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.

After-School Programs Create Unique Opportunities for Students

Park City is fortunate to have outstanding community partners supporting vibrant after-school programs for elementary students. Last year Park City School District and Holy Cross Ministries Combined its after-school programs into one unified program and it’s proving to be a big win for students.

Holy Cross Ministries has offered its own program for underserved children since 2000.  “Holy Cross Ministries has a long history of providing services within the Park City community. We work very hard to make sure the needs of the underserved are met,” said Patricia Sanders, Director of Development and Communications for HCM. “Last year we were able to partner with Park City School District in our after-school programming. That combination has improved the program and created a better experience for the students.”

Todd Klarich, Director of Community Education for PCSD, said more students are being served and that is only possible because of the partnership with HCM and other community partners. “We appreciate all the efforts that have made this program be so successful and we value this  partnership which has created many more opportunities for all our children.”

The four pillars of the after-school program are:

– STEM and Literacy: Students read for 30-45 minutes every day then alternate between art and science projects during enrichment time.

– Homework Help: Students work on homework for 45-90 minutes each day with help from teachers and volunteer tutors.

– Physical education and Exercise:  Students have recess 30 minutes each day and go on field trips twice a month with Kids Outdoors.

– Field Trips: Students go on field trips in Park City and in Salt Lake City.

The programs run Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Fridays from 12:30-6 p.m. It is open to students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and a monthly fee is charged. Financial assistance is available for those who qualify.

After-school programs are offered at all four Park City School District elementary schools — Camp Moose, Camp Hawk, Camp Falcons, and Camp Trailblazers. Parents can still register for the programs going on now, and next year’s registration begins in April.

Additional community partnerships include: Park City Education Foundation, United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Basic Recreation, PC Marc, EATS Park City, Summit Land Conservancy, Youth Sports Alliance, Park City Community Foundation, and Latinos in Action.

For more information visit the Community Education website here.

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About Holy Cross Ministries: Holy Cross Ministries (HCM) is a non-profit organization in Utah that responds to the underserved community’s need for health and wellbeing. HCM’s  history of providing services to vulnerable families in this community dates back to 1875, when the first two sisters of the Holy Cross arrived to establish a hospital for injured miners and railroad workers. In their first three months of service, they opened a hospital and a grade school. They established an innovative prepaid health plan for miners in which participants contributed $1 a month while in good health, which entitled them to free admission. Over the years, as the healthcare environment and delivery system in the United States became more complex, the sisters decided to move away from the acute hospital setting and to look at new and innovative ways to reach out to the underserved and underinsured. In 1994, the Sisters created Holy Cross Ministries (a 501c3 nonprofit organization) to continue their tradition of compassionate service. Today, Holy Cross Ministries continues to serve the poor, underserved and marginalized, through health outreach, education, and legal services.

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.

Board Meeting Summary

Dec. 19, 2017 | Regular Session

Master Planning Process Report

Nick Salmon, founder and president of Collaborative Learning Network, presented the board with his report and a timeline concerning the district’s master planning process. Board member Anne Peters asked what is the next step in the master planning process. Salmon said the board needs to determine how quickly it wants the process to move. Board member Petra Butler said she doesn’t want the decision to bond to drive the master planning process. She encouraged the board to take its time because it is planning what the district will look like for the next 10-15 years. Salmon concurred, stating he has a bias to fully use what facilities the district already has before building new structures. Board Vice President JJ Ehlers reminded the board it is waiting on the demographic study to be completed so it knows where student populations are in relation to schools. Salmon said the board could use this winter and spring to pull together the remaining pieces of information such as enrollment forecasting and geo-mapping. Time also needs to be spent in every building observing how space is being used. Board member Julie Eihausen agrees the board should take its time with master planning, but she reminded the board that in the meantime it will be spending a great deal of money to maintain Treasure Mountain Junior High.

Superintendent Search

Terry Shoemaker, Associate Director of the Utah School Board Association and Executive Director of the Utah School Superintendents Association, provided the Board with information regarding its search for a new superintendent. He reminded the Board that this decision is critical to students, to parents, to local community leaders, and to state policy makers. Shoemaker said USBA is available to assist the board in finding qualified candidates.

Superintendent’s Report

–Superintendent Ember Conley reported a district committee has been created to study chronic absenteeism. The committee will research why there are so many absences and determine possible solutions to pilot at schools.

–She said the district’s recent lockout drill was successful and districtwide drills will continue throughout the school year. The text messaging system was a great improvement and she says the district will improve with each drill. A request for proposal has been submitted for a safety consultant and the safety committee will review proposals Jan. 2. The superintendent is anxious to get a consultant on board to review all the district’s safety projects.

–Dr. Conley’s next Open Office Hours is set for Jan. 22, 2018, from 2:30-4 p.m. in the Board Rooms. Continue reading “Board Meeting Summary”

Chronic absences a growing concern in Park City schools

Park City School District has created a committee to look at the growing concern of chronic absences. Chronic absenteeism is defined as a measure of how many students miss a defined number of school days (often around 15 or more days) for any reason.

The committee, which will meet monthly until May, consists of Superintendent Ember Conley, district administrators, principals, counselors, teachers, parents, Latino outreach specialists, and community partners.

During its first meeting last week, the committee was presented data by Caitlin O’Connor, the district’s statistician. About 2 percent of the district’s students have severe chronic absences (miss 20 percent or more of school days). Some 10 percent of students have moderate chronic absences (miss 10-19 percent of school days).

In 2017, the students who missed the most school included minorities, ELL students, and economically disadvantaged students.

The leadership at Park City Learning Academy is extremely happy to see a committee studying this issue. “We strive to help students get on a meaningful path toward college and/or career and have the opportunity to mentor individuals, provide project-based learning and meet students at their level with personalized learning,” said Principal Tracy Sjostrom who is a member of the committee. “Students need strong cognitive skills to thrive in today’s world. If they are not at school, we can’t guide them to reach their full potential. I am grateful for various stakeholders coming together to put an evidence based attendance plan in place. With 30-50 percent of PCLA students missing one or more periods a day, it is dire that we do what it takes to decrease chronic absenteeism.”

 At the national level, more than 7 million students are missing so many days of school that they are academically at risk. Chronic absences can translate into third-graders unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing subjects and ninth-graders dropping out of high school.

The PCSD committee’s goal is to reduce the number of unexcused absences by at least 50 percent. It will also ensure consistency between all schools by upholding Utah Administrative Code and following the PCSD Attendance Policy. 

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.”

Dec. 13 Information Exchange Meeting Summary

In an effort to engage parents, employees, and members of the community, the Park City School District Board of Education hosts informal monthly exchange meetings. Each month the meetings are held at different schools. The following items were discussed Dec. 13 at Ecker Hill Middle by the parents who attended the meeting with board member Petra Butler.

Mindfulness Program: Rebecca Brenner and Randy Jo Taurel provided an overview of the mindfulness program being taught at Ecker Hill Middle this year. Mindful learning includes simple ways to reduce stress and improve impulse control, attention span, emotion regulations, and empathy. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Thanks to a grant from the Park City Education Foundation, the two experts are working with 12 teachers and three counselors at the school about the benefits and uses of mindfulness. The mindfulness exercises are then taught to their students and used in their classrooms. These simple tools can help students in the classroom and at home.

Master Planning: Butler said the Board has completed it strategic planning updates and is now starting on master planning. A consultant has been retained and will present his plan to the board next week. The Board will then bring in a facilitator to begin master planning with community. “This is the piece that determines what this community wants and what our district will look like 10 to 15 years from now,” Butler said. “Do you want new schools? What kinds of programs to you want your children to have access to? What kind of schools do you want? These are the kinds of questions we need to ask as we begin master planning.”

Start times and grade realignment: Butler said both issues will be discussed following master planning. For now, the board is not discussing either issue until the master planning process is complete. “Both are very complex issues,” Butler said. “Until the traffic on Kearns Boulevard is fixed, the board cannot guarantee students will get to school on time. Until we figure out the traffic, we can’t make it happen.”

Superintendent search: Business Administrator Todd Hauber said the board has sent out a request for proposal for a recruiter to identify potential candidates.

Temporary classrooms: A parent asked if the board anticipated adding more temporary classrooms in the district.  Butler said the board just closed all schools to open enrollment which will help in managing enrollment. Hauber said the board will begin discussing next year’s budget and determine if new programs will be added or current programs expanded– and whether or not those will require more space. Currently, the district has two portable classrooms at Trailside Elementary, two at McPolin Elementary, two at Treasure Mountain Junior High, and one at the District Office.

Community involvement: A parent expressed frustration that the same people are always at community meetings. Butler said the board is open to suggestions on how to get the community more engaged.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Superintendent Notifies Board – Last Day is June 30, 2018

Superintendent Ember Conley

Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley announced today, Dec. 6, she will not seek renewal of her current contract. Her last day as superintendent will be June 30, 2018. She will remain available to transition the new superintendent until Jan. 31, 2019.

“I wanted to provide the board with ample time to select a superintendent who will continue the important work that we have been doing over the last five years,” Dr. Conley said. “A successful transition is extremely important as we move into the next chapter for leadership in Park City School District.”

Dr. Conley has served as superintendent in Park City since 2013. Prior to that she served as a school and district administrator for nine years in Colorado and Arizona.

“My singular focus has been to provide choices and opportunity where students are excited to learn. I will remain fully committed to this vision we created.  As the head administrator I stand with my team in recognizing the tremendous accomplishments we have been able to achieve at PCSD for our students.”

As superintendent, Dr. Conley is responsible for the overall academics and educational experiences with curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional practice; District Office management; administrative team management; budget oversight (including supervising the planning, preparation and presentation of the annual budget and making recommendation to the board for approval); resources and facilities; and knowing current national education trends.

“Dr. Conley and her leadership will be greatly missed. The Park City School District has grown leaps and bounds during her tenure in our community,” said Board President Andrew Caplan. “The Board thanks Dr. Conley for her exemplary service and commitment to our district and wishes her the best in her future endeavors. We look forward to celebrating her accomplishments with the community this spring.”

During her time at PCSD, Dr. Conley’s accomplishments include:

–Park City High named one of the top 500 schools in the nation

–Increased graduation rate from 89% in 2013  to 97% in 2017, which is the top 1% of the country

–Awarded elementary school, Jeremy Ranch Elementary, as a National Blue Ribbon School, the first in PCSD

–Lead two successful contract negotiations with staff after coming into an environment of federal mediation for contract negotiations

–Improved the achievement gap for Latino students

–A top  five Advanced Placement rate district in Utah with a 75% participation rate and a 70% pass rate with the distinction of being awarded top AP School in the state in 2015 and the top two AP students in the state in 2016

–National speaker and advocate to combat opioid crisis in youth with two national publications in School Administrator Magazine and the ASCD Education 

–Improved outreach with Latino community by creating an entire department for student outreach

–Enhanced community partnerships, including the establishment and support of Communities that Cares and Summit County Health Department

–Developed STEM programs at all elementary schools

–Implemented coding for all elementary students

–Added a gifted and talented specialist at each elementary school

–Developed the Beverly Taylor Sorenson dance specialist at Parley’s Park Elementary

–PCSD was named the only Apple Distinguished Program  in Utah for 2014-16 for implementation of its “one-to-one” initiative that supplies students (grades 2-12) with laptops to use in the classroom and to take home

–In U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 rankings, Park City High is one of only three high schools in Utah to earn a gold medal

–Successful implementation of international recognized Dual Language programs by the Spanish and French Embassies

–Added crucial administrative staff — Associate Superintendent of Student Wellness and Director of Communications — with a focus on student wellness

–Doubled the number of nurses in the district from 3 to 6 to address student health needs

–Created new academic program, Summit Learning, for the Park City Learning Academy

–Increased counselors and added social worker counselors to support families and students

–Developed nationally recognized full-day preschool program and added free all-day kindergarten for all students (the only district in the state)

–Named to two national education organization boards that include AASA and the Horace Mann Executive Board