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Where is the Trust with our Schools?

I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.Friedrich Nietzsche

A person commented on our live blog of the School Board’s Master Planning Committee meeting and said, “One could ask why they don’t reevaluate their “learning plan” if having dual immersion, full day kindergarten and on campus pre school are costing millions. Those programs were sold as cost neutral.”

Those programs were sold as cost neutral? I hadn’t heard that before. So, I decided to research the topic. Through the grace of the Park Record’s website, I found the following:“In theory, the only additional cost [of dual immersion] to the district should be through additional training, board member Maurice Hickey said.” Yet, five years later we are looking at adding on to McPolin to account for dual immersion? What’s that cost? We aren’t sure yet, but it is likely to be between $2-$5 million. That’s a lot of money that could be used on teachers.

If it was an isolated incident, you could chalk it up to a mistake. We all make mistakes. Yet, I come back to the school district’s PC CAPS program. That’s the one where students work with local companies to do projects and better understand the real world. PC CAPS was originally billed as a program where students would work at company locations and cost the district about $75,000 per year. Then we heard that the school district wanted to build a $5 million PC CAPS building and that the annual budget is about $450,000. The building was shot down due to public outcry but the ongoing costs remains. Now the district has upended the high school library to place the PC CAPS program. Wait… why do we need to pay for space? Aren’t students supposed to be working at their company’s facilities?

Let’s go back further. When Park City High School was renovated, it allegedly cost about $10 million more than was estimated. This was somewhere between a 25% to 50% overrun.

Now the public is being asked to pay for a bond (probably $40-$50 million+) to tear down Treasure Mountain Junior High, add on to the high school, build a 5th/6th school at Ecker Hill and add on to McPolin elementary. This effort seems to have began as an effort to rebuild Treasure Mountain Junior High and has morphed into … uh…something. As time progressed, it was messaged as a need to fix the fact that only 9% of 11th grade hispanic kids are proficient in English (after spending their tenure in Park City Schools). So, we introduce all day kindergarten to ENSURE this population is proficient in english (9 years later). This causes our elementary schools to become too full. This forces the the high school to accept a 9th grade class. A 9th grade class requires additions to the high school ($20 million), and then requires that 5th-8th grades reside at Ecker Hill ($30 million), which then means we need to build another school. Meanwhile, the district decides to also build on to McPolin elementary school to provide space for both kids that may come from the new Park City Heights development and to provide an alternative to kids that don’t want to be in dual immersion.

Do you believe all of that? Do you believe the school district will implement it correctly? Do you believe they will do it for the money they estimated?

You might. And that is fair. The school district may get it right.

Yet, I come down to the fact that recently they haven’t. We have the aforementioned three examples of getting it wrong. We also have the fact our schools have slipped out of the top rankings.

Are you willing to bet that $50 million will fix the problems? Or should we fix the problems and then, as citizens, provide the money? Park City Schools have lived off its reputation for a long time. Have we financially neglected our schools, which has led to some sub par results? Or is it something else? We do pay our teachers more than every other district in the state. Perhaps, it’s just the buildings. If only we had the best buildings, our students could achieve. Somehow, I doubt that. I’ll remind you that Treasure Mountain Junior High’s SAGE test scores were on par with the High School’s test results. Yes, students attending the “cursed” school had similar scores as those at our flagship school.

The more I hear, the more it just sounds like excuses. I’d be inclined to give the Park City School District the benefit of the doubt. Yet, as they say fool me once twice three times shame on you. Fool me again, shame on me.

Do I really believe that what the school district is proposing will provide a commensurate return in better education? I don’t think so. What I do believe is that when it doesn’t work they’ll be back with an even GRANDER plan to solve all our problems.

It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this, but there is just a lack of trust.

That’s the sort of thing that can’t be rebuilt with money.


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