Welcome to the latest Superintendent Snapshot. To submit a question, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to the latest snapshot. To submit a question, email it here.
Welcome to the latest snapshot. To submit a question, email it here.
Here is the latest superintendent snapshot recognizing the great efforts of local local enforcement in providing our students with wonderful crossing guards. The board will be formally recognizing crossing guards at the March board meeting. Please watch the video here.
I’ve had conversations with lots of you, and have heard from many more. I want to start by thanking our transportation folks, our custodians and maintenance folks, and everyone else who has pitched in to help with snow (teachers, secretaries, parents, volunteers, and on and on). I am struck again and again by what a powerful and amazing group of folks you are!
Many have asked what in the world I am thinking by not closing schools – I want to answer that question.
I came in from shoveling last night at about 11:00. I went out again this morning around 5:00. There on my driveway was my newspaper. My “newspaper boy” isn’t a kid on a bike or with the bag slung over his shoulders, it’s a guy who drives through the neighborhood delivering the papers. I wondered for a moment why he didn’t take the day off, but I know the answer – he knows we count on him.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we are newspaper carriers (although many of us have been!), but we are counted on at least as much as they are. There are some 68,000 students and more than twice that many parents, guardians and other interested folks, who count on us to be there – the same as we all count on mail carriers, police departments, municipal and county offices to do their parts. Not many years ago, we did cancel schools for snow. Perhaps you remember the backlash from those from all corners of the district whose children were left home without supervision (and for many in our district, breakfast and lunch). The backlash started up all over again a few months later when we reminded everyone in the spring that a make-up day would be held. I have reflected on that, and countless emails and telephone conversations the last couple of weeks – with many perspectives both critical and supportive. In that light, I’d like to share our protocol:
We receive reports both late and early about road conditions, transportation capability, and the status of our buildings. If the reports indicate that we can transport children safely, and our buildings can be opened and operated safely, then the public ought to be able to count on us. If reports are to the contrary, then we evaluate whether a late start would resolve the situation. If the answer is still no, then we will close the affected schools.
We clearly don’t control snow removal and road conditions in the neighborhoods our schools serve. Therefore we need to have (and we express) full confidence in parents to make the call whether conditions are such that their children can safely get to school through their neighborhoods, on sidewalks and across safe walking routes. I see this as quite similar to a parent deciding whether a child is too sick to attend school. We defer to their judgment. Consequently, if a parent believes conditions are not safe, then parents should not send their children at that time – and it is my expectation that schools will be understanding regarding tardiness and absences.
Some might say that a day with lots of snow, when many parents keep students home, will not be a very productive school day. I respectfully suggest from our experience that a make-up day in April will be neither particularly well attended nor educationally productive.
Again, I thank all of you for being who you are, and more specifically, for your amazing work and commitment to kids.
Question – Why are classified employees expected to pay for fingerprinting and for some of us…again? I had my fingerprints taken when I was first hired…and I’m pretty sure they haven’t changed. Also I am confused as to why it is $45. I’ve worked for and work for several employers that require yearly background checks and all I simply do is fill out a form and HR submits it, and I have NEVER been charged for it. Not only is it expensive, but it is being taken out around the holidays, and people are already struggling.
Response – Utah Rule (R277-516-4) requires that all classified employees and volunteers with significant unsupervised access to students must have a regular background check. We have determined to do this on the same five-year cycle as with licensed employees.
As you may be aware, teachers have been required to pay for their own fingerprinting costs for some time. Their cost is substantially more (currently $74) than the $45 charged to classified employees. This delivers an FBI background check to cover all 50 states, and is the best tool to protect students.
It is unfortunate that we needed to schedule fingerprinting around the holidays but it was necessary in order to print the numbers of classified employees Granite employs. We did not have the luxury to skip November, December and January – there were simply too many employees to print. Please know that we value your work and service to children.
The HR office has two fingerprint machines and employs additional help to accommodate the expanded requirement this year for fingerprinting. They currently print from 7:00 am to 3:45pm Monday through Friday.
Thanks to the HR Department for their assistance in responding to this question.
Question – There seems to be more blocked websites this year than in the past and I feel like it is hindering my teaching. I have submitted requests to the help desk to see if these sites can be unblocked and I have not received any response, and they have not been unblocked. The sites are very valid and useful educational websites.
Response – As a requirement to receive federal funds to help offset our district cost for internet connectivity to schools we are required to do internet content or web filtering. We also believe as a district it is in our best interest to protect our students from inappropriate content. To accomplish this we purchase a web filter along with the service from the company to categorize all the millions of web sites for us. We receive frequent updates automatically from the vendor on web sites as to their content on a subscription basis. The administration of the district has determined the categories the web filter provides us with of which to block. Obvious ones like Pornography are easy to categorize and block. There are some categories that are very broad in nature. Some of the web sites in these categories could be appropriate some not. We have been on the side of caution for those categories and blocked them. Two of the sites you mentioned are in that category those being the KQED and icebreaker. We did validate in our schools that they are blocked. We also checked the other two web sites at 3 separate schools and neither educemic nor YouTube were blocked at those sites. If you are still having problems at your site please contact your STS/LMETS or NE for help.
We understand that since we blocked a very general category that we need to make exceptions. Those exceptions should go through the Education Technology Department not information Systems and the help desk. ET is in charge of assessing the best tools to be used to deliver curriculum. They take under consideration the site that is asked to be opened and it’s educational value. Then they contact I.S. to ask them to allow the site. You should see in the near future a better method in requesting a site be allowed and or blocked in our schools.
Thanks to I.S. and Ed. Tech. for their help in responding to this question.
Question – As any good teacher, I realize and understand that movies cannot, and should not, be used to replace other teaching materials (textbooks, direct instruction, etc.). However, as an artistic person, I also realize that there can be great learning taking place while watching a movie with students. My understanding of district policy is that G-rated material is generally approved, so far as there is a curriculum connection. Any material that is PG or PG-13 needs a request to show form signed from the principal and parental permission for each student to view the content. Any R, X, or NC-17 material is strictly prohibited. As far as my understanding goes, this is a blanket statement for every classroom in the district, with no distinction between grade or school levels; elementary rules are the same as junior and senior high schools. I recently created what I think is a brilliant literacy activity that includes reading strategies, character development, compare/contrast, cause/effect, and persuasive writing all done by watching a movie made from a book that my students read. Wanting to follow proper channels, I looked up the policy, sent it to my principal, who then checked with her supervisor, and we were told we could not watch the movie in class. The reason we were given is because the supervisor felt that it was inappropriate to show PG material in an elementary school (5th grade, by the by).
My question, then, is three-fold: Is this really the district policy? Is the policy really the same for all grade levels? And, if this is the policy, then why, when I followed the correct procedure, was I not allowed to implement my brilliant lesson plan? I don’t want to ruffle feathers, make waves, nor get anyone mad at me, and I’m not just trying to get my own way (I’ve already made plans to show a different, if inferior, movie of the same book that is rated G, and adjusted the lesson plan accordingly), I only want to understand.
Response – First of all, thanks for planning engaging, relevant lessons! I’m confident you’re brilliant lesson plan isn’t to show movies as a reward or just for fun (Finding Nemo was on in a math classroom I visited recently, not quite sure how it fit into the curriculum) but that you’re teaching explicit learning objectives in a multisensory educational way. Different media and technologies present so many opportunities – please share what you’re doing with colleagues.
As far as movie use is concerned, you are correct, but let us flesh this out a bit. The district policy does not differentiate among elementary and secondary and the rules are the same for all. ANY movie shown (and it cannot be rented, you need proper licensure to show it – movies rented or bought at the store are typically licensed for home use only) must have an explicit instructional purpose and tie directly to concepts or objectives in the State Core Curriculum. Only G-rated movies can be selected unilaterally by the teacher. PG or PG-13 rated movies must be approved in writing (there’s a form attached to the policy) by the principal, and a parent permission slip (also a form attached to the policy) must be sent home with every student in the class. Obviously movies with ratings beyond PG-13 cannot be shown. Sounds like you have been working hard to create an engaging class activity. I hope this helps clarify the policy.
Thanks to the Teaching and Learning Department for their help in responding to this question.
Here is the latest superintendent snapshot on school safety. Please continue to submit your questions by clicking here. Have a great week!