Town Hall Meeting Questions and Answers
For the past several weeks, Salt Lake City School District Superintendent Dr. Timothy Gadson has hosted a series of town hall meetings during his Superintendent’s Listening and Learning Tour. This tour consisted of seven meetings, one in each Board of Education precinct.
In the meetings, Dr. Gadson and his staff answered questions and concerns from those in attendance. The questions and answers are available below and are posted in the order the meetings were held. The questions are posted as they were submitted.
- Precinct 6 - Clayton Middle School
- Precinct 1 - Northwest Middle School
- Precinct 7 - Hillside Middle School
- Precinct 5 - Liberty Elementary
- Precinct 3 - Washington Elementary
- Precinct 4 - SLCSE-Bryant
- Precinct 2 - Glendale Middle School
Are you concerned with the outflow of students from SLC School District to private or suburban schools? If so, what is your plan to combat it?
We are concerned about the declining enrollment in our district and know that we must take immediate and innovative action to reverse this trend and stabilize our enrollment. The superintendent sent over 6,000 letters to families that have left our district in the last three years inviting them back. From the many replies to the superintendent’s invitation, reasons for leaving can be categorized in three ways, loss of trust, waiting to see what this year holds, academic programming not currently offered in Salt Lake City School District. We are working to rebuild trust through transparency and listening. Likewise, we are working hard to prove to those watching that we are on the right path and we are their best choice. Lastly, we are reviewing our academic programs and making necessary improvements and enhancements to expand access and studying where our families have enrolled their children so that we can replicate that programing in our district.
Talk to us about the Second Step Program in the Social Emotional Learning. I hear that Jordan School District and Canyons put a pause on it due to inappropriate content.
Second Step is one of several programs we use to teach Social Emotional Learning. Others include Move This World and Inner Explorer. Second Step has removed any third-party links or resources that were concerning to families. The content in all our SEL curricula focuses on:
- Recognizing and managing emotions based on individual families’ definitions of emotions and values—we invite students to explore what different emotions look like to them.
- Getting to know our classmates and ourselves.
- Setting and achieving goals.
- Discussing responsible and safe decisions.
Other districts have paused the SEL program we are using in our district. Are we looking into this? How are we ensuring families are in support of what is being taught in the program and what students are being exposed to?
Social and Emotional Learning is a Salt Lake City School District board priority. Most of our SEL programs have parent portals that families with students currently utilizing the curriculum can access. We are working on getting demonstration log-ins for parents interested in learning more but whose students are not using the programs at this time.
What are you doing about safety at East High? How are you addressing the fights that are going on there?
Resorting to violence is never acceptable. Each school has written standards for student behavior expectations, including self-discipline, citizenship, civic skills, and social skills. East High School staff has adopted and continues to enforce rules and standards that address each area mentioned previously. EHS administrators follow due process procedures when attending to all student incidents. Disciplinary consequences based upon the severity of the incident are administered to students that violate the school’s behavioral expectations. In cases where a threat is made outside of school, or an act of violence happens as a result of a school-related incident, we encourage students or parents to report the matter to the EHS administration directly or through Safe UT ( https://safeut.med.utah.edu/)
How are ESSER funds being used to support students?
ESSER funds are used to purchase PPE and sanitization supplies, fund summer school, credit recovery, and after-school programs, technology to support remote learning, contact tracing, mental health services, and the Salt Lake City Virtual Elementary School. We continue to use ESSER funds to address the needs of our students as we continue to analyze and learn more about the effects the pandemic has had on their educational experience.
With enrollment down and projections of closing schools in the future, will you still move forward with plans to build a new district building?
The decrease in student enrollment does not affect the need for a new district office building. The current district office building is the only district building that has not received a seismic upgrade. We will continue with plans to construct the new building.
It is very dangerous to have our children under the desk in case of an earthquake. Have you checked the triangle of life? The desk is just to identify who was there.
The Salt Lake City School District has upgraded all schools with seismic protections. Our schools are the safest in the state. District officials collaborated with Fire and Police officials on emergency procedures. The most significant risk of injury during an earthquake is falling objects. As a result, the procedure is for all occupants to get under a desk or table, hold on during the event, then exit the building.
What can we do for children with dyslexia? I know of at least three families from our elementary school because there aren’t any programs for their children and their dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a form of reading disability. Salt Lake City School District offers interventions and services to students with all forms of reading disabilities, including dyslexia. K-3 teachers are currently receiving highly specialized training in strategies for reading, known as LETRS. LETRS training has specific strategies for supporting students who struggle with dyslexia. Contact your local school to find out what interventions are provided for students that struggle in reading. If your child has participated in interventions and you feel more is needed, contact your school principal regarding the process for possible eligibility for a 504 plan or Individual Education Plan.
In the Salt Lake City School District, we are constantly working to meet the needs of all students as they learn. There are many reading difficulties students may experience as they are learning to read, including dyslexia. Our core reading program provides support for students identified as reading below grade level for any reason. We also use Lexia reading programs to provide appropriate practice, support, and enrichment.
We provide professional development for teachers to implement our core program, Wonders, and Lexia with fidelity. As stated above, all district K-3 teachers, and most 4-6 teachers, are currently attending the LETRS training for reading instruction development.
How will you provide equity and access by pushing everyone to a higher level of achievement rather than pushing everyone to the middle?
Teachers are constantly working to help students succeed from where they are. All students have different learning needs, and teachers identify those needs and plan instruction to move all students forward from where they are. Classrooms are provided with resources to help all students experience rigor and challenge and develop needed skills to finish learning that may have previously been missed. By providing equitable access to high-level courses for all students, we help them expand their learning and academic success
When there are 3 district high schools, please explain why 2 have the IB program and one does not.
The International Baccalaureate program is a large undertaking for any school. There are fewer than a dozen programs in public schools throughout Utah; Salt Lake City School District is fortunate to have programs in two of our high schools. The two schools that have the programs, Highland and West voted in their shared governance councils to dedicate teacher time and finances to support these programs. East High voted to move forward with the AP Capstone program, which provides students with another learning opportunity that colleges and universities recognize. Both of these programs are prestigious; they provide challenging experiences for all students. Because our schools have open enrollment, students can participate in any program through the Open Enrollment process.
Are you teaching Critical Race Theory?
We do not teach Critical Race Theory in any Salt Lake City School District school.
What planning is being put in place to ensure the proposed cluster NELP “naturally” are fed to ELP/Honors classes in middle school and high school that the current ELP/NELP facilitates wonderfully for our non ELP but NELP students?
At this time, the district is not implementing a cluster model for students in neighborhood ELP programs. We will continue to explore evidence-based paths that will increase access to services for gifted students in grades 1-3 and for identification and access of students in our under-represented groups. Our goal is to have students in our Honors, AP, and IB programs mirror the populations of our schools, and we want all students to view themselves as learners who can achieve academically in all areas of learning.
On your Organization chart, shown at Tuesday’s Board Meeting, why is Special Education a sub department that is grouped with Communications and the Community Education department, etc. but not grouped with departments like Leadership and Performance and Teaching and Learning and on?
The Special Education is a department in the division of Educational Equity and Student Support. That division head, cabinet member, reports directly to the Associate Superintendent and, consequently, the Superintendent of Schools. Special education staff collaborates with general education staff regardless of reporting structure defined on an organization chart. All district department staff understand their interdependence and partner to ensure we are all putting students first.
How are our students with disabilities, especially our more complex kids with intellectual delays going to access GenEd classrooms in a meaningful way, which they have every right to as per IDEA in regard to FAPE in their LRE which is GenED first? How does the organizational structure honor Endrew F. that was a unanimous decision out of the supreme court that says our students with disabilities have the right to ambitious and meaningful education? Separate is not equal, as per Brown vs the Board of Education. Separating Special Education from our Teaching & Learning as well as our Leadership and Performance does not break down the perceived notion of our students with disabilities being less than worthy of our a “world class education” the rest of our kids get access to; all it does is emphasize that they are “those” kids who will be “dealt” with by Special Education vs naturally and meaningfully being integrated in the GenEd class.
Special education students are always general education students first. A student’s special education status is not intended to take the place of a student’s general education status or participation in the general education classroom to the maximum extent appropriate. Instead, special education is an add-on to help ensure student success. There are special education students in every class, in every building across the district. Every teacher teaches special education students regardless of the content they teach. Our board has passed an inclusion resolution that supports this idea. It supports our students’ rights to an ambitious, inclusive, and meaningful education.
What can be done to stop outrageous inequalities in the district?
In Salt Lake City School District, we focus on equity, meeting every student where they are, and providing quality and effective instruction to give each student the best opportunity to succeed. Utilizing a data-informed decision-making process, we provide appropriate intervention and enrichment learning experiences for students relative to need. Further, we fund schools according to students’ needs (e.g., Title I, Comprehensive Support and Improvement Funds, etc.). We invest money in developing the skills and knowledge of our teachers. Likewise, we have provided funding to offer quality early childhood education programming, and we partner with Head Start.
Additionally, we provide afterschool tutorials and credit recovery opportunities for students. Lastly, we amplify students’ voices by allowing them to share feedback that will help improve their experiences in our schools. The aforementioned is a limited number of purposeful actions to eliminate inequalities across all of our schools.
Manipulation in student drop-out rates (especially applied towards students of racial minorities).
Our dropout rate is calculated consistently with federal reporting guidelines, including identifying summer dropouts. The annual dropout rate represents the percentage of students in grades nine through twelve who dropped out during a given school year. The annual dropout rate differs from a Cohort Dropout Rate, calculated based on the year a student is supposed to graduate according to when they entered ninth grade. Nevertheless, we don’t manipulate either dropout rate. The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) uses a statewide system where Utah students are assigned a unique student ID number or Student Identifier to track each student’s enrollment and withdrawal from school accurately. Student withdrawal from school or dropout is reported to USBE annually, and dropout rates are monitored.
Is it possible that we can talk about outrageous corruption in the district? There are many people that create obstruction to make an appointment.
We encourage anyone who has evidence of corruption in our school district to report it to the superintendent or a member of the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education. In response to the statement that “There are many people that create obstruction to make an appointment.” This was a specific concern that was addressed with the individual that submitted this statement.
District 1 schools lack Special Ed inclusion teacher support. Our child regressed last year! He needs one on one instruction, especially in Math. Another mother said, a para walks her autistic son up and down the hall. His teacher told her he isn’t able to sit still for instructions. Are we hiring additional paras who can assist in the class?
We are very mindful of students’ individual needs, and our teachers write individualized goals based on data they gather about how students are doing at the current time. Students have a variety of academic and behavior needs that both certified teachers and paraprofessionals meet. Our district is working to hire the appropriate number of personnel to meet the needs of the students we have in our classrooms. Some classrooms, and students, have more needs than others, and we assign staffing according to those needs.
If at any time, you feel you would like to discuss your student’s educational needs, you can request an IEP meeting. This is your right as a parent of a child with an IEP.
SPED gaining and retaining not only SPED teachers but their assistants.
The district's Human Resources team works to recruit and retain qualified Special Education teachers and assistants. In the last two years, the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education has approved $1.00/hour raises for all paraeducator positions in the district to help with these efforts. Additionally, all new teachers receive extensive mentoring and support through the District’s Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) program for new educators and ongoing support from Special Education specialists and consultants.
My family learned that there is not an ELP Westside District Parent Committee member. How can we recruit 2 for the 2021-2022 school year to represent District 1?
The ELP Advisory Council is a parent organization. The district ELP department is represented and attends their meetings, but the council writes the bylaws that list the voting members. The members serve a term of up to three years: one parent and one teacher from four neighborhood elementary programs and two neighborhood middle school programs. These representatives are selected by the ELP Supervisor and rotated through different schools every three years to ensure representation from school throughout the district.
Our teachers have limited resources in Indigenous Native studies. Are we searching for new updated info for 2021 “Indigenous History Month” for November? This includes all grade levels.
District teachers are supported in developing and sharing resources about indigenous native studies by integrating authentic resources and documents in social studies lessons and including books (informational and fiction) in their library learning centers. We continue to support our teachers in developing their learning and knowledge of Indigenous People and other underrepresented groups in our curriculum.
What are your plans to address the learning loss experienced by students in the last 2 years?
Nationally and internationally, the pandemic has resulted in many students experiencing unfinished learning at all grade levels. Our teachers use various tools to determine what unfinished learning our students are demonstrating, including assessments at the beginning, middle, and end of the year to monitor how students’ learning is progressing. We also have assessments to help us determine what skills students need more support to learn so they can continue to learn on grade level. As a result, teachers can focus instruction on students’ immediate learning needs.
We also provided a summer school program in 2021 and will offer it again in 2022 to support students in continuing their learning throughout the summer. Schools reached out to students and families identified as needing interventions; nevertheless, all families were invited to attend.
My daughter may be dyslexic, it seems like the district does a great job of Special Ed- but that’s not what she needs- what services does the district offer to help my daughter?
There are many reading difficulties students may experience as they are learning to read, including dyslexia. Our core reading program provides support for students identified as reading below grade level for any reason. We also use Lexia reading programs to provide appropriate practice, support, and enrichment.
We provide professional development for teachers to implement our core program, Wonders, and Lexia with fidelity. All district K-3 teachers, and most 4-6 teachers, are currently attending the LETRS training for reading instruction development.