School Safety Updates

In an effort to keep parents informed about safety and security updates in our schools, here are some important things Park City School District is doing:

Refresher Safety Training: All school staff completed refresher safety protocol training prior to Winter Break.

December Drill: A lockout drill was held Dec. 15 in all district schools. The purpose of the drill was to practice our safety procedures, test our updated emergency texting system, and to determine additional measures that need to be examined. Following the drill we conducted a debrief with each school and learned what areas we can improve upon.

Student Responsibility: Please remind your students that when they “see something, say something.” They can report incidents to you or any adult at the school. Students should be reminded to text parents they are OK and safe when we are in a lockout or lockdown situation. District officials will share more detailed information with parents as soon as possible.

Emergency Communications: We tested the new updates to our PCSD Chat system during the December drill. We can now text more than 5,200 parents and staff in less than 20 minutes, in both English and Spanish. The text contains a link directing you to the Emergency Update section ofthe district’s Newsroom.

Emergency Procedures:  All classrooms and public areas throughout the district now display a copy of the Standard Response Protocol procedures. A pocket-size version is available, in both English and Spanish, in the main office of each school.

Policies Reviewed: The district is reviewing all policies and procedures related to safety and security.

Hardware Updates: All intercoms in schools have been checked and repaired so an all-call can be heard by everyone in our buildings. We are increasing technology in some parts of the high school to allow for better Internet service.

New App Piloted: During our last drill, Park City High School faculty tested “Loop,” a new app created by Loop Communications based in Park City. The app is designed for group messages and allows communications between the administration and staff.


Elementary School Front Offices Update: Thank you for your patience as we upgrade the front offices in our elementary schools. We had planned to have the front office remodels completed during Winter Break, but there has been a delay in some of the materials. We anticipate those offices completed by the end of January. Once they are finished we will begin remodeling and updating the secondary school front offices.

Safety Consultant: At the request of the Board of Education, the district is retaining a safety consultant to review all the district’s safety measures.

Next Drill:  Our next safety drill is Thursday, Feb. 1. We plan to hold districtwide drills each month.

Thank you for your support as we continue to work at improving our emergency and safety procedures with students and staff.

Superintendent Receives Chief’s Award from Park City Police Department

Dr. Ember Conley, Superintendent of Park City School District, received the Chief’s Award from the Park City Police Department for her contributions to the community.

Dr. Conley was given the award at the Police Department’s meeting today, Jan. 4.  Chief Wade Carpenter said she was honored for her efforts in improving safety training and security at all Park City schools. She has also worked to increase collaboration with Park City Police, including co-creating press releases, and establishing cohesive values and messages.

“I am incredibly touched and humbled by the recognition to me, and by extension, my entire team.  It exemplifies community teamwork for the good of our students,” Dr. Conley said.

Chief Carpenter said Superintendent Conley is “a fighter and I have a ton of respect for her. I appreciate your dedication to students.”

The superintendent is a national speaker and advocate to combat opioid crisis in youth and has had articles published in national magazines.

She has worked to improve outreach with Latino community by creating an entire department for student outreach.

Under her leadership, the school district has increased awareness on student wellness and mental health by increasing staff to support families and students. And she has enhanced community partnerships, including the  Summit County Health Department and helped establish Communities That Care.

13 Ways to Connect With Your Teen

As 2018 gets underway, Park City School District is continuing is focus on safe and healthy habits for students and their parents. Dr. Ben Belnap, Associate Superintendent of Student Wellness, offers his suggestions for parents to better connect with their teens.

He originally wrote these tips when the first season of the series “13 Reasons Why” was released. “While there are so many things wrong with the Netflix series, let’s get some things right,” he said. “Here are 13 ways to connect with your teenager.”

Show interest in your teenager: They don’t want to talk? They’d rather just sit and watch Netflix? Instead of telling them to shut the TV off, sit down with them. Ask them about their show. Be interested. Don’t expect them to take interest in you or openly share their feelings (e.g. family dinner discussions). They won’t meet you halfway. You’re going to have to start by meeting them where they are

Use accurate reflection in your interactions: You might say something like, “Okay, so if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying you can’t trust Olivia because she talks about you behind your back. Is that right?” If it’s right, tell them what a horrible feeling that must be. If it’s not right, ask them to clarify. Don’t seek a solution. Just ask and try to understand. It really does help. You can trust me…unlike that filthy liar, Olivia.

Empathize: Try to imagine what your teen could be feeling. Dig deep into the recesses of the adolescent brain you once had. Look at it the way your adolescent brain would have looked at it. You might actually remember and relate. This helps you avoid that ever-present black hole of parenting: “This is just temporary.” “You’ll look back on this in just a few months and laugh.” “You’ll be better in the end for having gone through it.” It may be true. But remember when your parents said stuff like that to you? You didn’t believe them. You thought they were annoying. You swore you’d never say that to your kids. Think like an adolescent. Don’t get sucked into the black hole.

Remind them it’s temporary (without telling them it’s temporary): Help link their feelings or behaviors to events. You might say something like, “Since you are on the debate team, taking 2 AP courses, and working 15 hours a week, I understand why you’re feeling so overwhelmed right now.” This seems obvious, but when we are overwhelmed by the emotion of an experience, we have a hard time connecting the dots as to why we are so emotionally wound up. This exercise helps your teen to engage the logical/rational mind by connecting the proverbial dots for them. When we logically connect the dots about our emotional experience, it helps us to understand that our distress is connected to an episode. It helps us understand that the distress is temporary; not permanent.

Communicate that you believe your teen’s behavior and/or feelings are reasonable: If your teen is isolating or refusing to go out, you might say, “Since your friends have bailed on you, I can see why you’re hesitant to try to hang out with new people. It makes sense to me why you would want to be by yourself. I am sorry you’re feeling this way. What an awful feeling.” Leave it there. Don’t offer a “…but you still need to…” Leave it alone. The connection is better received than the perfect life-changing lesson you think you have prepared.

Treat your teen as a valid human being: Be genuine. Recognize that they are seeking a solution to feel better, however ridiculous or irrational that solution might be. Nothing is more disingenuous than, “I understand that must be hard for you, but…” Stop it. Your teen is a human being with real human being emotions. Seems obvious, but so many parents forget it. Don’t forget it.

Empower them to solve their own problems: This happens not by telling them to solve their own problems. Rather, this happens by listening, asking sincere information-seeking questions, and eventually saying something like, “Wow. What a tough situation. What do you think you should do about it, and how can I support you?” If they offer a terrible plan—or even a great plan—ask, “Okay. So what do you think would happen?” Or, “How do you think that might solve your problem or make you feel better?” This empowers a teen. This helps them to learn that they can solve their own problems. It also communicates that you trust them to solve their own problems.

Go through old photo albums together: Remind them of core characteristics and attributes they had when they were younger. When looking at an old picture of them, ask them what they think the little boy or girl in the picture expected to accomplish in their lives at that time? Share funny or nostalgic memories from those days. Remind them that the little boy or girl in that picture is still inside of the teen. Remind your teen how much you loved them back then and how much you still love them.

Focus on the emotion; not the behavior: When your teen does something impulsive or acts out, replace “Why did you do that?” with “It seems like you’re really upset. How are you feeling?” They may not immediately respond, but if you continue to do this with sincerity, they will come to understand that you care for them as an individual and are concerned about their feelings regardless of their behaviors.

Ask them to make you a playlist. Listen to it. Give them feedback: Look, no one said parenting would be easy. This is a prime example. You don’t want to do it, but music is one of the primary methods teenagers use to connect. My own dad once told me in passing that he thought Rivers Cuomo from Weezer had a cool voice. He probably doesn’t remember this at all, but it meant the world to me to hear him say that when I was 16 years old. If you show interest in their music and actually listen to their playlist, you are telling them you are interested in them. You are interested in their emotional experiences. You care about them. This eventually leads to emotional connection and opens the door for open and honest communication. Just try it.

Service: Reaching out to others puts problems in perspective. Service gives a sense of meaning and purpose. Clear back in 1896, Mark Twain said, “The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.” It’s as true today as it was then. They will complain. They will protest. Offer them big rewards and drag them to go serve somewhere with you anyway. It pays huge dividends down the road!

Foster passion: A common characteristic between individuals with major depression is a loss of passion about something in their lives. What is your teen passionate about? What did he/she used to be passionate about, but lost it somewhere along the way? Find it. Foster it. Watch a movie about that subject with them. Take them to the library to read about it. Do an internet search with them. Whatever you need to do, do it. Passion drives purpose, which drives resilience.

Praise effort: When you see your teen trying to cope with his/her struggles, praise that effort. Don’t worry about how successful they are; praise the process. Focus on how far they have come since whenever. Focus on how hard they are trying. Let them know how much you respect and look up to them for their efforts. Even if the effort is minimal, make a big deal about it. Leave out the negating follow-up temptation of, “Imagine if you fully applied yourself how much better you’d be doing.” Just stop at the praise part. If you do this, they will come to you for advice. And when they come to you, they will actually listen and appreciate your feedback.

Reducing student stress is focus of project at Ecker Hill Middle

Ecker Hill Middle Student Leadership class

Laken Coulson’s idea to reduce the stress of all Ecker Hill Middle School students was the winning project for the school’s Student Leadership class Health & Safety Project.

Next semester the Student Leadership class will form four groups, with each group responsible for making one video to be shown during advisory periods in March and April. The students will create and star in the videos with the assistance and expertise of yoga and mindfulness instructor Randi Jo Taurel who will guide the students and educate them on each topic.

The overall stress relieving themes will include a variety of topics within these four categories such as enjoying outside activities, using mindfulness, techniques, listening to music, and becoming active in journaling. The fifth and final video the entire class will participate in will be on how not to reduce stress. The videos will also be posted on the school website for future use.

Lauren Vitulli, Women’s Giving Fund mentoring coordinator, said “the goal is to make the videos fun and engaging and help students at Ecker Hill connect with at least one idea to find a way to relieve their stress.”

Upcoming Lunch & Learn to Focus on Keeping the Holidays Happy

 
Jamiee Kidder, Park City School District’s Behavior Specialist, will offer ways to keep the holidays happy as she speaks at a Lunch & Learn on Tuesday, Dec. 12, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the District Office.

Those interested are invited to bring their lunch and enjoyKidder’s wealth of knowledge and practical guidance on “Keeping the Holidays Happy: Preventing Behavior Problems Over the Break.”

The holidays are a wonderful time of year; however, the Winter Break often brings its own set of behavior issues and stress for our students and families. During this session, Kidder will discuss strategies for avoiding power struggles and other behavior problems that detract from family time.  She will also talk about ways to cope with holiday chaos and stay focused on positives during this busy holiday season.

Kidder, who also works as a graduate research assistant at the University of Utah during the summers, is currently a doctoral candidate at the U in applied behavior analysis and special education.

 

 

 

 

 

Youth suicides in Utah increase by 141.3 percent

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) announced today, Nov. 30, that suicides among Utah youth aged 10-17 from 2011 to 2015, increased 141.3 percent, compared to an increase of 23.5 percent nationally.

Suicidal ideation and attempts among Utah youth also increased during this time period. In Summit County, youth suicide attempts increased by 3 percent (826 youth).

The UDOH requested help from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to better understand the factors leading to this increase.

A team of Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers from the CDC was deployed to Utah to conduct an independent epidemiologic investigation, also known as an Epi-Aid, of this urgent public health problem. The Epi-Aid team worked closely with staff at the UDOH to analyze data from seven major data sources to better determine trends, common precipitating factors for suicide, and risk and protective factors for suicidal behaviors unique to Utah youth.

“None of these data sets could have provided such a comprehensive picture of what is happening alone,” said Michael Friedrichs, epidemiologist with the UDOH. “Our investigation showed that suicide is complex and youth can experience multiple risk and protective factors. No single behavior or risk factor could explain all the reasons for the increase we’ve seen.”

From 2011 to 2015, 150 Utah youth aged 10-17 died by suicide, the majority of which were aged 15-17 years (75.4%), male (77.4%), and non-Hispanic white (81.3%). More than a third (35.2%) of youth who died by suicide had a mental health diagnosis and nearly a third (31.0%) were depressed at the time of their death.

“We continue to see the critical importance of addressing mental health concerns both in relation to suicide deaths and suicidal ideation and attempts,” said Kimberly Myers, suicide prevention coordinator at the Utah Department of Human Services. “Mental health treatment can and does work. Suicide is preventable and we need to continue to promote better access to care for those struggling with suicidal thoughts.”

Those experiencing suicidal thoughts can reach out for free, confidential help 24/7 by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visiting suicidepreventionlifeline.org.  The SafeUT Crisis Text & Tip Line app is also available for download. Suicide prevention resources for LGBTQ youth are available at https://www.thetrevorproject.org.

In addition to mental health concerns, family relationship problems, other forms of violence such as bullying at school and electronic bullying, substance use, and psychological distress were common risk factors in youth suicides. However, supportive family, community, and peer environments were protective against suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

“Families, schools, neighborhoods, and communities at large must become safeguards against suicidal thoughts for youth,” said Cathy Davis, suicide prevention coordinator with the Utah State Board of Education. “Including youth in decisions that affect them, setting clear expectations and rules, ensuring youth are able to ask for and receive help when needed, giving them opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, and providing a safe place where youth live, learn, and play can all help prevent suicides.”

Additional findings showed that among those youth who died by suicide:

  • 55.3% experienced a recent crisis within two weeks of the death (family relationships and dating partner problems were the most common recent crisis)
  • 23.9% disclosed their intent to die within one month prior to their death
  • 20.5% had a history of cutting or had evidence of recent cutting
  • 12.6% experienced family conflicts as a result of restriction to technology use or that resulted in a restriction to technology, such as having a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or gaming system being taken away by a parent or guardian
  • Of the 40 cases that had information on the decedent’s sexual orientation, six (15.0%) were identified as sexual minorities

The Epi-Aid team also compared the three most commonly implemented suicide prevention programs in Utah schools – QPR, Hope Squads, and Hope for Tomorrow – to national recommendations for suicide prevention. None of the three programs have been rigorously evaluated for effects on suicidal behavior, although findings from less rigorous evaluation show some preliminary positive results.

The CDC made the following recommendations based on these findings:

  • Increase access to evidence-based mental health care for youth
  • Strengthen family relationships
  • Promote connectedness within the home, peer, school, and community environments
  • Identify and provide support to youth at risk of suicidal behaviors
  • Prevent other forms of violence among youth
  • Reduce access to lethal means
  • Teach coping and problem solving skills
  • Consider comprehensive and coordinated suicide prevention programs that address multiple risk and protective factors simultaneously
  • Conduct ongoing comprehensive evaluation of suicide prevention programs

Suicide is a complex behavior with multiple risk and protective factors. “No one prevention strategy will work to prevent all suicides. However, implementing comprehensive, coordinated prevention programs will be effective and likely reduce suicidal behaviors among Utah youth,” said Myers.

To get involved in suicide prevention efforts in Utah or to find a suicide prevention training near you, visit https://utahsuicideprevention.org.

A three-page summary report of the findings is available at http://ow.ly/4rME30gTMBl. The complete CDC investigation report is available at http://health.utah.gov.

Trailside Mileage Club logs 2,924 miles so far this year

The 429 members of Trailside Elementary’s Mileage Club have already logged 2,924 miles so far this year. On Nov. 21, the students logged 140 miles, despite the rain and the wind.

The program, sponsored by the school’s PTO, is a running/walking club that encourages students to get exercise during their lunch recess. The PTO encourages teachers, parent volunteers, and younger siblings to join in the run. Some 46 students have already run more than 13 miles and are considered “All Stars.”

“The amazing Jess Lerner moved to Park City this past summer from a school in Colorado that had a Mileage Club. After becoming our PTO vice president of Health and Wellness, she introduced the idea to us,” said Megan Luckan, co-PTO president at Trailside this year with Melanie Smith. “We were so taken with the idea of fostering continued group activity at recess, and the physical and mental health benefits of the exercise, that our PTO Board voted unanimously to have her start it.”

Parent volunteers help set up and take down, cheer runners on, hand out awards and track laps.

The Mileage Club offers students the opportunity to build self-esteem, improve their health, and experience their own personal power. Based on a non-competitive philosophy, the Mileage Club focuses on the completion of both personal and collaborative goals.

This is the last week of the Mileage Club, with runs planned for Tuesday and Thursday (Nov. 28 and 30), from 11-12:30 p.m. Once students have completed four laps they receive a charm. This week’s charm is a snowman.

Breakfast served at all PCSD schools

The Child Nutrition Services Department wants to remind parents that breakfast is served in all schools within Park City School District.

The School Breakfast Program is a national program that provides millions of children a nutritious morning meal each school day. School breakfast is a critical support for struggling families trying to stretch limited resources and provides children a significant portion of the nutrition they need to learn and be healthy, according to the Food Research Action Center.

“Kick off your child’s day on a positive note, start with a healthy breakfast that includes fresh fruits and whole grains,” said PCSD Director of Child Nutrition R.J. Owen.

For a nominal fee, students can eat breakfast in the cafeteria before school starts. Cost is $1.20 at elementary schools, $1.35 at Ecker Hill Middle, $1.45 at Treasure Mountain Junior High, $1.50 at Park City High, and reduced breakfasts are $.30.

Superintendent sends safety letter to parents

Superintendent Ember Conley emailed the following letter this morning to all parents in Park City School District outlining the safety procedures the district followed during Tuesday’s lockdown/lockout at schools on the Kearns Campus.

November 17, 2017

Dear Parents,

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we managed and evaluated our Kearns Campus lockdown/lockout earlier this week. Our staff had recently reviewed the district safety procedures with students after the University of Utah shooting; and our schools were prepared because of the safety drills and reviews we conduct throughout the year.  

We are appreciative of the Park City High student who saw the individual and immediately reported it to school authorities. Law enforcement was called and the Park City Police were able to apprehend the individual and secure all Kearns Campus schools within 40 minutes. We have asked the City Attorney to charge the individual to the full extent of the law.  Additionally, we have followed our school district policies and carried out necessary actions to prevent this occurring in the future with the individual.

In debriefing with the team, we did have an incident at McPolin Elementary where a few students were sent outside to their modular classroom during the lockout. This should not have occurred; and we have reviewed proper procedures with the principal and staff.  As a parent of an elementary aged student, I can imagine the fear and frustration that a few parents have felt.

As we always do, we debriefed Wednesday morning with our administrative team, who debriefed within their individual schools. We have also received feedback and suggestions from our PTOs, which are very helpful. We meet this next week with our district safety team and will make necessary modifications to our procedures.These modifications often times result in more practice of the protocol, addressing areas of deficiencies, and changing systems, like technology and communication. We are in the process of looking at different emergency notification systems and will alert parents when we have that in place.

As a reminder, in the event of a school or community emergency that requires school lockout (secure perimeter), lockdown(secure perimeter and inside building), shelter in place, closure, or evacuation status, information will be provided to parents as soon as possible. Our first priority is to work with law enforcement to notify our schools and employees so they can take the proper precautions with our students.

Parents, please allow emergency personnel full access to the emergency by remaining clear of the school. We are reviewing several emergency notification systems that offer state-of-the-art technology so we can notify you more immediately. Our first priority is to mitigate the situation at hand with staff and students. We will alert parents as soon as we possibly can. Until we have the alert system purchased and implemented, the fastest mode of communication is our district Facebook page and website. As always, we encourage students with cell phones to text their parents, stating that they are safe and to await notification from the school district and law enforcement.  

We reaffirm our commitment to student and staff safety and will do all we can to improve our protocol and our communication with parents.

Sincerely,

Ember Conley, Superintendent