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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
The board met with Nick Salmon, founder and president of Collaborative Learning Network, who has been retained as a consultant to assist the board in developing a plan for its master planning process. He will identify the data needed for the planning process including enrollment, school sites, facilities, and funding; create a timeline; assess the feasibility of completing a master plan for bond election scenarios; identify key participants in the planning effort; and identify community engagement tools. This week, Salmon is touring all PCSD schools and properties to review current space uses and to meet with school leaders to establish key issues at each site. He is meeting with the Facility Committee to review the planning process and to identify community partners for the planning process and school success. He will present his findings to the board by Dec. 14.
Cell Phone Towers
Business Administrator Todd Hauber asked the board if it would consider installing AT&T cell phone towers at Dozier Field or on the side of the Eccles loft section. The proposed lease agreement could generate $1,000-$1,500 a month for the district. The board said it prefers to see more detailed renderings of what the cell phone towers look like before committing to the lease.
Park City Municipal Transportation Planning Manager Alfred Knotts and Senior Transportation Planner Julia Collins shared updates about Park City’s Transit Tunnel and the Highway 248 project. They reminded the board that the city is designing and implementing an integrated system of trails, buses, roads, and alternative transportation options in an effort to providing transportation access to all residents and visitors, preserving our small-town character, and meeting the city’s net-zero carbon goals. Knotts said the city will continue its ongoing communication with the district as it moves forward on this project and others.
Human Resources Review
Following a recent review of the Human Resources Department, Associate Superintendent Tim McConnell presented the board with the department’s goals and action steps to address the findings. The review looked at the department’s branding, recruiting, screening, hiring, and onboarding. The department has adopted “Adventure Awaits in Park City School District” as its branding in all teacher recruiting and marketing. The district will take part in several presentations, college and university job fairs, and Education Week’s Virtual Job Fair later this Spring. It will also recruit dual immersion teachers through university DLI programs and career placement centers. The application process has been streamlined and the process for screening, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding new teachers is being evaluated and improved.
School Safety Review
–Superintendent Ember Conley said the district is holding additional safety training for staff, reviewing and updating policies and procedures, and studying vulnerabilities during an emergency. A districtwide lockdown/lockout drill is planned for Dec. 15, with law enforcement, to practice emergency response procedures. She plans to conduct similar drills monthly on a districtwide basis. A tabletop active shooter drill is planned for Feb. 26.
–Dr. Conley has been in contact with school safety consultants to help the district determine best practices. She hopes to have a request for proposal sent out to potential consultants before Winter Break.
– She has met with a vendor for a cell phone booster for schools that have “dead spots.” All intercoms have been checked and four have been repaired or reconnected.
–Construction is underway on the elementary school front office vestibules. The work should be completed by the end of the Winter Break.
–A Safety Sub-Committee recently met to review Visitor Management Systems, and a recommendation for an Emergency Management system will soon be recommended.
–Board President Andrew Caplan urged the Superintendent to retain a security expert/consultant to help guide the district on its safety improvements.
– Board members Petra Butler and Anne Peters suggested an interim fence for portables until fences are installed later this Spring.
The board reviewed a student appeal and voted to revoke the suspension, per Policy 10100 – Safe Schools.
Policies for Posting
–Policy 7025: Personnel Records
–Policy 7035: Scope of Employment and Use of Weapon
The board approved revisions to the following policies:
The Holiday Extravaganza, performed by student musicians Dec. 7-8, isn’t a typical concert. The audience is invited to wander around to the different venues at the Eccles Center to experience the 17 music ensembles from Park City High and Treasure Mountain Junior High. The Extravaganza is Dec. 7-8 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and admission is free.
“The ability to showcase every performing group from TMJH and PCHS during the two-night Holiday Extravaganza helps our department accomplish our goal of supporting each other’s program through exposing our students to various genres of music present within PCSD,” Hughes said.
“It is also great for the parents of our students to be able to watch the other performing forces in action and to see an ensemble they may otherwise not see. The format of the concert allows the concert attendee to choose their own adventure, and experience music of their choosing.”Hughes also said the evenings of music provide a chance for parents to show their elementary-age children the types of music taught at the secondary level.
The following groups will perform Thursday: 8th Grade Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, TMJH Jazz Band, JV Jazz Band, Varsity Jazz Band, 8th Grade Choir, Jazz Choir, Percussion 2, Percussion 3, and Advanced Percussion.
Ensembles performing Friday are: Wind Ensemble, Varsity Jazz Band, Jazz Choir, PCHS Chamber Choir, 8th Grade Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Full Orchestra, Percussion 3, and Advanced Percussion.
The music faculty include: Bret Hughes, Director of Percussion, Chris Taylor, Director of Concert and Jazz Bands, Scott Tanner, Director of Orchestras, and Christin Abbott, Director of Choirs.
With snow falling in Park City this weekend, here is an explanation of Park City School District’s school closure procedures. Parents and staff should become familiar with the guidelines and are encouraged to review them at the start of each winter.
The decision to close school, delay start time, or release students and staff early can only be called by the superintendent to reduce confusion between schools and programs; this includes cancellation of any elementary after school programs.
When school closes early due to weather, all evening activities will be cancelled, with the exception of high school athletics and activities, which will be determined by the superintendent and athletic director. Sometimes there are exceptions to this rule; and we will notify you of these situations as they arise.
By policy, head secretaries and 12-month employees, which includes principals and assistant principals, are expected to report to work as soon as it is safe to do so. This expectation is based upon the issue that we typically have families who do not receive notification and may show up to school. We are NOT obligated to keep students, but need to contact parents or an emergency contact to get them home safely.
The decision to close school for the day or release early is one that is made with much thought and consideration. The administration takes into account many different factors including the safety and well being of our students and staff. We look at the weather conditions, precipitation and temperature, based on information gathered from the National Weather Service (NWS), local road conditions provided by UDOT and discussion with the city and county transportation officials.
In the event that inclement or extreme weather warrants school closing, delay start or an early release, the following will occur:
Cancellation/Early Release of School: Parents will be notified as early in the morning as possible, often by 6:00 a.m., through the use of PCSD Chat and the local news media.
Early release from school will be determined as early in the day as possible based on information gathered from The National Weather Service.
Closings and Early Releaseswill be posted on the following media outlets:
–PCSD Facebook & Twitter
In the case of a two-hour delayed start, morning preschool would be cancelled; afternoon preschool would be held. Staff would be expected to be on time and ready to work. As for food service, breakfast would NOT be served, but lunch would be provided.
This is the process going forward:
For a snow day where school is canceled, 12-month employees are required to report to work as soon as it is safe to do so.
For an early release, the decision to close school or release early due to the weather is made by the superintendent in consultation with the administrative team, and UDOT. The safety and well being of our students and staff is at the forefront of the decision. All staff are required to remain at their work location until all students have been picked up or until released by the superintendent.
For a late start where the start of school is delayed by an hour or two, employees would come in at the later time — so a two hour delay, employees come in two hours later.
In the case of a two-hour delay, morning preschool would be cancelled; afternoon preschool would be held. Staff would be expected to be on time and ready. As for food service, breakfast would NOT be served, but lunch would be provided.In most cases employees will be working their normal duties once they arrive at their work locations, although they may be asked to help out at schools with other duties if needed.
The theater department at Park City High School is bringing awareness to its department and high school talent during its first-ever PCHS Got Talent on Dec. 14.
The talent show will be performed at an all-school assembly during the day hosted by the students council. That night, the show will be open to the public at 7 at the Eccles Center, hosted by Rick Kimball and Griffin Childers. Tickets are $5, with proceeds supporting the theater department.
Foreign Figures will be the guest artist for the evening show. Foreign Figures is a Utah-based indie pop group formed in late 2014 by brothers Eric and Steve Michels, Seth Dunshee, and Jonny Tanner. All Utah natives, the band met while attending Utah Valley University. They call themselves Foreign Figures as a nod to the time that each member spent living in a foreign country, as well as the band’s interest in connecting with all types of people around the world.
“This is going to be one great night,” said Kimball. “This is one show you will not want to miss.”
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.”
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.