Board Selects Dr. Jill Gildea as Superintendent

Dr. Jill Gildea

After conducting an extensive national search, the Park City School District Board of Education has selected Dr. Jill Gildea as Superintendent. The Board voted today to appoint Dr. Gildea, an experienced educator with demonstrated success in enhancing family and community engagement, in improving student achievement, inspiring innovative learning environments, and demonstrating effective fiscal management.

Dr. Gildea is currently the Superintendent of Greenwich Public Schools in Connecticut and brings three decades of education experience to Park City. She has a proven track record in managing school districts using data-driven decisions and sound fiscal practices, working collaboratively with staff and parent groups, as well as with local township governments to fund educational needs.

She is known as a student-centered and future-focused educator who keeps students at the center of all decisions. She has been a Superintendent for 11 years, assistant superintendent, educational programs director, curriculum director, high school division administrator, elementary principal, and has taught at the middle and high school levels.

“Her experience as a Superintendent both in the Chicago area and in Greenwich will bring valuable intellectual capital to our district,” said Board President Andrew Caplan. “Her history of helping children succeed academically, socially, and emotionally stood out to the board and made her our first choice for this position. The board looks forward to welcoming Dr. Gildea to our community this summer and we are excited to support her leadership in the coming months and years ahead.”

Dr. Gildea exemplifies the qualities the community identified as those they would like to see in the next Superintendent, and was a top choice for the the 12-member community committee that interviewed candidates.

President Caplan said Dr. Gildea impressed the Board as a strong educational practitioner and thought-leader, well-versed in the national conversation on public education. She values the mission and vision of the Park City School District with its focus on inspiring and supporting all students equitably to achieve their academic and social potential. She has a keen understanding of what it takes to manage systemic change in order to achieve student growth and improve performance, create a master plan for facilities and managerial systems, and to enhance communications and family and community engagement.

“I’m honored to join the Park City School District and to work collectively on the important visionary and strategic work of an exemplary system,” Dr. Gildea said. “From my perspective in visiting other districts across the country through my work with a variety of national organizations, I believe that Park City School District keeps its students at the center of key decisions, and models whole child practice. The District is well poised as a leader not only in Utah, but in the nation. I look forward to joining this talented and dedicated team.”

An award-winning and published educator, Dr. Gildea has been recognized as an exemplary educational leader and for her work in communications and fiscal management. She has worked with implementation of a future-focused strategic plan, master facility planning, and scaling innovative practices.

She has received numerous honors and accolades including: 2014 Finalist for the National Association of School Superintendents’ Superintendent of the Year Award, the National School Public Relations Association 2013 Golden Achievement Award in Communications, and Illinois Association of School Business Officials’ Meritorious Budget Awards in Financial Budgeting for six years running.

Dr. Gildea earned her Doctorate in curriculum and supervision from Northern Illinois University, her Master of Education in language and literacy, and her superintendent’s endorsement from National Louis University, and her Bachelor of Arts in English and Secondary Education from Bradley University.

Community Members Needed for Master Planning Steering Committee

Park City School District is soliciting interested community members to be a part of its master planning steering committee. The district is seeking a diverse stakeholder group representation as part of this committee.

The district has retained NV5 as its owner representative for the master planning process.  An executive committee has been formed and is now in the process of  building a steering committee that ensures all stakeholder groups have a voice and the opportunity to be involved in this longterm planning process.

Those interested are invited to complete the steering committee application is below.

Steering Committee Application (English)

Steering Committee Application (Spanish)

Deadline for applications is June 7 at 3 p.m. The steering committee will not begin meeting until August.

Please complete the application and return it to Park City School District Office, 2700 Kearns Boulevard, (Attention: Todd Hauber) or email it directly to NV5 at

13 Ways to Connect with Your Teenager

By Dr. Ben Belnap | Licensed Psychologist | Associate Superintendent of Student Wellness, Park City School District

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.

High School Implementing ‘Homeroom’ for 2018-19 School Year

Park City High School is implementing homeroom for students next year in an effort to provide a space for students to reflect and grow socially and emotionally, and develop authentic relationships with their peers and teachers.

Homeroom, which is required for all students, will be held 35 minutes during second period every Monday. Students will not be graded but will receive credit for attendance and participation. Students will be randomly assigned by Powerschool to homeroom and classes will consist of students in grades 10-12.

“Two years ago, students proposed the idea with the intent of reducing student stress, increasing academic engagement, providing greater student support, and creating a greater school community,” said Interim Principal Kathleen Einhorn. “Over the course of the past two years, our Leadership Team has examined various curricula and best practices to best meet the needs of all of our students. Research shows that students who have a greater school connection and consistent time to reflect are better prepared for success beyond high school.”

Homeroom will consists of activities such as YouSchool topics, study skills building, counseling curriculum, school culture building, and class competitions.

PCHS counselors will educate students about stress management, bullying, test-taking strategies, mental health, and substance abuse. Parents will be informed on the topics being discussed so they can continue the conversations at home with their students.

Einhorn also noted that the most recent visit from the AdvancEd accreditation team suggested the school improve upon its systemic student-teacher connections. PCHS is also using homeroom to  satisfy the Federal and State mandates around Social and Emotional Learning.

“The high school’s new principal, Roger Arbabi, has been included in the implementation of homeroom and is excited to see how homeroom improves students’ relationships with not only their teachers but also other students,” Einhorn said.

Board Meeting Summary

May 15, 2018|  Regular Session

Superintendent Report

Interim Superintendent David Gomez reported on the Front Line Blue Line event held Monday night at Ecker Hill Middle School. The evening was presented by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the school district and Communities That Care. Nearly 400 parents attended and learned about drugs and online safety. A Resource Fair was also available for parents to visit with representatives from various community agencies.

Communications Report

Communications Director Melinda Colton said the district’s Facebook page numbers continue to grow and last month reached nearly 12,000 people (an increase of 33% from the previous month). She also reminded the board that all news coverage about the district can be found in the Newsroom.

PCEA Report

PCEA Co-President Ben Kahn said PCEA has appreciated the Administration and board seeking its input about the new educator evaluation policy. He also asked why additional assistant principals at secondary schools are needed and what their responsibilities would include.

PCCEA Report

President Colleen Mutcher introduced Conde Ponce, a custodian at Park City High, who was honored last month as the Utah School Employee Association’s winner in the custodian category. Mutcher also told the board this was her last meeting since she was retiring at the end of this school year. She thanked the board for its continued support of classified employees.

New Student Representative Introduced

Park City High junior Steven Mitchell was introduced as the new student representative on the board. Board Vice President JJ Ehlers will work with Mitchell this summer looking at ways the board can improve its dialogue with students and get their input on the issues impacting them.  

Master Planning Update

The district has hired NV5 as its owner representative for the district’s master planning process. An executive committee has been formed and is in the process of creating a master planning steering committee comprised of members of the community. The application process seeking volunteers for that committee will be published shortly. The executive committee is also in the final stages of reviewing the RFP for a master planner.

Critically Conscious Teaching Overview

Meghan Zarnetske, a teacher at Treasure Mountain Junior High, presented information regarding the Critically Conscious Teaching cohort this year.  Its goal has been to increase collective understanding of social identities and to provide a safer and more inclusive school district for all. The cohort has met twice a month to discuss issues surrounding race, culture, gender, sexuality and how to facilitate conversations in classrooms to “normalize” marginalized groups. Three teachers in the cohort addressed the board and said the training has made significant impacts on them and the way the teach and interact with their students. Board President Andrew Caplan offered the board’s full support of the program and its goal to increase the program next year to 40 teachers. Student representative Mitchell said in the past few years he has seen a notable difference in the ways students are more accepting of each other. He expressed appreciation to the teachers for the work they do in merging beliefs and creating a more effective learning environment for everyone. 

FY19 Budget Discussion

The board requested additional information and data on the following FY19 budget considerations:

–Special assignment contract rate adjustment: In the past, the District has followed administrative guidance and practice for various types of work.  Business Administrator Hauber is recommending the district use the teachers’ base salary daily rate. 

–Substitute pay increase: The district is experiencing a shortage in substitutes. Improving pay will help alleviate some of the pressures experienced in filling assignments. There will also be an economic advantage for those subbing on Mondays and Fridays.

–Job study: Following a classification and market study of 60 positions in the district, the study recommends title and lane changes to 11 positions.

–Three assistant principals at secondary schools: The addition of one assistant principal at Park City High, Treasure Mountain Junior High, and Ecker Hill Middle School will bring the ratio of administrators to students more in line with the Utah ratio. Principals also need additional administrators in their buildings to help with licensed evaluations, assist with the 22 UHSAA and club sports, 37 school clubs, student supervision, safety, student wellness, discipline, evening and weekend activities, increase in 504s, and parent communication.

–Four elementary interventionists: An additional interventionist at each elementary school would provide much-needed time and support for struggling students. This will provide more personalized services to the students who need it the most. Schools will develop a plan that will be evaluated by a district team prior to the allocation of the interventionist.

School Safety Report

Board President Caplan asked that the principals reach out to their community liaisons and let them know about the compromise solutions on fences. Interim Superintendent Gomez told the board the district is posting the opening for a full-time Safety Coordinator to oversee and safety and security measure districtwide.

Public Comment

Laura Rojas, a parent from McPolin Elementary representing the PTO, expressed frustration with the district’s lack of direction and delayed timeline on safety improvements at the schools. She said appropriate safety measures are virtually non existent until the lobby remodel is complete. Board President Caplan acknowledged the board’s disappointment in the delay of safety projects. He said students are their No. 1 priority and anticipates all the safety measures will be in place by the start of the new school year.

Cell Phone Tower Update

As per Policy 6000, Modification to School District Property, the board approved structural changes at the high school, subject to an acceptable lease agreement for a proposed cell phone tower.

Policies for Posting

–Policy 7085: Employing Licensed Staff

–Policy 7110: Resignations

Policies Approved

–Policy 10021: Dropout Prevention and Recovery

–Policy 11000: Family Education Rights and Privacy

Show Your Pedal Pride on Friday, May 18

In partnership with the Park City Municipal and Summit County, Park City School District is asking students and parents to show their pedal pride during its annual “Bike to Work, School and Play Day” on Friday, May 18.

The event is an opportunity to remind students about safety and the importance of bicycles as great options transportation and recreation.

Those biking to school should meet at 7:50 a.m. at PC MARC, Aspen Villas, Arches Park (south side of Comstock) or Park City Heights (meet at 7:30 a.m.). The route, along Kearns Boulevard, will lead the cyclists to the Park City High. Law enforcement, Park City staff, parent volunteers and teachers, will be assisting with the ride that morning to ensure safety along the route.

The Park City High School visitor’s parking lot will be a community hub for bicyclists, parents and students from 7:30-10 a.m., with breakfast served and bicycle safety materials and bike tune-ups.

The Snyderville Basin will be hosting snag and swag booths that morning from 7:30-8:15 a.m. at Trailside, Jeremy Ranch and Parley’s Park Elementary Schools.  That afternoon at Trailside Park (upper parking lot) there will be a bike obstacle course, helmet fitting, barbecue, and safety demonstrations from 1-3 p.m.

At McPolin Elementary, a Bicycle Rodeo for students will be held from 11 a.m. to noon. The PCHS Mountain Bike Club will set up the rodeo, the school’s Bici Club will wash and tune-up bikes, a parent volunteer will be conducting helmet fittings, and representatives from Park City Municipal will provide safe riding tips.

Parents and students not able to bike to school tomorrow (May 18), are invited to attend breakfast at PCHS (7:30-10 a.m.) or lunch at Trailside Park (1-3 p.m.).

The Park City area has received numerous accolades as a bike-friendly city, and the League of American Bicyclists recognized Park City Snyderville Basin Community with a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community award — the only community in Utah to receive the Gold-level award.

Park City School District is happy to partner with Park City Chamber, Summit County Health Department, Summit County Sheriff’s Department, Park City Police Department, Mountain Trails Foundation, Snyderville Basin Recreation, Park City Municipal, and Summit County to conduct this community-wide event.

International Arts Festival planned for May 24 at Parley’s Park

An evening of performances and presentations featuring integrated learning and the arts is planned for May 24 from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at Parley’s Park Elementary. The event, which is open to the community, will highlight a variety of projects including spoken word, visual arts, technology, dance, and music.

The public is invited to walk through the school, similar to a museum walk, to see the various projects and performances. “This year’s event will include the entire school grounds, including outdoor and indoor stages, a hallway art gallery, and displays in the lobby and library,” said Aaron Webb, music specialist.

Now in its third year, the festival highlights the school’s arts partnerships with Elementary Visual Arts (EVA), Kimball Art Center and Park City Education Foundation, the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program (dance), and Arts Youth Empowerment (after-school violin program).

“Our festival began as a celebration of Hispanic heritage by the dual immersion classes, and has grown to be even more inclusive of the entire school and other cultures and art-forms,” Webb said. “We are uniquely fortunate at Parley’s to have a comprehensive curriculum in dance, music, visual art, and technology that both supports and is supported by the core curriculum in the classroom. Many hands come together to make the festival work, including PTA, Mountain Town Music, food vendors, administrators, teachers, and most importantly, our students. Our goal is to celebrate the creative accomplishments of the students at Parley’s Park Elementary, and there are many.”

Anna Stampfli, founder of Arts Youth Empowerment, started the after-school violin programs recently Parley’s Park and Trailside Elementary Schools. She calls them “integrated youth learning orchestras.” Students initially focus on the violin, learning the fundamentals of playing a stringed instrument and developing a close connection with their core subjects.

Violinists from both schools will perform. Additionally, Stampfli has worked with four core teaches in grades 2, 3, and 5 at Parley’s to develop projects that integrate music with a deeper understanding of what students are academically learning. A second-grade class has made a violin mobile for the front hallway at the school, a third-grade class has created storyboards about the water cycle and published them on a life-size storybook scroll. And fifth-grade students have advance their knowledge by breaking down the volume of a cylinder and crafting personalized Djembe drums with things that inspire them.

“These are just a few examples of integrated learning that can happen,” said Stampfli. “The entire evening will showcase the immense arts we have here at Parley’s Park and how the arts can be used as a powerful tool for learning.”

May 10 Information Exchange Meeting Summary

The Park City School District Board of Education members hosts monthly informal meetings so that it can engage parents and members of the community. The following items were discussed May 10 at Park City Learning Academy with board Vice President JJ Ehlers and board member Erin Grady. This was the final exchange meeting of the school year.

Class Ranking: A parent asked if the high school is doing away with class rank and moving to a Latin honors system (Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, Cum Laude).  Ehlers said the board has seen no proposal on this change. The parent expressed frustration that students are talking about the change because teachers are, yet parents have no information about it. She said students should not be hearing about these program changes from teachers.

Late Start on Mondays at TMJH and PCHS: A parent asked for more details regarding the possibility of a late start next year on Mondays at Treasure Mountain Junior High and Park City High. She wants to know the rationale behind this change and how it will impact transportation issues. She encouraged the District to communicate this information to parents as soon as possible so they can begin planning for next year.  

Standards Referenced Grading: A parent questioned the benefits of standards referenced grading. She said that not all teachers are educated about how it works, even though it has been piloted at Ecker Hill Middle School. The parent believes there is not a buy-in from faculty because the new grading will require teachers to restructure how to grade assignments. She does not want more stress placed on teachers and believes it needs to be rolled out slowly. Ehlers said the decision to move to this new system was made by the Professional Learning Communities at the schools.

Changes at the District: In light of the changes at the District, a parent suggested that changes to programs be placed on hold until a new Superintendent is in place.  

Update on Selecting Superintendent: Five candidates were interviewed May 5 by the board and a 12-member community committee. The board narrowed the field of candidates to two finalists and Saturday, May 12, conducted a final round of interviews. Ehlers said both finalists were both approved by the community panel as well as the board. The board will issue a public statement about its selection once a decision has been made, and the board’s consultants have completed its due diligence.

Park City High Senior Gives it Her All on Stage

PCHS senior Alexa Wilcox portraying Jo in “Little Women” (photo  by Riki Case)

Editor’s Note: In the coming weeks leading up to graduation, we will highlight Park City High seniors and their outstanding accomplishments.

Alexa Wilcox is a drama queen — literally! The Park City High senior has an impressive list of performing arts accolades not only theater, but also dance. Her accomplishments are so impressive that she will be attending the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University for its musical theater Bachelor of Fine Arts program, with a dance concentration. After two months of auditioning, she decided to enroll at Roosevelt University where she has been awarded a prestigious talent-based scholarship.

During the months of January and February she missed school frequently to audition for programs at several universities. Through it all, she has maintained a rigorous academic schedule taking six Advanced Placement classes this year and last.

Wilcox’s theater accomplishments are many. She was a finalist for best actress at the 2016-17 Utah Musical Theater Awards for her role as Jo in “Little Women,” and has had lead roles at the school, including Anne Frank in “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Wednesday Addams in“The Addams Family,” and Mary Warren in “The Crucible.”

“Alexa’s drive and talent within the field of theatre is only secondary to her deep respect to every character she creates on stage,” said PCHS theater teacher and director Rick Kimball. “Whether it is a young pioneering writer or a psychopath, she commits fully on stage with every fiber of her being.”

Her dance honors are just as impressive. She won second place at the Shakespeare Festival for an interpretive dance with Kalli Peers, has been on the PCHS Dance Company for the past three years, and she and Peers were selected to attend a a national high school dance festival at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Penn., for a number they choreographed and performed.

Last summer she was one of only 12 high school students to participate in the Emerging Young Artists program at Webster University and the prestigious MUNY in St. Louis. MUNY is America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theater. She has qualified for national Classical Singer Music Voice competition for four consecutive years and has been an Individual scholarship award winner with the Artists Simply Human Dance Convention.

“She is such a caring and devoted artist and it has been a privilege to work with her,” Kimball said. “I am absolutely certain she will achieve amazing things on stage and in life.”

Board Selects Two Superintendent Finalists

The Park City School District Board of Education has narrowed its field of candidates for Superintendent to two finalists. The finalists will meet with the board on Saturday for a final round of interviews.

On May 5, five semi-finalists were interviewed by a 12-member committee comprised of staff and community members. That same day, the semi-finalists were also interviewed by the board. The  two finalists were both approved by the community panel as well as the board.

The board will issue a public statement about its selection once a decision has been made, and the board’s consultant, HYA Executive Search, has completed its due diligence.