Superintendent Messages

Superintendent Messages (82)

Monday, 02 March 2020 08:11

March 2020 Superintendency Message

A message from Assistant Superintendent Art Hansen:

In the fall of 2007, this year's Weber School District graduates entered their first kindergarten class. In just two months, these same students will be walking across the stage during their graduation commencement ceremonies. It has been our mission to provide them with educational experiences which motivate each student to become a lifelong learner, develop academic and personal potential, and to be prepared to enter the workforce with the necessary skills. Our focus has been on the whole child and ensuring that they have been safe, supported, engaged, and challenged throughout their journey.

In May of 2019, the Utah State Board of Education released a statewide model (Portrait of a Graduate), that identifies ideal characteristics of a Utah graduate after going through the K-12 system. They call it Utah Talent MAP. MAP stands for Mastery – the ability to demonstrate knowledge and skill proficiency; Autonomy – having self-confidence and motivation to think and act independently; and Purpose – guides life decisions, influences behavior, shapes goals, offers a sense of direction, and creates meaning. Board Member Laura Belnap stated, "The Portrait of a Graduate is about creating a holistic view of what we expect from students in Utah."

The Board has identified key characteristics that begin in the home and should be cultivated in our educational settings. A list of these characteristics can be found on their website. We welcome this whole-child approach following a time where testing and accountability seemed to be the focus, rather than a more child-centered approach. Through the testing and accountability model, Weber School District maintained its vision focusing on the whole child. We have called it the "Weber Way."

We look forward to celebrating with our Class of 2020 this May. They have demonstrated tremendous growth, and we are confident that they are ready to take the next step in contributing to the greater society.  

Saturday, 01 February 2020 08:41

February 2020 Superintendency Message

A message from Superintendent Jeff Stephens:

On March 4, 1895, exactly 125 years ago next month, a Constitutional Convention was assembled in Salt Lake City in preparation for the Utah Territory to officially become a state. The convention was composed of 107 delegates and lasted 66 days. The work of these delegates over the next two months was historic. The result was uniquely Utahn. One distinctive element of our Utah Constitution was a dedicated revenue stream to fund schools: "All revenue from a tax on income shall be used to support the systems of public and higher education" (See Utah Constitution Section XIII; Section 5). The framers of our state constitution recognized the great benefits of public and higher education—even guaranteeing an ongoing revenue source to perpetually fund schools.   

During the 2020 Legislative session, there is discussion about that constitutional guarantee for public and higher education. This has led me to review other early state documents. It's impressive to see the wisdom and forethought of those who helped lay the foundation for a society that we enjoy today. John Adams, for example, drafted the 1780 Constitution of Massachusetts. In that document, Adams highlighted the value of education by directing that public schools should be supported in every town and that a university should be established at Cambridge. Adams elaborated by saying, "Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties would depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education." John Adams knew the tremendous importance of both public and higher education!

A lesser known, but equally significant document was the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, opening the area which today represents Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. The person most responsible for not only drafting, but ensuring the successful passage of the Northwest Ordinance was Manasseh Cutler. In addition to a list of protected rights, the Northwest Ordinance added two critical elements—the prohibition of slavery and a guarantee for public education. When one considers that the Northwest Ordinance was written in 1787, that is quite extraordinary! Regarding public education, the Northwest Ordinance stated, "Knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, Schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Manasseh Cutler, like John Adams before him, placed a high value on education; however, he also recognized that education also played an essential role in our happiness.  

I hope as lawmakers contemplate constitutional language that has served Utah well for 125 years, they will approach the matter with equal wisdom, vision and foresight.

Wednesday, 01 January 2020 21:09

January 2020 Superintendency Message

A message from Assistant Superintendent Lori Rasmussen:

"Enter this new year with gratitude for this new chance to create your dreams." ― Avina Celeste  The New Year is always a time of hope and new beginnings. It is a time to reflect on last year and celebrate accomplishments, and a time to look forward to the new year. Many of us set goals or new year resolutions. As I was thinking about this upcoming year, I remembered a book I read, Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller. It is a story about choosing kindness and illustrates the fact that any act of kindness, big or small, makes a difference. As the narrative moves along, it gives many examples of kindness. Kindness could simply be giving, helping, listening, saying thank you, and on and on. With just a simple act of kindness, one person can start a kindness chain!

I have experienced some random acts of kindness that made my soul smile. I was driving to work and coming across the toll road on Adam's Avenue. As I pulled up to pay my fee, I was told that the car in front of me had already paid and wished me a happy day. The toll booth attendant told me that the "kindness chain" had continued for more than 100 cars that day. That simple act of kindness created by one person had made an impact on many. 

As we begin the new year, let's all remember that kindness matters. In today's world, children need to see kindness and civility modeled in their lives. One can never underestimate the impact they have on others. Maybe that one act of kindness will inspire someone to reach their goal, to make their dream come true. Those two little words, "be kind" could truly change the world. Happy New Year! May your year be full of strength, peace, love, happiness, and kindness.

Friday, 29 November 2019 15:59

December 2019 Superintendency Message

A message from Assistant Superintendent Art Hansen:

Serving Others

As we approach the holidays, it is a good time to reflect on the amazing efforts that our schools and the Weber School Foundation are making to enhance the lives of those who are in need. Not only do these efforts help our community, the concept of serving others is an important life skill for our students. As Booker T. Washington said, "Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others." We have a lot of happy students and educators who value service.  

Throughout the year, and especially during this time of year, our schools are teaming up with non-profit organizations to serve our community and beyond. They are gathering items and cash to be distributed to those in need in our community. Examples of service include: Shop with a Hero, food drives, toy drives, book drives, blanket drives, glove drives, cash and coin challenges, Quarters and Cans, giving/angel trees, benefit dinners, benefit dances, and visits to nursing and veterans' homes. These efforts are going on quietly behind the scenes in each of our schools.

Weber District schools have also been the beneficiaries of many wonderful individuals, community, and business organizations who have opened their hearts and wallets and have reached out to our schools to identify those in need--organizing drives within their organizations to give to our children.

This year, our Career and Technical Education (CTE) Student Organizations have declared 30 Days of Service. Our DECA, FBLA, FCCLA, FFA, HOSA, Skills USA, and Education Rising students are involved in providing service for individuals, families, and non-profit organizations.  

The Weber School Foundation sponsors the Christmas Tree Jubilee each year. Through the efforts of the WSD Foundation and all those who donate Christmas trees, decorated wreaths, and silent auction baskets, as well as those who attend the gala and jubilee each year, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised that directly benefit children in our area. This year's focus is twofold. Funds generated will go to providing sensory playgrounds for children with special needs and to help fund mental health efforts in each of our junior high schools and high schools through the Hope Squad program.  

It is indeed a time to celebrate the efforts of so many. We are grateful to know that there are so many individuals and groups out there who want to serve and give to those who are most at risk, not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year. Thank you for all you do!!!

Friday, 01 November 2019 12:30

November 2019 Superintendency Message

A message from Superintendent Jeff Stephens:

Several months ago, Weber School District hired Lillian Tsosie-Jensen as our equity director to assist in ensuring that every child in our school district experiences a bias-free, safe education. Lillian brings a wealth of experience, leadership and knowledge to this new role. We not only welcome Lillian, but as a school district look forward to working with her to create and maintain a learning environment free from inequity or injustice of any kind.  

Some have asked what our district's equity effort entails. Let me start by stating what it does not involve—any kind of political agenda! For many years, we have taken pride as a school district in focusing on the whole child. This means that we have resisted trends to narrow the curriculum by emphasizing only basic skills in two or three subjects. Rather, when we speak about the whole child, we stress our desire that every child enjoys a rich, comprehensive learning experience in our schools. Further, we want each student to feel safe and supported, and to be fully engaged in learning as they are challenged in ways that enable them to reach their highest potential.

As we strive toward achieving equity for every child, we can and should deepen our understanding of what it means for students to feel safe and supported at school. Often, when we speak of student safety, for example, we are referencing circumstances that might call into action our safety response protocol--in other words, ensuring students' physical safety. However, every child must also feel safe socially and emotionally in order to achieve at their highest level. Similarly, past references to supporting students may have implied academic or counseling support. As we put on our "equity lense," supporting students also means that we recognize and remove barriers that impede learning and achievement.  

Our district journey toward achieving greater equity for all students goes beyond merely studying different cultures. For instance, it would serve little purpose to study the culture of poverty (or race, religion, gender identity, etc.) and then not do anything about the impediments and hurdles that students of poverty face from day to day. Rather, we must better recognize when even subtle forms of bias or discrimination become obstacles in a child's path. Then, we can respond in appropriate and effective ways to remove those barriers so that they no longer impede growth and progress. Additionally, we want to empower each other, adult and student alike, to stand up against acts of bias, discrimination and injustice. Ultimately, our collective capacity to "stand up" to injustice will have the single greatest impact on creating and sustaining the kind of culture where every person thrives.  

In the end, this is about goodness and doing the right thing. I would hope, perhaps more than anything else, that every student (and their parents) would say of Weber School District, "It's a good place." That, to me, would truly reflect The Weber Way!

Tuesday, 01 October 2019 13:14

October 2019 Superintendency Message

A message from Assistant Superintendent Lori Rasmussen:

An Ordinary Day 

As we have been out reading in our schools, one couldn't help but notice the many dedicated people who work diligently to provide our students with a remarkable school experience. One wouldn't have to look far to see boundless amounts of work and service being rendered. In an ordinary day you might witness a maintenance worker repairing a drinking fountain, a custodian mowing the lawn, buses picking up and delivering our precious students,  and a student resource officer ensuring the safety of our students. As you walk into the school, the tremendous smell of lunch being prepared would waft through the air. One could hear the sounds of learning throughout the halls. One might hear a teacher's voice delivering a thoughtful lesson, students collaborating, a parent volunteer tutoring a child with reading, or the silence of students working on a project using their chromebooks. Add to this, the sight of a secretary comforting a student who doesn't feel well and a principal greeting students warmly in the hall. What a wonderful, ordinary day! As I reflected on the many visits to schools it occurred to me the enormity of daily effort  that goes into providing students with a quality education. You've heard the quote "It takes a village to raise a child." This African proverb  means that an entire community of people must interact with children in order for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. Our community epitomizes this concept. Weber District is honored to be part of a community where the whole child is valued. Where every Weber School District employee strives to ensure all students are safe, challenged, supported, and engaged. The fine efforts of employees, parents, and community members to move good forward in our district provides an extraordinary education for our students. Thanks to all! 

Speaking of a village. . . here are some numbers behind the story-

  • Weber School District was formally established in 1905
  • Weber School District is the 7th largest district out of 41 district's in the state
  • We currently have 45 schools
  • There are 33,000 K-12 students in Weber School District
  • There are 400 Preschool students
  • There are over 3600 employees
  • We serve over 18,300 meals daily
  • Buses pick up students at 6,693 bus stops daily
Sunday, 01 September 2019 22:01

September 2019 Superintendency Message

A message from Assistant Superintendent Art Hansen:

Last year, my first-grade granddaughter came home from school with a powerful message shared with her class by an inspired teacher. She told me, "Grandpa, you've gotta' dream big!" When I asked her what that meant; she told me that we can do great things if we dream big. I asked her what great things she would like to accomplish, and she shared with me several occupations she wanted to do and a dream to one day compete in the Olympics.  

I loved the sparkle in her eyes as she envisioned a future from the perspective of a six-year-old. Although it is likely that her dreams will change over time, I was encouraged that a person whom she respected encouraged her to think about what her future may hold, that the sky's the limit, and that she will have the chance to explore opportunities to discover her talents.  

It is my hope that every one of us can remember those in our lives who have encouraged us to try something we never would have dared attempt without their encouraging words -- the confidence they showed in us that enabled us to accomplish something we wouldn't have otherwise tried or dreamed we could do.    

That is why I love the education profession. It is filled with caring adults who want to give back and make a difference in the lives of their students. They all have a story of why they chose education as their career path. Most of those stories involve an influential teacher or staff member who had an impact on their lives. We have multiple opportunities every day to recognize the good in our students, to plant seeds that encourage the exploration of knowledge and opportunities that will guide their future.  

The words we use around all children are powerful…both for the positive or the negative. Let's work to sow the seeds of encouragement, sharing confidence-building messages. By helping our children develop skills and talents and by recognizing and reinforcing positive behaviors, every adult has the power to make a difference in the life of a child.  

Thursday, 01 August 2019 15:31

August 2019 Superintendency Message

A message from Superintendent Jeff Stephens:

Some parents shared with me a note they discovered from their 7-year-old son who was obviously doing some personal goal-setting prior to the start of school. This little boy had carefully written the following:

  • Goof ball switch – off!
  • Be nice to new friends.
  • Don't cry (unless you're hurt).
  • Be super awesome.
  • Have fun!

Now that's a bold set of goals! Back to school is a phrase that suggests shopping for clothes, buying supplies and making new friends. For many, the anticipation of attending a new school, meeting your teacher for the first time or taking a new class can generate not only excitement, but apprehension as well. Certainly, going back to school is reason for celebration because with it comes an opportunity to learn and grow.

One of my favorite Weber District 'beginning of school' traditions is visiting each elementary classroom with members of the district leadership team and reading to children, as well as distributing Superintendent's Summer Reading Awards to those students who have read 10 books or 1,000 pages during the summer. Typically, we give out about 5,000 awards each fall. The book that I'll read in classrooms this fall is What Do You Do With A Chance? By Kobi Yamada. This is the story of some remarkable chances and a child who doesn't know quite what to do with them. However, the more chances come around the more the child's fascination grows. And then, one day, a little courage makes all the difference!

I love the question posed in the title of the book—What do you do with a chance?  As we begin a new school year there are so many chances and opportunities that are within our grasp. For students, the chance to learn, to make new friends and to achieve personal goals. Parents can volunteer their time, participate on a community council and support their child's learning at home. Principals can connect to students, support teachers and school staff and advocate for their schools. For teachers, the opportunity to influence a child, to teach an important life lesson or to acquire a new teaching skill. As we start this new school year, each of us has extraordinary opportunities in front of us—chances to make a difference. The question is, 'What will we do with a chance?'

Wednesday, 01 May 2019 09:08

May 2019 Superintendency Message

A message from Superintendent Jeff Stephens:

Teacher and Student Success

The 2019 Utah Legislature passed Senate Bill 149, which created the Teacher and Student Success Program. Sponsored by Senator Ann Millner, the bill provides funds for local schools to support student performance and academic achievement. Money from a school's Teacher and Student Success Program can also be used for teacher professional development, school personnel stipends for taking on additional responsibility outside of a typical work assignment, or hiring of additional school employees, including counselors, social workers, mental health workers, tutors, media specialists, information technology specialists or behavior aides. Schools might opt to add technology or create before- and after-school programs (including summer school programs) that can increase student performance. Certainly, the money could be used for class size reduction efforts or the augmentation of existing programs. Funds cannot be used for district administration costs or capital expenditures.

While we don't yet have the exact figures for each school, it is anticipated that each school will receive approximately $100.00 per student. This is ongoing money, so the expectation is that schools will receive at least that amount every year. These funds, coupled with the annual trust lands money that flows to schools each year, make it possible to provide even greater levels of support to teachers and students—a truly remarkable thing! Principals will be asked to seek input from the school community council, teachers, parents and others in developing their school's Teacher and Student Success Plan. These plans will then be submitted to the local board of education for approval. As long as the school plan is aligned to the district TSSA framework, they will be approved by our local board.

This infusion of funding brings with it many exciting opportunities that will enable us to better support teachers and better serve students. We are most appreciative of Senator Millner's work and the entire Utah Legislature for their support of public education. I'm extremely optimistic thinking about what each school can accomplish with this new money. Although some questions remain during this first year of implementation, I have directed our principals to assertively move forward developing their Teacher and Student Success Plan. I encourage you to engage with your local principal in providing input for that plan.

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