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We’ve installed a racism filter

One of the things we’ve tried to do at the Park Rag is provide a place where community members can voice their opinion. We do that through posting stories written by others and enabling comments on stories.

Unfortunately some recent comments have become racist in nature. We’re frankly tired of reading them and we believe other readers are too.

So, we’ve implemented a comment filter that automatically deletes comments it judges as racist or bigoted. We’re sure it won’t be 100% perfect and some will slip through. We’re also sure that some legitimate comments will be trashed. So, if you’ve made a comment that doesn’t appear within a few hours, just email us the comment at .

We appreciate the feedback from readers on this topic. They presented a variety of good suggestions. One reader recommended removing anonymous comments. We found two potential issues with this. First, we feel there is value in anonymous comments. Second, the typical way to actually tie a user to a REAL person is through a Facebook Login. For instance, the Park Record uses Facebook for comments. We don’t really like the privacy implications of tying comments to a Facebook account. So, that was a non-starter.

Another reader recommended just getting rid of comments altogether. That would be the easy route and many online websites have done that. However, we do like the easy ability for people to comment on subjects. As long as the comment adds value to a discussion (even if it’s highly critical), we feel it’s a chance to learn and maybe understand a viewpoint we don’t have.

So, we are going to see how well a machine can do at masking the racism that seems to plague the Internet.

Thanks for taking the journey with us. And as always, thanks for reading the Park Rag.

 

Park City community discussion on ICE arrests being held this Thursday

There is an upcoming meeting regarding the recent arrest of four individuals by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officials. It is being held this Thursday (2/23) at 6PM at St Luke’s. If you are interested, the information is below:

In response to very real fears expressed by many in the aftermath of Friday morning arrests of four Hispanic men in the Park City community, citizens have organized a community discussion for Thursday, February 23rd at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at the Blue Roof off SR224 near Parley’s Park Elementary School. The discussion will begin at 6:00 p.m.

All who are concerned or uncertain are invited to join the discussion which will be moderated by People’s Health Center Director, Beth Armstrong. Among the confirmed specialists are Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez, Police Chief Wade Carpenter. Invitations have been extended to Utah ACLU, Federal Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City and immigration advocates.

This is a community discussion, NOT a protest. Please come with your questions and your ideas. Be prepared to listen and contribute to a discussion on how we might best respond should we be faced with similar events in the future. While we have been assured by Federal Agents that these arrests of targeted felons are routine and are conducted with appropriate search warrants and other legal and personal guarantees, we all need to understand the law. We need to understand the difference between the jurisdiction of Federal Agents and the separate jurisdictions of Park City Police and Summit County Sheriff’s Department. We also need to know where to go for special services for those affected or threatened by these arrests.

Washington Post Covers Sexist Comments By Wasatch County Republican James Green

You know you’ve either done something extraordinary or you’ve really screwed up when you’re not a national figure, live in a fly-over state, and you get coverage from the Washington Post. It appears former Vice Chair of the Wasatch Republican Party, James Green, has done the latter. The Washington Post’s Kristina Guerra wrote a scathing 1,300 word article about Green’s letter and the aftermath. Her story has received almost 900 comments in one day.

The only one who still doesn’t seem to get that Green’s comments were off-base is Green himself. According to the article in response to the situation he said, “There was no offense intended toward Women, whatsoever. And yet some took it that way. To those who were offended, I profusely apologize. I sincerely did not mean to do that.” He didn’t say, “I’m sorry” or “My comments on women were wrong.” No, it appears he was sorry if his prejudice towards women offended anyone. Crazy.

If you are a Republican leader in Summit County, and want a chance of winning any race, your damage control probably now includes female voters (as well as all those groups impacted from actions out of the White House).

The only silver lining we can see coming from this debacle came in the comments section of the Washington Post article:

“Utah is a wacko state.”

Yep. We love that. If enough people think Utah is bat-shit crazy, maybe a few will stay home. Not that we don’t welcome our visitors. You can’t be a resort town without them… But a little break might be nice.

 

 

Wasatch GOP Vice-Chair Resigns Over Criticism of Equal Pay for Women

Fox 13 is reporting that James Green, Wasatch County GOP Vice Chair, has stepped down amid criticism over comments he made about women.

According to Fox 13, Green said, “You wouldn’t believe the hateful vile comments and messages I’ve received.”

We’re pretty sure that most people felt the same way about his letter to the Park Record.

Here is the original letter Green wrote.

Here is the Fox 13 story on him stepping down.

A Park City woman’s place is in the home …

So I was watching Leave it to Beaver on TV Land and Ward was really upset that June didn’t have dinner on the table when he arrived home from work. How dare she not have dinner ready when he got home from work! Didn’t she know how hard he worked all day?

Then I read a Park Record Editorial from the Wasatch GOP Vice-Chair, James Green,  that reminds me that we are apparently still living in the 50’s. Here is how the Wasatch GOP leader begins:

“Here’s the problem with the Equal Pay bill being considered by the Utah Legislature: Traditionally men have earned more than women in the workplace because they are considered the primary breadwinners for families. They need to make enough to support their families and allow the Mother to remain in the home to raise and nurture the children.”

I have to ask myself, am I reading The Onion?

Seriously though… I can’t believe that the Park Record published this. Next we will hear that someone from the Republican Party advocates rounding up “Illegals” in Summit County. This appears to be aimed at destroying any hopes that the Republican Party may have had at regaining Tal Adair’s seat in upcoming elections. That said, stupid is as stupid does. Fair enough.

Let’s get back to misogynistic comments of Mr Green:

“And as even more women thus enter the workforce that creates more competition for jobs (even men’s jobs) and puts further downward pressure on the pay for all jobs, meaning more and more Mothers will be forced into the workforce. And that is bad for families and thus for all of society.”

Damn. I hate it when there is even more competition for jobs… even “men’s jobs.” I assume those are any jobs that require math or science, as women aren’t shown to understand math or science.

Unbelievable.

It’s so unbelievable that we reached out to Tal Adair, head of Summit County’s Republican Party (keep in mind that James Green is in Wasatch County). Mr Adair stated that Mr Green’s comments were his alone. He made sure to state that everyone has a right to their opinion via the first amendment, but that Mr Green’s comments do not reflect the stance of the Utah Republican Party or especially the Summit County Republican Party.

Mr Adair said that in any business it is important to, “surround yourself with good people whether they are women or men.”  He also said that he didn’t think it was  the job of the government to dictate salaries. If a woman is more qualified or does the job better than a man, she should get paid more.

We think that in Park City the Republican Party has it right on this one. However, outside our little Basin, we wonder. Are Green’s comments reflective of only himself or do they speak to the broader view of the Utah Republican Party?

Summit County has traditionally been a Democrat stronghold. However there is usually at least one Republican on the Summit County Council. That has changed this year.

We wonder if the sort of rhetoric offered by Mr Green will ensure that Republicans are unelectable in Park City for the foreseeable future. We’d guess so.

Summit County Republicans had better state their case immediately if they want any chance to have a part in guiding the county in the foreseeable future.

We frankly can’t believe that gender differences matter in any sort of discussion.

Why we care AND DON’T care about Park City school rankings

As you probably know, Park City High, long considered one of the best schools in the state, fell out of the “US News Best Schools” rankings a few years back. According to US News, the best high school in the state is Skyline (near the base of Parley’s Canyon). There are a total of 26 Utah high schools that were given rankings 2016, including Wasatch High in Heber (ranked 21st). Park City is unranked, so we guess if all you care about is rankings, we’d recommend moving to Heber (or better yet to Olympus Cove). However, we believe there is more to the story than that. As we’ve learned about how US News ranks schools, it has shown why we both care and couldn’t care less about these rankings.

How does US News determine their rankings? Its based on a 4 step process. If you don’t pass the first 3 steps, you are unranked. Here are the steps:

  1. Identify high schools that performed better than expected on state accountability assessments, given their population of economically disadvantaged students; or were in the top 10% of the state’s distribution of performance.
  2. Identify high schools whose disadvantaged students performed better than the state average for disadvantaged students.
  3. Identify high schools that met a basic criterion for graduation rates (> 68% graduation rate).
  4. Identify high schools that performed best in providing students with access to challenging college-level coursework.

Looking at the data, Park City passed step 1 with flying colors. We were 6.3 points better than expected based on the proficiency of our students in Math and English. Top Utah school, Skyline, was 4.6 points better than expected. So, our district rocked that one.

Park City also easily would have passed step 3 with a graduation rate of 91%. We would have done well on step 4 with a College Readiness Index (based on AP exams) of 58.7. Skyline was a little better at 60.3 but we would likely be in the top 5 of high schools in Utah.

Oops, what step did we leave out? Yep #2 — the assessment of how well a school district meets ALL kids’ needs. We didn’t fare so well there. Park City High School was 1.5% below the state average in proficiency of disadvantaged students (defined as black, hispanic, and low-income by US News). That’s not so good. That’s also why we were not ranked.

So, if you have a middle class or above income and have a white kid, congratulations, your child goes to the second best high school in the state!!! The problem becomes when that’s not the case.

The school district isn’t blind to this fact and that’s part the reason behind two recent initiatives. The first is dual immersion. Studies about quality dual immersion programs have shown that English language learners (ELL) who have been in dual immersion programs since first grade are generally proficient in English and math by fifth or sixth grade.

The second step was the introduction of all day Kindergarten (and pre-K). The thought being that all day Kindergarten (versus half day) would close the educational gap for ELL students and low-income students. Unfortunately the research on full-day versus half day is a mixed bag. Studies generally show that all day Kindergarten increases performance in the short-term. This is especially so in ELL and low-income groups. However, other studies show the difference gained for students in all day K versus half day wears off over time. Likewise, other studies don’t seem to see any math proficiency benefits for ELL or low-income children attending all day K.

There have also been other changes that the school district is undertaking to help ELL and low-income students improve their educational experience.

The take-away is that the Park City School District is trying. The other take away is that this could take a long time to impact high school rankings. This year’s rankings are based on 2013-2014 data. So, they are 2-3 years old. Likewise, Kindergartners won’t be in high school for 8 years and it could take dual immersion ELL students years to achieve proficiency (and impact high school rankings).

So look for that return to rankings sometime around 2028. 😁

Like we said, we CARE and DON’T CARE about the rankings. We care because it shows an Achilles heal in the district. Disadvantaged kids are both underperforming other kids (which unfortunately is the norm almost everywhere) but also doing worse than the state average (at least as of 2014). It’s just not fair with the resources we have in our community.

We don’t care about the rankings, outside of that (major) flaw, because we have a district that seems to educate children well. We have good teachers. We have small class sizes (our student to teacher ratio is 19:1 while Skyline’s is 25:1 for instance). Whether we are ranked or not, it doesn’t change that.

We have a well performing district, with the exception of that big but… That said, it’s more important to us to make sure everyone gets a quality education (that prepares them for the future) than an arbitrary ranking that may help one of our students get into Stanford.

All that said, we do have a gripe. During the last few years we have heard school officials say that they want to have the best schools not only in Utah but in the country. We love the moxie, but in researching this story we learned what THE BEST really meant. The best high school (according to US News) is The School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas but it only has 248 kids. So, let’s take the 7th best school in the country — Pine View School in Sarasota. Pine View has 2148 kids (by the way it’s 2nd grade to 12th to add some fire to the grade realignment discussion). Minorities make up 26% of the population (Ours is 17%) and 11% of the kids are economically disadvantaged (Ours is 14%) . They have a graduation rate of 100% (Ours is 91%). 100% of students take AP exams and 99% pass (74% of our students take AP classes and 72% pass). 99% of students are proficient in Math (ours is 44%) and 99% are proficient in English (ours is 52%). 98.1% of disadvantaged kid are proficient in both Math and English (ours is 16.9% proficient).

Is Park City High and Pine View a perfect comparison. Of course not. That said, to truly be the best, it shows we have a long way to go.

To truly be among the best we need a lot of improvements — for all students. We hope the district is up to the task.

 

 

 

Letter to parents, students, and community on Park City School District grade realignment from Superintendent

A reader forwarded this letter sent in the past few days from the Park City School District. If you haven’t read it, you may find it interesting. Thanks to the reader who sent this in…

Parents, Students and Community,

We (Board, administration and staff) are in full support of grade realignment — independent of when it is implemented. We will continue to keep you posted as the process moves forward; the PCHS Expansion, the 5-8 Curriculum Team’s findings of the ideal learning environment for middle-level learners, and discussions and decisions around realignment and bond timing.

It is evident we are a unified team in support of the middle level philosophy researched and recommended by our own team of Park City School District professionals, and it comes down to this: we need more space and appropriate facilities not only to manage our current, excellent programs, but also to accommodate anticipated future growth. Here’s what we will do to demonstrate that need:

  • Middle Level Learning Philosophy Events
    • STAFF ONLY: Today at 3 p.m.
    • COMMUNITY: Thursday, February 16 at 6 p.m. at Ecker Hill Middle School Auditorium
  • Tours (for community and media) of ALL buildings during school hours: this will shine a bright light on the urgent need for our students (and programs) to have more space.
    • Three of four elementary schools are at capacity and need additional rooms immediately
    • TMJH is a building we are band-aiding year after year
    • PCHS Expansion tours will show where options will go to ease overcrowding when our 9th graders are moved into the building
  • Regular Board update emails and communications with links to relevant videos

A bit of great news – your voices are being heard! The Board listened to both benefits and concerns from staff and administration — and read dozens of emails from the community. We are working closely with Board members to demonstrate that all concerns, while valid, are not going to stop us from doing what’s best, academically, for our students. We will find answers and workable solutions. We continue to welcome your feedback and thoughts as we work to implement what we all know is best — realignment of our grades.

As we move toward that goal, funding is a big question mark. We must be sure our staff and our community are on board for the next bond attempt. As you know, we need all the support we can get as we ensure our students have access to the very best resources for learning, both in facilities and programs. We need your input: we need to make sure you know your questions are being heard, that we are providing solutions to your concerns and that you have complete understanding of this complex facility issue – we want you to be assured that we are taking the most thorough, thoughtful steps we possibly can.

The next big step: the Board has scheduled an additional work session to continue to outline details for realignment facility needs on Thursday, February 16 at 9:00 a.m., here at the District Office (2700 Kearns Blvd.). A change to the existing decision for grade realignment (scheduled for 2017-2018) is anticipated (but not certain). Here’s what that means: the Board could make a motion to rescind or amend the realignment decision with a 2017-2018 timeline. They could also make a motion to implement a Fall 2018 realignment implementation, although that may happen in a later meeting. 

The next regular Board meeting is MONDAY, February 27 (not Tuesday, Feb. 28). This will be the public’s opportunity to give feedback (the public comment period begins at around 5:30 p.m.). However – WE WANT YOUR INPUT BEFORE THEN! Please send me an email or call me at 435.614.0234.

It seems highly likely that additional Board work sessions will be scheduled in March to review final costs and adjustments for the PCHS expansion and grade realignment timeline. Please stay involved. We value your opinions and input!

 

Ember Conley, EdD

Superintendent, Park City School District ​​​​​​​

Please be careful with comments …

At the Park Rag we get a number of comments on stories we write. We appreciate that people care enough to take the time to read and comment. We’ve also made the decision to allow anonymous commenting. We believe this serves a valuable purpose in the community because some people are afraid to speak up when their name is associated with comments — because of ramifications (work, friends, employees, business, etc.).

That said, there is responsibility when using anonymity. Anonymity provides a veil that masks the commenter but can also lead to horrible things being said. With the Park Rag, I have made the decision to put my name out there (Hi, I’m Josh Mann… if you haven’t clicked on the About Us link). I believe if I am going to criticize an organization or people’s ideas, they have a right to know their accuser. They have a right to be able to see me on a trail and tell me I am an idiot. That just seems fair.

At the Park Rag, we follow rules set out by the Communications Decency Act of 1996 Section 230, which means we are responsible for what WE write and YOU are responsible for what you write (even when anonymous). That puts the entire legal responsibility for comments you make back on you. And while the Park Rag allows you to post comments “anonymously,” very few things are truly anonymous in this world. Should someone decide that your comment was libelous to them, they will likely be able to figure out who you are.

Outside of the legal realm, there is also the human realm. People are real. People are human. Cruelty serves little purpose and hurts. We do our best to criticize ideas or actions and not criticize people. We would hope commenters would do the same, when possible.

One of the great things about the Park Rag’s comments is that they can be informative. We appreciate that. We just don’t want to see it devolve into an angry mob. That’s a disservice to everyone who posts here, because then all comments are looked down upon. Likewise, you may want to consider whether you really need to post anonymously. We understand that many people feel they do (and that is why it’s available); however, we’ve found that comments posted by “real” people can get more attention.

All that said, I believe most of us have the same goal — a better Park City.

Thanks for reading and participating in the Park Rag.

Josh Mann
Park Rag