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Do you have a question for the Park City School Board Candidates?

There is one contested race for the Park City School Board. Write-in candidate Thomas Cooke is challenging incumbent Andrew Caplan for seat #2.

Both Thomas and Andrew have agreed to do casual video interviews via the Park Rag. My goal is to provide voters with as much information as possible to make informed decisions.

The School Board is one of the most neglected positions in local government. Most people just don’t seem to care. Yet, if you have children in the district, this may be one of the most important decisions you can make. If you don’t, get out your property tax statement, you’ll see that the Park City School District is where a lot of your money goes.

With that in mind, I’d love to hear the general themes and questions you’d like me to ask the candidates. I don’t promise to ask every question. Likewise, any questions you submit in the comments below should be respectful. Tough questions are OK, but treat Andrew and Thomas like you would want to be treated. It is not easy to run for local office and/or serve the community. We need to appreciate those that do.

So, if you have a question, please post it in the comments below by Wednesday night. We can all make a difference if we work together.

Comments

38 Comments

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Walt

I’ve got some (for both candidates)!

-Looking at the current situation (teachers get a big raise, schools so far successfully operating in-person) it’s hard for me to criticize much about the board/administration. What do *you* feel the district has done well at in the last few years?

-How do you feel about our Covid response/situation thus far?

-We have been hearing about a lack of transparency and devaluing public input, for what seems like forever (I remember hearing a lot of this 6 years ago during the bond election, with a completely different board – many of the current board members ran on essentially the same platform as Mr. Cooke). Do you agree that this is a problem? If so, how *specifically* would you address it (meaning, I’m not interesting in just hearing “we”ll be more transparent”).

-Is realignment of the grades and new/improved facilities still a priority? If so, how do you plan to get public buy-in on spending what will presumably be well north of $100 million at this point? If a bond fails a second time, would you (despite the known fairness issues that Mr. Caplan has repeatedly pointed out) support using the board’s taxing authority?

-Should PCSD cooperate with SSSD (and Wasatch County) to help kids who live in odd spots (ie the new Silver Creek village/Home Depot development, along the Jordanelle) attend school in Park City, which would be arguably more logical than bussing them 20 miles? Should regional coordination be higher on our list of priorities, or should PCSD go it alone?

-Should PCSD be thinking about building faculty housing? It seems unlikely that pay can be raised high enough to hire local teachers due to high cost of living, but the district does own land in the county.

-Health insurance is a huge portion of our budget and looks likely to cause increasing problems financially going forward. Should PCSD (like Granite, I think?) consider self-insuring and hiring medical staff/operating a health clinic, perhaps in conjunction with Summit County?

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M Leaf

On a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is lowest priority and 10 is highest), in what priority do you place frequent, open, transparent communication with PCSD parents and public constituents about pending internal and external education issues, concerns, and decisions?

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M Leaf

Given today’s online challenges and at-home learning, what is your strategy to bring PCSD into the year 2020-2021, wherein all students have access to internet, well-working equipment, and live streaming?
And that teachers’ software and online needs are met to streamline their work and not increase workload?

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M Leaf

Do you believe that teachers, who spend the most time with our children every school day, should be the drivers of education decisions?

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M Leaf

How do you prioritize the following stakeholders to include them in planning and decision-making procedures about educational programs that impact both students and teachers most deeply:
– Teachers
– Students
– Parents
– Taxpayers
– Third party donors and fundraising groups
– Administrators?

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M Leaf

Do you believe that all PCSD employees should be subject to a 360 employee review process that aims to ensure accountability and apply steps for improvement, as well as to identify high performers for promotional purposes? (For all PCSD staff, including Superintendent.)

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M Leaf

Would you be willing and dedicated to conducting fully anonymous temperature surveys on PCSD employee morale and satisfaction every six months and making results public?

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M Leaf

How will you address the current state of disparate and non-cohesive communication between PCSD’s district office, individual schools, individual PTO groups, and PCEF to teachers, students, parents, and community members to assure a comprehensive, same-page understanding at all times?

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M Leaf

Will you commit to conducting anonymous student and parent satisfaction surveys every six months, to act upon findings for the sake of moving the needle to improve our schools, and publicize results and action plans?

Publishing results and committing to creating and adhering to action plans also applies to my previous question about surveying teachers anonymously. We should have teacher input and plans to act upon feedback to eradicate problems and implement great ideas.

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M Leaf

When in need of a service or software, will you commit to vetting vendors publically and allowing your stakeholders time to make suggestions that do not generate benefits or kickbacks to any individual involved in the vetting suggestions and process? In other words, do you commit to clean and public vetting of vendors for PCSD needed services and software?

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M Leaf

Do you believe PCSD should have a more robust and clean website whereby timely information critical to stakeholders is easily seen and readily found?

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M Leaf

Do you believe PCSD should have a more robust website whereby timely information critical to stakeholders is easily seen and readily found? In addition, do you believe PCSD should have a person dedicated to the job of making information and data transparent and easily attainable?

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M Leaf

How will you create or alter procedures to ensure that stakeholders who will endure the most impact of decisions will be at the planning table from day one through implementation? How will you ensure that those stakeholders not at the planning table are communicated with and welcomed to the process from day one through implementation should they so choose to help?

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M Leaf

What is your strategy for education process improvement?

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M Leaf

Given today’s online challenges and at-home learning, what is your strategy to bring PCSD into the year 2020-2021, wherein all students have access to internet, well-working equipment, and live streaming?
And that teachers’ software and online needs are met to streamline their work and not increase workload?

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M Leaf

To achieve desired educational goals, what are your views on traditional education and progressive education, where traditional is less responsive to new ideas and slower to implement; progressive, more responsive with relatively quicker implementation? Keeping in mind that ‘quicker’ would not necessarily connote cutting corners on quality.

All for now, Mr. Mann. Thank you for your service to the people.

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C. Wallace

How would you address what some teachers have described as a culture of fear in our district? Teachers are reporting terrible morale and afraid for their own health and that of their families, this cannot be a positive learning environment for students. PCEA is fractured and teachers/staff have joined another union which is must less friendly to the district. The claim has been made that all is well. It doesn’t seem to be all well even with the raise that was held over teachers heads. Other districts are giving teachers an extra day to work with online learners, who have been left behind. How can the state of the district be said to be positive and how far can we push our teachers?

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Concerned Taxpayer and Parent

What is your rationale for spending $100 million in capital projects over the next decade when enrollment is currently stagnant and not projected to grow?

How can the district be creative in spending and saving so that taxpayers won’t foot the bill for future capital projects to the tune of tens of millions of dollars?

How will the school district stay cutting edge and innovative in this new era of education?

Can PCSD justify, based on student outcomes and achievement, paying the superintendent the highest salary in the state?

Where could money be reallocated to better serve students?

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CW

For AC:

How do you address allegations of bullying fellow board members past and present, teachers, and the salary negotiations? Much of which has been documented in the local papers.

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CW

With the need to build new schools due to the expanding need, how do you intend to gather the funds? Through a bond or to circumvent public support?

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CW

The pandemic has laid bare the inadequacies of our society. Public ed is perhaps One of the most stark examples. What are the inadequacies in our district exposed by the pandemic and how do you plan to address them?

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McD

Secondary teachers are hating their jobs, they are overworked, overlooked, and feel sold out by PCEA and the board. How can you regain their trust and unite the teachers behind a vision, when they blame the board and a shrinking union?

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Shea

There has been much publicity lately about the failings of the board. Poop rolls downhill and this means that these failings have permeated through all facets of the schools. How can you correct these failings?

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Walt

Ha! Still want to run for school board, Tom Cooke?

It’s interesting to see the different questions. I think the school board’s role is in long term planning and policy. It seems most people are more interested in minutia/day to day operations/software/ranting.

Maybe that’s why there’s so much turnover on the board…

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Janna Mann

That’s actually a good question, Walt. To the candidates: what do you see as the role of the board? Forest or trees?

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M Leaf

Walt, these questions are all relevant to duties and oversight. We would have few questions if electeds simply included stakeholders and cut out the bullsh’t. Acting like stakeholders are just nags and don’t know what they’re talking about is short-sighted, disrespectful, and irresponsible. Please read the link to Board responsibilities. If the district is falling short on key areas, like communication, remote learning, teacher and student support, and Covid reporting during a pandemic, yes, the Board members have a duty to act to resolve.

http://go.boarddocs.com/ut/pcsd/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=B87RM464A63E

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Walt

I guess I think the district is kicking ass on Covid, thus far, but that’s just me. I have a hard time with the idea that the board should be tackling things like the nuts and bolts of using Canvas, or whatever.

So as Janna says, I guess I’m a Board=forest kinda guy. I sure as heck don’t expect people who are basically volunteers to be doing the day to day decision making – that’s why we HAVE a super/principals.

So, agree to disagree on that, I guess. The criticisms of the board (through several iterations!) are like a broken record and I get a little tired of it… lots of these folks are running unopposed. Why not throw your hat in the ring like Thomas? If not, make sure your criticisms are constructive ones (and not magic-free-pony type constructive stuff).

The board often has to make decisions where all choices are bad. That’s hard. And that’s why a lot of the same kind of decisions keep getting made through various iterations of the board. I think a lot of people don’t really get that.

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Bob

A question for Andrew Caplan: you have been quoted a few times in the Park Record as well as in the board letter to teachers from August 24 as describing the new contract for teachers as “historic,” and “the largest raise in our district’s history.” You have said it amounts to “a compounded increase between 20-24% over the next 4 years.” To most people, this sounds big, but many teachers who I know say this is not the case, they are getting 3% a year. One teacher has told me their union rep said something to the effect that you will barely notice it in your paycheck. Who are we supposed to trust here? Maybe it would help if you explained it thoroughly, since you have the financial background. If a teacher makes $60,000 right now, how much will they make over the next four years under the new contract?

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Walt

Dude, they’re getting a pay raise in the midst of a global pandemic and recession!

Yes, that’s freaking amazing and “historic”, in my book. I know an awful lot of people who aren’t getting a raise this year, or are taking involuntary furloughs.

It’s 18-24% over 4 years. I don’t know the exact criteria for how the determination is made about that range, which would be interesting to know, but man, you cannot be griping about this as a teacehr, in my book.

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Janna Mann

With more and more kids being moved to pre-quarantine online learning, affected teachers’ workload has to be increasing. I’ve spoken to several who are doing their best but are feeling the toll. None of us could predict how the plan would work until we were actually executing the plan. What changes to the current COVID mode of operation are you open to to help mitigate the unexpected and increased burden on our teachers and staff? A full day a week off for prep and recuperation? Hybrid model? Other ideas? We want teachers to be at their best when they enter the classroom, many of our teachers are also parents, and employee retention is important. Thank you.

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Parents of a senior

Teachers in the high school have raised questions as to the validity of the case count. They have said the numbers have been manipulated in order to keep the school open. The spreadsheet is up and down repeatedly, but why take down a google sheet? How can we trust the board when we know about your insistence to keep the school open? Is this transparency when people’s lives are at stake?

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BA

Back in June the district convened focus groups to reopen safely. Why were the suggestions of these groups ignored?

One week before school teachers were told to come up with their own schedule. We were once the cutting edge of education in the state and now we are the laughing stock. Even Davis had a plan more scientifically aligned than our mess of a reopening. How can you return our district to our former glory?

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Walt

What suggestions did they make?

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CT Scan

Walt, the Superintendent and Board never revealed the results of the reopening committees that supposedly met over the summer to plan. I was told by two people involved on different committees that the meetings were disorganized, that suggestions were not taken seriously, and that no progress was made. This would explain why after asking several times for the results from those committees before schools reopened, we still have nothing to show for it. Why else would they not have made those committee results public?

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Walt

Wait, if you know two people on the committees, did they “supposedly” meet or not?

I get tired of secondhand derogatory information, honestly. Maybe that’s true, but if you don’t even know what they recommended, why post that kind of accusation?

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Gavin F

You’re saying that CT Scan has nothing to add to the conversation because they don’t know what the committees suggested?

The very problem is that nothing was made public. ALL of us should know what the committees suggested. Instead, all we know is that the PCHS staff was informed in an August 5th staff meeting that everything was out the window.

If I’m understanding CT Scan’s point correctly, it’s not about the minutia of what specifically the committees came up with, and whether their ideas were implemented.

Their point is more that whenever important decisions have to be made, nothing about the decision-making progress is ever made public; and teachers, parents, and voters have to rely on hearsay from insiders to know anything about how the process worked and whether it was effective.

We’re seeing that live with the COVID response right now. Why did the district not specify that multiple siblings with COVID only count as one “active case,” until students and teachers pieced it together themselves and directly asked the administration? Why did the district not specify that a student who tests positive, but has not been in a PCSD building within 48 hours of the positive test, does not count as a a case? Regarding those two points, why was the decision made to not use the state COVID manual?

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Michael D

If you win this election, do you plan to collect the cash stipend that is included with the position?

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Janna Mann

Of the two gubernatorial candidates, which education platform do you support and why?


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