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Kudos to the Park City School District

“We’re back baby!”

Or so you could imagine the elation from Park City School District Administrators on Park City’s recent ranking in US News’ top High Schools. No longer relegated to unranked status, Park City High School is now ranked 2nd in Utah and 418th nationwide.

Earlier this year we had written Why we care and don’t care about Park City School Rankings. We said we don’t care “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 said we do care because the rankings factor in whether we educate ALL children — especially English Language Learners and disadvantaged students.

What these ranking tell us is that in 2014 and 2015 the school district did pretty well, because that’s where this year’s ranking come from. Even more, it tells you that starting in the 2011-2012 school year things were getting better. (Wow, that’s a long time ago). 

Because US News doesn’t publish detailed data, it’s hard to get into details. However, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out the SAGE results during this same time period (2014-2015):

  • 24% of English Language Learners (ELL) were proficient in Language Arts in Grade 3 (that’s one of the better ones)
  • 23% of economically disadvantaged kids were proficient in science in 5th grade
  • 4% of ELLs were proficient in language in 7th grade
  • 0% of ELLS were proficient in language in 8th grade
  • 14% of disadvantaged kids were proficient in math in grade 5
  • 11% of ELLs were proficient in language in. 5th grade
  • 24% of Economically disadvantaged students were proficient in language in 6th grade

So, we’re not exactly sure we want to be celebrating that.

That said, for those who crucified our Superintendent for falling out of the rankings, she had been vindicated. The rankings are coming around. Again, the rankings are a couple of years behind. However, logic would dictate that next year’s rankings (based on 2015-2 016) would be even better due to dual immersion efforts. So, if you care about rankings, you will likely be happy for the next few years.

Since we don’t, what we really hope is that our school district continues to work to provide a quality education for ALL our students. We’d really like to see our ELL and economically disadvantaged students on par with other students.

That would be a big win.

For now, we’ll congratulate our School District on working hard to meet one of its goals. Kudos.

Yet, there is a lot of work still to be done.

How do you rank your local ski resorts?

It’s that time of the year again. Ski Magazine’s annual survey of ski resorts is out. It’s an important survey to our local resorts. It provides both prestige and often leads to additional visitors going to a resort. After all, many people want to ski “the best.” Deer Valley has been ranked the best and is consistently near the top. Recently Park City dropped to thirteen.

Personally I ranked Deer Valley very high in most facets. I ranked Park City much lower due to parking, staff encounters, and the infamous crap incident I experienced earlier this year at PCMR.

There is also the school of thought that we may want our resorts to fall in the rankings, to reduce the number of visitors. Of course, if your livelihood depends on cramming as many people into Park City on a daily basis as possible, you wouldn’t want poor rankings. However, if you just want to be able to ski or ride, you probably don’t care what the rankings are… and may appreciate a few less people coming to town.

If you are interested, you can take the survey here:

http://survey.rrcresearch.com/s3/SKI-Magazine-Best-Resorts-2018

Park City’s Main Street is Becoming Just an Outdoor Shopping Mall

The Park Record has a way of clarifying what’s really happening around us. This week, they did that again.

Our local paper reported that LL Bean will open a store in the former Kimball Art Center Building. One could ask the question of whether Parkites would prefer the art center in that location, even if it was a 40 foot tall log cabin, or whether we’d prefer LL Bean. Either way, that ship has sailed and the answer is LL Bean. This comes on the footsteps of Vail Resorts opening a North Face store and a Patagonia Store on Main St.

I guess we’ll know that we’ve really arrived when the Rain Forest Cafe opens a location in the current Zoom restaurant location.

In some ways, it’s crazy. We’ve always thought of Park City as a different town. Few chains here!

Yet, did you know that the fur shop you’ve always made fun of for having fur underwear … is a chain? At one point they had five shops in Alaska and two down south. Now it appears they have two in Alaska and one in Jackson Hole and one in Park City.

Or did you know that the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory has locations in Draper and Sandy? The word “factory” was a likely tip-off… although we didn’t pick up on that. Yes, you too could open a franchise in KJ.

We’re sure there are more retailers that we don’t know are chains along Main.

Then add to that the national retailers who are descending to Park City’s Main Street. For now, that seems to be outdoor retailers. If we are successful, don’t be surprised to see a Forever 21 soon. We’re envisioning The Gateway (In SLC), before their demise (to City Creek).

There is idyllic and then there is Park City. It seems we shouldn’t confuse the two.

Yet we don’t begrudge those who have sold or rented to the chains. Good on you.

It’s a brave new world. Yet we shouldn’t mistake who we really are.

Understanding who you really are leads to much better decisions than who you wish you were.

So the best advice might be to learn to live with what we are.

With (some) exceptions… we are a Vail resort town, that is expensive to live in, with above average schools, occasional bad traffic, and a history.

Unfortunately more of that history is being lost every day.

This is Park City 2017. It’s not necessarily better or worse…It’s just who we are.

How bars in your sliding windows/doors make your house harder to be robbed

After our last post on crime, we received a couple of emails asking about why and how we used bars in our windows. The thieves who broke into our home, tried a crow bar on 5 back windows and doors before they got in. Here was their unsuccessful attempt on our back sliding door:

The thief tries to exert enough force to break your latch. They eventually did on one of our sliding windows.

So now we have installed bars on the slides of all windows and doors. This is what one of our windows looks like without a bar:

So, if the thief breaks your latch, it slides right open.

Here is what it looks like with a bar in the slide:

Even if the latch is broken, the bar prevents the window from opening completely.

So, where do you get a bar? We are sure there are very fancy solutions. You could buy something custom made, forged from metal, and pay thousands of dollars. Your tastes and requirements may dictate that type of solution. However, I’m just not that fancy. So, we measured the various lengths of all our windows and then went to Home Depot. An easy solution is hand rail that you may use to go down steps. Home Depot will cut a handrail to any length. So, they did all the cutting. We got the hand rail home (the bars) and painted them to match our windows. It cost about $35 for 16 windows.

Now, is this full proof? Of course not. Your competent thief will bring a tool that he will use after he breaks the latch. He will then fish the tool in through the 1/4 inch spacing and attempt to flip up and remove your bar. However, that takes time, effort, and additional tools. All of those work in your favor in deterring the common thief from robbing you.

If you couple that with a security system, it is even better. The thief needs to break your latch, which will likely set off the alarm. They’ll then need to pop the bar, which could take a minute or two. That then leaves them about 3 minutes in your house versus the 5 minutes they may normally take (all the while your alarm is howling with the Sheriff on his way).

Or the dumb thief may just smash your window, making a lot of noise, and again setting off the alarm.

It’s a crap-shoot.

So, you can’t stop them all. But we believe most thieves are criminals of opportunity. If you make it harder than most, they’ll go somewhere else.

If you aren’t employing some solution like this, we’d recommend you consider it strongly.

Jeremy Ranch is Feeling Like it’s Crime-Ridden

We tend to think of Park City as an idyllic community from the 1950’s. To many, it’s Pleasantville. Then your house gets robbed, or your car window is broken, or your car tires are slashed. Then, it’s not so picturesque anymore. It’s just another suburb.

That’s just about where we are with Jeremy Ranch.

For weeks (maybe months) social media has been reporting a high number of cars and garages being robbed. Recently the robberies turned to vandalism as car tires were also slashed. Naturally, the community is up in arms. “Should we install gates? Can’t the ‘police’ patrol more? Should we have cameras? ” comes the cry from residents. It’s natural.

Do gates work to deter crime? Yes, but only marginally. Of course if you have a gated community, you have to pay for all road maintenance (and often garbage collection). It may be cheaper to be robbed every couple of years than that.

Would cameras help? No. If you don’t believe that, take your iPhone down to Sackett Drive, turn it at a 45 degree angle, and press record on the video. After 10 cars drive by, you can stop. Can you read any of the license tags? Most people probably can’t, but let’s say you can read 5 out of 10. Now, how are you going to prove that the person in that car was the person that stole your skis from your garage? Unless you get a picture of the person (using your own camera) inside your home holding your skis, and a picture of the same person in the car and also the license tag, you won’t have a case. That is really unlikely. Besides, anything of value will be sold within a few hours.

How do I come to that conclusion? Our family’s home was robbed in Jeremy Ranch a couple of years ago. The thieves left a clipboard with fingerprints all over it. In the end, those fingerprints matched a crime ring in Salt Lake that had committed hundreds of robberies (and were eventually jailed). However, our robbery wasn’t included because there was no evidence that showed the thieves were in our home and holding the clipboard. When the Sheriff’s Department interviewed the father of the “alleged” thieves (whose prints were also on the clipboard) he said he had lost the clipboard and that he didn’t know how it would have gotten into our house.

No absolute proof = no way to bring charges

It likely wouldn’t have mattered anyhow. The Summit County Sheriff’s investigator told us that most items were sold for meth within a couple of hours of being stolen.

Please don’t take these remarks as disparaging against our law enforcement. Today on social media the Summit County Sheriff”s office responded to Jeremy Ranch residents saying “We are taking any and every report seriously… Our promise to you was that we will send deputies to your residence and neighborhood as quickly as possible.” We believe they are. If you have a serious emergency, and you are in the Snyderville Basin, you should know that the Summit County Sheriff’s office will arrive within minutes. We imagine that Park City is the same. You look no further than the potential school shooter last year where the Police department was preparing at 3AM for almost every contingency. Both the Summit Sheriff’s Office and Park City Police know what they are doing. They are good and they are competent.

Yet, burglary seems harder. Nationwide only 12.7 percent of burglaries are solved. That’s the reality.

So, its more about prevention and deterrence than actually “stopping” robberies. For instance, the thief that attacked our family tried a crowbar on 5 back windows and doors before one of the latches broke and allowed them entrance. Now, we have bars in all the slides of all sliding doors and windows. We also have a few cameras outside that detect motion. The thief would now have to both break the latch and find a way to remove the bar to gain entrance. In addition, we now have a relatively inexpensive security system. The thief will likely also see the contact alarms in every door/window from the outside. That will tell him that he not only needs to break the latch and remove the bar but will have limited time in the house (once they break the latch and figure out how to remove the bar). Finally, we have motion detecting cameras that indicate when someone is near the outside of our house. So, the thief should be even less confident in his ability to rob the house. The hope is that the “rationale” thief (if there is one) will bypass our house.

Yet, robbery isn’t the only thing to be concerned with in Jeremy Ranch. You also have to contend with drug sales. Last summer our neighbor saw what was likely a number of drug sales going on near vacant lot in Jeremy Ranch. I contacted the Sheriff’s department and again they exceeded my expectations in what they did (I won’t go into the details); however, I don’t believe they were able to stop it.

It’s happening again this year. The difference is that a number of neighbors seem to know what house the sales are coming from. So, if you live on Cheyenne and you or your kids are dealing… STOP SELLING IN JEREMY RANCH. With the robberies, vandalism, and now drugs… we are about done.

We look at this as a three prong issue:

First, you have to protect yourself. Don’t leave your car or house vulnerable. We already live in a vulnerable area (along a major interstate) — don’t make yourself more vulnerable.

Second, we’d love some innovative ideas from the Sheriff’s office. Justin Martinez and his fellow deputies are smart. We’d love to wake up to an article in the Park Record about how they squashed this issue.

Third, we look to the real estate professionals to be a part of this solution. If you want to sell homes for less than a million dollars, then you need Jeremy Ranch. People don’t want to buy a $800,000 house in a crime ghetto. Articles like this one don’t help in the short-run, but we DO hope they will help in the long run. We need your assistance and help in mitigating this problem.

Can we guarantee you will never be robbed? No. However, you can take steps to reduce the chance of incident. We also hope our partners can step up and find ways to help squash this plague.

If you have any questions about what my family did to make us harder to rob, email me at . I’m always happy to chat.

 

 

 

A response on Teacher Turnover by the Park City School District

On Friday, Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley sent an email to employees in regard to teacher turnover. It seems citizen, Meg Leaf, hit a nerve with her editorial in the Park Record regarding purported turnover of teachers in the district. Ms. Leaf noted turnover rates of over 50% of teachers, assistants, and aides during the last 3 years. Dr Conley’s email stated:


Dear PCSD Staff,

First, enjoy your upcoming spring break. I am wishing each of you a time to refresh and come back strong to finish out the rest of this school year.

You have likely been fielding many questions lately, ranging from the need for bond projects, why the projects are so expensive this time around, Park City teacher turnover rates, changes to start times, etc. I want you to have the most up-to-date and accurate information, so I will send a weekly note with a (quick!) look at items of interest. I will also be posting these on the website, so please feel free to share the content.

A recent editorial in the Park Record mentioned, “Change is appropriate when fully understood and vetted, thoughtfully planned with stakeholders, and well executed across a timeline that works.” I couldn’t agree more. This email is one step of many I’m taking to make sure you have access to provide input on the ground floor for all upcoming ideas and projects. I want to hear your voices to achieve full understanding, then move together toward planning and execution.

That said, I’d like to take a moment to talk about another item in the aforementioned editorial: our teacher turnover rate.

For the last three years, PCSD *teacher* turnover rate is as follows:

2014 – 9%,
2015 – 10%,
2016 – 13%

We provide the opportunity for exit interviews, and those who participate are encouraged to be candid about why they have made the decision to leave. Our district’s 3-year average is 10.67%. A quick point of comparison: Palo Alto School District (a more similar district to ours than those mentioned in the editorial) has a 3-year average of 20%. The state average for turnover is 12%. Our numbers are below-average, but we still – always! – want to improve.

Please also keep in mind; we have built-in turnover with DLI visas every two – three years. While this is a small impact, it is a factor. We believe strongly in the DLI program and the benefits it provides to our children, especially the incredible opportunity of our native speakers sharing the culture of the languages.

As always, I encourage you to call, email, or come see me anytime with questions or concerns, and I’d love to hear your ideas for topics I can cover in these weekly dispatches. I’d also encourage you to sign up for our new information initiative — PCSD Community Link. You can sign up here: http://tiny.cc/pcschools (Spanish: http://tiny.cc/pcespanol) or by texting your first & last name to 435-602-4444.

Warmly,
Ember


Ms Leaf’s editorial cited turnover rates above 50% over the last three years, which averages out to almost 17% turnover per year. Dr Conley’s numbers average out to about 10% per year. Having visited with both Ms. Leaf and Molly Miller, the school district’s communication expert, the source of the data is the same (the Assistant Superintendent). However, Ms. Leaf included licensed teachers, assistants, and aides in her turnover numbers. Dr Conley included only the traditional definition of “teacher” according to Ms Miller. That appears to be the difference.

So, it comes down to one of those 1990 Bill Clinton issues. What is the definition of the word teacher. Is a teacher anyone who has a part in instructing your children or is a teacher a licensed teacher (or similar). That is the further complicated by comparisons against other districts that may define teacher differently.

So we ask our community to be informed and nuanced. First, do you care about teacher turnover? If not, you can stop reading five paragraphs ago. If you do, do you care about turnover related to anyone who has a part in instructing our children or do you only care about licensed teachers?

If you care about all people that teach our children, then is 50% + turnover in three years OK?

If you care about only licensed teachers, is 30% turnover in 3 years OK?

Either way how to you factor in comparisons with other districts?

As with anything involving children, it’s complicated.

 

Are you a Park City teacher who has left (or is planning to leave)? Why did you make that decision?

We recently posted an article on teacher turnover. Using data provided by a local citizen, we looked at turnover rates of teachers in Park City. Rates seem high. We speculated on why teachers are leaving, but we’d rather hear directly from teachers.

If you are a teacher, assistant, or aide that has left Park City Schools (or is planning to leave) we’d love to learn why. Specifically we’d like to know:

  1. Have you left in the last 3 years (or was it earlier)?
  2. Why you left?
  3. Is there anything that would have made you stay?

You can post a comment below. You can . You can use our anonymous tip section.

Please keep comments civil. We aren’t looking for a witch hunt or libelous comments. We truly want to understand why teachers leave Park City — in order to better understand if there is a problem and what solutions are available.

As always, thanks for participating in the Park Rag!

Why do Park City teachers leave?

With ever-present issues surrounding the Park City School District during the last few years, one of the things we’ve fallen back upon is the notion that at least we have good teachers. The people our children are directly in contact with are typically teachers and that counts for a lot. Thank goodness we have good teachers.

The old adage is that Park City teachers are paid better than Utah average (which isn’t saying much). Therefore, that money attracts the best and brightest to our community.

However, a recent editorial by Meg Leaf in the Park Record has made us wonder if money is enough to keep the best and brightest. In the editorial Ms Leaf makes a number of points:

  • Park City has about 340 people who educate our children (teachers and assistants) .
  • During the past 3 years, 172 of those people were hired and then subsequently left.
  • That means 51% percent of our educators came and went in the last 3 years.

If the Park City School District were KFC, we would be doing great. Unfortunately, we probably expect a little more.

We visited with Ms Leaf about her data and she was happy to let us see it for ourselves. She kindly responded with data provided directly by the Park City School District.

There does appear to be about 340 teachers and assistants who teach children. Likewise, half of those people have turned over in three years. Ms Leaf cites a National Center for Education Statistics study (from 2011–2012) stating that 84 percent of public school teachers remained at the same school.

Our research shows that historically between 12% and 16% of teachers move schools or leave the profession every year, across the U.S.

Ms Leaf’s data shows that in Park City 16%-17% of Park City teachers leave every year (of of February 2017). So, our turnover is higher than the national average. Ms Leaf also compared Park City to other districts in Utah and one in California. This too showed higher turnover in Park City.

The difficulty with any of these comparisons is that knowing whether the comparison is apples to apples. We look at it a few ways. First, losing half the people who teach our kids in three year seems high. Second, looking at all industries, the average turnover is 15% per year. So, we aren’t doing as well as even the average of all industries. Finally, if we dig deeper into teacher turnover rates, those rates can be correlated with the number of children of free/reduced lunch programs. More students on these programs correlates with higher turnover.

District-wide, eighteen percent of Park City children participate in the free/reduce cost lunch program. Given the graph above, the national average turnover would be 12.8%. Again, we are above that with 16% turnover. So by a number of measures this seems to be an issue.

What’s going on? You don’t have to look much further than the teacher surveys from last year. In the Survey Feedback Overview, here are some of the comments highlighted:

  • Stop:“Making decisions without educator input (ie. eliminating reading specialists)”
  • “Take teacher input into consideration before adopting new “programs”
  • Start: “Asking for teacher input and using teacher input to make district decisions”
  • “Get teacher input BEFORE making decisions”
  • Start: “gathering more input from teachers before making major decisions that impact teaching”
  • “Listen to constituents “in the trenches” with respect to anything that the district is currently doing or considering changing”
  • Start:“Listening to teachers about what needs to happen with the schools. We are in the trenches every day and know what needs to happen and what won’t be effective use of time and money”
  • Start: “Really involving teachers of all disciplines and levels when making decisions about policy, programs, etc.”
  • Start:“Ask for teacher input about major decisions like the removal of the ELA/Reading specialists”
  • Start: “Listening to teachers. We have a lot to say, but no one really asks us what we think. If we are asked, OUR ideas are not really implemented”

That seems pretty clear.

Yet, almost a year after this survey was collected we were at a presentation by the school district pimping the need for adding on to the high school and the teachers’ opinions seemed to still be neglected. The presenter mentioned that the changes to high school may include “college like” offices for teachers who would rotate throughout the school without any fixed classroom of their own. The number of jaw-drops from teachers throughout the room was palpable.

So, our question is if we are one of the best school districts in the known universe, why do we have an attrition problem?

Can teachers make more money elsewhere? Park City has some of the highest paid teachers (per salary schedules) in Utah. However, maybe teachers are leaving Utah.

Are there better chances for teachers to “move up” elsewhere? Perhaps.

Do teachers just not like the feel of what’s going on here and money is not enough to keep them around? That seems very likely.

Without the best people, our district can’t be the best. We wonder what the impact of our attrition will ultimately be.

Perhaps most importantly, who (or what) is responsible for this attrition and how do we stop it?

Thanks to Meg Leaf for providing information