Tuesday Night Notes on the Granite School District Town Hall

Granite School DistrictTuesday night was the Granite School District’s annual town hall. At least, I think it’s annual, since it finished with Superintendent Martin Bates telling us he would “See you next year!”

(If the rumors are true that Bates has put his application in for the state superintendent job, and if he gets that job, then we can probably expect that he will not see us next year.)

I was curious about how it would go down.  With my first child entering first grade this year, it was the first time I’ve attended (or heard about) a town hall held by Granite School District, the district we live in.  Usually, the town halls I attend tend to be political, often including angry voters, and I was hopeful to learn something about my district the people who run it.

I was not disappointed by the substance.

I was underwhelmed by community attendance.  In addition to four scouts and someones son (who plugged in a set of headphones and played video games on the iPad the duration of the meeting), there were six non-district adults in attendance. We were matched by an almost one to one ratio of Granite District employees/managers/school board members, including: Superintendent Bates, Granite School Board Member Dan Lofgren, Olympus High School Principal Steve Pershon, an unnamed Granite School District “development” employee, and Ben Horsley, District Communications Director.

Bates opened the meeting, welcoming us, and then asked for questions.

The first question was about what kind of advanced education planning was being done at Olympus. Schools tend to focus on one thing, said Bates. For example, Skyline has the international baccalaureate program, while Olympus has an engineering emphasis, which it partners on with the University of Utah. It’s difficult to offer too many programs. Also, Principal Pershon noted that Olympus has above average AP passage. There are about 1540 students at Olympus.

Next question asked was about the dual immersion programs. One parent had sent their child to Spring Lane and was pleased with the program so far, but wanted to know if it would expand into Olympus or Skyline. The program would expand if there is interest, said Bates. Pershon noted that Olympus shares a Chinese teacher with Cottonwood.

Asked: would ninth grade be moved from the junior high up to Olympus? Bates said there were no plans and had not even heard that there was interest. At this, two of the six adults in attendance raised their hands and expressed interest, and Bates said he was surprised. He explained that some other schools have started to make that change and explained some of the benefits. The main benefit seemed to be that students get serious about school earlier, a problem that east side schools haven’t traditionally faced. However, if there’s enough interest, the district will look into it.

More discussion about dual immersion programs. Bates explains that in schools that do it in order to grow their size tend to have more “growing pains” and struggle with the program (William Penn Elementary, for example) and schools that add it as an additional program, but are already full, tend to thrive (Spring Lane, for example). However, he notes that William Penn has turned the corner.

Question about the cost of a high school choir trip. Three minutes left in the meeting. It cost $400 for years, and then last  year went up to $420, and this year will cost $480. I wanted to ask her if she had noticed that the price of gas has gone up, and maybe that is contributing…but that would have been rude.

In the last thirty seconds Common Core rears its head. Bates gives a good explanation, but notes that the issue is up to the Utah Board of Education, not the school district.

And we’re done. Poorly attended. Interesting discussion.

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