"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Appointing a New Board Member

On Tuesday, March 29, the board interviewed the fourteen school board candidates for District 4.  I was impressed with the credentials and the comments of each of the candidates.  On one hand, it was a hard decision because we had such a good group to choose from.  On the other, it was easy because you didn't feel like anyone would make a lousy board member.  Still, to be asked to select a representative for your fellow citizens is an awesome and daunting task.  It is tempting to look for someone who you would work well with, but equally important, is to find someone who you think will represent their constituents.  I am grateful that, most of the time, this task is left up to the people, themselves.  It is hard to know what qualities and concerns will bear sway in their minds.

After the interviews, the board met in closed session to discuss the character and competence of the candidates.  This afternoon, a motion will be made to appoint one of those individuals to the vacant board position.  Then, the new board member will be sworn in.  I was grateful to hear the thoughts and comments of my fellow board members.  My biggest concern was to find someone who seemed to be an average-enough person and could accurately represent the people of District 4.  I am pleased with the process so far.

Also this evening, I will be attending a regional meeting for the Utah School Boards Association.  Then, next week is the National School Boards Association Convention in San Francisco.  Since that is my old stomping ground, I am happy to go back.  There's nothing quite like the City by the Bay. (Yes, I'm a Journey fan.)  While I love San Francisco, I want to make sure that my time and your resources are used wisely.  My plan is to attend as many events as possible this first year, and then evaluate the ROI (Return on Investment) for you, the taxpayers. As always, I look forward to your feedback.

UPDATE: The Board of Education voted to appoint Mark Clement to the District 4 board vacancy.  I look forward to working with Dr. Clement and welcome him to the board.

Monday, March 28, 2011

School Community Council Elections

Applications for School Community Councils (SCC) are taking place now.  The SCC's are the "rubber meets the road" for school involvement.  Some of the SCC decisions are:
  • Develop a school improvement plan
  • Develop a school Trust Land plan
  • Participate in the development of a school-level professional development plan and its implementation
  • Develop a child access routing plan
  • Advise the school administration on local school issues
  • Provide an opportunity for issues of concern in the community to be presented to the school administration.
  • Review school-wide U-PASS data (not individual data)
  • Develop a reading achievement plan
If you want to get involved, the SCC is the place to be.

I would be happy to post any information about any of the candidates for SCC positions on this blog.  I would like to get as much information out to everyone about these positions.  If you know of election information for each school, please let me know.

The only information I have so far is Highland Elementary's application deadline is this Friday, April 1, 2011.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Vineyard URA, Bond, New School Names, New Board Member 3/22/11 Meeting

Vineyard URA Update

On March 23, 2011, the Vineyard URA held a public input meeting.  Legal Counsel for the Alpine School District read a statement at that meeting.  Board members were advised to allow legal counsel to attend and speak on their behalf.  I appreciate all of you who attended the hearing, who wrote letters, and shared the information with your friends and neighbors.  I will keep you updated as things progress. To read and view the Fox13 report, please go here.  This hearing begins the official 30-day window for appeal of the URA, according to the report.  

March 22, 2011 Work Session and Board Meeting at Cedar Ridge Elementary School

Work Session

Bond Update

The board received a list of the suggested projects for the bond.  At this time, this list is just a DRAFT.  Public and Employee meetings will be held in April and May to receive feedback on the bond, itself, as well as the suggested projects.

One of the concerns has been Lehi High, which is over 50 years old.  The board investigated purchasing property near where the high school is currently located, building a brand new high school on the new property and selling the old Lehi High buildings and property.  My understanding was this was a preferred option for the City of Lehi.  Unfortunately, the current site could not be sold for anywhere near enough to make this plan financially feasible.  So, the current plan is to start on Phase II (there is a master plan for all the major construction projects in the district and this plan will be available at the Public bond input meetings) for rebuilding part of Lehi High on its current location.  However, this will all depend on the public feedback.

Please attend one of the meetings and help get the word out to those who do not have children in ASD.  All of the PTA/SCC meetings and the public input meetings are open to the everyone.  The presentation will be the same.  You may choose whichever meeting is most convenient for you.  For a list of those meetings, please go here.

Capital Budget Meeting

Last week, I attended the Capital (anything with a "useful life" greater than one year) Budget Meeting, which was reviewed during the work session.  This is the PROPOSED budget, but hasn't been approved by the board at this time.  As I mention the budget in this context, bear in mind this is the proposed budget, but I will omit the modifier 'proposed' for the rest of this discussion.

A few items of interest.  First, all of the district's bonds are done over 15-years.  It saves much in interest (just like a 15-year home mortgage does).  Also, the district staggers its debt so we repay all of a particular group of bonds by the time we start another set of bonding.  This way, we keep our debt repayment amount mostly constant, instead of increasing it.  We will be paying $33M in principal and $15M in interest this year.

There is a budget for remodeling/upgrading existing facilities.  This year it is set for $4M.  The physical facilities department has a 10-year plan of items that need to be addressed, including the seismic issues discussed in previous posts.  This plan is prioritized, and some of the schools that appear on this list will not be included in the bond projects, as the amounts are either small enough to included here or the need is so great that it must be done right away.  There are $3M worth of specific remodel/upgrade (non-bond) projects for this coming fiscal year.  In addition, $1M is set aside in various 'emergency' accounts, such as roofing, boiler, etc to accommodate unforeseen expenditures that crop up during the year.  An example of this was over Thanksgiving, a fire alarm panel malfunctioned, calling the fire department 6 times in a matter of days.  The funds for its replacement were taken from these 'emergency' funds called control accounts.  If there is any money left over in these accounts at the end of the fiscal year (and their is usually only some change), it reverts to the general capital fund and must be reallocated by the board the next year.  The Capital Fund balance (i.e. left over savings from the previous budget) has no legal limit on it; whereas, the general fund does have a legal limit.

Computer Rotation:  The district policy is for teachers to receive new computers every four years.  It used to be done every three years, as the computers come with three-year warranties.  It has been found to be more economical to go for four years, and allocate some money for repairs that fourth year.  Also, as technology changes, this allows us to keep up with technological advancements.  So, one-fourth of the teachers get a new computer this year.

There is also an allocation to upgrade networking equipment, and an amount for tech support.

Last year, there were no new buses purchased.  This year, the plan is to purchase 2 special ed buses, and 6 regular ed buses.  Also, it is recommend that we spend $60,000 to install a new fuel tank at the bus depot.  This will save us $.20/gal or about $200,000 this coming year. 

Finally, there is a budget item for instruction.  This would be for things like classroom furniture.  There is a set amount per school, and then so much per student.

This budget will be on the agenda for tentative adoption in April.  The board, by law, must approve a budget by June 22 of each year.  However, if we adopt the capital budget in April, the district will be able to order supplies and get construction contracts right away.  This way, these projects will be ready to begin as soon as school lets out for the summer.


Rob Smith and JoDee Sundberg were instrumental in giving information to our legislators on how HB2 (the main appropriations bill) would impact schools, in general, and our district in particular.  There were quite a few good things that occurred because of this, and for that, we are appreciative.  One thing that may have some unintended consequences is that students that are enrolled in ASD and MATC (Mountainland Applied Technology Center) will now only generate funding for EITHER ASD or MATC, not both.  Until now, the schools in the district have tried to consolidate class offerings with MATC, so there is not duplication of resources.  If the schools are to lose money by sending their students off to MATC, there is incentive to duplicate those classes at the high schools.

The State Office of Education will be putting together a booklet of all the new education legislation and list what the State Office will need to do to accommodate the legislation and what the local districts will be required to do as well.  One of the issues is if a teacher has a child at a school in the district, that teacher is not allowed to serve on his/her child's school's SCC as a parent.  The teacher may still serve at their school of employment as a teacher rep on the SCC.

Board Meeting

Cedar Ridge Recognitions and Reports

Cedar Ridge Elementary recognized 8 students.  The Alpine Foundation also recognized 2 teachers, 2 support personnel, and 2 volunteers.  We heard reports from the SCC, PTA, and Principal Bruner.  The principal was going to be spending the next day on the roof of the school, as the prize for additional math practice.  Good thing the weather was nice (as opposed to the rain/snow we are having as I type this).

 New School Names

The two new schools in Saratoga Springs, along with the Special Ed school attached to the South School were named.  The North School is Riverview Elementary School.  The South School is Thunder Ridge Elementary School.  The Special Ed School is Horizon School. 

Elementary Schools Report

The four district administrators, supervising the elementary schools, provided a report to the board of the 50+ elementary schools in the district, along with basic information, the Math and Language Arts CRT scores, and the UPASS scores. 

Board Reports

The Curriculum Committee discussed Common Core, ASD's online school for home schoolers, and the preschool program.

Four board members attended the Leadership Conference, sponsored by BYU's CITES department.  A keynote speaker at the conference said, "We need to teach learners how to learn."  Also, the technology presentations were very good.  I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on the role of parents in their children's education.  I will have a more in-depth blog post on this conference in a few days.

Open Board Member Position

There are FOURTEEN candidates for the open board position.  We will be interviewing all of them on Tuesday, March 29 from 1pm - ????.  This meeting is open to the public.  Each candidate will have 15 minutes: an opening statement, 2 questions, and a closing statement.  The two questions will be the same for each candidate.  The board spent some time discussing those questions and how best to determine who should have the position.   One of the main concerns is that, despite differences, the board members are able to discuss and maintain a level of trust among each other.  I brought up the idea that we need to keep in mind that we are trying to find someone to represent the voters of the PG/Lindon area, not just someone we can get along with.  It's important to keep that in mind.

The two questions are:
1. We have read through the information you have submitted highlighting your experiences and qualities. How would you use these to contribute to and strengthen our Board?
2. As Board members we are advocates for Alpine School District, public education and for all children. How do you see yourself in this role?
The candidates are:

Julie Adamic
Bruce Armstrong
Mark Bezzant
Mark Bishop
Mark Clement
Karie Cooper
Niels Fugal
Stephen Graham
David Holdaway
Jeremy Hurren
Linda Nelson
John Olsen
Stephen Swenson
Paul Wangemann

After the interviews, the board will convene in a closed session to discuss the character and competence of the candidates.  The board will then reconvene on Wednesday, March 30 at 4pm to vote on which candidate should have the open position.  After the vote, the new board member will receive the oath of office.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mar. 8, 2011 Board Meeting

Work Session

Note: Work Sessions are held at 4pm, prior to each board meeting.  Work Sessions are open to the public.

Bond projects

A draft of the bond projects was discussed.  The 4 proposed elementary schools and 1 junior high will be built using plans of existing schools.  The major proposed renovations are to AF, PG, and Lehi High, as those schools were built in the 50's.  There was a 4-phase plan established prior to the previous bond for each of these (and some other) schools. It is proposed that these schools will have Phase II of that plan implemented under this bond.  Additionally, ASD had an engineering firm perform a seismic study of each of the school several years ago.  The plan is to address those seismic needs for those schools that have the highest priority in these areas.  As always, these things are subject to change, based on feedback from the public and the amount of the bond. 

Board Member Interview Questions

The board reviewed the procedure and four interview questions from the last board appointment.  I had a couple of suggested changes.
1) Have the board candidate define their view of what their role as a board member is prior to describing how their experience would assist them in their role on the board.
2) Discuss the guiding principles they will use in making decisions on the board. 
After some discussion, it was decided that the existing questions would be used for the candidate interviews.  Each candidate will receive the questions and the format, as well as the Board's Code of Conduct (revised 1/31/11) prior to the interview. 

The questions are:
1. What qualities do you possess to be a good board member?  How would these qualities strengthen our board?
2.Can you share a past experience working with a team and building consensus?
3. How will previous leadership experiences help you in your role as a school board member?
4. As Board members, we are advocates for public education, for Alpine School District, and for all children.  How do you see yourself in this role?

The deadline for filing a letter of intent and a resume for the board position is March 18.

Board Meeting


This was board member, Guy Fugal's last board meeting.  There were several presentations for him, and he and his wife (and former principal), Paula, bestowed a scholarship check for $50,000 for Educational Support Service Employees to be able to continue with their personal education.  He also spent his last day serving lunch at a school.  Guy and his wife will be serving an LDS Mission in London.  I wish them all the best!

Claims and Routine Business

I am still struggling with the claims.  I feel in order to approve something, I must have more knowledge of each item, and not just the overall process.  If I just skim the 200 pages of claims, is that sufficient?  What if I only partially understand what was paid for and why?  Utah Code says the Business Administrator must present the claims and budget report to the board monthly.  I am working to get greater clarification.  In the meantime, I will continue to abstain from the approval of the claims.

School Names

Three names for each of the two new elementary schools in Saratoga Springs were proposed.  The top recommendations were Thunder Ridge and Riverview.  The board will vote on the formal names at a subsequent board meeting.

Internet Policy/Fee Schedule

The new procedure is for the board-approved policies to be high-level and general.  The rules, regulations and procedures will contain the specifics.  This allows the administration to modify, as necessary, the nuts and bolts of a procedure without having to go back to the board, as long as it follows the overall policy set forth by the board.  I think this makes sense.  As we get phones, and iPads, and so forth being used at school, it would be good for the schools/district to adjust things slightly to comply with the overall policy of using the internet for education purposes and preventing offensive, criminal, etc content.  Each parent will need to sign an internet policy information sheet, and then, MAY, opt their child in.  The consent form will be valid throughout elementary school, but a new one will be signed for middle/junior high school, and then again in high school.  See the information here.

Also, the maximum amount that schools/classes could charge for fees was presented.  The board will approve this fee schedule in a subsequent board meeting. 

Audit Committee

I attended the audit committee (which meets only twice a year).  We reviewed the audit schedule for the 22 schools (abt. 1/3 of the schools) for this year, and decided we would review the results of the audit in the fall.  We met with our two auditors from Squire.  Squire has a policy to not assign the same auditors to the same institutions year after year, but to rotate, both to give us people with varied experience as well as to maintain a level of objectivity.  The district also went out to bid for an auditor a while back for the same reason (objectivity), and also to verify pricing.  I felt comfortable with the plan and the information presented.  We also discussed new audit standards the board will need to adopt, as required by the State Office of Education.

Other Events

Traverse Mountain SCC

I was honored to attend the Traverse Mountain Elementary School Community Council.  They have a good group who want to be informed.  They are rotating members to attend the board meetings, so they can stay informed.  (They also have members who read this blog.  Thank you for that!)  They will be combining with their PTA's Facebook page and blog.  The school also has a nice and informative website.  I was pleased to see the level of involvement.

CITES Leadership Conference

I will be attending the CITES Leadership Conference March 10 -11 (tomorrow and Friday), sponsored by the BYU-Public School Partnership.  I am interested to see the benefit of the partnership up close and personal.  Also, one of the featured speakers, Linda Darling-Hammond, is involved with SBAC and West Ed, which will be developing the assessments for the Common Core Standards.  

Vineyard URA

A public hearing on the URA will be held on March 23, at 7pm at the Vineyard City Offices.  If you haven't contacted the county commissioners about your position on this URA, I ask you to do so prior to March 23.  I would also recommend that you attend the meeting on the 23rd.  For those of you who need to come up to speed on the URA, click here.  In short, the URA allows a developer to forego paying taxes to ASD, City, County, and Miscellaneous taxing entities for 35 years (estimated amount $300M), and to use that money for the clean-up and development of the former Geneva Steel site.  Alpine School District voted against this proposal, something that I couldn't agree with more. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bond Survey Discussion

The Daily Herald published an article on the district's bond survey.  In light of a few questions that have been surfacing, I felt I should put some concerns to rest.

First, the district is hiring an independent polling firm to conduct the survey.  Some people thought the district, itself, was going door-to-door.  This is incorrect.  The polling firm will be doing the door-to-door interviews.  The survey consists of quite a few questions, all of which the board has discussed in work sessions.  The bond questions have yet to be completely finalized, but will be before mid-March.  For my previous coverage of the bond survey, please see here, here, and here.  The cost to hire this firm is roughly $8000 and will survey approximately 800 residents of ASD.

This brings me to the next point.  The Herald article says that residents of North Utah County will be surveyed.  By this statement, it doesn't mean some of ASD but not all of ASD.  All areas covered by ASD residents will be proportionately surveyed.  Again, by a reputable firm.  This firm has done bond surveys for the district for the past two bonds.  The only difference this time is it will be done door-to-door instead of over the phone.  There is no additional cost to the district (and hence, to you, the taxpayers) for a door-to-door survey instead of the phone survey.

Admittedly, surveys exist to get information, but also to provide information.  This survey is no exception.  Details of the district and the bond will be provided.  Some options, in the place of a bond, are provided for your feedback.  The question I would ask you is, with a proposed 10,000 additional students entering the district in the next 5 years, how do we accommodate that growth?

One of the suggestions is to build smaller schools or schools with less amenities.  The concern is why should the people out west have less "school" or less amenities than those in the east. The flip side is if we are unable to provide that level of building, due to the economy, we need to tighten our belts just like everyone else.

Another suggestion is to utilize more online offerings and perhaps a greater mix of work done at home and less at school (allowing for a shorter school day). Also can we allow more flexibility in what courses, outside of school, can be counted for school credit?  As an example, my kids take private music lessons.  Can those lessons count for music credit at the school?  If not, why not?

A third suggestion was to operate the schools in a fashion like the colleges and universities, as a trimester system.  The only way this would work is if both the faculty and the students/parents were able to choose their attendance schedule.  For example, there would be Fall, Winter, and Summer trimesters.  You get to pick 2 out of 3 to attend.  One advantage to Summer term would probably be smaller class sizes (as well as for those who ski and snowboard).  Additionally, if a student chose to go year round and finish sooner, why not?  The advantage is full use of our existing buildings. 

All of the above options have pros and cons associated with them.  I throw them out for your discussion.  I would also like to hear of any other options you would consider.

In short, the way we have always done things is, as more kids enter the system, we bond to build more schools.  If we want to alter that course of action, we need to solve the problem of educating those additional students in a new way.  I look forward to reading your input.