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Board Meeting Report - February 6, 2024

The Board of Education of Salt Lake City School District (the Board) met on Tuesday, February 6, 2024. The meeting is available on the district’s YouTube channel.

Recognitions: Black History Month and National Board Certified Teachers

The Board recognized Black History Month and the significant accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our country, state, and city. The Board also recognized several teachers who have achieved or renewed their National Board Certification. National Board Certification is the most respected professional certification available in education and provides numerous benefits to teachers, students, and schools.

Newly Certified Teachers

  • Rebecca De Freitas, Northwest Middle School
  • Becca Hodgkinson, Escalante Elementary
  • Leigh Ann Jennings, Uintah Elementary

Renewed Certifications

  • Rebekah Hansen, West High School
  • Elise Maxwell, Bonneville Elementary
  • Sarah Nichols, MTSS Specialist
  • Michele Okubo, Hillside Middle School
  • Emily Petty, Rose Park Elementary
  • Matthew Teitter, Principal, Backman Elementary

Congratulations to these nine educators! Since 2006, the district has had 65 National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs), with 38 NBCTs currently active. That’s the highest number of NBCTs in any district in the state.

School Budget Allocations

A review of current and future school budget allocations was next on the agenda, and the Board reviewed allocations for this year and proposed allocations for next year. Business Administrator Alan Kearsley said this money is given to schools each year to use at the school’s discretion in support of student learning. He said next year, the money for the four elementary schools set to close at the end of this school year will be divided among other schools, based on the number of new students going to each school. (The funding will follow the students.)

Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) Update

Federal ESSER funds were established during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the money was given to schools to help support student learning during those difficult times. Mr. Kearsley said the last of these funds must be used by the end of September 2024. The district has approximately $7.6 million left in ESSER funds and will be able to meet that spending deadline. The district has used ESSER funds for things such as computers, increasing after-school and summer programs, and strengthening programs like special education. The district will determine next steps regarding employees who were hired using these funds. Mr. Kearsley said he and his team are working on that issue, and he will bring proposals to the Board soon.

Special Education Funding and Facilities Update

The district’s Special Education Department currently employs 460 employees, with 421 of those employees working directly with students. The department has 156 teachers, 238 paraeducators, and 27 speech and language pathologists.  Special Education Director Erin Anderson and Business Administrator Alan Kearsley shared with the Board charts showing historical department expenditures and students served. Expenditures per special education student were also compared to overall expenditures per pupil. Ms. Anderson said the needs of students the department is serving seem to be more severe. The district serves just under 2,500 special education students, and the overall department budget is about $25 million, with 95 percent of that money going to employee salaries and benefits.

Moving forward, Ms. Anderson says she is working on ideas to help maintain current staffing levels with the ending of ESSER funding, and she is excited to showcase the district’s new home for its SCORE program, located at Horizonte Instruction and Training Center. SCORE stands for Self-Advocacy, Community, Occupation, Recreation, and Education. The program strives to prepare students for the transition from school to adult life. SCORE’s goal is to support family and students beyond K-12 education, including vocational training, daily living skills, leisure, self-advocacy, communication, and community relationships.

Legislative Update

With about half of Utah’s legislative session left to go, there are already more than 400 bills that have been introduced. So, it’s a busy time for those who follow bills related to public education. Executive Director of Communication and Community Relations Yándary Chatwin highlighted 26 bills for the Board. Two of the bills have already passed and have been signed into law. One made changes to Utah law regarding which bathrooms transgender students are allowed to use in public buildings, and the second will change diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in schools and requires that all students be able to access student success resources. The Salt Lake City School District remains committed to supporting every student and to creating inclusive school environments for all.

The other bills dealt with everything from the budget and public education funding to school safety, teacher retention, and sensitive materials in schools. Changes in some of the bills and new bills are certain to happen as the Utah Legislature completes its 2024 session. We encourage our community members to remain informed about bills being considered and to reach out to their legislators regarding issues important to them. Information on all bills and legislative meetings (including video and audio recordings) can be found at https://le.utah.gov/.

School Closure Transition Activities Update

Since the Board’s vote in January to close four elementary schools and adjust boundaries at 14 other schools, there has been a flurry of activity to begin the process of creating new, welcoming school communities in our district. Superintendent Elizabeth Grant said much of the work during these first few weeks has focused on getting open enrollment information to families and having schools hold open houses to get information to new or interested families. The emails and notices to parents have been customized and personalized to speak directly to their different needs based on how the Board’s decision impacted them. The messages have been translated into the languages spoken by our families, and the information on our website can also be viewed in families’ language of choice.

Superintendent Grant also reported that the initial changes and placements for elementary school principals have been announced so families can know who their principals will be next year. Initial staffing assignments are also underway and should be complete by March 15, 2024. Families who have applied for open enrollment will hear back by March 15 whether their student has been accepted to a particular school.

Board and Board Leadership Evaluations

Board President Nate Salazar informed the Board that he is working to compile information and get some clarification regarding the Board evaluation and a possible meeting date for when the Board could meet to discuss the findings of the Utah School Board Association evaluation surveys. Board members suggested the meeting should be held separately from other regularly scheduled Board meetings to ensure there is ample time to discuss the survey results.

Board Calendar

Mr. Salazar reviewed some proposed changes to the Board calendar for this year and the 2024-25 school year.

  • Moving the March 5, 2024, meeting to Wednesday, March 6, 2024. This would allow board members and others to attend their neighborhood caucuses on Tuesday, March 5. We encourage all community members to participate in their respective neighborhood caucuses.
  • Moving the November 5, 2024, meeting, which falls on Election Day, to Wednesday November 6, 2024.
  • Canceling the meeting on August 20, 2024.

The Board voted to move these changes to the action agenda and subsequently approved them.

P-13: Administrative Procedures, Hiring

After approving a new policy, P-13: Hiring, a few months ago, the administrative procedures for that new policy have now been written, reviewed by the Board Policy Subcommittee, and brought to the Board for consideration. These administrative procedures outline requirements for job postings and recruitment, as well as responsibilities for hiring managers and job applicants. The procedures also refer directly to the written agreements between the district and various employee groups because those written agreements also contain specific hiring practices and requirements.

Board members suggested a few changes to the procedures. Those changes will be studied and included as appropriate, and then the administrative procedures will be brought before the board again in a future meeting.