Thursday, May 8, 2014

South Jordan City District Split Talks

As you have seen in the news, South Jordan City has decided to move forward with a feasibility study about splitting from Jordan District.  A flyer with inaccurate information was distributed over the weekend.  We need to be educators of the public about the harm that will come to students should another split occur! 

As JEA President, I have attended nearly every open study session and school board meeting over the last four years.  Based on my experience, I can also speak to some of the misinformation in the flyer.

"Jordan School District kept important information from voters during last year's bond election debate!"  I was involved with the bond campaign from the beginning.  The Jordan District and Friends of Jordan School District were very open and trying to get the information out using websites, social media, and open houses.

"Now that they are planning on it (bond election) again, but here's what they didn't want you to know last time --"  First, this is not a grammatically correct sentence.  That teacher bit aside, I have heard very little discussion on a future bond.  Occasionally, a board member will say that they want to run a bond again in November.  Others will then say the district needs to wait 2-3 years.  The decision to try for a bond again has not been made.

"On their website, they pointed to South Jordan's growth as a reason to build new schools, but in the first bond they planned for schools in Riverton, Herriman, West Jordan and Bluffdale, but not in South Jordan."  The Bingham feeder system is most of South Jordan.  A new elementary school was to be built in South Jordan from the bond funds.

"The State Legislature is giving South Jordan one chance, this year, to decide if they want to split off."  A law was passed that stated if a district were to split that the property tax revenue to one district cannot be more than 5% higher than the property tax revenue for the other district.  This was a major problem in the Jordan/Canyons split.  Jordan had 60% of the students and 40% of the tax base, while Canyons had 40% of the students and 60% of the tax base.  If South Jordan doesn't decide to vote on a split this year, they still could in the future, there would just be more restrictions.

Back in February, the South Jordan Journal ran an article about a possible South Jordan split from Jordan District.  I wrote a letter to the editor that was published in March.

Dear Editor and South Jordan residents,

I am concerned with the South Jordan City Council looking to form its own school district. I am against this for many reasons including costs, quality of education, and employee morale.
There are students living in South Jordan City boundaries who attend Herriman or Copper Hills High, Copper Mountain Middle, Midas Creek Elementary and other schools on permit. Current schools in South Jordan city boundaries are not large enough to hold all the students living in South Jordan City. This means new schools would need to be built necessitating a bond.

The Jordan/Canyons split in 2009 cost $33 million through months of negotiations and mediation with transition teams from both sides. In addition, Jordan District had to cut $17 million in the 2010-2011 budget year. These cuts hurt students. One example is the money for aides in Special Education classes being reduced leaving those students who are the most needy without the support to help them be successful. Canyons District promised no tax increases, but within two years, property taxes had increased and a bond was passed to build a new high school and rebuild several other schools.

The quality of education students receive will suffer. Jordan District has an excellent curriculum department that provides many resources for teachers at all levels. 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 a building. 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 teachers 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 school district, employee salary increases in both districts 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.

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

Jennifer Boehme
South Jordan resident and Elk Meadows teacher

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