I was planning on writing this message about New Year’s resolutions and other more light minded reading. However the horrific attack in Newtown, Connecticut has forced me to put that commentary on hold. It has literally taken days for me to put this in print as I am still trying to get a grasp in my mind as to what happened. This tragic event has left fear, worry, numbness and shockwaves across our country, our state and our community. I see the uneasiness and apprehension on so many faces as they ask “could something like that happen in our schools?” Although I cannot ease your worry, I can tell you that Weber School District works tirelessly to do everything within our control to keep children out of harm’s way. We recognize that we do not have the power to prevent horror in this world but we will do all possible to keep our students and schools safe.
It was no surprise to hear the stories of the Newtown educators, some of whom even gave their lives, to protect the students. Educators here would do no differently; there is absolutely no doubt in my mind. Our employees always go the extra mile to make safety our number one priority in all of our schools. While it’s almost impossible to foresee every random act of violence, we will continue to work to do everything within our power to maintain a safe and secure learning environment.
Our hearts go out to the families, friends and neighbors impacted by this terrible tragedy. It’s hard to imagine what they must be going through. I have been touched by the outpouring of love and caring given to the family of Emilie Parker. The pink ribbons that have surrounded our streets have been a constant reminder of the importance of community. I am thankful for our police, fire and emergency response professionals and all others who are charged with protecting and preserving our lives. For this and much more, I believe we are truly very blessed.
As always, we value the partnership we have with our local police departments as well as the Weber County Sheriff’s Department. Weber School District will continue to work closely with all local law enforcement to ensure our emergency plans are up to date, clear, easy to use and ready to be implemented instantaneously. We will continue to work with our School Resource Officers to review all of our safety protocols and procedures. We are continually reassessing our practices and we reaffirm our commitment to make certain we are doing everything conceivable to keep our children protected
Please feel free to contact any of our school administrators or counselors if you have concerns about a child or if parents need help in talking to their children about this difficult subject. We have several resources available.
In closing, I wish to thank you for your continued support and wish you the best for a safe, happy and healthy new year.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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,
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!
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.