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Monday, 01 August 2016 00:34

August Superintendency Message

Welcome Back to School!

The advertisements for back to school are running. A new energy builds in the air as it draws closer to that time -- time for our kids to load up their backpacks, don their new clothes and head back to school. It can be a hard transition going from the freedom of summer to the structure of being a full-time student. But you know it is worth it. There is nothing like getting a good education, it gives our children a foundation for the rest of their lives. 

Welcome back to all Weber School District students, teachers, support staff and administrators. We hope you have had a rejuvenating, great summer. I know teachers look forward with great anticipation to meeting their new students. Our teachers and administrators have been busy preparing for the 2016-17 school year and are ready to provide an outstanding educational experience for all students. 

Though the halls of our schools have been quiet over the summer, a lot has happened. We appreciate the maintenance staff, custodians and computer techs that have all been busy preparing the buildings and grounds for the return of students. It is that time of year when we are excited to once again hear the sounds of students in the halls and classrooms...the sounds of learning.

As students walk through the school doors in August, you will be able to count on what is known in our district as the Weber Way: a whole child culture with a passionate, talented and dedicated faculty who go above and beyond to bring out the best in children. Welcome to the 2016-17 school year. May this year be filled with hope, anticipation, new learning and great growth.

Thursday, 01 September 2016 09:52

SEPTEMBER SUPERINTENDENCY MESSAGE

Overarching Educational Truths -

As we settle into this new school year, I am once again reminded that working in schools is one of the most exhilarating, rewarding and demanding jobs that exists.  While we interact closely with young people and provide them with a high-quality, broad education there are some overarching truths that can guide our efforts.  By no means is this an exhaustive list.  I know each of you could add something significant based on your experience and insight.  Following are a few principles that have given me direction:

  1. Know Your Students – Certainly, knowing your subject matter is critical!  However, that by itself does not guarantee success.  Influential teachers develop a genuine interest in young people and a corresponding willingness to get to know students on a level that goes beyond a first-name last-name basis.  When we know students well, we know the extent of the demands that we can make upon them.  We know something of their talents and abilities, as well as their likes and dislikes.  This allows us to lead them into learning activities with reasonable hope of success.  We also know the kind of feedback that will inspire and motivate rather than crush and defeat.
  2. Know How Learning Takes Place – The most effective educators understand how learning takes place and then teach in ways that honor best practice.  Through daily actions, they are the living embodiment of the notion that all children can learn.  They understand, paraphrasing John Dewey, that kids don’t learn the basics by memorizing facts about the basics.  Rather, they learn the basics by engaging in meaningful projects that require the effective use of the basics.  I’m always thrilled when I go into one of our schools and see students participating in purposeful activities.  Additionally, those who deeply understand learning recognize the importance of motivation.  Frequently, we rely on extrinsic rewards to create that motivation—operating on the assumption that what is rewarded gets done.  But in school, typically what is rewarding gets done!
  3. Be Careful About the Assumptions You Make – The best teachers never make negative assumptions about the capability of their students.  Some years ago, while serving as assistant superintendent, I co-taught an 11th grade language arts course with one of our outstanding high school teachers.  Several well-intentioned teachers, certainly wanting to ensure that I had a positive experience, strongly suggested that I use my influence to transfer one student from the class.  “She’ll destroy your whole experience,” they warned.  I figured, “I taught junior high school for 10 years—I’m not afraid of anything!”  This same young lady became a powerful and positive contributor because of her background and personal history. 
  4. Understand the Role of Self-Esteem – A student’s self-image depends upon so many things.  It is shaped, in part, on us and how we make our students feel about themselves and their abilities.  It is also dependent on our class environment and the extent to which we carefully shape that culture.  For instance, students are unwilling to risk if they don’t feel a reassuring trust that they won’t be ridiculed or embarrassed when expressing an opinion.  Consequently, we should always adhere to these two imperatives: a) it is inexcusable to diminish a student’s sense of dignity and worth; and, b) it is equally wrong not to work to enhance and build a students’ self-worth.
  5. Be Constantly Engaged in Personal Professional Growth – The best teachers I know are persistent in their pursuit to become better teachers.  They never stand still!  These teachers are seeking to understand how to effectively integrate technology in ways that engage and challenge their students.  They constantly ask themselves questions (“What are the most important learning goals of this unit?  How might I teach it differently so that students really understand?  How do these students learn best?  What are these grades really telling me?  Are there ways to differentiate instruction to better meet the needs of all children?”).  These teachers never accept the status quo and are constantly working to improve for themselves and their students.

I invite each of you to consider these overarching truths as we begin this new school year.  Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many!  

Friday, 30 September 2016 09:52

OCTOBER SUPERINTENDENCY MESSAGE

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”  This is an oft-asked question that a student hears throughout their school career.  While many have “no idea” what they want to pursue for future employment, for those that do, Weber School District has phenomenal opportunities available.  Over the past nine years, WSD’s Internship program has grown from 40 students to over 140 students per semester. Having an internship has brought a whole new meaning to a young adult’s education as employer/mentors offer experiences as diverse as the workplace itself.  Law enforcement, physical therapy, accounting, multiple health professions, engineering, education, and veterinarians are just some of the occupations that our students are able to experience.  The opportunities encompass the full spectrum of real-world, relevant experience. 

The cooperation and willingness of our business partners is incredible and indicative of the kind of support we receive in Weber School District on behalf of our students. Business Partners are establishing expectations, competencies and benchmarks that they want the interns to reach while out in the workplace.  It’s not enough to just show up anymore, students are expected to develop skills related to their work experiences.  With these higher expectations, the students come away feeling like they have really done something, having been involved in meaningful projects related to advancing the business.  They become, as Dave Harris, engineer from Fresenius, put it, “Value added.”

Mr. Jeff Meyer, our CTE Work-Based Learning Coordinator organizes, initiates and manages Weber District’s Internship program and is a fantastic ambassador for this outstanding opportunity.  With each quarter’s experience students submit a reflection sheet about their experiences to Mr. Meyer.  When asked about some of the things that are related by the students, Mr. Meyer said that the most common phrase he sees is “…this was the best experience of my Senior/Junior Year,” and that feeling is echoed by our employers/mentors.  Even though the internship is not meant to be a paid experience last spring alone more than 20 of our student interns had been hired in one capacity or another at their internship site.  That number is especially high when many of our business partners are limited due to the post-secondary degree and certification requirements of their employees.  

It would be difficult for our schools to replicate the type of learning that students receive through their internships.  Many students realize these are the jobs that they want to pursue for their career and use it as a springboard as they continue on to post-secondary education.  Some find out that the occupation is not for them and are able to pursue other careers.  Regardless of the situation, each one of our students has developed soft skills pertaining to work-place etiquette and protocols that they will be able to utilize in whatever their pursuits may be.  Student Internships….another part of “The Weber Way”!

 

 

 

roy-high-application-week01The Roy High School Counseling Department has set a lofty goal for its senior class this year. They aim to make sure that 100% of their seniors graduate from high school, and taking it one step further, they would like to see 100% of their graduates have the opportunity to go to college or technical training. November 17th-21st marked Roy High School's first annual College Application Week. A kick-off assembly was held, and staff decorated their doors with fanfare from their favorite schools. Ambassadors from local universities attended the kick-off to represent their schools and to answer any questions the students had.

The idea behind College Application Week was to improve accessibility to higher education for all students by guiding them through the application process. Counselor Pam Jacobsen explains that this process can be daunting, particularly for those who are first-generation college students. So often seniors do not know where to begin the application process, and many fear that they will not be accepted if they do apply. The computer lab was opened to the students where they were given the opportunity to submit applications to the schools of their choice with help from the counseling staff.

Oftentimes, a significant barrier to higher education is cost. Pam Jacobsen stated that several weeks ago, seniors were given help to register on the U.S. Department of Education's website where they were given a pin number to apply for federal financial aid (FAFSA). This gave students an important head start in the financial aid process, allowing them to apply for grants and student loans after the first of the year once funds become available for the coming academic year. Several local universities also waived their application fees for this week only in an effort to spur participation in College Application Week.

Ultimately, 280 out of 465 seniors applied to one or more schools. That is roughly 60% of the senior class. Mrs. Jacobsen reports that they are very pleased with the results and hopes that these numbers will increase in years to come.

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To send an anonymous tip through the hotline, text the word "friends" then your message to 274637.

The Weber School District is pleased to introduce The Friends Hotline, an SMS Text-A-Tip application that allows students to anonymously submit information to participating law enforcement agencies and schools about situations that they feel are a threat to their safety or the safety of others. This is a secure application that allows the tipster and the investigator to have a two-way dialog while keeping the tipster’s identity completely anonymous. The program is being offered through a partnership with the Ogden Police Department Real Time Crime Center, the Weber County Sheriff’s Office, and all police departments in Weber County that serve our students.

Students may hesitant to report threatening behavior such as bullying, threats, fights, weapons, alcohol, drugs, sexual misconduct, dating violence, or suicidal behaviors for fear of retaliation. This valuable programs allows tipsters make anonymous reports both on and off campus. When a text message is received, it is sent to a computer system located in Canada. All identifiers (student phone number) on the text are stripped from the message, then forwarded to our representatives. The student will not be identified unless they wish to be.

To use the system, the student will begin their message with the word "friends", enter a space, list their school name and send the message to 274637. The word friends must be first and must be followed by a space or the message will fail. The word "friends" is not case sensitive. The student will receive a return text immediately asking them to call 911 if it is an emergency, and it provides the student an identifier code so that the computer can communicate with them. The counselor or SRO may then communicate with the student’s alias if the student allows. If the student does not wish to have further communication, they may text STOP and the texting will end.

Our goal is to allow students who are not comfortable speaking to our administration or school resource officers the opportunity to share information about their concerns. It is important for the students to know that all reports go to a real time crime center and are logged. Prank text messages will be treated seriously.

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It is the time of year when most people's thoughts turn to family, treats, celebrations, and of course, giving. It is hard to resist the holiday spirit, and the folks at Weber School District are no exception. Many student groups at our secondary schools participate in yearly charitable drives to help local families in need, not just during Christmas season, but year round. All of our schools are getting into the spirit:

Fremont High School: The student government is busy with their yearly Kash-4-Kids charity drive. Activities and fundraisers are held which raise money that goes to help disadvantaged Fremont students and families year round with expenses such as medical bills, braces, and glasses.

Bonneville High: The Annual Shop with a Hero Project is in full swing. This is a program run by student body officers, and raises money for local police officers to take needy children Christmas shopping. Students get into the spirit of things by selling pizza, pancakes, and hot chocolate, and even play the part of Santa's elves in the parking lot.

Weber High: "Weekend Warriors" is a wonderful program where food packages are sent home with elementary aged children who face hunger outside of school. Funds are being raised to cover the $5,000 per-school price tag to keep these hungry children fed. In addition, students are helping to raise money to pay medical bills for a former WHS student who was in a tragic car accident just two days after graduation this past summer.

Wahlquist Junior High: Students have been very busy raising funds for their annual Sub-for-Santa Drive. So far, they have managed to raise $7000 to help approximately 10 needy families this year. Student body officers will shop for families, then will wrap and deliver the gifts before Christmas.

South Ogden Junior High: Food, fun, and games -- that's how the students at South Ogden Junior High school like to raise money for charity! Student body officers are right in the middle of their annual "South for Santa" charity drive. Students are selling hot chocolate during lunch and sponsoring class fundraising competitions. Events will conclude with a teacher vs. student dodgeball game. Funds raised will be spent purchasing Christmas gifts for deserving families which the SBOs will wrap and deliver.

Roy Junior High: Friendly competition between classrooms helped to spur the charitable spirit of students in raising nearly $700 to buy Christmas gifts for needy families at the school. In addition, students contributed to a food drive at the school's winter dance that raised both food and funds for the annual "Sub-for-Santa" campaign. 

Snowcrest Junior High: During a two-week charity drive, Snowcrest students collected canned goods and money. Fun activities were held including a Chick-fil-A fundraiser, $10 Tuesday, a "traveling tree", a silent auction, and last but not least, students enjoyed the signing talents of the staff as they performed from class-to-class while collecting donations.

Orion Junior High: In conjunction with Weber High School, Orion students, faculty, and staff have managed to donate over 5000 cans of food and have raised $2475.00 to help families in their community.

We are proud of our students, faculty, and staff for their charitable spirit. It is our hope that many families will be touched by their efforts. Wishing everyone a peaceful and memorable holiday season with best wishes for the coming New Year.

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Monday, 05 January 2015 14:06

Astronaut Visits H. Guy Child Elementary

It's not every day that an astronaut comes to your school to speak but that's exactly what happened for students at H. Guy Child Elementary thanks to ATK and volunteer Shannon Sebahar who helped coordinate the event.

Kent Rominger, NASA Astronaut and former Navy fighter pilot, came to H. Guy Child to talk with students about the life of an astronaut. Rominger, who has been to space no less than five times, told students about the importance of hard work, math and science, and teamwork while showing them pictures and videos of his time working on the International Space Station.

Students had the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the assembly and they were very interested in what everyday life was like in space. Rominger answered questions about black holes, astronaut ice cream, floating in space, where he went in space, and how time in space works. He also told students about NASA's current project, a new rocket that will be going to Mars. Whispers were heard and energy was felt as he told students, "You all are the perfect age to go on this rocket and go to Mars. "Several students raised their hands and told Rominger they wanted to "...be an astronaut just like him."

Rominger came to the school as part of World Space Week. World Space Week is the largest public space event on Earth. According to the World Space Week website, "More than 1,400 events in 80 countries celebrated the benefits of space and excitement of space [last year]." Other activities H. Guy Child participated in included having students trying to pick things up wearing large gloves to simulate how hard it is to do things in space, Alka-Seltzer rocket launches, and of course, eating astronaut ice cream. Students also signed a banner along with ATK employees that will be sent to the Kennedy Space Center in support of the Orion test launch taking place in December. The launch of the Orion capsule is part of the next generation of space travel and will enable people to travel to places such as asteroids outside of our atmosphere and even Mars, as Rominger talked about.

If you would like more information on World Space Week please visit http://www.worldspaceweek.org/

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This month the Weber School District had the opportunity to recognize Marybai Huking and Stephanie Holbrook during our monthly school board meeting. Marybai is a student at Fremont whose accomplishments in the face of adversity are nothing short of remarkable. Stephanie Holbrook is a parent volunteer extraordinaire who has kick-started an art program at Valley Elementary which has inspired student creativity and a love of art.

Marybai Huking was nominated for the Excellence in Achievement Award by Dr. Rod Belnap, Principal of Fremont High School. Marybai's scholastic and athletic achievements are impressive. This young woman is a member of the National Honor Society, maintains a 4.0 GPA, earned a score of 30 on the ACT, and is a member of the Olympic Goal Ball team. In addition, she donates countless hours in the service of others with civic and leadership responsibilities including being the yearbook editor. What makes Marybai particularly special is that she has achieved these things in the face of great adversity: Marybai is blind. Despite this, she has not allowed her physical challenges to limit her achievements or her dreams. Dr. Belnap states that "Marybai is a young lady with determination and grit who has the unique ability to identify the good in each of her peers and inspire them to use these abilities". He tells the story of when Marybai arrived to take her AP test, and due to some confusion, the adapted test with extra-large font that they had ordered for her had not arrived. "Instead of becoming disheartened or discouraged, Marybai took the same test that every other student took, even with the severe visual impairment". She went on to score a 5 on the test, the highest possible score. We are honored to recognize Marybai Huking with our Excellence in Achievement Award.

The importance of art education is an undeniable component of a well-rounded curriculum. Creative activities are pertinent building blocks of child development. Mrs. Stephanie Holbrook of Valley Elementary PTO is a parent volunteer who has played a crucial part in strengthening children's art education. "Art Start" is an art-based lesson curriculum delivered by a small force of parent volunteers. Mrs. Holbrook personally created these lesson plans to ensure that the children of Valley Elementary were learning about art history, notable artists, and art styles in addition to musical composers and genres. Each lesson includes a student art project. At the end of the school year, the students' artwork is showcased in a whole-school art show. The students and teachers look forward to this remarkable program and enjoy exploring their creativity through art projects and music. Mrs. Holbrook's involvement is not limited to the Art Start program, however. She also volunteers in the reading program and multiple other PTO programs and efforts at the school. Mrs. Holbrook was nominated by Principal Hales and was chosen to receive the Volunteerism Award for the month of January 2015.

Congratulations to these remarkable women. It is our privilege to recognize their efforts. We express our appreciation and gratitude for their willingness to enrich the lives of students, faculty, staff, and others in the Weber School District community.

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Weber School District is excited to announce the opening of a new high school beginning in the fall of 2015. Weber Innovation High School, located at 1007 W. 12th Street in Ogden, will offer students the opportunity to master and accelerate their learning using an innovative combination of digital curriculum and traditional face time courses.

In partnership with Weber State University, Snow College and Ogden Weber Applied Technology College, students will have multiple opportunities to earn early college credit and pursue career certifications.

Online applications and/or more information regarding Weber Innovation High School for incoming 9th, 10, or 11th grade students can be found at http://innovation.wsd.net/index.php/parents/registration-information .

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On Saturday, January 24th, three elementary schools in the Weber School District had the opportunity to participate in the regional VEX IQ Challenge. This challenge is sponsored by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, and is a brand-new STEM program for elementary and middle school students. Students from MarLon Hills, Green Acres, and Country View represented their schools in this innovative and fun robotics challenge.

VEX IQ is a robotics platform that brings STEM learning to life for young students and their teachers. Kids as young as 8 years of age are eligible to participate. VEX IQ robots are built from a kit, similar to LEGO. The structural pieces snap together without tools and are powered by a variety of gears, wheels, and other accessories. Each robot is controlled by a "Robot Brain" which is essentially a programmable remote control device.

During the skills challenge, teams work together scoring points in Teamwork Matches by moving scoring cubes into the scoring zone and building high-rises. Teams are randomly paired, each with one robot and two drivers. Drivers take turns driving the robot and hand off the robot controller from one driver to the other mid-match. During the Robot Skills Challenge, one robot and two driver score as many points as possible under driver control during a one-minute match. Finally, during the Programming Skills Challenge, one robot scores as many points as possible autonomously (completing tasks without driver control).

This was the first year that Weber School District participated in the challenge, and all our teams did quite well. Congratulations to the Green Acres 640X team on winning the "Teamwork Champion Award," the "Programming Skills Champion Award," and the "Robot Skills Champion Award." The 640X team has qualified to move on to the Utah State Robotic Championship. Also of note, the Green Acres 640T team was given the "STEM Research Project Award." Congratulations to these up and coming engineers!

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