Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Letter to South Jordan City Council

If you haven't heard, South Jordan is considering breaking off Jordan District to start their own school district.  Those of us who have been around for more than 5 years know what happened at the Jordan/Canyons split.  I sent this letter to South Jordan elected officials today.

Dear Mayor Osborne and South Jordan City Council Members,

I am unable to attend the council meeting tonight where Council member Newton will propose that South Jordan form its own school district as noted in this newscast.  I am against this for many reasons including costs, quality of education, and employee morale. 

In the story, Mr. Newton said, "Because South Jordan only needs one high school, one middle school and two elementary schools, that we'll be able to cut costs.”  Currently within the district boundaries are Bingham High, South Jordan and Elk Ridge Middle Schools, along with seven elementary schools, six of which are already on year-round schedules: South Jordan, Monte Vista, Jordan Ridge, Elk Meadows, Welby, Daybreak, and Eastlake.  There are students living in South Jordan City boundaries who attend Herriman or Copper Hills High.  Bingham is not large enough to hold all the high school students living in South Jordan City. 

It cost $33 million just to split Jordan and Canyons Districts back in 2009.  This was after months of negotiations and mediation with transition teams from both sides.  See this article.    In addition to the $33 million to pay for the split, Jordan District had to cut $17 million in the 2010-2011 budget.  See this article.  These cuts hurt students.  One example is the money for aides in Special Education classes was reduced leaving those students who are the most needy without the support to help them be successful. 

The quality of education students receive will suffer.  Jordan School District has an excellent curriculum department that provides many resources for teachers at all levels.  See Jordan District. The new district would likely be unable to hire those types of specialists, leaving teachers on their own to create curriculum.  As an elementary teacher, I appreciate having those specialists who can align curriculum to the Utah Core, provide quality assessments, and give curriculum maps for pacing subjects taught throughout the year.  If my time had to be spent doing those types of activities for all the subjects I’m required to teach, there would be less time for me to work with students and provide them with the feedback they need to improve.

Many employees on both sides of the Jordan/Canyons split felt like they were just assets assigned to buildings back in 2009.  We weren’t treated as individuals.  The morale is just now, five years later, beginning to improve.  Employees have not received their step increases three of the last five years.  While this is a different pay system than in other industries, when people are hired, the District explains the pay system, so there is an expectation that has not been met.  If South Jordan were to break off to form their own district, employee salary increases on both sides would likely be nonexistent. At the time of the Jordan/Canyons split, I felt discouraged and frustrated with my career.  I have become more optimistic as I have utilized the tools provided by Jordan District.  I am proud to have been teaching in Jordan District for 22 years.  I teach sixth grade at Elk Meadows Elementary, and I love my job! 

Please stop the discussion on breaking away from Jordan District now.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Now?

The Jordan Bond failed.  The District posted information about what will happen next.  Basically, the administration will look at enrollment at all schools and consider how best to accommodate the growth.  This could include boundary changes, more year round schools, and pocket busing.  The administration will then make recommendations to the School Board.  I heard Dr. Johnson say this morning, "This will mean boundary changes and a couple more year-round elementary schools", which would be in addition to the new elementary in Herriman that will open Fall 2014 on a year round schedule.

This continuum is used by the School Board to decide how to handle student enrollment growth.  The Board has not done much with permit moratorium, but that is another option, which will limit the choices parents and students have.  You can visit the District Alternative Housing Options page for more information on how decisions are made based on new versus established neighborhoods.  Portables are in place at almost every school.  There are 20 year-round elementary schools already.  Pocket busing is happening in Herriman.  Boundary changes will happen for the new elementary in Herriman, but I believe additional boundary changes will be needed to move students from highly overcrowded schools to less crowded schools.

Alternative Housing Options

Jordan Education Foundation Mini Grants

The Jordan Education Foundation will be awarding over $84,000 to 168 teachers as part of their Mini Grant Program.  90% of applications will be funded.  This money comes from donors through various fund raising activities of the Foundation, including through employee donations from payroll deduction, Ashton Family Foundation, Doug and Kristy Young Family, Rio Tinto/Kennecott, Wheeler Foundation, CIT Bank and Dee Foundation.  Look for these awards to be presented in the next couple of weeks!