Westlake cluster) two years ago, along with Wendy Hart (Lone Peak cluster) and John Burton (American Fork cluster). We run again in 2014. (Clusters consist of a high school and all its feeder schools)

ELECTION of BOARD OFFICERS     We also elected Board officers for the next two years. We work closely together, and seven is not such a big number that there are any surprises. Wendy Hart and John Burton ran for president, and I ran for vice president against JoDee Sundberg. John is our new president and JoDee the new veep, which I pretty well knew going in, but both Wendy and I wanted to provide a choice that would lead to discussion. If I am re-elected in two years, I will run for Board officer again. As I pointed out in discussions with my fellow members, I am a gracious loser, and I have plenty of practice as I often lose the vote on the Board. Hey, that’s good—my campaign promise was to speak up and to offer new and fresh ideas, so be happy for me, I am doing my job. Just not as vice president.

JANUARY 22 BOARD MEETING- study session

SPACE CENTER  The Space Center staff is currently in rehearsal and missions should be operational in the next week or so. The immediate short term plans are to run the Space Center at Central Elementary, even though not all of the simulators will be used, such as the Magellan. Clients will be limited to fifth grade so those children who might have missed out on this memorable activity during the updating will have a chance. There will be no after hours or weekend missions.  Long term plans are still on the drawing board. Options include a new building next to Central, or building on ASD property near the water tower in PG, or a partnership with Thanksgiving Point, who can offer 4,000 sq. ft. in the Dinosaur Museum that will be vacant immediately.

LEHI HIGH SCHOOL The re-build of Lehi High will accommodate for the growth anticipated before the second high school is open in 2016. There will be an 18-room satellite on the far north end of the school property (currently parking) ready for 2013-14, paid for by bond funds. The next project planned will be a three-story brick and mortar addition of 12-16 classrooms to be built at the southwest end of the school, projected to be paid from district funds. Future plans include an auditorium, also three-story, that would be an anchor for the school, and built dependending on funding.

THIS ‘N THAT

SCHOOL SECURITY  I have had many, many emails and letters about school security, as the shootings in Connecticut before Christmas have left us all more aware. The District has a safety committee that is reviewing a plethora of issues and has already directed some changes. It just wouldn’t make sense to list what they are doing and point out to the whole world (well, at least you, Dear Reader) any weaknesses. But all safety systems are being examined and 

USBA CONFERENCE   Alpine Board of Education members attended a two-day conference at the Little America Jan. 11-12. There were classes and training, including one very well-attended presentation on finances by ASD Financial Officer Rob Smith, displays and exhibits, discussion by and with legislators, and way too much to eat (burp).

BUS BARN IN SARATOGA SPRINGS Plans are moving forward for the bus barn on the northeast corner of the ASD property anchored by Westlake High, with a berm and landscaping to screen the buses. Housing the 100+ buses that serve Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain should save money for the District (and the taxpayer).  The Herald article mentioning natural gas facilities is a little premature, but we are discussing the option. There is natural gas available at the old bus barn in Lindon as a courtesy to the area, as ASD buses do not use natural gas.

TEXT BOOK SELECTION I have been asked about the selection of texts, especially history books, as patrons have become aware of the possibility of choices they feel may not be appropriate. Let me explain: classroom books are not only a school level decision, but a teacher choice. True, there is a list of approved materials at the state level, but the truth is teachers are in charge. When I taught social studies, as an adjunct to my English classes (a wonderful combination!) I cobbled together my curriculum from a variety of sources (all hail the copy machine!) and only have a vague recollection of texts available.

That being said, the question should be raised at the classroom level. If this is your child, it’s pretty easy to talk to the teacher. But if you do not have a direct connection, all patrons have a right to ask (politely) school personnel what resources are being used. Just stop by any ASD school and make a request.

SNOW DAYS We certainly have had some weather! When the snows hit, you can find out about closures at the ASD website by 6:30 a.m. and it will also be posted on Facebook and Twitter.

I had my own blizzard (small) of emails and phone calls last week from parents who did not agree with the District decision to hold school. I have passed on these comments to the decision-makers, and realize the quandary. When schools are open, you kind of assume the roads must be safe, and some patrons found themselves in situations that were certainly dangerous. My route to a Board meeting that is usually 15 minutes was 50, so you have my sympathy.

But there are so many consequences to a closure, it’s a hard decision to make at 5:30 on a dark winter morning. There are people in every corner of the District reporting in, and consequences must also be considered. Parents must scramble for day care, transportation details are shuffled, and then there’s coordinating with those not in the school system. Then comes April, when we do the make-up, another set of problems.  When I was teaching, an unexpected day off just meant my lesson plans were scrambled (and I usually did school work that day anyway) and I would have to change or cancel any plans I had for spring break, knowing I would be teaching to very small classes.

For the future, I would suggest the old nurse’s slogan: if in doubt, keep ‘em out. Of course there are consequences to that choice to, but another cliché, Safety First. Teachers should be pretty flexible with students who miss.

November 27, 2012

End of the year post

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 1:49 am

To Blog or Not to Blog … and the results are in

To those who answered my query about blogging, thanks for the positive—and kind— responses. That was a happy surprise—blogs are more or less a message in a bottle, you toss it out there and never know who may actually read it. Apparently enough of my friends are interested that I will commit to continue blogging, with the caveat that there may still be gaps. Life is what it is. And for my dear friend Lewis, who has counseled me from day #1 to not try to do too much, thanks for the good advice.

Tweet, Tweet, Twitter

I did not get a single email response saying the reader preferred Twitter, but I have had some sign on as followers. It’s actually kind of fun, and not the complication of Facebook. I insisted my dear husband, Mr. Wonderful, sign up and list me as his only “follow.” I have lured him into what we call “the dark side” (technology for seniors!) first by coaxing him into following my GPS (it saved our lives in Europe) and into texting me (very handy to find each other after one of my zillion meetings), and now Twitter.  We’ll see how this charming, old-world reactionary fares with this account.

Architectural Committee Selected for both Lehi high schools

The committee has been selected to decide on architect/s for the rebuild of Lehi High and the building of the new Lehi high school. The decision target date is January, but could be extended. They will look at architectural designs as well as the needs of the schools and make decisions to present to the Board before opening the discussion to the public.

One charge for the committee will be to include the purposes of a high school as the “place the community wants to gather,” a true community center. I love that underlying purpose of our schools.

Committee members are:

• Pete Swiderski – teacher at Willowcreek Middle School

• Rhonda Mortensen – ASD employee – Human Resources, patron of Lehi community

• Bert Wilson – Lehi Mayor

• Derek Todd – City Administrator – students in Lehi High and Lehi Jr.

• Joel Perkins – Principal – Lehi Jr.

• Sam Jarman – Asst. Supt. K-12

• David Mower – Principal – Lehi High

• Kraig Sweat – Physical Facilities – Construction Supervisor

• Ellie Bodily – Lehi District Community Council

• Chris Ivory – representing Ivory Homes – neighbors to the new school

• Scott Carlson – new ASD Board Member – LHS Community Council

• Jess Christen – Administrator – Supervisor over High Schools

• Chuck Bearce – Director of Physical Facilities

A.    Existing Lehi High  I am personally thrilled that we have been able to keep the old Lehi High School, what I call the Grand Old Lady, rich with generations of tradition. Of course I don’t mean as it currently stands, but with a complete rebuild as one of the three high schools currently under construction (Lehi, Pleasant Grove and American Fork).The master plans call for work done in phases, with completion projected within six years:

Phase I has been the remodel of the office and entry, the two-story classrooms built on the north, and installing artificial turf to allows multi-use of the athletic fields.

Current plans authorize an 18 classroom satellite building for the spring of 2013 to accommodate student growth

Phase II There has been discussion of starting with another two-story classroom addition as early as next summer.

Phase III future plans will include rebuilding the gym, lunchroom and parts of the main building.

B. New High School Timeline

November 2012 – Architect committee work started

January 2013 – selection of architect

February 2013 – steering committee (review designs – provide input)

March 2013 – selection of contractor/Construction Manager

July 2013 – finish design plans

October 2013 – Building & Grounds final review

Feb. 2014 – Bid construction

March 2014 – Start construction on new school

August 2016 – Open new high school

Board Meeting Tuesday, November 27  at Vineyard Elementary School

Study session 4:00 p.m.  A review of student enrollment projections.

Board meeting 6:00  Action Items

1. Utah Consolidated Application (The Board will vote on the district plan for student achievement that puts us in compliance with state requirements)

2. Property Agreement with Eagle Mountain (The Board will vote on the signed agreement for property for a new elementary school in Eagle Mountain north of SR 73 that will relieve overcrowding at Pony Express and Hidden Hollow–yay!)

New DCC members

I have appointed Vicki Shell to represent Saratoga Shores Elementary and Vista Heights Middle Schools on the District Community Council for the Westlake cluster. Earlier Kindra Jones agreed to represent Cedar Valley, Eagle Valley and Mountain Trails Elementary Schools, our schools to the farthest west–and I mean, waaay out there! Thanks for your service, Vicki and Kindra. I also appointed Paul Hancock to represent North Point, Lehi and Traverse Mountain Elementaries in the Lehi cluster, who will serve for the new board member (see the following)

New ASD School Board Members

Welcome to Scott Carlson, who was elected to represent Lehi on the Board beginning in January, 2013, and will start by replacing himself on the DCC where he now serves. This will cut my area of representation in half, a welcome relief after covering 100 square miles and almost one-third of the largest district in Utah! However, I can’t quite let go of my Lehi friends so easily, and will continue to represent my old home town unofficially. We also welcome Brian Halladay who will represent Pleasant Grove. Terry Peterson is stepping down from representing Orem as the city goes from three representatives to two with the census results. So the new Board will have quite a few changes.

Changes at Willow Creek

We will miss Principal Kestin Mattinson at Willow Creek Middle School, who has resigned for personal family medical reasons. Jarom Becar, the assistant principal, will be acting principal until a replacement can be appointed.

Catch-up  Since I have been so sloppy about keeping up my blog, I will share a couple of past issues. Much of Board work is routine, and to the casual observer would be B-O-R-E-D work (luckily I enjoy it, one of life’s little fairness awards). But once in a while I dissent, don’t sway the opinions of my fellow, but still feel I ought to explain myself to the larger community.

Values Before my tenure, the previous Board participated in creating ASD’s Mission, Vision, Values and Goals statement http://alpineschools.org/board-of-education-2/mission-vision-values-goals. As the policy committee reviewed the document, they brought recommendations to the Board to include a fifth value, Renewal. My input was that I would include another point: nowhere have we articulated a value that is shared by the educational leadership as well as the larger community, and that is the sovereignty of the family. Language creates reality, and putting ideas into words gives them a concreteness that would be appropriate. My suggestion was supported by Wendy Hart, opposed by others, and was sent back to the committee (the following Board meeting a patron, Robin Allred, supported my proposal during community comments).

New Eagle Mountain Middle School Boundary decision I also represented my little community of Fairfield, with an elementary school of 136 students, in their request to keep their middle school students at Vista Heights rather than move to the new middle school in Eagle Mountain. The Superintendent expressed some of the practical reasons to follow the boundary committee suggestions, which were valid, but then so were the concerns of the Fairfield parents. In the end, the Fairfield students will go to Eagle Mountain, they have generously conceded and will be, I am sure, very happy there, even though it is not as convenient as having their students close to Westlake.

ps Are you texting for the David vs Goliath contest, where Cedar Valley Elementary is competing for much-needed playground equipment? Daily until Dec 19. Text 1327pbf to 95248

And the merriest of Christmas, with the Spirit of our Dear Savior in your homes and in your hearts.

 And for 2013—bring it on!

June 19, 2012

June Board Meeting

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 6:53 am

TONIGHT’S BOARD MEETING(Tuesday, June 19, 2012)

BUDGET, RE-APPOINTMENT OF SUPT, and this and that

Two items of special interest will be approving the 2011-2012 Final Budget (the money ASD has actually spent) and the 2012-2013 Tentative Budget (the money ASD plans to spend), and re-appointing Superintendent Vern Henshaw for another two year term.

BUDGET

Let me explain in fairly simple terms an issue that the Board has been wrestling with, and (don’t panic, it has a happy ending) it has to do witha tax increase! When the Legislature changed the funding formula for charter schools from coming all from property tax (a state-wide tax) to part coming from local property tax (right out of the ASD budget) our children took the hit: charter school children get the average state amount per pupil while Alpine students are funded well below the average, and now they lose again. Many school districts raised property taxes to make up for the loss of revenue, but Alpine chose to stay the course.

The first year the loss was for about $500,000, but each year the Legislature has upped the amount, until this year ASD loses $1.2 million. And the Legislature may raise it in the future. There has been a push for transparency, so that your property tax bill can clearly identify the amount you pay for charter schools, broken out in the line item marked Alpine School District. The bill passed the House, but never made it out of committee, so you, as taxpayer, don’t know that a portion of your property taxes marked for Alpine actually goes for charter schools. And, to add to the frustration, with the money coming through Alpine, there is no accountability, no way for you, the taxpayer, to know how your money is spent, as opposed to ASD’s public, on-line budget.

It starts to make your fairness bones ache.

Meanwhile, a major push on the Board has been for class size reduction, just as we are seeing needed moneys being siphoned off. What to do, what to do?

Hey, how about raising taxes—just a little, just the amount that goes to the charter schools. That would even things out, and that was the discussion.

Then the good news—final revenue figures were actually better than projected! The amount? $1.5 million—yay, no property tax and we can still work toward reducing class size! We are currently able to fund 30 additional full time teachers on a permanent basis. Hats off to our business administrator, Rob Smith, and his budget staff, Jim Hansen and Teresa Newman, for their excellent work. I am continually impressed by the fiscal management of the district.

SUPT. HENSHAW

Of course the driving force behind the District’s fiscal performance is the superintendent. We will be reappointing Dr. Henshaw for another two years, with the same health and retirement benefits as other employees. He, and Business Administrator Rob Smith, will also be given a raise comparable to other employees.

YES, COMMON CORE—OF COURSE

I plan to attend the August meeting of the State Board to listen to the discussion explained below:

FROM WENDY’S BLOG

http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2012/06/to-tax-or-not-to-tax-budget-2012-13.html
The State Board of Education will be voting in August on whether or not to remain a governing member, to change to advisory member or to withdraw completely from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia (SBAC), which is creating the state tests all Utah public school students (district and charter) will take come 2014-15, along with 30 other states.  (What is tested is what will be taught.)  Our original agreement with SBAC, as included in our federal Race to the Top application, Phase 1, was just a non-binding memorandum.  In the Race to the top, Phase 2, this non-binding memorandum was replaced with a signed, legally-binding contract. (See page 286 for the signed contract with SBAC.) Additionally, the SBAC consortium signed a legally-binding cooperative agreement with the Federal Department of Education.  So, via our contract with SBAC and their agreement with the Feds, our state tests are subject to Federal control and supervision.  Interestingly, the state board never discussed or voted on this contract with SBAC.  State Board President, Debra Roberts stated in a public forum on April 26 that the contract was not legally binding because the board never voted on it.  However, it was signed by the Board President, the Governor, and the State Superintendent.

It was suggested during the June meeting that a letter be sent changing Utah’s status from Governing Member to Advisory Member.  The Board was told that Advisory status would alleviate our obligations to the consortium.  State Board Member Dave Crandall read the contract and indicated that our obligations would be the same with the exception of losing our vote in the consortium.  Based on Member Crandall’s information, Board President Roberts declined to sign the letter, since there was no apparent advantage.  Kudos to Mr. Crandall for his follow-up!  Because of this, the full board will be voting on whether to withdraw completely from SBAC this August.  Without the direct obligation from the consortium to the Dept of Ed, Utah can adopt the Common Core standards and still determine it’s own tests.  Currently, there are no financial penalties for this course of action.  There is, however, concern that we may not receive our (illegal) No Child Left Behind waiver if we pull out of the testing consortium.  Once we are granted the No Child Left Behind waiver, we are obligated, as far as I can tell, to maintain the Common Core standards and SBAC testing until such time as the Federal government determines we need to do something ELSE in education.

ELL FAMILY LITERACY CENTER

I spent the last eight years of my career at Orem Junior High working with English Language Learners, as the first ELL teacher at the school and pretty much in charge of the program (Cathy Freeman joined me later and was a great asset). Wouldn’t you know it, just as I leave, the program takes these tremendous jumps that I could only dream of, including the young volunteers of Latinos in Action and the ASD Family Literacy Center for English Learner Families housed at my old school, OJH.

The following is from the FLC newsletter:

Since 2008 the English Language Learner and Family Literacy Center (FLC) has been a gathering place for Alpine School District families to learn English, life and technical skills, and the tools to enable children to succeed in their education. This year the FLC extended its outreach to include a community garden and Latino in Action volunteers who assisted in the childcare and computer classes. Also, a new English curriculum and assessments were adopted to align with federal standards. The computer skills class challenges dozens of patrons who attend. Next year the FLC will continue to expand to benefit more families in the ASD community.

GRADUATIONS

One of my favorite “responsibilities” is attending high school graduations, where I get to speak for five minutes (and whoever remembers what is said at graduation) and shake hands with the beautiful young people who marched in to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.” There were about four hundred graduates at Westlake High School, and four hundred more at Lehi High the next day, and every graduate was a thrill to meet. I ended my speech with:

Enjoy today. It’s your day. It is all about you, and it should be.

We celebrate you, we honor you, and we love you.

But for all the tomorrows, let it be about everyone else,

            the people you will love,

            those whom you will serve,

            and those who will depend on you.

Let your future reflect your noble characters and all that you have become,

            and all that you will become.

And then, on behalf of the Board, the District, and the State of Utah, I was privileged to accept the graduates and hand them the diploma that certified that one part of their life had been completed, and another would be just commencing.

I also serve on the Board of Directors for Mountainland Applied Technology College (MATC) and was pleased to conduct the graduation at Mountain View High School. Again I shook hands with the loveliest young people I could ever meet, and loved every minute.

 

May 15, 2012

May Board Meeting, etc.

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 5:26 am

I have learned many things serving on the Board, which has been very rewarding to an educator who labels herself a Lifelong Learner.

One of the things I have learned is that I am not a very good blogger. But, oh well, still trying, so here is another installment.

BOARD MEETING MAY 15 Board meetings are held at the District Office once a month from April to August and in December. The other months, September to March, have two meetings each month, the first at the D.O. and the second held at different schools.

STUDY SESSION 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. The study session is a public meeting, and where much of the board work is done. May’s meeting has two purposes:

(1)   to share reports from the recent National School Boards Convention

(which I attended in Boston last month, then Mr. Wonderful and I rented a car and toured from Palmyra, New York, to Kittery, Maine, and yes, it was grrrreat!)

(2) to review the proposed 2012-2013 Maintenance and Operation Budget of almost $400 million

(M & O is defined as everything except buildings, buses, and other long-term stuff, and discussed extremely well in Wendy Hart’s blog: http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2012/05/money-and-management.htm )

BOARD MEETING 6:00 p.m. starts with routine business, then the superintendent will present property agreements. An action item will be the school calendar, and reports will be on membership. Details can be found at the district web site: http://sbs.alpinedistrict.org/cgibin/WebObjects/eAgenda.woa/wa/displayMeeting?meetingID=1131

CLOSED SESSION will follow, in which the board will continue the process of evaluating the superintendent that began with board members meeting with the executive director of the Utah School Board who is facilitating the process. We created lists of areas of competence and areas for improvement that were then put in survey form for board members to respond to, which will be the basis for a formal evaluation.

Closed session is discussion only, as all contract decisions must be voted on in an open meeting.

COMMON CORE

My blog goes to a wide variety of readers, so a controversial topic like Common Core is difficult to comment on without giving offense. Alpine School District is implementing the program, and as a member of the school board, I support an administration that is a leader in educational excellence.

That being said, I must state that I am still uncomfortable with a national curriculum, with centralized power in a field that cries out for individualization and innovation. But I am comfortable with vigorous debate, scrutiny of all facets of Common Core, and keeping a spotlight on the implementation as we work out the kinks of a mandate that has never been piloted and has no data to testify to what it can produce.

From my perspective the dust-up in the last few months between proponents of Common Core and those who oppose it has been very positive. I see those who are devoted to the concept of common standards being asked to examine every aspect, which can only be healthy, such as the State School Superintendent, Larry Shumway, moving to modify Utah’s arrangement with the testing consortium that is funded by the federal government. That means a lot of different sides are being heard, a lot of questions studied, a lot of voices speaking up. Kind of like democracy in action.

MORE NATIONAL EDUCATION?

The first time I read about Common Core, it was in a newspaper article, long before I heard any discussion of the issue, so this story felt a little like déjà vu. This is about science standards being developed by 26 states, with the aim of all 50 states to accepting them

I was assured by two different presenters at USBA training last summer that Utah would never accept national standards in science or in social studies, as these two areas were too value-laden (that to an old English teacher who watches implementation of national standards in language arts, as though what children read and write could be strictly objective).

Front page in USA Today May 5:

New educational science standards due out Friday give teachers hope that they can turn around U.S. students’ lackluster science performance.

Twenty-six states have agreed to help develop them. Wheeler and others hope educators in all 50 states adopt the standards

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2012-05-08/school-science-test-score/54873156/1

My brief research on some of the groups developing the standards includes those who list their agenda as implementing Common Core, so, it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck ….

January 30, 2012

JANUARY WRAP-UP

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 7:58 am

JANUARY BOARD MEETINGS

The Jan 10 meeting was very short (lucky Scouts working on their merit badges) and mostly routine. Wendy Hart abstained from approving the claims, and brought the issue to a discussion by the Board of whether we are actually “approving” the hundreds and hundreds of items which we obviously cannot have studied in depth, and if this gives the impression the Board is actually overseeing District finances. Her reasoning is sound, and is explained in her own blog http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2012/01/claims-board-meeting-jan-10-2012.html. But this is the way it has always been done, and we will continue the practice as is. My own take is that it is redundant, but it is traditional. I would be more comfortable with the word “accept” the claims, as we are accepting what our financial people have done with the budget we have already approved, but I am okay with “approving” the claims every month.

Jan 24 was the dedication of the new Riverview Elementary School in Harvest Hills, with a really cute program from the children and then the usual Board stuff, Mark Clement’s remarks and yours truly giving the dedicatory prayer. The one action item was approving a resolution authorizing the issuance of up to $55 million in bonds to begin Phase 1 bond projects (details on the ASD website under “Board of Education”). The time table was moved up a couple of weeks to take advantage of market conditions. Rob Smith at the District is  happy to explain the details (better than me) and he kind of likes to show where they are saving tax-payer dollars.

ASD DISTRICT BOUNDARIES

For background, Alpine has seven districts in the district (huh? Yes, they are called districts—but I always refer to my “area” to be a little clearer). Each board member should have 1/7th of the entire district in their district. Until Westlake, there were seven high school “clusters” and seven board members, so it was neat and tidy.

With the growth in the north and west, and a second high school, I now have two high school clusters and 1/3 of the entire district: 25 of the 79 schools! District 1 currently covers Eagle Mountain, Saratoga Springs and Lehi, with a very strange boundary in the northeast corner that puts Traverse Ridge in my district, but they vote in Highland/Alpine. With the rapid growth, the district is way out of proportion, with District 1 having one school board member (me), representing a population almost equal to Orem, which has three school board members.

With the new census, that will be equalized, and the districts have been redrawn. Some of the original proposed boundaries were pretty weird, but the County Commissioners, who draw the map, have settled on a proposal that is as fair as possible and recognizes cities boundaries over population equality.

There will be an election for three board members in November: the new Lehi representative; the representative for the two Orem districts that will be redrawn as one, currently held by Terry Peterson and Debbie Taylor; and the regular election rotation for the Lindon/Pleasant Grove district, currently held by Mark Clement. Candidates will file in March, and there will be a primary election with the top two candidates in each area going onto the final November ballot.

I will still represent Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, but Lehi will now elect a board member to work with me—no matter how they draw the lines, Lehi will always be my people (I lived in Lehi for seven years, and Mr. Wonderful taught at Meadow for eleven years). Wendy Hart, Alpine/Highland; John Burton, American Fork; and JoDee Sundberg, Orem, will also hold their seats for two more years, although some of the districts have boundary changes. The maps are based on registered voters, and my new district will be somewhat smaller than the others. But with growth, I don’t expect my reprieve to last very long!

There will be a public input meeting tonight, Monday, January 30, at 6 p.m. at 100 E. Center St. Room #1400 in Provo, and they will adopt the final boundaries at the regular Commission meeting Tuesday, January 31, at 9 a.m. The detail map is posted on the County’s website: http://www.utahcountyonline.org/Dept/COMMISH/Data/WNData/SchoolBoardAlpine12712.pdf.

OTHER STUFF

I spent two days in Salt Lake at the Utah School Board Association Conference, and attended sessions conducted by legislators, one on the functioning of SCCs, and another a presentation of Latinos in Action, a program in ten of our ASD schools that seeks to address diversity in the district.

I have also been “On the Hill” with the Legislature, and will attend more sessions. There are dozens of educational bills proposed, and legislators can’t be expected to know everything. So some of us better help them!

I will be speaking with Wendy Hart at the Highland 9/12 meeting this Friday. When I get discouraged considering the tremendous forces backing Common Core, Wendy reminds me that the Founders didn’t think they could win either. So …

COMMON CORE

I am adamantly opposed to a national consortium. There is no right way to do a wrong thing, and banding with 45 states from California to New York to remove educational control from the community and homogenize learning is abdicating our state responsibility for education. Period.  Once we go down that road, it is farewell to local control and parental rights.

There are lots of details to discuss (besides the Constitutional questions) and many, many red flags, each with the assurance that all will be well, don’t worry. But I do, starting with the rush to implement a program that has no pilot, no data, no text books and no assessments, but what the heck, it does sound good so let’s build the plane as it’s going down the runway, whichever runway that might be and whatever destination we are headed for.

Then there are the test questions being formulated, such as a math problem asking students to design a brochure for customers for their gas bill (!) and are so wrong-headed someone may actually change that. There is also follow-the-money, which is a scary trail that includes the federal government paying $330M for the assessments plus the funds at every level from progressive “philanthropies.”  How about the assurance that we will only buy into math and language arts, never science and social studies which need to reflect our local values (again—!) but the title “English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technology” belies that assurance and reveals the back channels.

­­­­­­­­Never mind the details—even if the program were perfect I would oppose it. Utah knows what’s best for Utahns (I borrowed that from Texas, who does NOT participate in Common Core). We have the talent and the experience to set our own standards, borrow them from Common Core if we want, or Massachusetts, whose math standards are already higher than CC, or social studies from Texas, where our values are more closely aligned. But to entangle ourselves in a national program which has no data because it has never been tried! with all kinds of ramifications should terrify us. It sounds like Nancy Pelosi on health care, let’s pass it so we can see what’s in it. The fact is nobody knows right now. It’s just sounds like a good idea.

I have discussed Common Core with other school board members, with ASD personnel and with legislators, and have probably not changed anybody’s mind, but my mind has not changed, either. The positive attitudes I hear seem based on the idea of some “magic bullet” in being able to compare students across the entire United States, but I fail to see the value. In my nineteen years teaching in ASD, I was given at least FIVE different core standards, not evolving and fine-tuned, but each one The Anser, a totally different approach based on the latest methodology. And here we go again with Common Core. I lived through No Child Left Behind, The Answer, the Great Federal Answer—it’s hardly mentioned any more, except in little sniggers (great article in Sunday’s Deseret News about its failure—but then it didn’t take teachers ten years to start laughing about it http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700219911/At-10-year-mark-No-Child-Left-Behind-is-far-from-reaching-its-goals.html).

Wendy Hart was been running a “blog-a-thon,” writing a series of eight articles on Common Core. She shares tons of research and quotes from credible sources. For a more detailed discussion, I have included her first three installments on the sidebar to the right 1. wendy hart on common core; for her continuing blogs see http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com

ASD leaders propose that we can get better standards by reaching across the nation, getting input from the entire country. But there is a lot that has been accepted by those across the nation that does not reflect Utah values. So now we are in a consortium where we have to try to filter out those influences that we do not wish to accept? Here are actual quotes from teacher education literature that is “out there”:

“We cannot afford to become so bogged down in grammar and spelling that we forget the whole story. … The onslaught of antihuman practices that this nation and other nations are facing today: racism, and sexism, and the greed for money and human labor that disguises itself as ‘globalization.’” Enid Lee et al Beyond Heroes and Holidays

“There is no place for requiring students to practice tedious calculations that are more efficiently and accurately done by using calculators.” Marilyn Burns About Teaching Mathematics

“Content knowledge is not seen to be as important as possessing teaching skills and knowledge about the students being taught. … Successful teachers understand the outside context of community, personal abilities, and feelings, while they establish an inside context or environment conducive to learning.” Dennis Adams and Mary Hamm New Designs for Teaching and Learning

(quoted from an article by Walter Williams, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700218624/Schools-of-education-are-to-blame-for-poor-student-performance.html?pg=2)

Good grief!

Board Priorities

The Jan. 6 Board workshop created priorities to direct the superintendent and staff for the 2012 year.

These are the top six as rated by the board, the superintendent, and the business administrator.

  1. Support the list of Superintendent and Cabinet Focus items for the next 6-12 months
  2. Continue to recruit quality teachers and administrators and retain them. Mentor and train leadership
  3. Filter out low-performing teachers and administrators
  4. Address class-size issue (especially elementary and possibly subject)
  5. Increase the use of technology in instruction
  6. Have plan to reduce debt

January 10, 2012

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 5:35 pm

IT’S A NEW YEAR

I have neglected my blog as the last year wound down. There had been some very busy times as we prepared for the bond election, and while I know I disappointed some of you, I did support it. I have already explained my stand, so I won’t go over that again, and I had a chance to discuss it with many of you as I  attended bond information meetings at all the schools in District 1 (that’s twenty-five!) I tried to meet with SCC/PTAs, but since meetings were sometimes double-booked, I attended some faculty presentations. Some I came late, some I left early, but I only missed two: the farthest west, Eagle Valley, and the farthest northeast, Traverse Mountain. It was a great way to meet many of you and get to know and understand my large area.

As that effort was winding down, I was off on the fabulous Mediterranean cruise and Italian holiday I had promised myself at retirement, postponed several years as I got caught up in running for school board and then began serving. But now, twenty-six days, just Mr. Wonderful and me—it was heavenly!

We got home as the holidays started, and I kind of gave myself permission to focus on family and traditions. But with the new year, it’s time to get my blog up and running and keep my constituents informed.

JANUARY BOARD MEETINGS 

If your Scout needs to attend a civic meeting to earn his Citizenship in the Community merit badge, tonight’s the night! If you are twelve years old you may think these are “bored” meetings, so you need to know this will be short. There will be no 4 p.m. study session, and routine business will be the budget report, personnel reports, Alpine Foundation report, claims and student releases and expulsions. The main business will be another report, membership. There  probably won’t be much in the way of board member information items, since the holidays meant committees were not scheduled.

The meeting for January 24 will be the dedication of the Riverview Elementary School, beginning at 6 p.m. It is my turn to conduct, and I hope to see many of you there.

ANNUAL RETREAT

We started the year with the annual retreat last Friday, where the superintendent reports on how the staff has implemented the priorities set the previous year and the Board discusses and establishes the priorities that will drive the district for the following year.

The discussion ranged wide and sometimes deep, and in the end we came to consensus on main areas of focus. I do not have the formal list yet, but it began with continuing to recruit and retain quality teachers and administrators and included supporting focus areas established by the superintendent and staff for the next six months (see sidebar page “1 cabinet goals”). I was delighted that we included working to reduce class size as a priority, even though it is so financially difficult: $3.2M in on-going expenses to reduce classes by even one student. If the legislature passes a proposed bill to reduce class size in just K-3, it could cost ASD $20M and we would need ten new schools! Still, it was recognized as an important goal, and is firmly on the radar.

The discussion also included the desire to move to pay-as-you-go for building needs, to move away from bonding, and unquestionably that is the direction we are moving.

MATH COMMITTEE FOR IMPLEMENTING COMMON CORE

(from Wendy Hart’s blog)

Math Committee for Common Core Curriculum
The district has established a math committee to review curriculum for the Common Core. We will be implementing grades 6 -8 (some 9) this Fall. Those currently in 9 – 12, will continue with the current standards throughout their high school careers. The rest of the grades will implement in 2013. There are members of the District Community Council (Bruce Armstrong, Kim Paulson, and Melanie Westcott, among others), teachers, and staff that will be on this committee. Sometime before April 15, when textbooks need to be ordered, the math committee will make several recommendations. Then, the School Community Councils (SCC’s) will decide on the curriculum their school will use. There will be school community council meetings where this information will be presented to the parents and the community at large. 

In short, you need to get involved with the district community council members on the district committee, as well as make sure your views are reflected in your local school’s community council. If you have an opinion, this is the point you get to provide feedback, and it is done via the SCC’s

YOU and SCHOOL COMMUNITY COUNCILS

An effective way to have your voice heard is at the grass roots level, through the individual School Community Councils, or SCCs, the group of elected parents and faculty for every elementary, middle school and high school in the district. This is a program mandated by the State Legislature, and carries great weight with ASD decisions.

Members of my church congregation had been encouraged to attend a community council, which I assumed was a city program. Imagine my surprise when I showed up and discovered it was the high school SCC! Obviously we need to share a common vocabulary for the best communication and the most power, and SCC should be an abbreviation familiar to all.

Parents and community members should find out when the SCC meets for their elementary, middle, and high schools. If you are not able to attend, find out who the members are and communicate with them. They represent you and can keep you informed. When they speak, district leaders assume they are speaking for you.

A simple way to connect with the SCC is to call the principal of any school. They will be pleased to give you the contact information that will help you stay connected with education in your area.

There is also a District Community Council, unique to ASD. For every several schools, one representative attends a monthly DCC meeting at the District where they give feed-back to the Superintendent and the Board.  I have listed the DCC members along with the schools they represent and their email addresses for those whom I have asked to serve in District 1 (see side bar “2 DCC members”).

If you send me information on individual school SCC meeting times and dates, I can include it in this blog. I can also post meeting notes, as I have notes from the Westlake meeting I attended last week (see side bar “3 notes WLHS SCC”)

TWO  Provo Herald STORIES:

The Herald created a little dust-up on Dec. 29 as they reported on a recent Board meeting where we discussed how to reach patrons better, as any organization might examine their public relations.

If you are taxed by Alpine School District but you feel the district is out of touch with you, is that your fault or the district’s?

. . . .

    Board president Debbie Taylor has said repeatedly that the district does everything it can to reach out. “Without going door to door, I’m not sure how to get more parent involvement.”

    “Make a mistake,” said new board member Paula Hill without missing a beat. “I can see from our point of view that we are reaching the community, but I can see from their point of view that they don’t feel they are being reached. We need more. We need to make more noise about it so people don’t feel like outsiders.”

    Another new board member feels that Alpine School District has not always been successful in reaching out to people. “When I started running for the board, I did not know what the school community councils were about,” Wendy Hart said. “And I consider myself to be a parent who is involved.”

     She added: “Parents aren’t blameless in this, but if most people don’t know what a school community council is, we need to do something about that.”

    Read more: http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/education/parents-or-alpine-district-at-fault-over-disconnect/article_45b5d5c1-00ed-5ea9-a609-30165f436a53.html#ixzz1iwI18IAH

The follow-up Provo Herald editorial on Jan. 3 began:

    Alpine School District is pondering whether an apparent communication breakdown is the fault of residents or the district itself. The reflection is a good thing . . . .

The article includes the above quotes and ends with:

     If the district takes complaints and criticism seriously, it might want to do more than just polish its PR machinery. It might want to learn more about its genuine problems and shortcomings, and then find practical ways of addressing them.

    The school board would not be the first governmental organization to have lost touch with a community, and it need not be last to find a fix.

Read more: http://www.heraldextra.com/news/opinion/district-must-also-listen/article_a51e219d-8cdd-5df0-a446-fb782235ad47.html#ixzz1j1ykuv6l

 This ends where we started—we need to listen, and you all need to speak up, not just to your spouse or to your neighbor, but where it can make a difference, to Board members and to SCC and DCC representatives. You have my email, and I promise you, I am not shy about sharing your concerns.

p.s. This is the beginning of my second year on the Board. When will they stop calling me the “new” member?

USBA Conference

I will be off with fellow board members to attend the Utah State Board Association’s 89th annual conference in Salt Lake City this week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We stay at the Little America Hotel so we can start early and go until late, and it is always interesting to meet board members from the other 40 school districts in the state.  

The theme is “Tell Your Story,” and is a direct reflection of the philosophy of the president JoDee Sundberg, who serves with us on our own ASD board.

With a daughter’s wedding in Dallas after Christmas, and a son’s wedding in Las Vegas next week, I don’t even unpack my make-up these days!

September 13, 2011

BOND PUBLIC HEARING, etc.

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 4:45 am

AGENDA TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13

A report from the bond committee and a discussion of district technology is slated for the study session tomorrow night at 4. The Board Meeting will include a public hearing on the proposed bond on the Nov. 8 ballot. The board will also vote to change November’s meeting from the 29th to the 22nd, just before Thanksgiving, to conform to law that requires us to canvass the bond election results within two weeks of the election.

BOND

Some of you have questioned that I support the bond. I guess public service includes inevitably offending someone—many people who wish I would accept Common Core are glad that I am for the bond, and those who see the danger in CCSS are some of those who also see danger in debt, and by extension the bond we will be voting on in November.

Of course I am not for debt, and frankly no one on the board or staff is “for” debt. But, just as most of us have a mortgage on our homes to enable us to make this huge purchase, this seems the best way currently to finance our tremendous needs. We are the lowest funded district in the lowest funded state, and still have enviable financial management. I just got a call from a teacher in Jordan wondering how we can keep our promises to our teachers, with opportunities for extra income and even bonuses, while they are going a second year without raises. Hats off to our finance department!

But one is not the other, and just because we have a mortgage on our house does not mean we have to mortgage education. I have been in discussions exploring alternatives to bonding, and there are many ideas out there. But I favor moving slowly—if we were to reject this bond, we would struggle with some dire realities. We would find some workable alternatives, but we would also pay the price of unintended consequences.

We can’t afford to experiment on a generation of children—just the five years between bonds takes a student almost through grade school, or from eighth grade to graduation. But we can explore a myriad of approaches in the next five years, and I have a list of ideas to consider. And your input will be valuable. A lot of smart people with all kinds of experience will poke at these ideas, pull and pinch, and some will be worth a pilot. I do not favor the practice of perpetual bonding—before the next round, we have a chance to try a lot of ideas on a small scale. Before we bond again for the obvious next needs—like an Eagle Mountain high school—there should be real progress in creative financing. But for this round, it’s just too late for draconian measures.

Public Input Meetings

The kick-off for informational meetings begins Wednesday, and hey, it’s my meeting! My Kiwanis Club here in Saratoga Springs has been asking me to speak, so I cleverly enlisted the superintendant to come with his power point to educate my friends and colleagues. I am listed as the speaker, but you can see I have delegated. Guests are welcome, and you are invited to attend, 8 a.m. at the Lakeside Clubhouse on Redwood Road. But call me if you are coming, they serve breakfast, and my sister is in charge—I don’t want her mad at me for having more people than food!

There are also another almost 200 information meetings scheduled for the next month (see the schedule for my area on the page listed on the right side bar under “PTA/SCC Mtgs.” These are open meetings, and you are invited to attend. I will be at many, but since there are several scheduleded at the same time, obviously I will be limited. There will also be three evening meetings for the public, scheduled for  Oct. 6, 13, and 27 at 7pm, locations to be announced.

And will receive factual information on the bond in the mail (if we still have a post office!) The district must declare the amount, how it will be used, and how it will impact taxpayers.

And, to keep you informed, I have included this excerpt from Wendy Hart’s blog—you will recognize me as the second choice, the “favor with a firm debt-reduction plan.”

FROM WENDY HART

Whether you favor the bond, unequivocally, favor with a firm debt-reduction plan, or want a complete divestiture of debt, you need to speak up.  You need to talk to your neighbors and come to one of the roughly 192 meetings planned in the next 2 months.

First, an official Public Hearing on the bond will take place Tues, Sep. 13, @ 6:00 pm at the District Office (575 N. 100 E. AF).  No matter where you stand, please come and bring 2 friends with you to comment.  It is assumed that either there won’t be anyone who will come, or else the same people who commented last meeting will be there to repeat their concerns.  Ask your friends and neighbors what they would want to do with $210M, and invite them to come to the meeting.  

MORE ON COMMON CORE

I attended TWO sessions on CCSS at the Utah School Board professional development seminar this past week, two days of a mix of meetings and eatings at the Zermott in Midway. I am listening to all sides, and it is clear that we will do a darn good job of implementation, with Utah educators leading the pack. But I am not converted, and stand by an old axiom that has served me well, that there is no right way to do a wrong thing. If you believe in the principle of local control, if you truly want to keep educational decisions close to parents, this direction is counter-intuitive.

I was gratified, and also confused, with the assurance I heard in two different discussions (Brenda Hales from the USOE leading one and someone substituting for Sid Dixon, also USOE, very knowledgeable but I did not get his name). The hand-out reads, “Utah is not and will not be involved in any other efforts to ‘ride the wave’ and create ‘common core’ standards in any other subject.” The specifics articulated were science, where creationism vs. evolution is a hot button, and social studies, where regional interpretations (such as Dixie’s take on the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression) would be problematic. Let’s remember that statement and hope we don’t have to dust it off and wave it in the future.

However, the flaw in the logic that recognizes the difficulty of centralizing ethical interpretations is that it implies language arts and mathematics are devoid of values interpretation, somehow “pure” knowledge. Duh. Just the argument of constructivism vs. direct instruction in math is laden with philosophical debate, as one high-level educator in ASD recently referred to constructivism-humanism in the same breath. And language arts, hey, you are talking to an old English teacher. There is probably no subject more based on values than reading and writing! So, on one hand the assurance makes me more comfortable that we are not swallowing the whole hog, but on the other it makes me wonder how we can compartmentalize ethics.

It is also confusing to follow the logic that we need the national consortium for language arts and math, yet we can set our own state standards for science and social studies. How does that work? Is the straight line that testing focuses on readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic? So are these the most important subjects, where we are willing to devote vast resources and efforts, or the least important subjects that we are willing to outsource? Are these subjects where we are not capable of raising the standards ourselves as a state, our weak spots, or subjects that we know so well we will be able to navigate and keep our interpretation pure? How can we assess our students against national tests, prepare them for college or careers, without forty plus states helping us teach our students science and social studies? Or are those subjects not necessary for post-secondary preparedness? Hmmm.

That said, I am still struggling with the appropriate way to express my opposition. We get a lot of board training that we can disagree in discussion, but need to put on a united face once a decision has been made. The flip side of that is my personal accountability. Of course I will support the superintendant and staff in their direction, I can accept losing. My personal ethics would require me to be cooperative. But as yet there has not been an opportunity to state my position in a public hearing. Wendy Hart has asked for a vote, but until the will of the board has been aired and decided, here I am, still singing my little song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

CORRECTION

I listed the debt reduction for ASD in the previous blog from notes taken on Senator Stephenson’s figures. But the district did some pencil-pushing, and I want to clarify: the Taxpayer’s Association said $100 million would be paid down from 2008 to 2016, the end of the bond. In-house figures are $40 million for 2009 to 2016. I am good at figures myself, but to tell you true, anything that costs more than my house is a BIG number to me. Still, I want to be accurate.

September 1, 2011

SUMMER WRAP UP

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 9:29 pm

School has begun, I have celebrated my becoming Biblical (three score and ten), and my virtual walk across the United States has ended at the Brooklyn Bridge (actually Canyon Glen Park in Provo Canyon, where I first met Mr. Wonderful on my birthday eighteen years ago). I began keeping track on paper the day I retired, and three years, three months and three thousand miles later, I made it!

I kind of gave myself permission to relax during the summer, but I need to review a couple of things that happened to keep you up to speed. As usual, I have put information in sub-heads so you can skim to what interests you, and I have summarized greatly. If you want more information on any of the items, shoot me an email and I will answer any questions (or direct you to a source, like Wendy Hart, who blogs much more extensively).

UTAH STATE CORE (COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS)

By any other name, it smells (sorry, Will, I know I co-opted your “rose” quote and turned it on its head). I have discussed the issue in several items below (Budget, Legislators, Training) so be patient with me, but I am alarmed at our headlong rush into giving up our Utah State constitutional mandate to provide general control and supervision of public education and passing this off to a centralized control. You have elected me to represent you on educational policy, and that responsibility weighs on me. It is my job to sort out the issues, take a principle-based stand, speak out for the values I promised you, and report back. So here you go.

The bottom line is this is a moral issue, transferring our basic state responsibility for education to a national consortium, empowered to establish a one-size-fits-all agenda. No education issue can be neutral, all have some bias, from text books to assessment to the standards themselves—we ought to determine the bias we prefer, based on the principles we hold dear, and work determinedly to establish that voice.

The devil, of course, is in the details, and there are many bright red warning signs (see the page “Common Core” on the right sidebar). But for every alarm, there is a rebuttal, and I have a mental picture of Princes Leia wearing a white dress in Star Wars, walking through a slime pit working to not get dirty. I give credit to Lucas for his symbolism, but what the heck is Utah doing trying to dodge a socialist agenda and sift out the virtues of a national program developed for 90% of the United States? I see no checks and balances, no automatic feed-back, just assurances that Utah has a voice, that we can control this behemoth, that it isn’t all that bad. Rick Perry says Texas knows what’s best for Texans—so how come Utah, bursting with talented people with high standards and strong moral principles, has to rely on a national consortium with assessment funded by the Federal government and money flowing from Bill Gates? Americans have always distrusted centralized power, so what’s wrong with this picture?­­

ASD BUDGET     

A major item passed at the June meeting was the $400 million budget. We do have an amazing track record with fiscal responsibility—Jordan
teachers did not get full “step and lane”last year and may not this year. Davis raised the property taxes for the second year in a row, $60 in 2010 and at least the same this year, and the newspaper says Granite is also raising taxes. We can be pleased that Alpine is solvent and able to meet its responsibilities, and for the current model does an amazing job. There can be discussion on altering the model, but for here and now, the numbers work.

However, the issue of Common Core was a flash point, as the Tentative 2011 Budget presented last year did not include Common Core, and the final budget presented this year had $860,000 for implementing CCSS—without a word about the addition, without discussion, and amazingly it was not passed until two days after teachers were already attending training classes for which they would be paid!

Wendy Hart asked for time to examine the issue, and proposed this amendment:

I move to amend the budget to hold in
abeyance the almost one million dollars earmarked for implementing the Common
Core State Standards until the Board can study our accepting the transferring
of local control and our sovereign State right and responsibility for the
education of our youth to a national consortia with no apparent mechanism for
input or modification to reflect our unique Utah County standards and values.

     The amendment failed 5-2, Hart and Hill voting in favor. The actual budget was passed 5-1, Hart voting no, with Hill abstaining, and please let me explain my stand. I am doggedly against this move (see above) and raise my voice in opposition and warning. I also recognize we have an otherwise well-developed budget and I could not vote against it, but neither could I support it with the inclusion of the Common Core item without Board discussion and vote. Thus the abstention, which also gave me a public platform to state my case—again).

The opinions of the board members at the budget hearing has been the only public discussion, but it did bring enough attention to put the issue on the agenda for the annual all-day Board session for reviewing current policy (see “Board Retreat” below)
    * step and lane is the automatic pay increases for teachers based on years—“step”—and class credits earned—“lane”; regardless of your opinion on this pay structure, it is what we have in place, teachers count on it, and we have the solvency to fund the formula.

BOND

The Board has voted to put the bond on the November ballot, asking the public for $210 million, about half for growth (a second Lehi high school, an Eagle Mt. middle school, and four new elementary schools, location undetermined but assuredly for District 1 (Lehi, Eagle Mt.,
Saratoga Springs), and half for maintenance (includes Lehi Jr. parking and drop-off). Lehi High School is not on the bond, but be assured that this grand old building will be kept up to par from the capital budget to accommodate the estimated numbers it will experience before the new school is built. The current list, on the ASD web site, does not include costs, as they fluctuate with building costs, etc. We are committing to projects, not dollars.

There will be a series of information meetings held, and I will post them as soon as I get the assignments. The first meeting will be at the Saratoga Springs Kiwanis Club on September 14, featuring yours truly and Supt. Henshaw.

There is some discussion as to the wisdom of bonding, with a push for pay-as-you-go. I am absolutely in that camp, and I expect everyone agrees, but how to get there is up for debate. ASD is currently attacking debt aggressively, with the total indebtedness at the END of the bon (the borrowing is layered in as needed) almost $100 million less than the total in 2008 ($384 million according the Utah Taxpayer’s Association). We have the lowest per pupil funding, and still manage to keep the student-to-administrative cost the lowest in the state, about 7% (some districts are 75%, and not just the small districts!)

While I would like to see a definite plan for solvency articulated more clearly, I support the bond. UDOT just had to bond to finish road projects in Utah County, even after the economy tanked, after our tax payers have paid for the other road throughout the state. They kept their word.

Eagle Mt/Sar Spr CITY MEETINGS

I was delighted that Eagle Mountain has begun regular meetings with ASD leadership, with the first meeting in June and another scheduled for September. Saratoga Springs had their first meeting with the Board in August and will schedule regular meetings. Early in my tenure I saw that Orem City meets regularly, and Lehi City meets as needed, and I encouraged our west-side cities to follow that informal format. Discussions are casual and kind of go all over the place, but it facilitates communication and understanding, and makes my job easier as liaison between the schools and the communities I represent. I appreciated watching Mayor Wilson of Lehi work with the district as I learned my job and urged our other cities to follow his lead.

HEADS UP, LEGISLATORS!

Back to CCSS—making every effort!  I attended Jason Chaffetz’s town hall meeting in Saratoga Springs, and raised the question of Common Core from the floor. Chaffetz didn’t really grab hold of it, but I had a chance to point out that Rob Bishop was adamantly against the program, and knew he was as good a legislative representative for our district.

Lt. Gov. Bell and Education Sec. Chris Curl met with the Board and representatives of teachers, employees and legislators in a kind of get-to-know-the-districts session, and he pointed out the vast differences between the needs of say Beaver District and Alpine. I didn’t stand up and shout, “Then why are we all supposed to be ‘COMMON?’ ”  It wasn’t the format, but it seemed he was making my argument.

But I did present the problem at a Legislative District 56 meeting at Representative Ken Sumsion’s home, with Senator Mark Madsen also in attendance. The issue is definitely on the radar, and frankly legislation would be the chance to stop Common Core, but it would be a tough fight. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine … “

BOARD TRAINING

We started with Sid Dixon from USOE explaining the Common Core, with questions afterward and Wendy Hart and I took full advantage. There was an answer for each problem we raised, but they were not answers that satisfied me. I finally closed with the fact that no matter
the program, I had philosophical differences and could never agree, and she respected that. John Dougal, legislative representative, was the only “public” at the meeting. We discussed board policies and procedures, and it’s a good schedule to have in place (we also meet in January for another full day session). It did highlight some differences among board members, which was good, as vigorous debate is good for any issue. Rob Smith says a disagreement is a chance to hear another point of view, and I try to listen and understand as well as speak up and stir up.

AUGUST ACTIVITIES

The month began with a three day administrative conference, with a 5K walk/run the first morning where I walked and a teeny-bit ran, just so I wouldn’t be last in. On my virtual walk across the United States, it was the day I finally arrived in New York, with only 59 miles to go to get to the Brooklyn Bridge by my birthday on the 29th. I was pretty excited, and then went on to the activity I chose, bowling, where I scored a 162! Feeling good!!

Teachers enjoyed a celebration at UVU on the 19th, with bands and cheer leaders and video clips to charge-up the teachers, who no doubt wanted to be in their classrooms working on bulletin boards, but had a good time to kick-off the new year.

As if I didn’t have enough Board meetings, I met with a conservative group opposed to Common Core, which gave me additional information and the comfort of numbers. I also met with a group investigating alternative educational ideas, giving me some interesting data. I like to listen to all input, and find some of the ideas off the beaten track have merit and should be considered. One of the failures of leadership is surrounding yourself only with like-minded supporters, so I try to absorb a wide variety of ideas. I welcome innovation in all forms, and some of these thoughts may re-surface in future discussions.

I attended the Utah School Board Association pre-delegate meetings, where members discussed priority issues to work for in the 2012 legislative session. USBA includes a strong emphasis on lobbying, and working for educational funds and prioritizing efforts is legitimate. Educating our legislators is uber-important, to help them in their roles as law-makers, as they need information to make well-informed decisions. Some of the legislation out there is quite bizarre when put in context, so it’s up to educators to make sure our representatives have the Big Picture.

ETC.

My regular meetings include discussions with the superintendent, the board president (John Burton, vice president, has been standing in for Debbie Taylor, who has illness in her family), and one other member on a rotating schedule, with meetings held in various schools. Summer has had one board meeting a month, and often quite short, but we are into the full swing now of two a month. September board meetings will be the 13th and 27th.
I have recently attended legislative and curriculum meetings and am scheduled for building and grounds and bond meetings—lots of these! I also am on the MATC Board of Trustees, the technical college, meeting every other month (they have a culinary arts department that serves the
best
food). It sounds busy, and it is, but I am on committees where my interests lie, and it is at least as interesting as it can be frustrating. Of course Mr. Wonderful is still my chauffeur (when he doesn’t have a tee time), reading his dozen books in lobbies and front offices everywhere I go, and that makes it very pleasant.

KIWANIS CLUB

Rodney and I are charter members of the Saratoga Springs Kiwanis Club, a service organization that emphasizes education (they sponsor the high school Key Club and are heavily involved in creating a city library).

Sooo … the benefit is Saturday, September 10 at Westlake High, featuring the Joshua Creek Band, $20/family, $8/individual, $6/senior and student.

I have tickets—please! (801-358-2228)

FROM WENDY HART’S BLOG:

Also, on another subject, Common Core, which is rolling, full steam into Utah: http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/want-an-amateur-doing-your-splenectomy/ There is a lack of ‘hard core’ science and math in the science curriculum.  Supposedly, Utah will not adopt the science standards, but that’s the decision for right now.  I don’t have a lot of hope that with all the monetary incentives, we will hold the line.  At the very least, we need to be prepared to prohibit further implementations of Common Core.  From the article: “This is one of the utterly obvious problems with homogenizing educational standards at the national level: get them wrong, and you ruin education from sea to shining sea.”  (wendy4asd.blogspot.com)

August 16, 2011

Back to School Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 4:55 am

Halfway through August, and school is fast approaching. I hope your summer has been as pleasant as mine. The Board of Education doesn’t have an official summer break, but things slow down. However, my calendar is pretty crowded for the next few weeks! Here is the agenda for tomorrow, Tuesday Aug. 16.

 AUGUST BOARD AGENDA

The study session at 4 p.m. will review the bond projects and the resolution to be presented. It will also include a short professional development discussion, led by board member John Burton.

At the Board meeting at 6 p.m., the routine business is, well, routine. In the interest of a short blog (longer than a tweet, but short enough for skimming).

The main business for the will be the resolution to put the bond on the November 8 ballot.

Several interested patrons will speak about the bond during the community comments, and this is an excellent opening for a discussion that can create new thinking, new processes, new goals. I will be voting for the bond. I represent a high-growth area which includes all the proposed new buildings, and the alternatives are grim: double sessions, bussing, I can’t even imagine what else we would do. But I will also be a vigorous proponent of the paradigm shift which would move us toward a pay-as-you-go plan. I spent most of my adult life assuming a mortgage was just part of life; however, my husband and I are now working toward owning our house free and clear. We started with paying off all credit cards—the dialogue we create at this point may point to a process like this for the district. Exciting possibilities!

There will be a schedule of community meetings on the bond coming out, with lots of opportunity for creative ideas.

DCC MEMBERS, some new, some veterans

Each school in the state elects a School Community Council made up of parents and teachers. ASD has the added dimension of a District Community Council, with members for this area appointed by me to act as liaison between the SCCs and the district. These are the wonderful women who have agreed to take on this assignment for continue for another year:

Karen Ashman: Lehi Junior, Lehi High

Audrey Barton: Riverview, Thunder Ridge, Westlake High

Ellie Bodily: Fox Hollow, North Point

Judy Davidson: Freedom, Sego Lily

Charlotte Ducos: Hidden Hollow, Pony Express

Kjristina Hill: Saratoga Shores, Vista Heights Middle School

Mary Henrie: Meadow, Snow Springs

Barbara Poduska: Sage Hills, Horizon
Susan Vanderhoef: Cedar Valley, Eagle Valley, Mountain Trails

Linda Ward: Harvest, Willowcreek

Dixie Wilson: Traverse Mountain, Lehi Elementary

DCC members are getting a fast start by being invited to attend the employee celebration Friday, as well as the DCC orientation Sept. 1 and the SCC training and luncheon Sept. 7.

June 17, 2011

SITE SELECTION, AGENDA, COMMON CORE

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulahill4u @ 5:35 am

AGENDA FOR JUNE 21, 2011 BOARD MEETING

The 4 p.m. study session will include an overview of the proposed 2011-2012 budget and an update on the proposed November bond election. There is more open discussion at the work meeting than in the board meeting, which is decidedly more formal, and you are all welcome to attend. But, since
you all have your own lives, I will keep you informed in case you miss it!

The Board meeting begins at 6 p.m. The full agenda can be found at http://sbs.alpinedistrict.org/cgi-bin/WebObjects/eAgenda.woa/wa/showMeeting  where you can click on any underlined item for more complete details.

The main item of interest for our area will be under Routine Business, item #7 “Resolution 1011-009 Purchase of Property in Eagle Mountain.” (Please see the explanation on the next item on the blog). Item #8 is also property in this area, but is more routine in that the District proposes to sell a small parcel of land adjacent to the Horizon School to theLDS Church for a Seminary building for the special needs students.

The Board will be asked to approve the negotiated agreements with the Certified, Classified, and Administrative Associations. We will also change the date of the August Board meeting to the 16th so
that all actions concerning the bond fall into the legal time frame for each stage.

EAGLE MOUNTAIN MIDDLE SCHOOL AT MID-VALLEY

This has been a topic of concern for citizens of Eagle Mountain, and I have received a plethora of email that has often been impassioned. The Board has been sensitive to the feelings of the residents, and has seriously considered all input. Our representative has driven the proposed bus routes, crunched the numbers, talked to the experts, and listened to the residents—some of whom have also driven the bus routes and explored the options.

We have selected the Mid-Valley site, but only after we have studied all issues, including bussing, traffic, projected growth, and of course, the old “bottom line,” expenses. For those who will be disappointed, every one of those issues is better served by the improved site located between both
City Center and The Ranches. I would be happy to explain the details to those concerned, to hopefully clear the air.

I can’t emphasize enough how concerned the Board and the Administration are with the growth and the accompanying problems here on the west side. I know there is some feeling that Westlake was built in Saratoga Springs rather than Eagle Mountain, which has more feeder schools and a larger
population. I was not on the Board a decade ago, but as I understand it the crystal ball was a little cloudy, and the projection was for more growth in West Lehi. With that scenario, Westlake was the most central to the three communities who might attend. The District also already owned a lovely, flat piece of property, that old bottom line again. But Eagle Mountain’s growth out-stripped the projections, and we have been scrambling to accommodate the needs. The decision was made on the last bond to change building a second middle school to adding two elementary schools in Eagle Mountain (Hidden Hollow and Mountain Trails) since we could put the ninth grade into Westlake for a while. Of course “a while” is up now, and the new Eagle Mountain middle school is the first item scheduled with the new bond. But what would we have done without those two new elementary schools?

There is no date, of course, but the obvious need for an Eagle Mountain high school is also on the radar (for future bonding), as well as even more elementary schools on the west side (on this bond). The good news is we have really great principals and staff, who open new schools one year and then brace for growth the next!

COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS—nothing “State” about them

The CCSS program is a fundamental shift of responsibility from the state-level to the national level, which should concern those of us who champion the principle of local control and states’ rights. This program is currently in the startup stages, without ever having a thorough and diligent review of the merits, the possible down-side, and an exploration of the usual unintended consequences.

We are embracing whole-heartedly a program with NO data, NO pilot trial, NO text books, and NO assessments. We are accepting a theory put together by the elite of academia who profess to know what is best for our children, and for every child in the United States!  And we are implying that all the truly amazing talent that we have at the local level is not capable of crafting standards for our children.

In the spirit of disclosure, I have raised my concerns to the Administration and to my fellow Board members. Now I share my concerns with you. Please read the page on the right side-bar:  “paula’s commentary” under “common core (national) standards.”

NEW ADMINISTRATORS

My fellow board members may be getting tired of me moaning about losing so many good principals, as we have approved some really super new administrators for this area. We welcome Elizabeth Wilson to take over from Glenn Martin at Saratoga Shores and Courtney Johnson to replace Rod Tucker at Sego Lily.

BOND REFINANCING

I wanted to be sure and point out the savings the district will be realizing by refinancing some of our bonds at the current lower interest rates. It’s a fairly complicated formula, but to simplify it, think of refinancing your house (if you had successive mortgages in layers, but you get the point.) This is for my friend Dave Gray, who first educated me on this process : )

COMMUNITY OUT-REACH

As a new board member, I was pleased to have the Lehi mayor and some staff and council members meet with the Board on two occasions as I was learning my job. It gave me insight into the community concerns and balance to my persepective. We also meet regularly with Orem City.

So I was delighted to recently meet with the Eagle Mountain mayor, staff and council for an informal visit and orientation to the city’s perspective. Mayor Jackson has great regard for the principals in her area and works to include them in the city family. It was a pleasant meeting, and I was delighted to show off the city to my fellow board members.

I am looking forward to Saratoga Springs also having some time with the Board and the administration. It makes it sooo much easier to represent my huge area when everyone is working together.

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