Superintendent Messages

Superintendent Messages (61)

Monday, 29 February 2016 14:34

March Superintendency Message

In Support of Support!

Every morning between approximately 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. 31,325 students across Weber County walk out of doors and head out to school.  At school they are welcomed by the most caring, well-trained administrators and teachers in the country.

Getting our students to school and supporting them in their learning is an enormous task and behind the scenes there is an army of dedicated support personnel that makes the experience of school in Weber District an inviting, safe and enriching experience.  To get a feel of the value of the work provided by support staff it is good to consider exactly what they accomplish each day:

  • We have 119 secretaries and 684 aides in the district.  They provide everything from incredibly detailed financial and personnel accounting to smiles and comfort for students, parents and fellow employees who just might not be having the best of days.  They literally make every person in the school system’s experience better and more comfortable.
  • There are 20,549 meals served up by 257 food service workers every single school day.  Lunch is served, come rain or shine or even power outage, due to the expertise and dedication of our lunch personnel.
  • 11,622 students ride 142 buses driven by 142 drivers, 31 substitute drivers and aided by 46 bus assistants.  Our school buses traveled 1,786,408 miles last school year.  Transporting students safely and in comfort is a monumental task and it happens every day in the district due to excellent service.
  • On average 10,210 computer/technical requests for service are satisfied each year by our 41 technical support personnel.  The nature of educational delivery has become so technically dependent this is an extremely vital service….and it works every single day because of highly trained and even more highly dedicated technical support professionals!
  • 80 full-time custodians clean and prepare 50 school district buildings and facilities to educate students in comfort with an environment that is clean and inviting. Due to their outstanding care, Weber District has exceptional schools and training facilities.
  • Last year our 57 maintenance personnel serviced more that 5,500 work orders (repairs and upgrades to buildings).   Not included in that 5,500 are the multiple emergency calls they regularly receive and service. To average that number out and put it in perspective, that would mean that each maintenance worker would be responsible for completing nearly 100 projects a year!
  • Food, instructional materials, custodial supplies and furniture are delivered each day to schools by our Warehouse Team consisting of 7 employees.  They deliver 100,000 lbs. of supplies per day throughout the district which equates to over 4 million lbs. per year!

 

We are very grateful for the dedicated professionals that make up the Weber School District Classified Employees and Educational Support Staff.  They make the educational experience of our students one of opportunity and support for achievement.  Through a dedicated and persistent effort, these great Weber District personnel,make our children’s lives brighter!

 

 

Thursday, 28 January 2016 14:34

February Superintendency Message

Marked for Good -

In his book, Eight Habits of the Heart, noted entrepreneur and Pulitzer-nominated author, Clifton Taulbert, wrote about his childhood growing up on the Mississippi Delta.  Taulbert recalled, “High expectations were commonplace in our community.  They fueled our dreams.  They were bigger than all of us--collective dreams worked out individually.  The adults in our community told us daily that we were of value and that big things were expected of us.  Even now I feel compelled to do my best!  In spite of legal segregation, racism and poverty, they believed in their children.  Those foundational people took a giant leap into a world we could not yet see but one they knew awaited us.  They told us that we were ‘marked for good’ and we believed them.”

As educators, we serve in a role similar to the “foundational people” of Clifton Taulbert’s childhood. Think about those who helped build high expectations in your life.  It may have been a teacher, family member, coach or advisor.  In each case, it’s as though these key individuals were able to see something within us that we were not yet able to envision.  As a result, their words inspired and lifted us through periods of personal doubt and discouragement.  To this day, I still pay tribute to and honor those vital people who helped convince me that I was “marked for good.”

Recently, I received a note from a grateful mother whose son had been struggling in school.  “Then,” this mother states, “Mr. Newbold entered my son’s life.  He always speaks positive to my son and tells him that he can do math.  Mr. Newbold welcomed my son to come early and stay late to work with him until all homework was made up and he began passing tests.  More than giving my son a second chance, Mr. Newbold restored my son’s pride in his scholastic abilities.”  My favorite part of the letter is this unique closing, “My son keeps checking to make sure that I’ve sent this e-mail because he thinks Mr. Newbold is an ‘awesome dude and we should tell his boss.’”

Each fall, the PDK/Gallup Poll conducts a national survey to assess the public’s attitudes toward schools.  When asked in their latest poll to identify the most important measure of a school’s effectiveness, 81% of parents responded, “The percent of students who feel hopeful about their future.”  In other words, they want their children to understand and internalize that they’ve been “marked for good.”  I invite each of you to set young people’s sights on a world they may not have yet fully imagined.  Help them see their bright future and the contribution they can make to our community, country and world.  The generation of children in our schools today has definitely been “marked for good.”

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 14:34

December Superintendency Message

Giving to Make Others Lives Better

Each year Weber School Foundation kicks off the holiday season with its annual Christmas Tree Jubilee to raise money for special needs students in Weber County. Through the efforts of the foundation board and countless volunteers of all ages and walks of life, over $400,000.00 will be raised to increase educational opportunities and enhance the lives of special needs students. Educational adaptive devices, lifts and wheelchairs, adaptive playgrounds and equipment and many other devices are the types of items provided to those who desperately need them in order to attain educational and life goals. 

DecMessageDecMessage1

In addition to the Weber District Foundation’s great work, our schools actively participate in providing benefits for others where it is needed. Some of the great things our students, staff members and wonderful communities are doing for others this holiday season include:

  • Giving Tree- Counselors gather names from teachers and parents. Ornaments are then placed on trees listing desired gifts. Faculty and community members purchase gift items to be given to those in need.
  • Coats for Kids Drive, Food and Toy Drives, Mittens and Hats Drives.
  • Designated Item Drive- Students receive a calendar of the items to be collected on individual days (2 weeks). Items are collected.Counselors and administrators select items to be taken, anonymously, to families with children at the school.With the leftover items, needy families are encouraged to shop through them at the school.Extra items are then taken to the Christmas Box House.
  • Kash 4 kids, Sub for Santa, Quarters and Cans programs in our high school communities raise a great deal of money to help multiple families have a much happier holiday.


All of these efforts give our students the opportunity to serve others and to realize the satisfaction of helping fellow students and community members. Even in times when the economy has been a challenge, our great communities have always given of their means to the numerous charitable projects. We thank all for that great love, kindness and generosity and wish everyone a happy holiday season! 

Sunday, 01 November 2015 13:47

November Superintendency Message

By now, each school has received their 2015 SAGE results and had opportunities to carefully analyze the data. Out of 27 grades and subjects tested, Weber School District experienced growth in 24. District-wide, English Language Arts proficiency (grades 3 - 11) raised by 2%, Math (grades 3 - 11) by 5% and Science (grades 4 - 11/12) by 3%. Especially notable was the growth in high school mathematics performance from 2014 to 2015. Proficiency levels in Secondary Math I raised 15 percentage points and those in Secondary Math III raised by a commendable 25 percentage points. 

We're proud of that steady growth in student achievement and believe it is powered by our three primary drivers:

  1. Provide all students with a rich, comprehensive learning experience that meets the needs of the whole child;
  2. Empower and build capacity among teachers, counselors and administrators through highly effective professional learning and growth so they are able to more successfully impact student achievement; and,
  3. Ensure that all students have equal learning opportunities to achieve their full potential in schools where they are engaged, challenged and supported.

That broad, comprehensive learning experience can be illustrated by the following secondary school results:

  • Advanced Placement Participation - Increased from 936 students in 2014 to 1193 students in 2015.
  • Advanced Placement Tests Passed - Increased from 883 in 2014 to 1046 in 2015.
  • Concurrent Enrollment Courses Taken - Increased from 2049 in 2014 to 2374 in 2015.
  • District-wide ACT Composite Score - Increased from 19.0 in 2014 to 19.3 in 2015 (with increases in all four categories tested).
  • High School Graduation Rates - Increased from 77% in 2012 to 80% by 2014.

Our whole child focus is supported by such elementary programs as:

  • Four Dual-Immersion Elementary Schools.
  • Five Beverly Taylor Sorenson Fine Arts Schools.
  • Five STEM Elementary Schools.
  • P.E. Specialists in all 28 elementary schools.

We're proud of the many excellent opportunities provided for young people throughout our district. Further, we're convinced that Weber's whole child approach is the right thing to do for young people. With that said, we also recognize that we operate in a testing and accountability environment where our success is frequently judged by student performance on assessments. While our student achievement increased on SAGE tests this past year, Weber School District still lags behind the state average. Additionally, our graduation rate is slightly below the state average. We acknowledge that we have room for continued progress in these areas. 

Our great challenge is to sustain a whole child philosophy while demonstrating a greater awareness of the external expectations associated with the testing and accountability model. Across the country, some schools and districts have attained higher test scores at the expense of a full, rich and comprehensive learning experience for children. We're committed NOT to do that! Developing the organizational capacity to maintain the whole child experience and demonstrating a heightened awareness of the external expectations associated with the testing and accountability model is what I call THE WEBER WAY.

To achieve our goal, I would like each teacher to consider the following suggestions:

  1. Develop a renewed focus on teaching the Utah Core Standards;
  2. Allow all students to participate in interim SAGE assessments to familiarize them with testing formats and reduce testing anxiety; and, 
  3. Take advantage of more instructional time to teach for deep understanding (depth of knowledge) by spiraling the curriculum rather than extensive 3-5 week year-end reviews.

Teachers, as you meet together in PLCs, I invite you to talk about how you might incorporate one or two of these proposals into your classroom instruction. I believe that wise and thoughtful teachers can implement these suggestions without sacrificing that broad, rich learning experience we want for every student. In doing so, we're meeting the needs of children, as well as the external expectations of school success. And, we're doing it THE WEBER WAY!

I express my deepest appreciation to every member of the Weber School District family. Your enormous commitment to children is exceptional! You have my highest respect and admiration.

Thursday, 01 October 2015 08:17

October Superintendency Message

superintendency bitton

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge and Karin Hess’ Cognitive Rigor Matrix

This year, Weber School District has a professional development focus on Webb's Depth of Knowledge (DOK) and Karin Hess’ Cognitive Rigor Matrix (CRM). Webb’s DOK provides a vocabulary and a frame of reference when thinking about our students and how they engage with the content. The Hess CRM offers a common language to understand "rigor," or cognitive demand, in assessments, as well as curricular units, lessons, and tasks.

Webb developed four DOK levels that grow in cognitive complexity and provide educators a lens on creating more cognitively engaging and challenging tasks.

DOK Level 1: Recall and Reproduction
Recall of a fact, term, principle, concept, or perform a routine procedure Tasks at this level require recall of facts or rote application of simple procedures. The task does not require any cognitive effort beyond remembering the right response or formula.

DOK Level 2: Basic Application of Skills and Concepts
Use of information, conceptual knowledge, select appropriate procedures for a task, two or more steps with decision points along the way, routine problems applying 2+ concepts, organize/display data, interpret/use simple graphs

DOK Level 3: Strategic Thinking
Requires reasoning, developing a plan or sequence of steps to approach problem; requires some decision making and justification; abstract, complex, or non-routine; often more than one possible answer or approach

DOK Level 4: Extended Thinking
An original investigation or application to real world; requires time to research, problem solve, and process multiple conditions of the problem or task; OR non-routine manipulations, across disciplines/content areas/multiple sources
Source: Depth of Knowledge with Karin Hess

For classroom teachers, an important question is one of practice: how do we create rich environments where all students learn at a high level? One useful tool, Karin Hess’ Cognitive Rigor Matrix, can help teachers meet that challenge. Descriptors in the CRM provide educators a more sophisticated lens to systematically guide the creation of more cognitively engaging and challenging tasks. To access the desired Hess Cognitive Rigor Matrix click on the subject area below.

 

Math-Science  |  Reading  |  Writing/Speaking  |  Social Studies/Humanities  |  Fine Arts  |  World Language

Tuesday, 15 September 2015 08:17

September Superintendency Message

reidNewey

Choice and Opportunity

In an article published in the October 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review, when people in an experiment were shown two DVD players, 32% indicated they would buy one of the brands, while 34% said they would buy the other.  However, when subjects were shown a single DVD player, only about 10% said they would buy it.  According to the researcher, Daniel Mochon of Tulane University, retailers should bear in mind that consumers dislike having a single option. Even if they find a product appealing, they may be unwilling to buy it unless they can consider alternatives. 

In Weber School District it is our goal and vision to offer as much student and parent choice for education as possible.  Weber Innovation High School is part of that vision.  This fall, Weber Innovation High opened its doors offering secondary students in grades 9-12 an opportunity to personalize their education through a unique combination of digital curriculum, magnet programs, concurrent/college classes, IVC (interactive video conferencing) classes, and a focus on development of the natural artistic and creative nature of children.  Students move at their own educational pace without the limitations of traditional classroom pacing and are encouraged to pursue one of three pathways by their junior year:

  1. A full schedule of college coursework designed to satisfy the general education requirements of all state higher education institutions by the time they graduate from high school;
  2. A full time OWATC program that will result in certification in a current and dynamic employment area selected by the student; or,
  3. A significant student internship program carefully selected through collaboration through Weber School District Work-Based Learning personnel.

With the cost of post-secondary education looming as the nation’s next financial crisis, the more we can assist our students in earning college credit while in high school (at a much lower cost) the better.  Last school year alone, 2,283 WSD students earned 16,087 university credits!  One hundred seventy-two students attended the Ogden Weber ATC, 365 CTE (Career and Technical Education) pathways were completed and 113 students completed work-based learning internships.  All of these opportunities help create brighter futures for our students. Weber Innovation High provides one more choice to enhance the school district’s opportunities available to the young people attending school in Weber District.

Language Immersion, Advanced Placement and Concurrent Enrollment, Online Education, STEM Education, Weber Innovation High School, Early College, ATC Program Access, and Early Intervention Education are just some of the choices in education offered in Weber School District.  More choice leads to more opportunities for our students.

1   "Harvard Business Review 2013/8.Harvard ... - Ganino.com." 2014. 14 Sep. 2015 

 

Thursday, 13 August 2015 08:50

Back to School Superintendency Message

jeffstephensThe Heart of a Teacher

Someone once sarcastically said that the perfect school was the one where students haven’t yet arrived. I don’t believe it. I think the perfect school is the one where all of the children are present—with all of their issues, drama, attitudes, insights, passion and energy. So, as we begin this new school year I think we move closer to perfection as the students return! Now, add caring teachers, dedicated support professionals and inspired leaders and you have a place where astounding things are accomplished.

Many years ago, my wife and I attended a play at a local community theater in which one of my language arts students, Fantasia Darling, was playing the lead role in The Story of Helen Keller. Fantasia performed spectacularly and we were so proud of her. During the play, I was moved by the patience of Helen’s teacher—Anne Sullivan. Helen Keller was unruly, disobedient and an extremely reluctant learner. Through gentleness, patience and perseverance, Anne provided an environment that allowed Helen to trust her teacher enough to begin learning. Ultimately, Helen exceeded everyone’s expectations! Consider Helen Keller’s words, “The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Sullivan, came to me.”

What qualities did Anne Sullivan possess that permitted her to succeed with even the most difficult of students? Let me suggest five important traits that characterize Anne Sullivan--as well as every extraordinary teacher:

  1. Great teachers are patient. No matter how many mistakes the student makes or how many times one needs to explain, great teachers don’t become impatient. I’ve learned the remarkable thing about patience is that it benefits the one practicing it as much as the recipient of it.
  2. Great teachers are kind and show respect. The most memorable and influential teachers recognize the value and worth of each student. They demonstrate empathy in trying to understand their students’ perspective and treat each student respectfully.
  3. Great teachers are positive and smile. These teachers look for the best in others and their attitudes reflect that. They also smile! One teacher wrote, “A smile is an expression of love. A teacher touches a student’s heart through the magnetic touch of a smile.”
  4. Great teachers engage their students. Exceptional teachers stimulate creativity. They authentically challenge their students to reach their potential. Obtaining knowledge and understanding is not a passive process. Rather, it requires students to be active learners.
  5. Great teachers create a warm environment. Against the backdrop of a supportive environment, outstanding teachers encourage risk taking and accept developmental errors. They understand that learning is a process and that all students require support.

I love the poem, “The Heart of a Teacher.” The first two stanzas introduce a teacher with heart:

Heart of A Teacher
by Paula J. Fox

The child arrives like a mystery box
with puzzle pieces inside
some of the pieces are broken or missing
and others just seem to hide.

But the HEART of a teacher can sort them out
and help the child to see
the potential for greatness he has within
a picture of what he can be.

As we begin this new school year, I express sincere appreciation to every teacher, support professional and administrator for the quality of your heart and the influence you have on young people.

Friday, 01 May 2015 08:50

May Superintendency Message

jeffstephensDuring a celebration at one of our schools, a close friend and colleague presented me with a copy of The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life, by Parker J. Palmer. Although I had read the book nearly a decade ago, I decided to re-read it. I’m so glad I did! I was reminded that good teaching cannot be reduced to method and technique alone; rather, at its core good teaching originates from the identity and integrity of a quality teacher.

Good teaching comes in various forms but good teachers seem to share an important trait: they are truly present in the classroom, deeply engaged with their students and the subject they teach. The very best teachers bring their personality, along with their narrative and passion, into the classroom. On the other hand, less effective teachers tend to distance themselves from students and their subjects. It's resisting this urge to distance ourselves that requires massive courage. Palmer writes,

"As good teachers weave the fabric that joins them with students and subjects, the heart is the loom on which the threads are tied, the tension is held, and the fabric is stretched tight. Small wonder, then, that teaching tugs at the heart, opens the heart, even breaks the heart -- and the more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be. The courage to teach is the courage to keep one's heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that teacher and students can be woven into the fabric of community that learning, and living, requires."

Weber School District is filled with extraordinary teachers who exemplify great courage (by Parker Palmer’s definition) every day! Because of that, educators have tremendous influence on the lives of young people. There is no more noble achievement than that -- to positively impact others. Our entire district team of teachers, support professionals and administrators show great heart each day by inspiring students toward greatness and I want each of you to know how much I appreciate your commitment to children and your professionalism in your work. It is, simply put, "The Weber Way!" Because of your heroic efforts, we mark another successful school year!

Wednesday, 01 April 2015 08:50

April Superintendency Message

lexpufferRecently, I came across this article from the NEA Journal that was written by James A. Smith from the State University College in Oswego New York. It is a true story....unfortunately. 

THE AWFUL BEGINNING

I looked across the desk at my big girl. She'd come for help in planning her semester schedule.

"Look," I said, "you have some electives. Why don't you take a course or two for fun? You've worked hard and really should take something outside your major that will be pleasurable."

"Like what?" she asked. 

My eyes scanned the college schedule of courses. "Like Dr. Mann's Creative Writing or Dr. Camp's Painting for Beginners or something like that."

She threw her head back and laughed. "Who, me? Paint or write? Good grief, Dad, you ought to know better than that!"

"And this," I thought, "is the awful ending."

It was not always like this. I remember an early golden September day when I went to my garage studio and gathered together my easel, paintbrushes, and watercolors. I sensed someone was watching me and looked up from my activities to see her framed in silhouette in the doorway. The breeze and the sun tiptoed in the gold of her curls. Her wide blue eyes asked the question, "Whatcha doin'?"

"I'm going to the meadow to paint." I said. "Want to come along?"

"Oh, yes." She bounced on her toes in anticipation.

"Well, go tell Mummy and get your paints."

She was all but returned in no time carrying the caddy I had made to hold her jars of paint and her assortment of brushes.

"Paper?" she asked.

"Yes, I have plenty of paper. Let's go."

She ran down the hill before me, pushing aside the long, soft grasses of the meadow. I watched closely for the fear of losing her golden top in the tops of the goldenrod. She found a deserted meadowlark's nest and we stopped to wonder at it. A rabbit scurried from under our feet. Around us yellow daisies and goldenrod nodded in friendly greeting. Above, the sky was an infinite blue. Beyond the meadow, the lake slapped itself to match the blue of the sky.

On the lake, a single white sailboat tipped joyously in the breeze. My daughter looked up and saw it.

"Here!" she said.

Trusting her wisdom as I always did, I set up our easels. While I deliberated over choice of subject and color, she had no such problem. She painted with abandonment and concentration and I left her alone asking no questions, making no suggestions, simply recognizing uncontaminated creative drive at work.

Before I had really begun, she pulled a painting off her easel.

"There!" she said. "Want to see?" I nodded.

I cannot describe the sense of wonder that flooded over me as I viewed her work. It was all there -- that golden September day. She had captured the sunlight in her spilled yellows, the lake in her choppy, uneven strokes of blue, the trees in her long, fresh strokes of green. And through it all, there was a sense of scudding ships and the joyousness of wind that I experience when I sail, the tilting and swaying of the deck, the pitching of the mast. It was a beautiful and wondrous thing and I envied her ability to interpret so honestly, so uninhibitedly, so freshly.

"Are you going to give it a name?" I suggested.

"Yep! Sailboats!" she responded, as she taped another sheet of paper to the easel. There wasn't even a single sailboat in the picture.

She began school the following week. One dreary November day she came into my study with a sheet of paper in her hand.

"Daddy," she asked, "Will you help me draw a sailboat?"

"Me? Help you draw a sailboat?" My eyes turned to the wall where her golden September painting hung in a frame I had made for it.

"Me? Help you draw a picture of a sailboat? Why, sweetheart, I could never paint a picture like the one over there. Why don't you paint one of your own?"

Her blue eyes looked troubled.

"But, Daddy, Miss Ellis doesn't like my kind of painting."

She held up her sheet of paper in the middle of which was a dittoed triangle. 

"Miss Ellis wants us to make a sailboat out of this."

And that was the awful beginning!

Creativity can be defined as breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way. It's being able to problem solve in a novel way. We all want our children to be creative. But sometimes as parents, we unknowingly place frequent limits on our children that actually train them to think inside the box. May I suggest a few key points to help our children develop their own measure of creativity. 

  1. Neatness is over-rated. Often, children are afraid to get their hands dirty because they live by too many rules. When children only focus on neatness, they become less creative.
  2. Focus on the process, not the product. Allow children to receive praise for being engaged in the process, not how quickly they can come up with the product.
  3. Provide the resources they need for creative expression. The best resources we can provide is time and space for imaginative, child-directed and unstructured play. 
  4. Find creative opportunities that do not entail academic or performance pressure. Children's interests, not what their parents want them to do, should drive the choices.
  5. Ideas and creations can be flawed. The freedom to experiment, to make mistakes, and to try again is important in fostering a creative spirit. Children should not have to compromise their originality in an effort to meet someone else's expectations.

Lex Puffer
Assistant Superintendent

 

References

Smith, J. A. (1972). The Awful Beginning. Today's Education, 61, 4-56.

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