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Are We Using Assessments Effectively in PCSD Schools?

Assessments empower students, teachers, and parents on the educational road. But how much do parents really know about the assessment tools and information gleaned from them in the classroom? The Galileo assessment used at almost every grade level three times a year is considered a teacher’s tool to determine how well students are grasping core concepts throughout the year. Teachers can use the data to figure out who needs more help, who needs to be challenged, and what topics need to be revisited. It helps teachers individualize their teaching. But when students transition from the middle school to the junior high school, the Galileo is considered part of students’ grades and has the potential to determine a student’s path into high school. What’s more, parents may or may not be privy to the test questions and results for their own children for the purpose of supplementing education at home on topics not grasped on the test. This has also captured my attention. Our school district has made great strides recently and we all have the same goal — to provide the best education for our kids. Hopefully you will find this exploration of how assessments are used in the Park City School District as informative as I did while gathering the information.

Assessments, teaching methods, and curricula have changed over the years. With the Marzano Standards-Referenced Grading (SRG) method of teaching, assessing, and grading being gradually implemented in our Park City School District (PCSD), I wondered how other assessments were being used in conjunction with it. The more questions I asked, the deeper I drifted into a chasm of information.

Presently, it appears that what assessments are used depends upon state requirements and district-hired companies and -adopted assessments. How assessments are used depends largely upon each individual teacher or Professional Learning Community (PLC). A PLC is a group teaching either the same grade level (e.g., 4th grade teachers in one elementary school) or the same subject (e.g., 9th grade math teachers) that gathers periodically to share information and make decisions.

This is a convoluted topic one can get lost in, so to simplify, I first offer district information about what assessments are being used by grade or group. Then I offer additional information about some of these assessments.

Assessments by Group

English Language Learner (ELL)

From 2013 to 2015, ELL students were tested using the Utah Academic Language Proficiency Assessment (UALPA).

From 2015 to present, we are using ACCESS 2.0.

These are both annual assessments to determine skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in english.

Preschool

Since at least 2013, we have been using the Essential Preschool Skills (EPS) program composed of materials and assessments, both in print and online, for early learning. I have explored neither the materials nor the frequency of assessments in this grade, but I assume it to be a comprehensive program with ongoing assessments.

Kindergarten

From 2013 to 2017, we used a shortened version of the EPS program for assessment in skills.

In 2017, we adopted both Imagine Learning, which generates ongoing assessments in english and math, and the Kindergarten Entry and Exit Profile (KEEP) assessment, administered three times a year to determine the level of intervention needed for each student. Imagine Learning is used only in Jeremy Ranch and Parley’s Park Elementary Schools.

1st Grade

From 2013 to present, Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) benchmark tests are administered three times per year to measure literacy and reading. However, if a student is identified as needing much help (red), further assessment and monitoring occurs every week; as needing some help (yellow), it happens every other week; and as doing well (green), it happens once a month in order to monitor progress.

From 2014 to 2016, Galileo assessments were administered three times per year to assess understanding in math, english, and science.

From 2016 to present, iReady is used weekly as an adaptive assessment in reading and math.

Beginning in 2017, PCSD adopted Imagine Learning, which uses ongoing assessments in english and math. It is used only in Jeremy Ranch and Parley’s Park Elementary Schools.

2nd Grade

Same as 1st Grade, above, except for Imagine Learning.

3rd Grade

From 2013 to present, DIBELS benchmark tests are administered three times per year to measure literacy and reading. However, if a student is identified as needing much help (red), further assessment and monitoring occurs every week; as needing some help (yellow), it happens every other week; and as doing well (green), it happens once a month in order to monitor progress.

From 2013 to present, Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) is administered annually to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2014 to present, Galileo assessments are administered three times per year to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2015 to present, iReady is used weekly as an adaptive assessment in reading and math.

From 2015 to 2017, the state of Utah required the… buckle your seatbelt… American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages (AAPPL) assessment to be administered to Dual Language Immersion (DLI) students to determine understanding in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Our district still uses AAPPL. These assessments seem to be ongoing and task-related within the classroom setting, based on the ACTFL website information (https://www.actfl.org/assessment-professional-development/assessments-the-actfl-testing-office/aappl/aappl-measure-faqs).

4th Grade

In 2013, DIBELS benchmark tests were administered three times per year to measure literacy and reading. However, if a student was identified as needing much help (red), further assessment and monitoring occurred every week; as needing some help (yellow), it happened every other week; and as doing well (green), it happened once a month in order to monitor progress. Starting in 2014, these tests have been administered only as needed.

From 2013 to present, SAGE is administered annually to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2014 to present, Galileo assessments are administered three times per year to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2016 to present, iReady is used weekly as an adaptive assessment in reading and math.

From 2015 to 2017, the state of Utah required the AAPPL assessment to be administered to Dual Language Immersion (DLI) students to determine understanding in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Our district still uses AAPPL. These assessments seem to be ongoing and task-related within the classroom setting, based on the ACTFL website information.

5th Grade

Same as 4th Grade, above.

6th Grade

In 2013, the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) was administered as needed (possibly monthly) to determine students’ reading level (a Lexile level, which is a type of standard). Our district did not use the SRI in 2014 and 2015, and started using it again in 2016 to present.

From 2013 to present, SAGE is administered annually to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2014 to present, Galileo assessments are administered three times per year to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2016 to present, iReady is used weekly as an adaptive assessment in reading and math.

From 2016 to present, the state of Utah required the AAPPL assessment to be administered to Dual Language Immersion (DLI) students to determine understanding in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Our district still uses AAPPL. These assessments seem to be ongoing and task-related within the classroom setting, based on the ACTFL website information.

7th Grade

Same as 6th Grade, above.

8th Grade

From 2013 to present, SAGE is administered annually to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2013 to 2015, PCSD used ACT Explore for english, math, reading, and science. For the 2015-2016 school year to present, this was dropped.

From 2014 to present, Galileo assessments are administered three times per year to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2016 to 2017, iReady was used weekly as an adaptive assessment in reading and math.

From 2016 to present, the state of Utah required the AAPPL assessment to be administered to Dual Language Immersion (DLI) students to determine understanding in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Our district still uses AAPPL. These assessments seem to be ongoing and task-related within the classroom setting, based on the ACTFL website information.

From 2016 to present, the SRI is administered as needed (possibly monthly) to determine students’ reading level.

9th Grade

From 2013 to present, SAGE is administered annually to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2014 to present, Galileo assessments are administered three times per year to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2016 to present, the SRI is administered as needed (possibly monthly) to determine students’ reading level.

In school year 2016-2017 only, iReady was used weekly as an adaptive assessment in reading and math.

Advanced Placement (AP) tests are optional for students who want to enter advanced courses.

10th Grade

From 2013 to 2015, American College Testing (ACT) Plan was used to assess strengths in english, math, reading, and science for the purpose of planning for college and career with the counselors.

From 2013 to present, SAGE is administered annually to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2014 to present, Galileo assessments are administered three times per year to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2014 to present, Pre-ACT is administered annually to simulate the ACT exam experience for english, math, reading, and science. While optional, it is highly recommended and most students do take this exam to prepare them for the real ACT.

AP tests are optional for students who want to enter advanced courses.

11th Grade

From 2013 to 2016, SAGE was administered annually to assess understanding in english, math, and science. From school year 2016 to present, SAGE is not used.

From 2015 to present, Galileo assessments are administered three times per year to assess understanding in english, math, and science.

From 2016 to present, the ACT exam is used to ascertain understanding in english, math, reading, and science. It is required by the state.

AP tests are optional for students who want to enter advanced courses.

The Assessments

Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS)
In the school year 2014-2015, this assessment was used in grades 1 to 5 to ascertain english literacy in students. The state requires this assessment of english literacy in students from Kindergarten through grade 3. In addition, PCSD required this assessment in grades 4 and 5, but in the school year 2014-2015 it was changed for these two grades to an ‘as needed’ assessment.
Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE)

This test is Utah’s current student assessment on the state’s core standards in math, english, and science. It used to be mandatory, three tests, one in each subject, delivered near the end of each school year. From the 2013-2014 school year, it was given from grades 3 to 11. Beginning in the year 2016-2017, 11th graders did not take this exam. In addition, it became optional for students to take it.

Last October, the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) decided to hire a different company, Questar Assessment, to write these core standards assessments. Beginning next year (2018-2019) SAGE may be known by some other acronym.

While the SAGE assessment is optional now, the PCSD encourages all students to take it. Why? For one thing, it is carried out from grades 3 through 10 and has been administered over the last five years. Teachers can use this information over time to determine a student’s progress. It also gives students and parents a good idea of proficiency and growth over the years. It can also be considered a good thing to give students practice in taking exams. So why would anyone opt out of this assessment? Sometimes a student can feel overwhelmed with the amount of work and number of assessments happening in a particular quarter or semester. Since the SAGE test is taken near the end of the year, around the same time as the Galileo test and possibly other year-end, subject-specific exams, it may be overwhelming for a student. Opting out of the SAGE exam may reduce stress and enable a student to focus on the learning at hand.

Galileo
 The PCSD adopted the Galileo assessment in the school year 2014-2015 to measure progress in math, english, and science three times per year (at the beginning of the year in each grade, the middle of the year, and end of the year). In the first year (2014-2015), it was used in grades 1 to 10. In the 2015-2016 school year, it was used in grades 1 to 11. In the 2016-2017 to present, it is used in grades 3-11.

The Galileo assessment is developed by ATI (Assessment Technology, Inc.). ATI’s mission statement is: ‘Create, distribute, and support technology to promote learning.’ You can learn more on their website at http://www.ati-online.com/galileoK12/K12-assessment.php.

According to one of our school principals, ATI writes the test questions, incorporating state-specific common core material. Our teachers, however, are allowed to customize the tests by choosing which questions to use based on their class instruction to date. This offers some flexibility for teachers who want this assessment to be more relevant to what the students are learning in class.

Because the Galileo test is a central assessment focus for our district and given three times per year, I asked our school principals five questions about it. Here are my questions and the answers I received:

1. Is the Galileo assessment predominantly a tool for teachers to assess where students are in their learning for the year and to adjust teaching accordingly to keep students on track?
Elementary schools: Yes.

Middle school: Yes. ‘It is one piece of information used to ensure student learning.’

Jr. High school: Yes.

2. For students, is the Galileo assessment considered in grading? In other words, is it a graded assessment like any other exam in any way?
Elementary schools: No.

Middle school: No.

Jr. High school: Yes, for two of the three assessments. The Middle of Year (MOY) and End of Year (EOY) assessments account for 10% of each student’s grade during the quarter in which the assessment is taken. This is to ensure that students take the assessment seriously, otherwise the assessment data may not accurately reflect each student’s level of understanding.

3. If a student does not take the Galileo assessment, are punitive measures taken?
Elementary schools: No.

Middle school: No, but all students participate.

Jr. High school: All students participate in this assessment.

4. If a student does not score well on the Galileo, are punitive measures taken?
Elementary schools: No.

Middle school: No.

Jr. High school: Yes and No. At Treasure Mountain, it depends upon whether a student is taking Honors or regular classes, the raw assessment score (the score at face value), and eventual score that results from an algorithm developed by the principal and teachers. Most students are not penalized due to the algorithm applied.

However, for students seeking to register for Honors courses in the next grade level, the MOY, taken in January, can impact whether or not a teacher recommends him/her for that Honors course. Some teachers currently use the Galileo raw score as the determinant for their Honors recommendations. Others look at the whole child, e.g., class assignments, quiz grades, and the student’s level of commitment and knowledge.
The good news is that the principal and teachers are willing to answer questions and offer some flexibility on a case-by-case basis.

5. If a student scores very well on the Galileo, are measures taken to deliver a more rigorous educational experience?
Elementary schools: Yes.

Middle school: ‘Again, it is one piece of information used to assess learning.’

Jr. High school: Yes, and how that is done currently depends upon each teacher, his/her style of teaching and current methodology, and his/her level of adoption of the SRG methods. When so much is in flux, no one can expect teachers to perfectly assess each student and perfectly individualize what each student is learning in class. For this reason, parents should be involved in the education process for their children and when in doubt, communicate with teachers and principals to augment each child’s experience.

The current Galileo rubric applied at Treasure Mountain Jr. High is as follows:

Sample Student Scenario 1
MOY Galileo is 30 points in Honors class (10% of second quarter points)
Student’s raw score on MOY Galileo 37 correct out of 45 questions (over 80% proficient)
Translates to 30/30 in Power School
(Standards-Reference Grading Translation: 4/4)

Sample Student Scenario 2
MOY Galileo is 50 points in regular class (10% of Q2 points)
Student’s raw score on MOY Galileo is 32/45, over 70% proficiency mark
Translates to 50/50 in Power School
(Standards-Reference Grading Translation: 4/4)

Sample Student Scenario 3
MOY Galileo is 20 points in Honors class (10% of Q3 points)
Student’s raw score on MOY Galileo is 30/45, below 80% proficiency mark
Score becomes 30/36, which = 83%
Translates to 17/20 in Power School
(Standards-Reference Grading Translation: 3.3/4)

Sample Student Scenario 4
MOY Galileo is 45 points in regular class (10% of Q3 points)
Student’s raw score on MOY Galileo is 23/45, below 70% proficiency mark
Score becomes 23/31, which = 74%
Translates to 33/45 in Power School
(Standards-Reference Grading Translation: 3/4)

So,…Are We Using Assessments Effectively in PCSD Schools?

Each teacher will use assessment data differently depending upon:

  • whether or not the teacher has fully adopted and is in compliance with the Standards-Referenced Grading system
  • whether or not the teacher is part of a PLC that makes independent decisions about how to apply the data collected from an assessment
  • whether or not a student takes an assessment seriously
  • whether or not a teacher takes an assessment seriously
  • whether or not a student experiences test anxiety
  • whether or not a student opts out of an optional test
  • any number of other factors

Additionally, grades as they are reflected through the Powerschool system may not generate accurate assumptions. They don’t reflect what’s really going on in the classroom. Powerschool accommodates the traditional type of grading system, but does not translate the SRG methods of grading. How that information is added into Powerschool is up to interpretation. A student with straight A’s in Powerschool may actually struggle on assessments and vice versa. Assessments are only part of the big picture but can still be used to guide your child down a particular academic path. How much weight any assessment is given depends, again, upon the individual teacher.

If you want to dive deeper and better understand topics your child got wrong on an assessment, you may run into a legal question about the sharing of assessments. Most assessments are written by third party companies who consider their questions proprietary. They don’t necessarily care to risk questions getting out and being used for potentially nefarious purposes. This line of inquiry is still being researched at this writing.

What’s important to me as a parent is that our district lay the groundwork for the proper, appropriate, and effective implementation of teaching methods, assessment methods, and grading methods, so all parties to the public education process can be on the same page and truly understanding how our children are doing in school. Teachers need to be an integral part of the planning and implementation decisions. Our current PCSD School Board is looking at all the programs and assessments as part of the Master Planning process. This is a step in the right direction because we must understand what and how education is delivered in our district before we can make improvements. For now, make no assumptions about your child’s academic path. Look at all the angles and information. Meet with teachers and come prepared to discuss your child’s experience and future.

Another option to keep our community gathering spot at New Park

Yesterday I wrote about the public frustration with their inability to effect change on development around the Basin. The Park Rag received a comment from Park City City Council person Steve Joyce speaking to how the city was letting the public speak with their pocketbook on the Treasure project. After reading his comment I thought, “that really is the fairest thing the city could do.” It seems reasonable.

I awoke this morning with another thought. Why not do the same thing with the parcel of land in New Park (Steve may have been trying to tell us something). Why couldn’t Summit County put a bond on November Ballot to buy the amphitheater area at New Park and the land where the Condos would sit. As Steve said about Treasure, no affordable housing, no land sweeps, nothing complicated. The Summit County bond would be purely for buying the New Park land and turning it into open space.

What would that cost? Let’s say it was $4 million. What would that cost a primary home owner per year? $20 or $30? Maybe less. It would also require the Snyderville Basin Open Space Advisory Committee (BOSAC) to buy an option to purchase the land (just like Treasure). That may be $200K to $300K, which would be lost if the voters didn’t approve it.

Would the county want to go through the effort? They purchased a large open space parcel next to Home Depot, in what appears to be planning for a future that may or may not come (but was probably a wise choice). They spent over $3 million on the Cline Dahle Parcel with the idea of someday putting a transit oriented development on the property and a park and ride lot. So, why not invest in something people use today?

Better yet, why not let the people decide if they want to invest in something they use today.

It would be a win for the Crandall’s, as they won’t have any risk of any blowback from this development (and get money without having to develop anything). It would be a win for the local business in New Park, as it cements a public gathering place that makes the area attractive. It’s a win for the county, because they are giving the people a direct place in the decision making process.

Who ultimately knows how it goes… but it seems like the most logical choice to decide the fate of something that appears important to the public.

Summit County, Park City, local businesses, and even the Crandalls need to be aware of where this is heading

I’ve watched over the past few months as a series of events seem to be unfolding around us. A common theme is that development is happening and people feel powerless to stop it. Not only that, it seems like development is happening and the rules have changed in ways to support INCREASED development.

Case in point is the Woodward at Gorgoza approval. Twenty years ago, it was approved as an outdoor recreation facility. Now we have approvals from our County Council and Planning Commission to enable Disneyland at Park City… or at least a Whole Foods sized building that was never allowed in the first place. The developers used the law to somehow get approvals for a building that is much bigger and taller than allowed in the Snyderville Basin. There are three appeals to the development, but my guess is they will lose. The Planning Commission ruled for it. The Planning Department allowed it. The County Council won’t rule against it. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done.

The second example is a proposed development beside the RV Park outside of Kimball Junction. It is zoned as rural residential, which means 1 home per 20 acres. However, it has passed the Planning Commission with a recommendation to allow housing, affordable housing, and retail on the space. WAIT, the Snyderville Basin General Plan says that there can be no increase in entitlements. An increased entitlement would be, say, allowing a whole bunch of houses and retail space in a place where there should have been one or two homes. So, what’s going on? There is a loop-hole in the General Plan that allows the county approve increased entitlements if it provides something important to the County Council. So, in this case the developer dangled “affordable” housing and it appears that enables pretty much what ever the developer wants. It’s our Kryptonite. Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done.

The latest example is what is happening with the Newpark Commons space. That is the area by Maxwells where the four story condos are going to be built that will block-in the Amphitheater area where people enjoy music on Thursday nights in the summer. A group called Preserve Newpark tried to fight the development. According to Preserve Newpark, “The Commons at Newpark consists of 8 residential townhomes that are four-stories in height and a row of private garages on a private road. The building footprint and height is more than 200 feet long; 75 feet wide; and 43 feet tall, eroding public connectivity, visibility and access to the plaza. The proposed structure is so tall that it will block sunlight and views across the Newpark Amphitheater during prime evening, community gathering hours.”

But everything you know about the outcome was provided in a quote from Mathew Crandall, one of the applicants for the development. He said, “It was no surprise to us that we received a unanimous vote and recommendation because we had the land rights to do so.” Those land rights had been provided 15 years ago when you probably didn’t live here. What is granted now, though, may not be exactly equal to what was contemplated then. And of course, Summit County is allowing it.

One of the interesting things about the Preserve Newpark group is that they started early trying to fight this. Unlike many groups, who start near the end, Preserve Newpark had the foresight to begin early. They hired a person good at her job to try and influence the community and the outcome. They got community backing. Many, if not most, people agreed with them. Yet, it made no difference. Unfortunately there is really nothing that can be done.

The common theme is that there is absolutely nothing that can be done if you’re a normal person.

But there is something that can be done, and we have an idea of where this may go.

Do you remember the Park City trademark protests from a couple of years ago? Vail tried (sort of) to trademark Park City and everyone came out of the woodwork. Through former Park City Mayor Dana Williams (and others) that got resolved, but not without substantial efforts. 

We’d guess something similar is going to happen with these developments. People will realize they aren’t supported by their government, so they will go outside that. 

So, if you hate the upcoming Newpark development, what do you do? You boycott it. You boycott everything Newpark. You hit the owners of Newpark in their pocketbook.

You don’t shop there. You don’t buy from the businesses there. You abandon the Thursday night concerts and go to Canyons concerts instead. You don’t got to Maxwells. You don’t go to About Time. You get your hair cut at some other place besides Great Clips. You go to the Best Buy on 2100 South instead of the Best Buy up here. You go to Heber Bowl instead of Jupiter Bowl. You make BBQ at home, instead of going to Dickey’s. 

Oh, you tell your friends. You make a stink on Facebook. You express opinions on Next Door. This bleeds into Yelp. You make sure Sundance visitors know that Newpark is a pariah. All of a sudden you’ve impacted the tourism market at Newpark too.

Then we are back to 2011 and everyone wonders whether Newpark can survive. Well, they could have if their owners weren’t quite so self-focused. Who owns a lot of Newpark? Yes, the Crandalls.

If your government isn’t on your side, then you vote with your pocketbook. That may or may not be enough. However, that’s all you got.

I think that is where this is heading.

When you leave people no choice and no hope, they take matters into their own hands. 

If I owned Woodward, was planning on leasing space at the area by the RV Park, or owned one of the countless businesses in Newpark, I would be a little bit worried. When people feel helpless, they lash out. They’ll drive Maxwells
(which I think is great, btw) into the ground to save their view. They may also stop buying cars in Summit County. 

Things are likely going to get a lot uglier in the Snyderville Basin and it’s due to the actions of developers that are concerned with themselves above the people. They have the rights and legal teams that enable them to manipulate the outcomes.

That works for them until it doesn’t. 

We think the jig is about up.

What choice do people have?

While maybe they can’t prevent the monstrosity at Newpark from being built and they can’t stop even a bigger building at Gorgoza, they can prevent the next one.

I’d hate to own property or a business at one of these places. Social media is a bitch.

The next 18 months should be informative.

Update:
Note, the Park Rag is not necessarily advocating this approach.I frankly haven’t done enough research to know whether it is effective strategy or not. That said, the point of this article is to say that this tactic is one of the next logical steps the populace will take when they have no other recourse.

If this press release about Deer Valley doesn’t terrify you, it should

Masquerading as a story on Parkrecord.com, we noticed a press release from Deer Valley.

It appears that the NEW owner of Deer Valley, Alterra Mountain Company, has named it’s first CEO (Rusty Gregory). According to the news article press release , “Gregory will focus on establishing the newly formed Alterra Mountain Company’s culture and developing the growth, operating and guest service strategies for its platform of mountain destinations across North America, while leading its more than 20,000 employees.”

Note, there is not one mention of Bob Wheaton in this news story about the company that will TAKE OVER Deer Valley.  Uhh, if they didn’t cite Bob Wheaton, an icon that has helped make Deer Valley what it is was, they are either clueless or they don’t care.

We get that it’s a press release about a new CEO, but if you are going to release something like that to a local paper, you may want want to assuage fears. You may want to quote Mr Wheaton — or at least speak of him.

Either way, be it cluelessness or lack of caring, it tells you something.

According to the release —again in the Park Record– the new Alterra CEO says, “Together we will create a highly performing enterprise by focusing on what’s important – our guests, our employees, and our mountain communities. We will build our business by enhancing and enriching the lives and experiences of each.”

We at the Parkrag hope the synergies of alignment provide the mind share to enable a paradigm shift in the organic growth of community engagement.

WTF did we just say? Good question. We’re just channeling Alterra.

The new CEO  continues,  “With the Ikon Pass, we have created an unrivaled platform that offers one-of-a-kind mountain experiences under one pass, by combining our portfolio of 12 destinations with 11 iconic mountain destination partners across North America.”

UHHHH, yeah …. That sounds just like the Epic pass…. But maybe without the savvy.

Does it sound A little too much like other press releases that have happened in the past around here?

We guess we’ll see.

It definitely feels like what happens when a hedge fund takes over.

God speed Deer Valley. We’ll miss you.

Buck up Park City. It’s going to be OK.

It’s strange times in Park City. There is anger in the air. There is depression in the air. All apparently because there is no snow in the air.

Around town you hear it from the locals. If it’s not a malaise brought about by lack of snow, it’s a fear that the snow is going to come in May and wreck mountain biking as well.

Some people just seem sad. Others are flipping out. Case in point are the two people (one of them being a passenger) I saw flip off bus drivers yesterday morning. What’s next? Flipping the bird to teachers? Firemen?

With that in mind, we thought we’d look for the silver lining in the rain weather we are experiencing now. So here are The Park Rag’s Top 10 reasons to be happy about the weather.

  1. Just think of all the little animals out there who are surviving and thriving this winter because they aren’t freezing their asses off. Somewhere there is a cute little deer who is alive because of this weather… And maybe somewhere there is a cute little mountain lion who will grow up to eat that cute little deer.
  2. Think of all the accidents that haven’t happened due to the snow. Somewhere, somebody’s car is dent free because of this weather.
  3. There’s plenty of room on the buses. We haven’t had to stand in a bus all season.
  4. We assume the reason everyone doesn’t pick up their poop at run-a-muck is due to the snow. Now, without snow, it should be SO poop-free that we should be be able to eat off the trail!
  5. The school district said that we needed a Fieldhouse because our Spring sports can’t practice outside until April. Looks like that Field house isn’t quite so necessary after all. The weather just saved us $20 million. Thank you weather.
  6. You haven’t had to pay someone to snow plow your driveway this season. Now you’ll be able to afford buying bottled water to water your grass this summer.
  7. If you didn’t buy an Epic Pass, looks like your procrastination cheapness disdain-for-crowds was a good choice and will save you over $600 this year!
  8. There won’t be crowds of visitors in Park City next Christmas. Who’s crazy enough to make the same mistake twice in a row?
  9. If you have one of those dogs that typically needs a coat in January, then your dog has had a good year (so far).
  10. February and March are the biggest snow months. So, in four weeks we may be wishing for Spring.

That’s all we got.

The snow may suck, but we still have Park City. Let’s be kind to each other.

Treasure deal must be SIMPLE

I was reading another Park Record article on the Treasure purchase. Each time I get more confused. What exactly is it that Parkites (I mean the 84060 variety) will be voting on and paying for? Are you buying all the Treasure land ? Most of it? Some of it? Will you get all the rights to development (and thus extinguish them)? Are you paying $64 million to enable a transfer of density, where a portion of the development rights go somewhere else? Whose density and rights are those? Is that why $90 million turned into $60 million?

So, what would you say the public is buying?

Damn it’s confusing.

That is likely by design. 

One of the things we have learned by watching Summit County and Park City government over the years is that unless something is concrete … it is quicksand. Today you are paying $60 million to not build at Treasure and tomorrow you will be paying another $60 million to not build somewhere else that was enabled by the rights from Treasure. 

We’ve heard concerns from a number of residents that the “Treasure Deal” is really a farce — that they want to put an agreement on the ballot that is so egregious that it won’t pass. Then the city government will say, “well we tried.” 

It’s dangerous times in Park City. As an outsider, I would recommend paying attention to not what your local leaders say… but how they say it.

If Park City really wants any chance of passing this, they need to make sure that all the Treasure Hill is put under a conservation easement with no other tie-ins. Buy it and give it to Summit Land Conservancy (or someone similar). Done and Done.

That is understandable. You know what you are getting for your $200 per year contribution for 20 years.

Anything else is very sketchy… which brings us back to those conspiracy theories.

One number you need to keep in your phone if you’re skiing PCMR/Canyons

Please take a minute and put this number in your phone:

435-615-1912

This is the number for Dispatch for Park City Mountain Resort. Should you, your family, or a random stranger need assistance it is the number to call while on-mountain.

My wife was at Canyons earlier this week and came upon a teenager who had fallen down the side of a cliff and couldn’t move. The mother was there but could only speak broken English. My wife tried to find a number to call for help (in the frigid temperatures) but the best she could do was find the general number for Park City Mountain. This didn’t do any good, as she waited on hold. Finally after a long-time, an Park City Resort Information worker skied by and my wife was able to flag her down. She was then able to radio for help. However, that was after many minutes of the poor girl screaming in pain.

We reached out to Vail Resorts about the way to handle future issues and Community Relations Manager Kristin Williams responded that you can download the Epic Mix app which has this information (which is good to know if you have the app loaded when trouble strikes), or you can call their dispatch number. 

Either way, we’d recommend you store 435-615-1912 in your phone just in case.

No trust… No vote… No money

Thank you to the people who made their voices heard on the proposed changes to the Summit Water Distribution Company (SWDC). It appears that over 70% of people voted against changes that gave very broad power over water consumption  to SWDC and would reduce the number of board members making decisions.

In my mind, this is another data point that highlights the changing ways in which voters in our community make decisions. If our leaders aren’t paying attention to what is happening, it’s time.

First came the Park City School District bond election in 2015. The school bond was defeated and the school board lashed out at the “uninformed voter.” They went to such lengths that they hired a research company to prove the board was right. Next came the South Summit School District bond. It was defeated too. This, despite the fact that many people would agree South Summit Schools are fairly crowded.

Most recently came the aforementioned Summit Water Distribution Company vote. I have to imagine that 10 years ago the board’s changes would have passed with flying colors. No one would have even know it was going on.

What we are learning is that today isn’t yesterday. Yes, something as arcane as changes to the bylaws of a local water company are questioned and defeated.

Why is it happening? I believe there are a number of factors converging that change the way decisions are made by the Park City area public.

It begins with community members’ interactions with employees of an organization. Those everyday actions appear to be shaping public opinion of the entire organization. In the case of Summit Water, the Park Rag received a number of phone calls describing the arrogance of SWDC employees. We’ve already reported about our neighbor’s interaction with a SWDC employee who told him he better get rid of his grass because they were going to cut back his water. We heard from one person who was told they had no right to use their water outside. When the person asked SWDC how they can keep their trees alive, apparently the response was that they could probably “spritz” them every once in a while but if they got caught they’d be fined. I had an experience where a representative from SWDC was walking the streets marking water mains in each persons’ property. When after two minutes he was frustrated that he couldn’t find the main, he yelled at me and told me that I had better find it or I would have to pay someone to come out and find it for me. It turned out he was just looking in the wrong place.

These every day interactions shape peoples’ feelings about the company and their trustworthiness. When you hear multiple stories that paint a negative light, it highlights a problem with either the culture or the leadership. Those feelings carry over into decisions like whether you should support the water company being able to restrict water to encourage conservation or whether you are Ok with the number of board members being reduced. If you love and trust the organization, you’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they’ll do the right thing. If you don’t trust the leadership or the entire organization, you’ll question everything, and you won’t give them the rope to hang you with.

There are other examples of that. On the failed Park city School bond, there were pre-bond public meetings.  Early-on, there were three meetings at the school district offices with members of the community. The first meeting didn’t go great, so the second and third meetings were stacked with teachers to make it more orderly. During the meetings the goal was to decide where our schools would go. Better put, the school district appeared to have already decided where they wanted the buildings to go, so they crafted meetings to have the public agree with them. They did this by breaking the attendees into six tables, each with a school board or master planning person at a table to drive the conversation. They then created maps of the Basin and little stickers of schools. Each group was able to select where they would put their schools. They could put the stickers anywhere in the Basin they wanted as long as it was at Ecker Hill or the Kearns Campus. Not surprisingly, five of the six groups came up with essentially the same plan — the plan that had been devised for them.  The only group who did something else, was led by Terri Orr, who challenged the assumptions and put some schools on the west side of Highway 40, across from Home Depot.

The above sounds more conniving than it probably was. It’s likely the school board and master planning committee knew what they wanted and were trying to find a way to get public buy-in.  To the outsider who observes it, though, it starts to shape your view that the powers that be are trying to manipulate the public. That then makes you question everything going forward. So, when the final survey was done on why the Park City School District Bond failed, it told a story of uninformed voters. There’s probably some truth to that. However, informed or not, if the public doesn’t trust you, they aren’t going to vote for you.

A more recent example is a school dual-immersion introduction meeting held last week. I wasn’t there but heard from many community members that it was confusing and didn’t paint the process in a good light. Is that one meeting going to doom the next school bond. No but it does once again shape the public’s view of the organization. Much like if when you check into the hotel and the front desk clerk is a jerk, you start to get a negative opinion. The opinion can either be confirmed or reversed throughout your stay by other employees at the hotel. That opinion, sometimes shaped over years and hundreds of interactions, will alter how people process information, change the way they make decisions, and impact the way they vote.

What has also changed is the way people share those feelings about an organization. In years past, people gossiped at Rotary or maybe wrote a letter to the Park Record. Today people post information to Facebook and Next Door. The reach is immediate and wide. I feel confident in saying that Next Door has become more influential in shaping the public’s opinion than the Park Record. Yes, there are crazy posts out there. However, the information is often useful. Also, the discussion between residents often proves more useful.

Our local governments aren’t blind to this fact. You’ve probably seen the influx of the “community-relations-specialists” into our government positions in the past few years. One of their jobs is to help shape public opinion about their respective organizations.They do this in traditional ways by making sure the Park Record and KPCW have information from their organization’s point of view. They also try to use Facebook, Twitter, and in some cases Next Door to spread information. Their use of these new tools, though, isn’t as useful in forming public opinion. That’s largely because they are one person and a naturally-biased source. Again, they are doing their job, but it’s just not as effective as organic information coming from citizens.

This leads to outcomes like we saw with the Park City School Bond and SWDC vote. It’s also likely to impact any future vote over Treasure.

So, how do our local organizations adapt to ensure their best chance of receiving funding or have decisions go their way?

It’s hard to prescribe one answer for everyone. What I would say is that it begins with culture. Culture leads to having the best people in individual roles. Culture prescribes a way of an organization interacting with people.

If ultimately our local organizations can instill a culture that of trust, through hundreds of tiny interactions, we-the-public are likely to vote for their plans. It has to be real. It has to be from the heart. There can’t be an ounce of artificial nature in it.

If they can’t do that, we’ll likely continue to see failure after failure.

While there are exceptions, we believe a number of our local organizations have a long way to go to earn the public’s trust. Without, they are going to be grasping for reasons their funding plans fail… when the real answer is they need to look in the mirror.

We truly hope they figure it out. We do have a lot of needs in the Park City area.  Ultimately, it’s up to our local organizations to make changes that encourage people to both trust and fund them.