New Park City High School Principal Appointed

Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley announced today, March 21, that Roger Arbabi, currently the high school principal at The Columbus School in Medellin, Colombia, has been appointed principal at Park City High School.

Mr. Arbabi brings 25 years of education experience to Park City High, having served as an assistant middle school principal at The Columbus School, and Granbury Independent School District in Texas. He is also a former high school AP physics and science teacher.

“Our family chose to come to Park City almost one year ago, not only for the quality of life, but also for the high quality of its schools,” he said. “I’m honored to be chosen to be a part of Miner community and to continue the amazing work that is already happening at the high school.”

Mr. Arbabi, who is fluent in English, Spanish, and Farsi, holds a Master of Education in Educational Leadership, and a Bachelor of Science/Biology. He was also a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador where he trained extensionists to go into the field and teach sound agroforestry techniques to local farmers. He also assisted single mothers to start small businesses to support their families, and developed and executed a seminar for two local high schools on the awareness of global and local environmental issues and the planting of more 1,000 trees in erosion areas.

He and his wife, Kathryn, will reside in Park City with their two children. His wife is an OB/GYN and will be volunteering at the People’s Health Clinic. Mr. Arbabi begins Aug. 1.

“Roger is a welcome addition to Park City High School, to the district, and to our administrative team,” said Tim McConnell, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources. “His background is unique and extraordinary. This is an excellent decision and we are so excited for him to arrive in Park City.”

Board Meeting Summary

March 20, 2018 | Regular Session

Superintendent’s Report

–Dr. Ember Conley highlighted the March 14 walk-out and said more than 1,000 students peacefully participated.

–The Superintendent provided an update on safety measures and projects underway in the district. A “Safety Update” will be sent to parents and staff in the coming weeks.

Communications Report

–Communications Director Melinda Colton encouraged the board to attend the upcoming “The Front Line and The Blue Line Working Together” event planned by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. The event is planned for May 14 at 6 p.m. at Ecker Hill Middle School.

–She noted the district’s Facebook page views increased by more than 70 percent last month and reach 10,137 people.

–For the first time ever, PCSD is hosting the Utah School Public Relations Association on March 23. Superintendent Conley will speak to the association members on the topic of opioids.

FY19 Budget Discussion Continued

–The board approved $3.5 million for capital projects for FY19.

–The board reviewed the student fee schedule and want the Administration to provide a financial breakdown of classroom fees versus extracurricular fees.

–A detailed discussion took place about adding Tier 3 interventionist at each elementary school. Associate Superintendent for Learning and Teaching Kathy Einhorn said adding the interventionists is critical to MTSS. President Caplan said he wanted to see explicit districtwide procedures to identify students who need interventions.

–Dr. Conley is recommending an additional crisis counselor. Associate Superintendent for Student Wellness Ben Belnap told the board that counselors are working closely with mental health professionals to provide more services for students. With more emphasis on career and college ready at the junior high level, there are a lot of crisis situations that consume the counselors’ time.  He said having an additional mental health provider would be invaluable.

–The district is experiencing a lack of substitute teachers. President Caplan asked the Administration to look at the option of hiring full-time permanent subs versus just increasing the daily rate.

Changes to District Policies

The Board approved making technical adjustments to district policies to reflect current state statute references.

School Start Times

The board rescinded a motion from June 6, 2017, to implement new start times for 2018-19 school year. The board approved appointing a Start Times Board Advisory Committee. The committee will be comprised of stakeholders who will develop details on how to change district start times. The committee’s report will be presented to the Board by the end of 2018. Board member Anne Peters emphasized that start times will play a major role in master planning. Board President Andrew Caplan said new start times need to implemented in a way that is not disruptive to the entire district.

Policies for Posting

The board approved posting the following revised policies:

–Policy 2020: Authorization of Student Clubs

–Policy 9045: District Academic and Athletic Travel

–Policy 9110: Acceptable Use

–Policy 10100: Safe Schools

Policies Adopted

The board approved revisions to the following policies:

–Policy 2010: Eligibility and Qualifications of a Board Member

–Policy 7005: Employee Ethics

–Policy 7050: Administrative Sabbatical Leave

–Policy 10010: Student Enrollment

Policy Retired

The board approved retiring Policy 7000: Employee Involvement with Non-School Travel.

Board Meetings Now Live Streamed

The Park City School District Board of Education is pleased to announce it now live streams its board meetings.  Making the meetings available to everyone aligns directly with the Board’s strategic plan to “communicate with all stakeholders in an open, timely, and consistent manner.”

The board’s next regular meeting is Tuesday, March 20, at 4 p.m. Those unable to attend the meetings in person can watch them via the live stream here. A summary of the meetings can be found here.

The board meets twice a month — a work session held the first Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m., and a regular session held the third Tuesday of each month at 4 p.m. All meetings are held at the District Office.

A schedule of meetings is available here.

Board meeting agendas are available 24 hours in advance of the meeting on BoardDocs here.

Board Issues Statement on 2018-19 School Start Times

The Board of Education is expected to not implement new school start times for the 2018-19 school year. In June 2017, the Board passed a motion directing the Administration to implement early start times for the coming school year.

After consultation with city and county transportation officials, it has been determined there are no viable solutions for the 2018-19 school year. City and county leaders are still reviewing SR-248 and working on solutions that will improve traffic conditions along the corridor in the future.

It is anticipated the Board and District Administration will continue discussing school start times during master planning later this fall.

Board Meeting Summary

March 6, 2018 — Work Session

Student Opinions on Late Start Times

Katie Miller, the student representatives on the Board of Education, reported some high school students oppose the later start times because of the impact to academics and athletics. She encouraged the board to hold a meeting with high school students so they can offer their input before the final decision.

Budget Discussions

–Fees: The board reviewed fee increases recommended for the next school year. Business Administrator Todd Hauber reminded the board that all fees are subject to waiver. Hauber said the Legislative Auditor and the Utah State Board of Education are both doing audits of students fees and it will be interesting to see their conclusions.

–Capital Budget: Hauber recommended $3.5 million for capital programs for FY19.

–School Start Times: The board will make a decision on school start times at its March 20 regular board meeting. The board will decide whether to adopt new school start times this fall, pilot the early start times at one school, or wait until master planning is complete.

UHSAA Sanctions Lacrosse 

Park City High School Athletic Director Jamie Sheetz provided the board with information about the Utah High School Activities Association adding lacrosse as a sport during the 2019-20 school year. He anticipates lacrosse being a Spring sport with a game and practice schedule similar to baseball. Later this spring Sheetz will provide the board with more details about the possibility of implementing lacrosse at PCHS (costs, how much school time would be missed, etc.).

Communities That Care

Mary Christa Smith, Communities That Care Coordinator, provided the board with an overview of CTC. It is working to improve awareness of mental health and substance abuse issues and increasing access to effective treatment and prevention services within the county. It works in cooperation with the Summit County Mental Wellness Alliance stakeholders:  Summit County, Park City, Park City Community Foundation, and Park City, South Summit, and North Summit School Districts.

A recent survey of students through the county indicated the following:

–Nearly 50% of students surveyed do not perceive using drugs or alcohol as risky

–40% of students report using alcohol

–30% of students report trying marijuana

–15% of students considered suicide last year

–70% of students who have tried alcohol, report drinking at home with their parents permission

The priority risk factors were unanimously selected by the CTC committee based upon the work of the data assessment workgroup:

–Mental Health (targeting depressive symptoms)

–Perceived risk of substance abuse (low perceived risk)

–Parental attitudes (favorable to substance use and antisocial behavior)

CTC is conducting a resource analysis of what youth services are available and what programs need to be added to address the three risk factors.  She thanked PCSD for helping move the process forward and being committed to these county-wide issues. She noted a Youth Advisory Council comprised of students from all three school districts has been formed. When the students reviewed the risk factors they said that parental attitudes are the biggest area of concern. Smith said there needs to be more resources available to parents, more engagement with parents, and a change in community culture.

Board Training

Joan Andrews, legal counsel for the district from the firm of Fabian VanCott, provided training for the board on open/closed meetings, and the Government Records Access and Management Act and the public’s right to access records from a government entity.

District Statement Concerning Student Walkouts

The recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida, and other losses of life on school campuses across the nation over the past several years have driven increased interest in student-led civic engagement efforts and actions, including school walkouts.

Park City School District supports students’ constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and free expression; however, the role of our educators is to remain neutral, including when a walkout is held during contract time and on school property. 

Our goal in responding to student-initiated plans and other forms of peaceful assembly is to keep the focus on teaching and learning, while promoting student safety on campus.

If students do not return to class following any walkout, standard attendance rules for unexcused absences, truancies and tardies will apply. Classes will continue for students who choose not to participate in walkouts. Park City School District supports students’ rights to have varying opinions, and asks that there be respect for those opinions.

The first nationwide walkout is planned for Wednesday, March 14, and we anticipate some of our students will participate. Students will be supervised and law enforcement will be present.

Additional events are planned for March 24 (March for Our Lives), and April 20 (National School Walkout in remembrance of the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting).

Park City School District remains committed to a safe, neutral, learning environment for all students.

National Breakfast Week to Feature Free Breakfast at Schools

To encourage more families to take advantage of the healthy choices available for school breakfast, Park City School District will celebrate National Breakfast Week, March 5-9, by offering free breakfast on Wednesday, March 7, at all school cafeterias. The menu will include sunbutter and banana sushi and cold soaked oats parfait with fresh fruit and greek yogurt. Wednesday’s complimentary breakfast will be available while supplies last.

Breakfast hours at each school include:

– Park City High:  7:10 – 7:35 a.m.

– Treasure Mountain Junior High: 7:10 – 7:30 a.m.

– Ecker Hill Middle: 8:30 – 8:50 a.m.

– Jeremy Ranch Elementary: 7:50 – 8:15 a.m.

– Parley’s Park Elementary: 7:40 – 8:10 a.m.

– Trailside Elementary: 7:45 – 8:15 a.m.

– McPolin Elementary: 7:30 – 8:00 a.m.

Sponsored by the School Nutrition Association, National Breakfast Week is a week-long celebration of the School Breakfast Program. Research indicates that students who eat breakfast:

– Reach high levels of achievement in reading and math

– Score higher on standardized tests

– Have better concentration and memory

– Have improved attendance, behavior, and academic performance

– Are more alert

– Maintain a healthy weight

“A healthy breakfast at the start of the day is one way to ensure students are getting the best education possible,” said R.J. Owen, Director of Child Nutrition for PCSD. “National School Breakfast Week helps us educate parents and students about all the healthy, great tasting, and appealing choices we offer.

The district serves 50,000 breakfast meals a year, and is anxious to get more students to start their day with breakfast. School nutrition professionals in PCSD  prepare breakfast and lunches every day that meet federal nutrition standards – limiting fat, calories and sodium – while encouraging students to choose from the fruits, vegetables and whole grains offered with school meals.”

The cost of school breakfast for students is: $1.25  at elementary schools, $1.35 at Ecker Hill Middle, $1.45 at Treasure Mountain Junior High, and $1.50 at Park City High. Students who receive reduced-priced meals only pay $.30 for breakfast.

Board Meeting Summary

Feb. 27, 2018 — Regular Session

Moment of Silence

At the request of Superintendent Ember Conley, a moment of silence was held in memory of the 17 victims who lost their lives at Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.

Safety Consultant’s Report to the Board

Cole Smith, a safety and security expert with the Tresit Group, presented the board with his analysis for safety. Smith is a former Special Agent for the Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service. “Park City School District has been extremely proactive in their response to school safety and emergency procedures,” the report states. “All eight schools in the district would be among the top schools for safety posture and preparedness in the State of Utah based on frequency of drills, school involvement in safety planning, community engagement, and school upgrades for access controls.”  Smith commended the district’s willingness to improve security procedures, visitor access, and perimeter security are in line with best practices. He reminded the board that the report will not guarantee the practices put in place will completely stop and eliminate all threats in schools. “A trained teacher who can make decisions is by far the best. All improvements, additions, and procedures will complement a well-trained teacher.” The report includes recommendations for the following  visitor access policy, background checks, lessons learned from drills and areas of improvement, historical threats in Utah and best practices for school safety, future training for staff, access control and perimeter, and modular classroom threat assessment. The full report can be accessed here.

Superintendent Search Update

Darline Robles and Carmella Franco, consultants from HYA Executive Search, presented the Leadership Profile which was compiled from input gathered during more than 40 focus groups/interviews and an online survey. The full profile can be viewed here. Highlights from the Leadership Profile include:

–Strengths That Should be Continued or Expanded: high standards for academic achievement,  safe schools, strong sense of community, variety of programs to meet diverse student needs, curriculum (technology and DLI), community partners, innovation, focus on mental health wellness, and the quality of teachers, administrators, and staff

Challenges and Concerns the New Superintendent will face and should address: communication, equity and access, facilities and growth, uniqueness of district, lack of leadership from the top, organizational management, organizational health, lack of focus on eliminating the achievement gap, and lack of leadership for English Learners and DLI program

Desired Characteristics Essential in the Next Superintendent: One who has a proven track record and can develop a strong partnership with the Board of Education.  One who will foster a climate of mutual trust and respect in order to continue to attract and retain outstanding employees; as well as be an accomplished and experienced instructional leader with knowledge of best practices while demonstrating integrity and a professional presence.  A superintendent that is a visionary, an  excellent communicator and collaborator is preferred.  Other essential attributes desired are: fiscal acumen, politically  savvy, effective manager of the system, and knowledgeable about facilities.

The first round of interviews is tentatively scheduled for April 27-29, with final interviews tentatively scheduled for May 5-6. The board anticipates extending an offer to a candidate by mid-May.

School Start Times Update

Superintendent Conley provided the history of the school start times proposal, stating there was a past motion (made June 6, 2017) on the floor from the Board to implement new start times for the 2018-19 school year. The administration gathered the details of that motion and what it would look like financially. That information is included in the preliminary budget discussions. The budget will not be voted on until the end of April. The board is also looking at the timing of master planning and if it should wait to make any major changes in school start times. Dr. Conley said there are some traffic solutions being discussed by the city and county, but those solutions are down the road. Vice President JJ Ehlers said the discussion will continue March 6 when more board members are present.

PCEA Report

Ben Kahn, co-president of PCEA, reminded the public that the upcoming tax increase is a result of increased spending across the district, and not just a salary increase for teachers. PCEA wants representation on hiring committees. And Kahn said there was lack of transparency on start times being discussed by the Board tonight. Vice President Ehlers reminded Kahn that start times is only a discussion item because it is included in the preliminary FY19 budget.

PCCEA Report

Colleen Mutcher, president of the Park City Classified Education Association, expressed concerns on behalf of the Transportation Department, about the two-bell schedule. Transportation employees have a lot of concerns about the cost of implementing the new start times, the need for 8-10 new buses, the need for 10 new drivers, and the possible loss of benefits.

Communications Report

Melinda Colton, Director of Communication, reported on the Utah School Public Relations Association’s strategic effort to use district social media channels to push out safety messages, protocols, and resources following the Stoneman-Douglas High School shooting. Colton also said she has been working with Human Resources to develop its online presence for the Education Week Online Job Fair set for March 1. PCSD will be recruiting teachers nationally for the 2018-19 school year. At the request of the board, she is working with the HYA consultants who are conducting the Superintendent Search.

Budget Discussion

Business Administrator Todd Hauber presented $5.7 million in capital outlay recommendations to the board for FY19. The recommendations can be viewed here.

Patron Comments

–Lauren Strachan, a parent who has served on the school start times committee, said the committee approved a two-bell system for an 8:30 a.m. or later start time in schools to assist students in their mental health and well being. She suggested the board considered pushing all start times back 25 minutes so that school buses will not be on the roads during peak traffic times.

–Sharon Maddux, a teacher at Treasure Mountain Junior High, said she attended board meeting thinking a vote was taking place on school start times. She expressed frustration that there has been no communication on this issue with stakeholders, especially teachers. Maddux said this issue will impact every staff member in the district. She believes start times would be better coordinated with the possible realignment being discussed as part of the master planning process.

–Elissa Aten, co-founder and president of PC Reads, said the Wilson Fundations reading program has been well received in the elementary schools. She asked the board to support the addition of four Tier 3 intervention specialists. She said these positions are critical because of the great need for intervention.

–Jim Tedford, a retired teacher, said arming teachers with guns is a very bad idea. He urged the board to support the students movements on this issue, whether locally or nationally. He applauds the students who are starting this movement. He encouraged the board to facilitate any students activities, within reason, that support this national movement.

Learning Academy Focused on Personalized, Project-Based Learning

The Park City Learning Academy has not only changed its name, it has changed the way its students are learning.

The Academy provides Park City High students with an alternative setting for core class instruction in English, math, social studies and science. Elective are taken at the high school.

“The PCLA is a setting for students looking for smaller class sizes, personalized and project-based learning, and an adult mentor to support,” said Principal Tracy Sjostrom.

The PCLA is open to any future 10th-, 11th-, or 12th-grade students “who want to be part of a close-knit group of students and staff focusing on social emotional well-being and academic achievement,” Sjostrom said.

Students can register for the PCLA by picking up an application at Treasure Mountain Junior High or the Academy. Summit Learning is a personalized approach to teaching and learning.

Sjostrom said Summit Learning combines core values, what science tells on how students learn best, and cutting-edge research into a school experience that is tailored to community needs.

The three pillars to the student experience at the Academy are 1) project-based learning where students work alongside teachers and classmates on real-world projects; 2) one-on-one mentoring; and 3) individualized pathways that empower students to set goals and understand content in a way that is best for them.

“We offer exploratory field trips, positive supports, and added encouragement. Students do not fall through the cracks,” Sjostrom said.

Feb. 14 Information Exchange Meeting Summary

The Park City School District Board of Education hosts monthly informal meetings so it can engage parents and members of the community. The following items were discussed Feb.14 at Park City High School with Board President Andrew Caplan and Vice President JJ Ehlers.

Connect Summit County: Executive Director Shauna Wiest provided an overview of the mental healthcare resources Connect Summit County has available to parents and students. Connect, now in its second year, partners with the school district to host events related to mental wellness, suicide prevention, improved communications between parents and students in the age of smartphones, and opioid addiction. Connect provides educational programming, outreach, and a database of resources.

Update on Superintendent Search: President Caplan said the Board has hired HYA, a firm that conducts national searches for superintendents. HYA consultants have conducted more than 40 interviews and focus groups, and are conducting an online survey seeking community input.  Data from the focus groups and survey will be used to compile a leadership profile which will be presented to the board at its Feb. 27 meeting. The superintendent opening is currently being advertised nationally and the board plans to conduct interviews in April. An announcement is expected by the end of the school year.

A parent asked Caplan what his top criteria is for the next superintendent. He said someone with experience and political savvy in a similar community, and someone whose strength is managing a strong team. He said the board is committed to “pulling out all of the stops to bring in a superstar.” He told parents that PCSD is only the second district in Utah to use a national search firm.

One parent said Park City has  high expectations and the district needs a superintendent who has the ability to say no to the community and prioritize what the district can accomplish.

Communication: One parent suggested more information about the superintendent search be included in the newspaper and on the radio. He would like to see more about the process and the timeline publicized.  Caplan thanked him for his feedback and said the district is always looking for ways to improve communication.

Homework: A parent said students are incredibly stressed due to lack of sleep and too much homework. Vice President Ehlers said there is a movement to decrease the amount of homework for students. She noted that Jeremy Ranch Elementary is piloting a no homework policy this year.

Recess: A comment from a parent focused on the importance of students having recess at the elementary level.The parent said he spent 25 years in education and has seen physical activity lessened in the name of academics, but test scores have not improved. He said there is an importance of having designated time for recess, to not only be active, but to learn how to get along with each other. Caplan said that decision is currently made at the local school level, but the Board is reviewing its Wellness Policy and discussing whether it should include guidelines districtwide. “We are looking at the whole child and what are the standards we want for our district. It’s at the top of our mind and we are addressing it as a board,” he said.  

Property Tax Notice: A parent asked for a description of the school uniform fee. Business Administrator Todd Hauber said before 1996 the minimum school tax was called the school uniform. It is now called the basic levy and that levy used to fund education. That title has simply not been changed yet on tax notices.

Master Planning: Master planning will begin in the fall. Caplan said the board has a lot of data about what the community wants. Later start times are a priority for some parents, but what does that mean about the location of the high school, Caplan asked.  “We need to determine what our curriculum and programs will look like.  What do we want our school sizes to look like.?” Caplan said the district is looking at about 15 percent growth in the next 10 years. “We are a mature community and everything we do is going to be costly. Ultimately, we want to make decisions that are the best for the community. After we do that, we need to look at how we finance it.” A parent said there are pros and cons to everything the board will consider. She said as long as people believe the board is making the best decision for students, the community will approve the board’s plans.