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Office Hours with Park City School Superintendent Dr. Ember Conley (5/27/2016)

On Friday, Park City School District Superintendent Dr Ember Conley, School Board members Julie Eihausen and Phil Kaplan, and school district public relations specialist, Molly Miller sat down with concerned citizens to answer questions about our schools.

Below are the questions and answers that occurred during the meeting. Please forgive any short sentences or grammar errors, as I tried to capture the conversation in real-time.

Citizen: I would like more information about what is happening with the library if High school expansion takes place.

Phil Kaplan (school board member): One of the major things with the high school expansion, is that we are looking at CTE from a regional perspective. If we can work with other school districts we can work together for CTE. As we look at expansion and CTE facilities it makes sense to look regional.

Citizen: Is collaborating with other districts new?
Phil: Yes.

Citizen: I have a student graduating this year. So, i am done but my kid is special needs. In 2011, there was supposed to be a technical high school. But somehow that morphed into PC CAPS. He was the first kid in PC CAPS. However it hasn’t worked out great for him. So, I am hoping things can be better.I would encourage us to use Wasatch district because they have some good technical opportunities. There are a lot of programs that we need to start and there is a huge need and there is s regional problem and there is not enough addressing of the trade school.

Julie Eihausen (School board member): Every space is being looked at the high school.

Citizen: A trailside meeting happened last night. There was a room full of happy parents. The parents are so happy with the French Dual Immersion program. French is third in business languages spoken behind Mandarin and English. Trailside Principal said people are moving to trailside to get in the French Dual Immersion program. That is how successful the French Dual Immersion program is.

Citizen: I have a daughter who graduated from park city schools in 2012. She is now graduating from MIT. She had so many AP classes that it made it better for her once she got to MIT. She could double major because of it. Sometimes people forget that AP classes serve a huge population.

Citizen: Why isn’t process of high school redesign being open to every one?

Molly: It’s many people. Minutes are available. People are splitting into sub committees and discussing things. Once they are ready to have something to show, people will be brought in.

Citizen: We should be able to sit there and listen.

Julie: There are probably five meetings going on during one meeting. They are moving all over the place. It’s a different process.

Phil: The number one criticism was that we weren’t transparent. We are working toward that.

Park Rag: My experience during the Master Planning Committee process was that being there was extremely valuable.  I attended almost all master planning committee meetings and that’s where I heard any details I would have otherwise missed. If the public isn’t invited to committee meetings on the redesign of the high school, how do we know the details? How do we ensure the public isn’t spoon-fed a short list of choices that may not be in our best interest?

Molly Miller (School District Community Relations): How do we do that?

Riki Case (parent and PTO leadership): II went to the Mountain Recreation Master Planning presentation this week. Web page specific to the high school redesign would help. Also, the recreation master planning was very quantitative. There was no personal agenda. It was unbiased. You didn’t feel like anyone was trying to convince you of anything.

Citizen: Also, providing studies and information that is used to base decisions is helpful. We need to lay it out. It will stop the chatter that happens.

Phil: Would encourage everyone to look at strategic planning website.

Citizen: Need to get the park record to publish the strategic plan.

Phil: We are advanced in some ways and not in others. We still have a ways to go.
Julie Eihausen: At some point Those professionals are the people who are stearing the ship. We want buy in from people and citizens. As an example, if the decision was made by teachers we would not have DLI. However, the administration decided to do it.

Petra Butler (School board candidate) : However, we need to make sure data drives the decisions.

Julie Eihausen: For DLI, there was data.

Petra: It is important for public to be able to see meetings.

Citizen: On rec docuemnts, why is lacrosse listed under school district on charts? It’s not a school sport.

Julie Eihausen: Schools provide facilities for lacrosse. However, we have other need before lacrosse that need it. Most importantly cheerleading and wrestling are the top two.

Citizen: I love lacrosse but its not a school need. This should be under the community need.

Citizen:I find the employees of this district extremely responsive. I have sent emails at all hours and often get responses.

Petra: I agree generally but we need to keep focusing on making sure some people within our schools are customer focused.

Phil: We are talking about front line employees and not highly paid executives. We have had conversations about this. We do need to keep working on this. For instance, we have a person who has taught school in Mexico and SLC and he is working to help us figure out how to meet the needs of the Hispanic community. With these front line employees, we are working on it.

Citizen: Andrew Caplan, you are running for school board. Tell me about yourself.

Andrew Caplan (School Board Candidate): Lived in Park City 4 years. I’m a parent of two kids. One will start Parley’s next year. That is why I am running. I have been on the PC ED foundation for a while.

Citizen: Andrew, how much in the know do you feel you are, since there is so much going on?

Andrew: I am familiar with the district through work on PC ED. I have been involved in many program. I don’t believe I am an expert on educational issues however I have managed my company. With the exception of Phil, there is no one on the school who has children. Those interests should be represented.

Citizen: Andrew, what do you see as the role of school board.

Andrew: Budgetary needs. Help drive policy. I think there are a number of challenges. The board needs leadership. With a large change in personnel that is likely coming. I have experience in that?

Citizen: What about you Petra?

Petra: The school board defines the direction of the district. Some of the big issue are the master planning issues. I think the board also needs to get back trust and transparency. The board needs to instill trust in the public. We will need buy in.

Andrew: We need to provide a voice to the constituents.

Phil: My priorities are academic excellence, fiscal responsibilities with transparency. I thin we need to understand that the board are community representatives. We need to look at student population nd their needs. We have a talented superintendent. We have a team under her that makes things happen. the board is a policy body that sets direction. We need to have excellence in academicic performance.

Citizen: I am concerned with two things. y honors in 8th grades honor maths at TMJH. I learned that they take all their tests on computers. I realize that I’m not from the computer generation. Perhaps kids are used to taking tests on computer. The first bad grade that came in, I told my daughter that we should look at the information she used to answer the questions and the answers. Those weren’t easily available. The teacher provided some good alternatives. Then we tried to figure out how to take tests on paper. She then took the most recent test on paper. My daughter got a 97% on the first three pages that were actually printed out (teacher didn’t know). Then she took the other two pages of the test ten days later. She did horribly. Who decided to take math tests on computer? I have a 6th grader who has a math teacher that circles the work on written math. Its so much better.

Citizen: I ditto that. It is horrible.

Dr Conley: One of the things we are doing is changing to having frequent, common assessments. These are not on computers. We found we didn’t have curriculum maps in place. Until that happens, there will be some issue. I completely agree, as a former math teacher, that math on computer isn’t the way to do that. I am happy to talk with you and the teacher on that.

Citizen: A friend of mine’s daughter knows math and she is getting a D. However, they can’t figure out why. She has met with the teacher and it doesn’t help. The teacher agreed the student understands the math concepts, but her grade doesn’t reflect it.

Dr Conley: We’ll take care of it.

Citizen: Asks about homework via computer and says that is a problem too.

Julie Eihausen: I would love to ban homework.

Andrew: Are we moving more towards mastery of skill?

Dr Conley: We are moving toward making sure that our kids master skills versus grades. We have a team of teachers who want to go to competency based grading. We have to go through a shift though. How do you put that on a transcript? How do we make parents understand and be comfortable.

Citizen: I love PLCs but why are we so behind?

Julie Eihausen: For a decade our district has not changed based on data. We have felt we are the best. We also like new and shiny things… versus looking at what works long time. That was due to past superintendents and boards. We have a new superintendent that is looking at data. It is about leadership.

Citizen: Yes, it is about leadership. I am so happy that we are making changes.

Citizen: I grew up in Germany and went to school there. I have a daughter that is going to school there. In Germany, there is no respect for teachers. There is no tech in the schools. She now looks at our schools here and says, “wow, we had it good.”

Dr Conley: When I got here there were no curriculum maps. That is now good. Now, we are all working towards that.

Petra: I applaud board and the superintendent. People focus on negatives but good things have happened.

Citizen: With change in leadership, we are learning what we don’t know.



Bill Mullen

What a great service. Thanks for providing it.

Meg Leaf

Sounds like a love fest on leadership.

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