Recently, I finished re-reading Notebooks of the Mind, a fascinating book that explores how creative people think and examines the human mind working at its highest potential. In particular, one phrase caught my attention--"the legacy of distant teachers." The author, Vera John-Steiner, described the critical role that teachers play in shaping lives. I began reflecting upon the "legacy of distant teachers" who have impacted me. The list of memorable teachers was long; however, I do want to briefly mention one very special teacher—Janice Cashmore-Allen.
I opened the newspaper on New Year's Day to learn of Janice’s passing. I student taught with Janice 28 years ago at South Ogden Junior High School. Janice was a master teacher and the consummate professional. She was my friend and mentor and will be greatly missed. When I consider "the legacy of distant teachers" in my life, Janice is at the top of the list. Although no longer with us, Janice’s influence on my life continues. Therein is the legacy of a teacher!
Since becoming superintendent, I have been in dozens of classrooms throughout our district and observed numerous master teachers. Weber School District is fortunate to have dedicated, caring teachers and professionals who shape and impact children's lives. One paradox of teaching is that although typically occurring in large-group settings, the effects are always individual. Great teachers possess the capacity to connect with each student. These connections are held not in teachers' methods but in their hearts. Although the rewards of teaching are not always tangible, be assured that you will be among "the legacy of distant teachers" as your students reflect on those who have influenced them. I thank each of you for your great efforts!
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S. will require at least an associate’s degree or a post-secondary vocational certificate. In the near future, employers will be hiring individuals with technology education training more than any other group. Higher level knowledge and skills are not only requisite for traditional college bound students but also for those students who are entering the career fields of technology. Weber School District (WSD) is meeting this demand by offering secondary students the opportunities to learn from well-qualified instructors to help prepare them for future employment in the real world of technology application.
WSD’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) offers a multitude of educational opportunities, courses, internships, and student organizations to better prepare students with 21st Century knowledge and skills. Many of the high school CTE courses in WSD offer Concurrent Enrollment (CE) credit through many of Utah’s colleges and universities.
Worked Based Learning (WBL) opportunities are provided to qualified 12th grade students. Through this program, apprenticeships and internships are available at participating local businesses, medical facilities, schools and government entities.
Project Lead the Way (PLTW) gives students hands-on pre-engineering courses and provides a rigorous curriculum of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). PLTW is a national program that is offered in all 50 states. Recently, WSD’s PLTW program housed at Two Rivers High School, received the “Model School Award for Leadership” in STEM education. Only 16 of the participating 4,200 schools received this distinguished honor.
Secondary schools in WSD can become actively involved in a variety of CTE classes ranging from business, health sciences, technology, robotics, computer technology, and digital electronics to manufacturing, construction, automotives, welding, architecture and engineering ….. and everything in between. Through the CTE programs, students can also engage themselves in several different student organizations to help enhance their interest and abilities in CTE.
As a district, we are very fortunate to have such dedicated, professional CTE leaders and instructors who enhance and multiply the learning opportunities of our students. We are also deeply appreciative of the army of local business, medical, school and government leaders who have partnered with us to help students better prepare themselves for future educational and career opportunities.
Our schools have great leadership, highly qualified teachers, exceptional, supportive staffs and motivated students. We are well-organized and operate with great efficiency under normal conditions; occasionally however, a situation may arise that causes a school to face unusual demands, this may be due to the death of a student, faculty member or another unexpected and unpredictable event. During such an emergency, our schools must maintain day to day operations as well as try and meet the needs of those affected by the crisis.
In our schools, a crisis can impact many or a few individuals, including not only students, but faculty as well. Depending upon the nature and impact of the crisis, Weber School District has in place a team of individuals under the direction of Bob Wood, Student Service’s Director and Sara Allen, Student Services Coordinator, that respond to help the schools when requested by the principal. The team is comprised of counselors from different school levels, Student Services Coordinators and the Student Services Director
The District Crisis Team is available to each school, if it is determined that the event will have a significant impact on the students and/or faculty. A phone call from the school principal, to the Director of Elementary or Secondary Education, is all it takes to start the process. From there, they contact the Director of Student Services who activates the team. Help from the district team will vary, depending upon the needs of the school; how many people are impacted; when and where the incident occurred; and if it involves a death or serious injury.
In the day-to-day operations of a school, the administration and counseling staff will handle many smaller crisis situations. The district crisis team’s job is to help the principal and counselors when they may be in a position where they don’t have enough resources on hand. The team is there for support and to coordinate any additional services as requested. This may include communicating to parents of distraught students; organizing a place for impacted students to meet for additional support; and a sympathetic ear for affected faculty members. The team’s primary purpose is to help when help is needed and remain at the school as long as necessary.
After the crisis situation, the team coordinates with the school principal and school counselors to make certain their needs have also been met. Our Crisis Team is one of the best in the State and is called upon frequently to train other teams within the region. We are grateful to have such a well-qualified and professional team.
Recently, the Weber Board of Education officially announced their intent to hold a bond election on June 26, 2012. Following months of study, the board has determined to bond for $65 million dollars. Most importantly, these bonds can be issued without increasing tax rates. Being able to bond without increasing property tax rates represents wise and prudent fiscal management on the part of our board of education. Successful passage of the bond election will address growth in student population as well as several aging facilities. The average age of the schools recommended for replacement is 68 years. The following projects have been identified by the board:
We recognize that the above list does not include all the needs in our district. A bond that addressed all the needs in our district would require a significant tax increase. It is important to note, however, that when major construction projects are being addressed with bond money, it frees up local capital dollars to address other needs throughout the district. Hence, every school and community benefits from a successful bond election.
This list of projects represents an aggressive construction plan. Because construction costs and interest rates are currently very low, the school board has concluded that this is an optimum time to address our growth and aging facilities. These are projects that will need to be addressed at some point. Delaying replacement and construction would likely result in a significant increase in overall cost.
During the months of April and May, I will be visiting each faculty to discuss the bond and answer any questions from our employees. Thank you for your remarkable support and extraordinary professionalism!
As we come to the conclusion of another school year, I wish to express my deepest appreciation to each of you for your tremendous efforts, which have contributed to a successful year. Every time I visit schools, I am overwhelmed by the remarkable dedication and professionalism of all Weber School District employees. Each of you makes a difference in the quality of educational experience that children have in our schools. Thank you!
I enjoy the poem by Marge Piercy called, “To Be of Use.” The poet begins with these lines:
“The people I love best jump into work head first…”
The poem goes on to describe people working together collaboratively who “harness themselves” to a task and then pull with “massive patience.” I love that phrase—massive patience. And, I know that sometimes our work requires just that—massive patience! Your efforts with young people who are learning to make good decisions and maturing in their personal development can be challenging at times. But, these same young people look to you as role models and examples. You are a stabilizing and anchoring influence in their lives. Think of the deep respect you have for memorable teachers in your past. That is precisely how our students feel about you!
Piercy’s poem concludes with a statement that people cry out to be engaged in “work that is real.” Without doubt, our work is real. You impact real lives in a very real way. As you conclude this school year and prepare for a summer break, please know how much you’re appreciated. With Highest Regards,
Choice in education is a widely popular concept in our society today. As we prepare to begin another school year, I am proud to be a part of a district that offers so many different choices for students and families. Weber School District provides a robust array of opportunities for students to enrich their educational experience. While it is impossible to list every academic or extracurricular opportunity available to students, I want to underscore a few. I encourage students to consider their personal interests and take advantage of the many options available in Weber School District.
As we begin another school year, we are excited to welcome over 31,000 students back to school. We are fortunate to have such dedicated teachers and administrators who work hard to ensure that our educational objectives are being met. We also appreciate the dedicated service of our amazing support professionals who work so diligently behind the scenes to create an environment conducive to teaching and learning. We extend our thanks to the patrons of Weber School District who supported passage of the $65 million bond last June which will enable the District to build new schools and renovate existing ones to assist with student growth. Following is a tentative timeline of school construction and projects made possible by the bond.
We will continue our work this school year with the Utah Core State Standards which includes college and career-readiness standards which have been incorporated in the K-12 standards. The Utah State Board of Education again gave permission for school districts to spend up to two school days for the purpose of training, planning, collaboration and application of the Utah Core Standards. We have identified October 26 and January 11 to implement these trainings.
We look forward to this school year and the opportunity we each have to make a difference in the lives of our students.
We have had a wonderful start to our school year. It always amazes me that on a certain day in August over 30,000 students begin a new year and it goes so efficiently. As a superintendency, we are truly grateful to all persons that make this happen. There are many unsung heroes and heroines behind the scenes in our educational world from bus drivers, maintenance workers, lunch room staff, secretaries, custodial staff, para-professionals, IT technicians/staff, other support staff, administrators and most importantly teachers. When one thinks about all the various components that go into a typical school day, it really is astounding.
We are especially appreciative and indebted to our great teachers. They are innovative, caring and devoted. They have the ability to create captivating atmosphere’s in which they instill dreams and goals for so many students.
When I was younger, I had an elementary teacher named Mrs. Kelly, she was from New York City. Her stories of that grand metropolis and especially Coney Island captivated me. From my desk in her classroom, I could hear the carnival sounds, the roar of ocean waves and taste the famous Coney Island hot dogs. She had a gift with words, a way of sparking my imagination and she instilled in me a desire for adventure. She was a teacher I will never forget.
This summer I found myself in New York City with my two daughters, who are also teachers. They had an endless list of ‘to dos” and “must sees” while we were there. My list was simple; I only had two requests; ride the subway to Coney Island and eat a hot dog on the boardwalk.
I am no longer that young girl sitting in Mrs. Kelly’s classroom, but her influence is still there. As we rode the subway out to Coney Island my thoughts drifted back to Mrs. Kelly and her stories. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and thankfulness for not only Mrs. Kelly, but for all of the teachers that go beyond their call of duty.
I don’t know where Mrs. Kelly’s path led her. She only taught one year at our school. I am certain she would be very surprised to know that I am mentioning her in this article and even more shocked that because of her I took the subway train out to Coney Island to consume a hot dog. It turned out to be a memorable day. Each of us has similar anecdotes regarding a teacher.
I wish that I could thank Mrs. Kelly for the adventures that she created for me. And in that sense of appreciation I would most sincerely and respectfully like to thank teachers everywhere for their positive contributions to our culture and society.
In order for students to learn most effectively, they must be engaged. When students are engaged in their own learning, they want to be in class and participate. Recently, a teacher of junior high-aged students posed the following question to her students, “What engages students in learning?” She received more than 200 enlightening responses. They included:
Since the 2002-03 school year, each one of the 28 elementary schools in Weber School District has had a full-time reading specialist. These specialists are experienced, licensed teachers who are required to have an additional Advanced Reading Endorsement. They are also required to continue to improve their knowledge and expertise through ongoing training and collaboration with other reading specialists throughout the District. Becky Okey, Elementary Reading Specialist directs these dedicated teachers and has done a marvelous job in successfully implementing this essential program.
The primary role of reading specialists in our district is to improve reading proficiency and support reaching the goal of having every child reading on or above grade level by the end of 3rd grade. They provide expert instruction, assessment, and leadership for our schools by working closely with students, teachers, staff and parents. While they focus on early literacy in grades K-3, they impact students at all grade levels. This provides a foundation for future learning in all grades and in all subject areas.
One of the roles of the reading specialists is to support early identification and treatment of reading difficulties. To accomplish this, the reading specialists oversee and administer individual assessments to every student in grades K-3 three times a year as well as ongoing assessments for students who are struggling with reading. At the beginning of this school year, over 9,000 students were assessed using Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) which measures basic early literary skills. They work closely with teachers to determine which students would benefit from additional intervention in reading. The reading specialists then work directly with those students who need intensive instruction by providing early reading intervention in small group settings. Additional staff members are trained and guided by reading specialists and are able to assist in providing support to more students as needed.
Since its inception, until the present time, DIBELS and Criterion Referenced Test (CRT) test assessments have shown marked improvement in reading proficiency. There is also a direct correlation of reading scores to math and science improvement in later grades.
Reading specialists work closely with teachers to support them in providing high quality reading instruction and ensuring student learning in the classroom. As a part of the school literacy team, the reading specialist work to build school capacity to problem solve, analyze data, make informed instructional decisions, motivate students and understand core curriculum. The dedication and devotion our reading specialists demonstrate for improving reading in our schools is amazing. Countless students’ lives have been changed for the better due to the hard work and efforts of these specialists.