Saturday, February 26, 2011

Council of Local Presidents

I attended the Council of Local Presidents meeting this morning.  We discussed what has been happening at the legislature.  Yesterday at Educator Day on the Hill, Speaker of the House Becky Lockhart came and told the teachers that the 11% cut proposed by the Joint Public Education Appropriations Committee is unnecessary.  That is good news to hear.

We need to help parents understand how what is happening at the legislature will impact their children.  As you have Parent Teacher Conferences and parents ask questions, encourage them to contact their legislators and ask them to support the governor's budget, which funds 85% of new student growth as well as some other programs.

Teachers are seen as the best source of information on education issues.  You can also refer parents to the UEA Under the Dome site for more information on specific bills.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

UVU For the Love of Reading Literacy Conference

Utah Valley University is hosting a literacy conference at Zermatt Resort in Midway on March 11-12.  See Engaged Reading website for more information.  Guest speakers include Christopher Paul Curtis, author of "The Watson's go to Burmingham", Patricia Rilley Giff, author of "Lily's Crossing", and Nadine Wimmer from KSL news.

Special Education Task Force

The Special Education Task Force met yesterday afternoon.  There was a presentation by Maggie Cummings with input from Beth Usui on how Special Education fits with the new Common Core State Standards for Math in particular.  Three different models for implementations were discussed.  There are concerns with how to serve students qualifying for Special Education with IEP Goals in the new courses and class sequence, mainly starting in middle school.  The idea is that all students have exposure to the Common Core, which is less about computation and more about reasoning and proof.  These issues will continue to be discussed and worked through as implementation of the Common Core begins.

Special Education held their first online training.  Those who can be involved receive the HOT Sheets.  More information on additional online training and training through PLC will be announced there.

Special Education had to cut $6.5 million from their budget last year.  The budget is still tenuous.  It will take many years to generate the level of funding had in the past prior to the split and the economic recession.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Teacher of the Year Awards

Several JEA Members have been recognized as Teacher of the Year in their area of expertise.  Lee Dillon was name Art Teacher of the Year, and Matt Lund was names MESA Advisor of the Year.  Both Lee and Matt teach at Copper Hills.  Kathy Byerline at Oquirrh Hills was named Biology Teacher of the Year.  JEA is proud to represent and have the support of such accomplished teachers.

Jordan Education Foundation Breakfast

JEA hosted a table and donated this morning at the Jordan Education Foundation Breakfast.  C-track teachers were invited to attend.  Michelle Jorgensen from Mountain Shadows along with Janet Craven and Beth Glattli from Foothills attended.

This was a good event where other JEA members spoke including JEF Mini-grant recipient Laurie Benson from Rosamond and Rita Bouillon, principal at Kauri Sue Hamilton School.  Each fall, JEF provides mini-grants of up to $500 per person or $1500 per team for classroom needs and projects.  Watch for information this fall.

This spring will be the Outstanding Educator, Outstanding Special Educator, and Outstanding Classified Employee awards sponsored by JEF.  You should consider nominating someone in your school for these awards.  See JEF website for more information.

Herriman Fire Make-up Day

Monday when the majority of your were enjoying a long weekend, all the teachers at Butterfield Canyon, Foothills, Herriman and Silver Crest Elementaries, Fort Herriman Middle, and Herriman High were at work with a fraction of their kids making up time lost when schools were closed last fall for the Machine Gun Fire.  JEA took donuts to all the schools, which was well-received.  Interim Superintendent Dave Stoddard even thanked JEA for this at the School Board Meeting last night.  Thanks to teachers at Herriman area schools who did what they had to on Monday.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wisconsin and Other States

Following is a message from NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.  Please visit National Petition to sign in support of our colleagues, and wear red every Tuesday through the end of the school year.

"The NEA family has come out in force to support our members and colleagues in Wisconsin, as well as those in Idaho, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee. Other states are facing unprecedented threats as well. Although we have made inroads in making the media aware of these battles across the country, all eyes and cameras continue to be on Wisconsin. Please remember as you are asked to talk about our battles across the country and the fight in Wisconsin that we are fighting for members to be heard and for their rights. Message discipline around Wisconsin's fight will help us in all our battles. Below is a message from the communications team on the ground in Madison that we are sharing for your reference:

  • This protest is about public sector employees retaining a voice in their profession and Wisconsin's future. The proposed legislation strips away worker rights and destroys the collaborative partnerships that have been established between labor and management in Wisconsin. It's not about pay and benefits, pensions and health care.
  • What is happening right now in Wisconsin is historic. Tens of thousands of citizens - unprecedented numbers - are gathering and speaking out to show their support for the state's public servants. They want to voice support for the third grade teacher who stays late to help a student with math - for the nurses who work every day to care for patients - for the firefighters who keep us safe -- and for the snow plow drivers who plow streets through the night so their neighbors can get to work in the morning. These public workers are on the front-lines everyday to support us - and they should have a say in their profession.
  • The people of Wisconsin are asking the Governor and legislature to hear them out - and work with them to find bipartisan solutions that will address Wisconsin's challenges. Silencing the voices of public sector employees by busting up their unions is not a going to help Wisconsin move forward - and it will only divide the people of this state.
"Because we know everyone is looking for a way to lend their voice to our collective fights, here are three things you can do right now:

  • Have members sign the petition on Education Votes website: National Petition
  • "Wear Red for Ed" to support public education beginning Tuesday, February 22nd , and every Tuesday this spring
"Again, this is a national fight for working people. We're leaders in this fight. Let's get this note out widely, take action together, support each other. We're going to win this fight.

'In solidarity,

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day Six at the Legislature/Educator Day on the Hill

Pat Raymond, English and Humanities Teacher at Valley High, attended Educator Day on the Hill with me along with 35 other teachers from around the state. 

We started in the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Howard Stephenson.  The first item was SB53 - Activities in Secondary Schools.  This is in response to a new policy put in place by the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) about elegibility to participate in athletics if you transfer schools if recruiting is involved.  There was much discussion and many people who spoke in favor of the bill.  Those opposed are the State School Board and the UHSAA, because the new policy has only been in place since September, and they feel it hasn't been given a chance to work.   The UHSAA spent a year and a half studying the issue of recruiting and students transferring for specific athletic programs.  The policy was approved by the UHSAA Board of Trustees.  The bill was moved out of committee on a 5-1 vote.

SB179 - Math Education Initiative gives grants to schools who implement Singapore Math for elementary and offer honors geometry and/or honors algebra classes in secondary.  One complaint was the $1.8 million dollars proposed, especially in a year where there is no money for the basic program and growth.  Most spoke against the bill saying that Singapore Math does not have a research basis to produce results, it is similar to Investigations, it does not support the Common Core State Standards, and there is no secondary component.  In addition, the Utah Instructional Materials Committee has not approved it for use.  This also intrudes on the State School Boards role.  The bill was moved out of committee on a 4-2 vote.

SB 73 - Teacher Tenure had a lot of problems.  Only one person spoke in favor of the bill.  Many spoke against for reasons including the idea of teachers being judged on test scores causing a mass exodus from Title I schools, teachers not wanting to teach ESL or Resource students, there is already an evaluation in every district, poor teachers are fired every year based on the results of their evaluations, there will always be a lowest 5% so eventually all teachers would be at-will/provisional employees, it would require every teacher be evaluated every year, and not all teachers give state assessments.  The bill sponsor, Senator Howard Stephenson, suggested the bill be held in committee for modifications, because it has unintended consequences in the current form.  Here's the article about this bill.

Next we wrote to legislators and then tried to see them during floor time.  Pat and I were able to talk to Representative Ken Ivory.  He was friendly, but he is supportive of SB59 - Grading Schools and SB65 - Online Credits.  The immigration bill (HB70) came up for debate on the floor and passed out of the House.

During lunch, we discussed what we had learned in talking to the legislators.  This is helpful information for UEA to know where the legislators stand on various bills.  I also ran into Richard Osborn who was there for the School Boards Association meeting.

After lunch we went to the House Education Committee where we heard discussion on HB152 S1 - School Community Councils (SCC).  It modifies who can serve on the SCC, some of the SCC responsibilities, and asks for additional reporting and accountability.  It passed out of committee unanimously.


If you have been watching the news, the governor of Wisconsin is proposing that all collective bargaining be stopped.  This would impact all groups with associations who negotiate contracts, including teachers.  A friend I met at new president training last June is Green Bay Education Association President.  She told me what a great, collaborative relationship the Association had with their superintendent and board to the point that the teachers received a 4% COLA and then there were billboards and commercials showing how the Association and district worked together to gain that salary increase.  I was jealous.  I wrote to ask how things looked from her perspective.  Below is her response.

"It is certainly a time of chaos and uncertainty here. As of right now we are still working with our district and trying to find ways that our staff can participate in the activities in Madison. I was there yesterday and the energy and support from around the state and the surrounding states has been such a welcome reminder that we all stand united and in support of each other. We are not certain of the impact to our collaborative relationship at this time as we don't yet know what the budget impact will be. We are anticipating some parts of the current bargaining agreement disappearing and causing some discord. We are also losing our current superintendent at the end of the school year! We had just been notified that we received a grant from NEA based on our collaborative efforts, which would allow us to expand and possibly develop ways to encourage parent engagement. We are hoping to be able to continue those efforts.

That being said...thank you soooooo much for your support and we will continue to fight for the rights of all of our public and private workers. Even the ones who do not realize what is all at stake with our governor's proposed bill."

If you know anyone in Wisconsin, have them contact the governor and their state legislators about not passing this bill.  Should a bill removing collective bargaining pass in any other state, you can be sure that Utah will follow suit.

See this article in the Salt Lake Tribune.  There is a sidebar in the print version that says police, fire, and highway patrol are not included. Who is left? Teacher, education support professionals, administrators, and state office workers.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Do Your Legislators Support Public Education?

Prompted by a request today for information on the voting record of a specific representative, I am including the link to UEA's voting record website.  The charts show every education related bill and what each legislator's vote was on those bills.  You can also see a brief description of the bill, UEA's position on the bill, and if it passed or failed. 

If your legislators say they support public education, find out for sure.  Just go to UEA's voting record website, click on the year you want to see, and you will know.  Be informed and hold your legislators accountable.

HB 183 - Association Leave

The following is from UEA about the Association Leave bill addressed in the House Education Committee yesterday.

"House Bill 183 would prohibit a local school board from granting paid association leave for certain employee association or union duties.

UEA’s Position:

• The bill takes away control from local school boards to determine what services are beneficial. This bill micromanages the affairs of public education at the local level.

• Local association presidents save their school districts money by resolving legal problems at the lowest level, often acting as the liaison for the district human resources department.

• Association presidents represent thousands of employees who, as a result of their leadership and representation, are able to remain in the classroom and concentrate on student success.

• Most school districts provide financial support for their principals so they might belong to their associations, and to Board members who benefit from membership in and training provided by their respective associations. With thousands of employees in these districts, isn’t it wise to ensure that we have a collaborative working relationship with our single largest and most critical employee group – the educators?

• Collaboration goes far beyond the annual bargaining of a contract. We ask association presidents to serve on numerous district standing committees – dealing, for example, with health insurance, special education, evaluation, curriculum, calendaring, and shared governance – as well as other task forces. We gather valuable input from employees. We receive credible and necessary information with which to make wise decisions that benefit the district.

• By having mutually agreed upon contracts, we avoid costly legal challenges to what might otherwise be arbitrary and capricious employment decisions. We believe that by jointly solving problems at an informal level, or avoiding problems altogether, the school district and taxpayers save money.

• Based on our tracking of the presidents, far more than 50 percent of the time expended by presidents directly benefits their school district. Districts participating with Associations believe this is a good investment. If it were not, they would have terminated the agreements years ago."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day Five at Legislature

This morning was the House Education Committee where HB 183 - Association Leave was discussed.  There are three districts, Granite, Salt Lake, and Davis, where part of the association presidents' salary is paid for by the district.  The bill states that districts can allow up to 10 days of paid (by the district) leave, but any days beyond that, the salary and benefits costs for each day must be reimbursed to the district by the association.  This does not impact JEA, because your dues dollars completely fund my part-time salary. 

UEA Government Relations Director Kory Holdaway and Davis Education Association President Susan Firmage testified that the work done by local presidents benefits school districts and whether the district helps pay for a release-time president should be left to local school districts.

Gayle Ruzicka of the Eagle Forum and Royce VanTassell of the Utah Taxpayers Association spoke in favor of the bill.  The bill passed out of committee by a 10-3 vote.  It will now be heard in the House.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day Four at Legislature

I attended the Public Education Appropriations Committee Meeting last Thursday morning.  Individuals from the Governor's office to discuss the goals from the Governor's Educational Excellence Commission.

Senator Urquhart wants mission-based funding for universities.

Jim Wall of Utah Business Education School Trust talked about an upcoming telethon with Ken Garff and Fox13 with a goal to raise $1 million for library books in 242 schools.  He would like a list of business partnerships available.

Beverly Sorensen Arts Program has an overall positive impact on academics, behavior, and attendance.  She would like to see the program funded in all schools.

Senator Stephenson wants to continue funding for optional full-day kindergarten and possibly double the funding so pre-K Upstart program can be funded to help students be ready for kindergarten.

SB 59 - Grading Schools bill will cost $100,000 in one-time money to set up computer programming, then about $15,000 a year in on-going funding.  Representative Moss believes money is needed to remediate failing schools.  Representative Neiderhauser said that we should proceed even without the money to remediate those schools.

Senator Howard Stephenson wants up to $1 million to fund online high school credit from outside vendors.  This sounds like a precursor to vouchers.

Representative Nielsen would like $100,000 to reimburse teachers after they earn National Board Certification.  This would be about $2,700 per teacher or 37 teachers who could be reimbursed.

Representative LaVar Christensen would like $50,000 to $80,000 per year to fund civic and character education and teach government to children.  Senator Karen Morgan pointed out that this has been funded partially through Executive Appropriations in the past.

Some items that must be addressed include approving fees for Core Academy, educator licenses, what Schools for Deaf and Blind charge districts for services.  Need to approves rates charged from one department to another.  Need to consider growth variables including the educator salary adjustment.  Also need to decide on interest from school trust lands.

Individuals from state transportation support the "to and from" funding for buses.  Examples from Washington County include the increase in fuel costs, inability to purchase new buses (same number of buses as in 2004), students have to walk 1 1/2 to 2 miles to a bus stop, but they don't want to complete for funding with teachers.  Senator Buttars then pointed out there are no buses for charter schools.  In Davis District, there is expected growth up to 900 students, local taxes were raised last year to maintain "to and from" busing, and buses are the safest way for students to travel to school.

Representative Cosgrove asked about dual immersion.  State Superintendent Larry Shumway said there are Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese programs in 50 elementary schools serving 7,000 students.  They hope to have 30,000 students participating by 2015.  Funding could be a problem as students in the program move up a grade each year necessitating another teacher for the program.

Representative Merlynn Newbold reminded those on the committee that $91 million was purposefully left unappropriated in the base budget so groups can advocate for additional dollars.  Committee members should make recommendations on where the money should be spent.

Senator Howard Stephenson wants signing bonuses for hard to find Math, Science, and Special Education teachers.  It had been $2 million but was cut back to $350,000 last year.  He also asked for differentiated pay for Math and Science.  It was pointed out that the differentiated pay is funded at $3.6 million in the base budget.

Representative Cosgrove talked about how using the flexible allocation, which has been used to pay mandated social security and retirement, to pay for student growth just moves the money from one place to another and puts the burden of funding social security and retirement on the school districts.  Superintendent Shumway stated this essentially reduces the value of the WPU from $3,067 to $2,677 or $290.

The best part of the day was talking to students from Weber State University who were displaying and discussing their research projects.
This group looked at how an effective pipeline for teacher education helps university students find the right part of education for them.

This young man worked with a non-verbal high school student with function-based interventions with remarkable results.

I'm excited to see these students who will be coming into the teaching profession in the next two to three years!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

School Board Retreat

Yesterday the School Board met for a retreat, which was a public meeting, so I attended.  The agenda had items on it I am interested in knowing about.

The first item was Board Meeting Agendas and Procedures.  There was a lot of discussion about what types of items should be discussed in Study Session and what should be part of the General Business Meeting.  I believe some of the presentations given during the Study Sessions are now going to be part of the General Business Meeting.  This would include presentations from district administration on various programs or policies.  There was also talk of adjusting times for Board Meetings. 

Steve Dunham, District Communications Director, came to talk about the website and social media and answer questions.  He showed the Board Members how to search and where to find links to commonly sought information.  They discussed the use of BoardDocs.  Facebook and Twitter accounts have been reserved but not activated, because the Communications Department was cut from four to one person.  Steve doesn't feel he can respond as people on Facebook and Twitter expect at this point.

The Board wants to be more proactive in telling the District's story.  They want the positive aspects of the District to be known.  The website has a lot of information on it.  The Sunshine Review graded the JSD website with an A+ for transparency as far as information found on the website.

Morale of employees was discussed.  Several Board members agreed that employees want to feel valued.  There was a discussion on how to help employees feel valued.  They recognize that it is going to take some time to rebuild trust.  Susan Pulsipher suggested that Board members be visible in schools as often as their time permits and just listen to employee concerns.

Clyde Mason, Director of Compliance and Accountability, gave a presentation on test scores for just the west side current Jordan District for the last five years.  There has been some progress made in closing the achievement gap between Hispanics and Caucasians.  The bar is being raised for NCLB, so they should expect more schools to not make AYP for this year.  Secondary Math and Science scores are down. 

Schools implementing the Math Scope, Sequence, and Assessments are seeing improvement on CRT's. 

The DIBELS testing done mid-year showed approximately 1/3 of students in grades 1-3 were not on grade level at that time.

The District has had a grant to give the EXPLORE test in eighth grade, the PLAN test in tenth grade, and the ACT to all juniors this year.  Using the entire cadre of tests would prove valuable for teachers, students, parents, and counselors in helping find the best path for post-high school education and employment.  These tests would be more meaningful to students than UBSCT, because they gain valuable information and have scores sent to colleges and universities.  The UBSCT was for legislators.

Laura Finlinson, Director of Curriculum and Staff Development, shared information about PLC's, which include learning, collaboration, elimination of failure, commitment, guaranteed curriculum, specific goals, dynamic assessment, planning to improve, learning fixed, and learning for all.  The questions that need to be asked are:  What do we want students know and do? How will we know if they do? What will we do if they don’t? What will we do if they do?

Board members want the School Board to become a PLC.  They want principals who come to Board Meetings to celebrate their schools to talk about how PLC's and collaboration are working in their schools.  They see PLC's as the research based tool for school improvement.
Burke Jolley, Business Administrator, presented a 10-year plan for building new schools.  The new elementary in West Jordan is under construction and scheduled to open Fall 2011, and a new middle school in the Herriman/Bingham areas is planned using county equalization money and scheduled to open Fall 2013.
Nine other schools are planned to open between Fall 2013 and Fall 2018, including six elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school.
A discussion followed about a bond of about $230 million that will be needed to pay for those nine schools. The Board doesn't think now is the time for a bond election.  They will start an Enrollment and Housing Committee this fall after the new superintendent starts.
It was interesting to listen to the discussions.  The Board seems very aware of problems in the district.  They recognize their role is to determine the "What" as far as the direction and policy for the District.  They then leave the "How" that direction and policy are carried out to the administration.    

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Legislative Council (AR Meeting)

We had a good meeting this evening.  Everyone in attendance wrote a postcard to one of their legislators.  Your AR will be asking at least one other person in the building to write a postcard too.  The postcards are pre-addressed and paid for.  All you do is add the name of your legislator, your return addres, and your message about public education.  Please take the time to do this if you are asked.  We need our stories to be heard on the hill.  Tell your legislators how cuts will hurt your classroom.  Tell how cuts this year already have hurt.

The AR's moved to recommend Robin Frodge as NEA State Director in the current UEA primary election.  You will receive your voting card from your AR.  Please vote!  This is a statewide election, and we are supporting Robin.  Go to to vote today.

Candidates for JEA High School Representative on the Executive Board include Debbie Brown, Bingham and Jack Duffy, West Jordan High.  Lauren Flygare is the candidate for Middle School Representative on the Executive Board.  JEA elections will begin mid-March.

Negotiations Team Meeting

The new JEA Negotiations Team met on Monday.  We had a basic overview of the negotiations process and practice.  We talked about items to take to the Joint Committee that came out of last year's negotiations.  The Team members are:  Melissa Brown, chairperson; Janeen McMillan, Karl McKenzie, and Kara Goodwin.  The process has begun.

Please remember that in order to receive steps and lanes for the current school year, the negotiations team agreed that there had to be new money from the legislature for steps and lanes for next school year.  That should be motivation for all of you to contact your legislators and tell them to support the governor's budget to increase funding to public education.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

January Council of Local Presidents

The Council of Local Presidents met this morning.  Most of the meeting was focused on the legislature.  The Joint Public Education Appropriations Committee has proposed a base budget that is 11% or about $93 million less than funding this year.  The committee then wants each line item to present why it should be reinstated.  Cutting the "below the line" flexible allocation that was intended to be used by districts to fund retirement and social security is, in essence, about a $300 decrease in the WPU.

Visit UEA Under the Dome and see what has happened this week.  From that page you can also find the Legislative Tracking Sheet of bills UEA is following, the official position on each bill, and the bills' current status.

Reminder that Great Public Schools grant applications are due by Friday.  See for more information.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Secondary Math and Science Teacher Salary Supplement Program

Rep. Marie Poulson is trying to create an appeals process for those teachers who are currently not eligible for the Teacher Salary Supplement Program (TSSP) for secondary math and science teachers but think they should be. She has requested the names of some math and science teachers that may be willing to give her details or even be willing to go up to the Capitol if her bill goes before committee.

If you are not currently eligible but think you should be, send your contact information along with a short description of why you do not qualify for the money by Tuesday morning to Melissa Brown at or Rep. Poulson directly at

License Renewed

I completed the paperwork and information online to renew.  If your license expires in June, start on the renewal process now.  You must complete the Ethics Review, be fingerprinted, and submit documentation about your experience and professional development for the last five years.  See for more information.  Jordan District HR is open until 6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays for fingerprinting.

Third Day at the Legislature

Yesterday morning I attended the Joint Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Peggy Jo Kennett was also in attendance.  They looked at transportation, libraries, and nursing services that are funded with one-time money "below the line."  Several on the committee are looking at putting all funding "above the line" in the WPU and then allowing school districts to decide how to spend that money.  One one side, there is more local control.  On the other side, some areas might not be funded as the legislature wants. 

Representative Sumsion brought a proposal on how to do this with some students weighted more.  He said he had been working on this plan for over a year.  It was quite complex and difficult for someone to understand at first reading.  To his credit, Senator Buttars, chair of the committee, recommended the proposal be brought to the interim committee after the session for all members to study over the course of the next year.

On transportation, there is funding for "to and from school" and "other" including field trips and activity transport.  Last year, there was $6.3 million in one-time funds for transportation that will not be there this year.  Jordan doesn't need a lot for transportation, because our district is relatively compact.  San Juan District, on the other hand, needs a lot for transportation.  The district covers 8,000 square miles and students may travel up to 50 miles one way to go to school.  The funds here should be distributed by need and not just by the WPU.

State Superintendent Shumway had data one each district showing what was actually spent in a variety of categories.  You can see this report at the USOE website and click on Annual Program Report.  Utah spend about 1/3 less than the national average on transportation.  Questions were asked about the feasibility of using UTA, like West High School does.  Superintendent Shumway did have data looking at Murray, Salt Lake, and Ogden districts if they used UTA.  The cost is a little bit higher in the short term, but much higher in the long term considering UTA has announced a 25% rate increase.

Representative Newbold suggested increasing the distance for mandatory busing for secondary students. 

The Library Media Specialists from Granite and Davis districts talked about how some below the line funding for library books must remain a line item.  If that money is added to the WPU, it could end up elsewhere.  They looked at schools and found the range of money per student spent on materials for the library varied from $2.75 to $10 per school.  It was a matter of local priority.  There used to be a line item in the early 1980's that provided for a certified teacher librarian in every school.  In 1985 when that line item was removed, Jordan lost all elementary certified librarians.  Currently, five districts have a library specialist in every school at all levels.  Seven districts have no library specialists in any school.  Based on population, below 300 students does not require a certified librarian.  From 300 to 850 students, the school should have a part-time certified librarian.  Over 800 students, there should be a full-time certified librarian.  This comes from the Northwest Accreditation Standard.  Because the state isn't funding this, many schools who should have certified librarians do not.

Senator Thatcher said this is a personal issue for him, and he wants to increase the funding of the library books line item.

Senator Stephenson talked about cycles of local control.  When the legislature give more local control, the money goes on the salary schedule.  The legislature needs to protect line items, because if the money is in the WPU, school boards can't keep that money off the negotiating table.  He said the State School Board should require certified librarians to receive this money.  He said not to trust local school boards to say no to the unions.

The base of $31 million above the line funding for libraries is not enough to put a certified librarian in every school that qualifies.  Most districts choose to spend more on library books than is allotted them by the legislature.

Representative Gibson said the $100,000 for books that was being discussed is "budget dust", but that the committee needs to decide if it should be added to the WPU or remain a separate line item.

School Nursing Incentive Fund was at $882,000 last year.  It started at $1 million four years ago.  It has a matching requirement, so districts must apply and commit to their half.  Representative Cosgrove asked about the student to nurse ratio.  Statewide it is 4,000 to 1.  Representative Poulsen spoke to the value of a school nurse.

I sat in both the House and Senate for a while.  Nothing pertaining to education was addressed on the floor.  Congressman Matheson visited and spoke.  He mainly talked about the economy and health care.  He said that yesterday, Congress passed a bill removing a provision in the health care law requiring that when you sell your house, you pay 3% that would go to fund health care.  He said no one knew this was in the law when it originally passed, and now it is out.  He said they will be continuing to clean up the health care act.

In the afternoon was the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.  Susan Pulsipher was in attendance as well.  HB 72 changes how school districts are funded.  The bill would reinstate the full tax on food, earmarking the increase for public education and some for charter schools, and then property taxes would be lower in an equivalent amount, making this revenue neutral.  A discussion about the stability of property taxes versus sales taxes took place.  Representative Noel eventually admitted that sales tax may not be as stable as property tax, but sales tax will grow while property taxes will not.  While this may be true over the last 3 years, over the last 30 years, property taxes are much more stable and have grown as property values increase. 

Representative Butterfield says property taxes are punitive and wants none with all taxes coming through sales.  Although he supports charter schools, he is concerned about putting in state code a dedication of fund to charter schools.

Representative Briscoe stated that this is just a tax shift.  He asked if the sales tax rate would increase should there not be enough tax revenue to districts to pay their bonded indebtedness obligations.  That is not in the bill.  He also asked why $2.1 million would be added to the restricted transportation fund through this bill.  It is a percent of the sales tax revenue, but that percentage could be changed.

Districts which receive the sales tax money would be required to reduce their certified tax rate and not raise it again for at least one year.  Representative King pointed out that this ties the hands of local taxing entities.  He said that the Utah legislature complains about the restrictions put upon them by the federal government, and now the legislature is looking at doing the same to other entities in the state of Utah.

SB 59 which is about grading schools made it out of a Senate committee with a favorable recommendation yesterday.  Please contact your Senator and share your thoughts on schools being assigned a grade.  The following are talking points about this bill from the association perspective as written by UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh.

  • We believe the concept of one single grade for a school simplifies the complex nature of schools and contributes to a lack of transparency for parents.
  • U-PASS reporting mechanisms are currently in place identifying a percentage score on multiple indicators for achievement as well as progress. We support using the existing U-PASS reporting mechanisms to assign multiple letter grades to a particular school.
  • Public schools do a great deal with the U-PASS information. It is extremely detailed and reporting of the scores is both accessible and comprehensive. Teachers report this information to parents and School Community Councils use the data to collaboratively develop each School Improvement Plan.
  • U-PASS is a reporting process with which parents, teachers, and School Community Councils are familiar. In addition, U-PASS also reports for demographic subgroups including English Language Learners, Special Education and economically disadvantaged, which may affect the single grade of a school.
  • SB59 also proposes that no more than 80% of schools would qualify for a grade of an A or B (Bell curve). This creates winners and losers. We support standards where each school stands an equal opportunity for achieving and A or B grade and improvement.
  • This is similar to the Florida model of grading schools. In Florida, there is a monetary reward for improvement, caps on class size (18 for K-3), and supports in place for schools that do not score well. However, the current SB59 language has no resources designated for improvement. We support the allocation of resources designed to improve student learning.
Stay informed.  Be proactive in contacting your legislators.  Now is the time to act.  Decisions being made during the legislative session will impact your job and working conditions for years to come.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Executive Board Meeting

The JEA Executive Board met this evening.  We discussed the legislature, House of Delegates, NEA RA, membership, the negotiated Joint Committee, and Western Region Leadership Conference. 

JEA is hosting a table at the Jordan Education Foundation Breakfast on Wednesday, February 23 at 7:45 a.m.  JEA is proud to support the JEF in providing mini grants for teachers and scholarships for students who have turned their lives around.

Meeting with Interim Superintendent

I met this morning with Dave Stoddard, Interim Superintendent.  We discussed what is happening at the Capitol.  We have both noticed that the tenor of the legislature is anti-association.  We need you as classroom teachers to call, write, or e-mail your legislators and tell your story.  Tell them what you are doing without because of budget cuts.  Tell them what additional funding would help you do in your classroom.  You can go to and type in your address.  Both your Senator and Representative will show.  Just click on the person to see their contact information.  Personal contact with active teachers is going to be what influences the members of the legislature this year.

Dave and I talked a little bit about the superintendent search.  He said that Mr. Richard Stowell of the Utah School Boards Association has helped in 150 superintendent searches across the state over the years.  The committee is working to be very transparent.  If you want more information, talk to one of the committee members.  See Superintendent Search Committee.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Superintendent Search

I attended the Superintendent Search Committee Meeting this evening.  Some dates you may want to be awrae of:
  • March 18 - applicatoins due
  • April 5 - finalists will be decided
  • April 28 - public open house to meet the finalists from 6 to 8 p.m. at the ASB
  • May 10 - announcement of new superintendent at the scheduled School Board meeting
Remember that you can contact members of the committee to give your input.  See District website for contact information.

Request for Letters to the Editor

The following request is from UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh. 

"This week’s request is that you engage as many of your local members as possible in a letter writing campaign to their local papers regarding how the unfunded student growth for the past two years has impacted their individual classrooms. Some issues related to this might include increase in class size or supplies in short supply. The general public and our legislative leaders need to hear from our teachers. I would encourage you to also engage in conversations with parents, out of school time, on this issue."