"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

Monday, September 26, 2011

Math, Redistricting, President's Address

Math Discussion

Tuesday's (Sept. 27) Board Meeting will be held at Barratt Elementary.  During the Work Session at 4pm, the board will have an open discussion.  Some board members (myself, included) have requested that we discuss math.  So, this will probably be the topic for most of the Work Session.  Community Comments are always welcome during the regular board meeting at 6pm.  If you have any thoughts on this subject, please let me know.


Most of the board members met with the County Commissioners about redistricting.  We were given a couple of draft plans, and the one that was supported, so far, has Lehi with its own board member.  The other option had Lehi split into thirds and was rejected by the Superintendent almost immediately.  The County will wait until the Legislature has officially finished its redistricting to finalize anything.  They will also obtain input from the District Community Council, as well as representatives appointed by each city within ASD.  Once the maps have been vetted, there will be a public hearing.

You may use the State's online redistricting tool to draw your own map of ASD.  It isn't apparent, but you can monkey with it and get it to work.  Here's how. 

1. Go to the State's website, here.  If you don't have a login, create one, and sign in. 
2. Select a Blank State School Board template.
3. Click Create at the top of the page to get to the map.
4. On the left-hand side of the screen, there is an arrow about 1/3 of the way down.  Click on that to open up additional options.
5. Expand Utah_ReferenceLayers, then Census 2010, then select the check-box by 41 Utah School Districts.  (You may also want to check 'municipalities', which shows the population of each city.)
6. Click the arrow again to hide the reference layers.  You may now use the zoom feature to zoom in on the state and find ASD.
7. With 284,505 people in ASD to be divided among 7 board members, you are trying to create districts of 40,643 people, roughly.  They have to be contiguous, and the County is going to try to not split precincts.
8. Select the District 1 options from the pop-up box, select (in the first pane showing Active Area: District 1) to draw by area, square, polygon, and then start drawing/clicking.  You can draw to fill in by squares, voting precincts, etc.  (You may want to play with this to see how it works.)
9. If you accidentally go outside ASD's area, you will need to select 'unassigned' as the district and click to unassign those areas. 

If you come up with a great map, please share it with me. 

President Obama's Back to School Address to Students

On Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 11:30 am, President Obama will be giving his third annual address to school students.  Alpine School District's policy allows each individual school and teacher to decide whether to show all or part of the address during school hours.  It is supposed to be part of a meaningful curriculum, and the teachers/schools are to make sure the decision to watch all or part of the speech is communicated to parents.  In the past, schools and/or teachers have recorded the address, and shown it later. 

Sept. 27 Board Meeting Agenda


168 NORTH 900 EAST

4:00 P.M.
A study session will be held prior to the regular board meeting. The purpose of the study session will be for (1) professional development for the Board and (2) to discuss current issues.

6:00 P.M.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE John Burton, Board Vice President








1. Resolution Approving the Polling Locations for the Bond Election



*Time set aside for community comments is not a time to discuss specific personnel issues. Personnel issues are not appropriate discussion items for an open-meeting environment. If you have a personnel concern, we ask that you contact a member of the administration or put your concern in writing and address it to the Board of Education.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Campaign in Favor of the Bond

Important Note: Public Hearing on the Bond.  Tuesday, Sept. 13, @ 6pm at the district office.

70% of your friends and neighbors believe that going into debt, via the bond, is a good idea.  I don't.

"But you voted for the bond!"

I voted to give you the opportunity to debate this issue and to give our school district a clear mandate: do we continue with the debt cycle, or do we make difficult choices but prevent further debt?  I am one of seven on the board.  The rest of the board members are clearly in support of the bond.  Some have a desire for a concrete plan to get out of debt.  Some have a desire to get out of debt as soon as circumstance allows us to do so.  With 70% of the people in favor of the bond, it doesn't make sense for the board, politically, to want to go a different direction.  Without a clear mandate from you, via an election, the debt cycle will continue. 

Whether you favor the bond, unequivocally, favor with a firm debt-reduction plan, or want a complete divestiture of debt, you need to speak up.  You need to talk to your neighbors and come to one of the roughly 192 meetings planned in the next 2 months (see below for some dates and times).

If you are opposed to the bond and you don't speak up, you need to understand that 70% of the people in this area will out-vote you.  If you support the bond, you are equally obligated to speak up and not let others carry your water.  What if the non-bond people win?

One of the more frequent comments I hear is, "What are the options without the bond?"  In short, there is a Plan B, but it hasn't really been talked about.  The bond is the familiar, easy, and preferred option.  This is "business as usual" for school districts (not just Alpine, by the way).  The board is promoting it because they don't think you are willing to do the hard things, the principled things to get out of debt.  And, according to the Bond Survey, they are correct. 

The Bond Survey mentioned options like satellites, double sessions, reduction in programs, etc.  What it didn't mention is a slew of creative ideas that people in the community have mentioned and could come up with to deal with some of these issues.  Also, the survey didn't say that some bonding could be done without a tax increase.  If the total bond amounts were phased down every time, that would be a great start in reducing debt at the outset.  And honestly, without meaning to discredit myself or my fellow board members, the seven of us are not as creative and innovative as all of you. 

I, personally, would like to see more parental involvement...and about 51% of the people in my area seemed to agree (based on the last election results).  One of the options would be to have more work at home and online as opposed to 'at school', reducing the hours sitting in class.  This allows parents greater involvement with their kids' education, and reduces the 'at school' time.  But what about those kids whose parents can't or won't do this?  We seem to worry about those who can't, but what about those that can?  Let's assume that 10% , 25% or even 50% of our parents were willing and able to be involved to that degree, and then we provided for the others who are not able to.  That would increase our capacity in all of our schools by that amount.  For those who can't or won't, we are Utahns.  We'll make sure everyone is taken care of.

In Utah County, we emphasize families and the parent-child relationship.  We don't, truly, want our children raised by the state.  We want the public educated, and we have decided to band together to accomplish that goal.  However, in doing so, are we really willing to say, as parents, we want a very limited role in our kids' education?  I know, in many cases, we have grown accustomed to it.  But in the ideal, don't we want an increased role in our kids' lives, including their education?

A specific application of using double sessions would be to reduce the amount of hours to 4 and use the teachers as mentors.  With 4 hour days, you might need 2 hours of parent/homework time to make up the difference.  Alternatively, you use parent-time in preparation for the class the next day. 

If an elementary teacher were to teach two 4-hours sessions/day, we then increase the total number of students taught by the teacher, increase the amount of money available to pay the teacher, and reduce the class sizes for that teacher.  For example, if a third-grade class currently has 30 kids in it, what if we had two sessions of 15 students?  The teacher would teach the same class, so (s)he would prep once, teach twice. 

I'm not saying this is how it has to be.  I'm just illustrating some of the options.  If the board decided to implement these changes without a clear mandate from the people, I'm afraid we'd see an Investigations Math-like mutiny.  But WITH the support of the people, we would see amazing things, including the most important element of all...parents helping their kids take control of their own education.  And teachers would be freed up to do what they do best--teach, with parental support.

So what do you do now?

First, an official Public Hearing on the bond will take place Tues, Sep. 13, @ 6:00 pm at the District Office (575 N. 100 E. AF).  No matter where you stand, please come and bring 2 friends with you to comment.  It is assumed that either there won't be anyone who will come, or else the same people who commented last meeting will be there to repeat their concerns.  Ask your friends and neighbors what they would want to do with $210M, and invite them to come to the meeting. 

Second, the board will be voting to change the board meeting from Nov. 29 to Nov. 22.  We are required, by law, to canvass the bond election results within 2 weeks of the election.  This new date is the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving.  Since all board meetings are open, public meetings, you would be invited to attend this meeting as well.

Finally, the district must publish and send an informational notice to all patrons about the logistics of the bond: how much? what will it be used for?  what's the need? how will it impact me?  This notice is to be "the facts, Ma'am.  Just the facts."

You also need to be aware of the following.

Friends of Alpine Organization
Friends of Alpine is a 501(c)3 organization that has been set up to accept donations to publicize and encourage the bond effort.  In the past, district-affiliated non-profits like the Alpine Foundation were able to accept monies to promote the bond.  The legislature changed that recently, and so a separate organization must be used.  A few members of the Board of Education are on the Board of Friends of Alpine.  There are also parents, and other interested people.  Friends of Alpine can seek donations and run whatever marketing and advertising, including signs, it would like to promote adoption of the bond.

Employee and PTA/SCC Meetings
Between September 14 and the November election, there will be 192 meetings conducted by administrative staff.  Some of these meetings will be for employees only.  But, the rest are for the PTA/SCC organizations at each of the 79 schools in the district.  This is similar to the PTA/SCC meetings held last October at each of the schools.  It is important to know that, even though the meetings are listed as PTA/SCC meetings, they are open to the public.  Again, your attendance and comments are important and make a difference.  The employee meetings, I believe, will be limited to just employees of the district.  Board members are encouraged to attend the meetings held in their respective areas.  The Alpine/Highland/Cedar Hills schools' meetings are listed at the end of this post.  The entire list will appear on the district's website, once finalized.

Public Input Meetings
In addition, there were be three public meetings held to discuss the bond.  The dates for these meetings are Oct. 6, 13, 27 at 7pm.  In addition to information on the bond, these meetings are an opportunity for the district to "tell our story". 

At each of the public meetings, a pamphlet will be distributed.  It will contain information about the bond, Common Core, and the Mission, Vision, Values and Goals (MVVG) of the district.  I assume since all three items will be on the pamphlet, that the input meetings can be used to provide input on any of those three issues.  However, it may be limited to just the bond.

In short, please attend at least one of the public meetings and comment.  We get the government we deserve.  If we are passive about a $210M bond, what will it take to compel us to be involved?

SCC/PTA Bond Meetings for this area:

Sept. 13 @ 10am: Mountain Ridge JH
Sept. 20 @ 10am: Timberline
Sept. 27 @ 10am: Deerfield
Oct. 4 @ 10am: Alpine
Oct. 4 @ 1pm: Ridgeline
Oct. 6 @ 1pm: Lone Peak HS
Oct. 11 @ 1pm: Highland
Oct. 11 @ 1pm: Westfield

Plus don't forget the Public Input Meetings on Oct. 6, 13, 27