Ephraim students are ‘Wild about Books’ for Readasaurus birthday


By Lauren Evans




Pajama-clad students, some whose PJs, pillows or blankets that had jungle themes, rack up reading minutes during the 38th Readasaurus birthday celebration. The theme this year was “Wild about Books.”

Every year Ephraim Elementary celebrates the mascot’s birthday with a party and a day of reading.

This year, the party theme was “Wild about Books” jungle theme. The students came to school in either jungle animal costumes or pajamas to read. The tradition was started 38 years ago by former principal Jim Peterson. He had the idea of creating the dinosaur mascot who loved to read.

While celebrating, the students are given a reading goal to complete throughout the day for a reward. This year, the students had to complete at least 3,630 minutes of reading all together.

To help reach their goal, Ephraim Elementary invited guest readers to visit each of the classes. Ms. Ephraim was the first guest to stop by and read to students in their classes.

Ephraim Elementary principal Gannon Jones was decorated as a banana split in celebration of the students meeting their reading goal.

Then groups of students from Snow College and Manti High School read to the students in each of their classes. The last group of guest readers was a group of Snow College athletes who joined each of the classes in the school library to talk to the students and autograph their new books given to them by the school.

To meet their reading goal, students would read in their classes and every fifteen minutes they could hit a gong signifying one step closer to their goal. The gong hits throughout the day were tallied up to be 288 hits. The tallies were added up to be 4,320 minutes which surpassed the school’s goal completely.

As a reward for meeting and passing the school’s goal, the students had the opportunity to turn their principal Gannon Jones into a banana split. Bananas, ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and cherries were dumped on a plastic-wrapped Mr. Jones who happily accepted the punishment.

District warns of dangers of social media ‘challenges’




MT. PLEASANT—The North Sanpete School District (NSSD) is advising parents to be aware of a social media “challenge” that attempts to manipulate children into questionable acts through threats and bullying.

In a warning sent to parents on Monday, Jan. 14, the NSSD said the “Momo Challenge” was a malicious scam that targets children through video games, social media, WhatsApp and other online software. According to the warning, the challenge has already been linked to at least one suicide.

The Momo Challenge communications begin with a chat message asking a youth to perform a small task, which gravitates to more problematic tasks such as self-inflicted harm.

The Momo Challenge instigator (often portrayed with a grotesque avatar) asks for photos to prove the task has been completed.

If children or teens refuse to perform the tasks, the online avatar threatens to leak personal information, leaves disturbing messages, makes threats and sends violent images.

“We strongly encourage parents and guardians to have conversations with their children, as we are currently engaged with our teachers, counselors and administrators,” the notice from the district states.

“We encourage parents and guardians to remain highly engaged in monitoring their children’s use of social media, websites and video games for material that could be harmful to kids.”

Students encouraged to use imaginations in district-wide Innovation Week Feb. 4-8


By Lauren Evans




The South Sanpete School District is encouraging students to create, learn and share ideas outside of the box at its first annual Innovation Week.

Superintendent Kent Larsen observed similar events in other schools before bringing it to the district technology team.

District technology director Nadean Nielson-DeMill says the purpose of the activity is to show students how technology can be incorporated in whatever project and passion they choose to pursue.

“They don’t necessarily have to create an app to use technology,” she says. “It can be used when writing a song or building something in shop class. Technology is really more for assistance.”

During the week, students will be asked to think of a topic they want to learn more about and create a project to demonstrate what they have discovered.

For the first year of this week-long event, some projects will be guided by teachers and done in teams depending on grade level. Projects in higher grades will be completely solo.

The event will run Monday, Feb. 4 through Friday, Feb. 8. The projects will be on display at schools at the end of the week.

Prizes may be given to students and teachers based on creativity.

A flier promoting the week says, “Encourage your students to start exploring. The sky is the limit!”

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Paul Gottfredson, South Sanpete School District administrator, swears in (L-R): David Warren, re-elected board member, Gary Olson as vice-president and Mark Olson as president of the school board for the coming school year.

High school music programs get capital infusion for new equipment


By Lloyd Call




MANTI—Both Manti High School and Gunnison Valley High School music programs are getting a boost following a board-approved allocation of $20,000 each for new equipment.

Brian Sullivan, a Manti High music teacher, explained that percussion students were forced to share equipment, such as having two students using the same keyboard.

Manti High will use their new allocation for some much-needed percussion instruments. The board also approved the same amount for the Gunnison music program. Both music programs received high praise from the board. “I love to come to games because the school bands add so much to the atmosphere; they’re all really good,” said board member David Warren.

Sullivan also thanked the board for the new remodeling of the Manti High music rooms. “It’s really a wonderful space,” he said. “More students continue to sign up, and they are progressing and really enjoying their musical programs.”

The upgrades for both schools will be finished in about a week when the final elements of the sound systems will be installed.

District administrator Paul Gottfredson also presented the yearly audit for the board to review. “We’re basically half-way through the year, and the district has spent $15.8 million of its total $40.2 million budget, and the district has received $15.3 million of its revenues. We are right on schedule, and the budget looks good,” he said.

District Superintendent Kent Larsen said the district was launching a first annual “District Innovation Week” Feb. 4-8, encouraging teachers and students to be creative. Prizes will be awarded as students design, build, craft, construct, write, draw, invent and explore.

Jason Strate, representing the Central Utah Education Services (CUES), presented the annual report of services to the board. He reviewed several programs CUES offers the seven school districts it serves, and focused on a recent $240,000 grant to train rural teachers to help them receive certification in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Five teachers from the South Sanpete School District are currently being trained, with more to follow.

He also reported on computer and data storage services that CUES provides. Since the district has issued around 3,000 iPads to students, it was noted that most of the repairs to those iPads were for cracked fronts. Nadean Nielson-DeMill, district technology director, noted that among schools where students had a strong sense of responsibility for their iPads, there were less broken screens.

“Most of the screen damage is in higher school grades,” Nielson-Demill said. “Most of the elementary students are very careful with their iPads.” She did feel that overall students took very good care of their iPads.

Superintendent Larsen went over the early legislative budget projections for 2019. “Most predictions are for record surpluses for the state, but it remains to be seen how much of that windfall will come to education,” he said. “If the governor’s plan for education holds, education will do well next year, but of course the rest of the legislature will make changes. We’ll just have to see how things actually go.”

Finally, the board reviewed policies on curriculum requirements, human sexuality curriculum, vehicle purchases, at-risk student definitions and board elections before closing the open meeting and going into executive session.

The next board meeting will be Feb. 12 at 3:30 p.m. in the Ephraim Middle School.

Ephraim author sharing his experiences with young people


By Lauren Evans




Reed Thomas

EPHRAIM—As a teacher in Sanpete County, Reed Thomas never imagined his 37 year teaching career would result in writing two books. His unique experience with students inspired him to write about how they changed each other’s lives, and now he’s sharing his stories with the students of Utah and Oklahoma.

After graduating from North Sanpete High School, Reed Thomas went on to earn a Bachelor’s at Utah State University and a Master’s degree at Northern Arizona University. He worked as an educator in California and Nevada until returning to Utah.

Thomas was asked to return to North Sanpete High School to teach in 1975. The school had a group of students struggling to finish school or find motivation. When discussing his decision to return to Sanpete County, Thomas said, “I was a disengaged student myself in high school, but a caring adult became my role model and turned my life around. I wanted to be that person for these students.” His goal was to help change the lives of unmotivated students that were heading in the wrong direction with their school careers. His solution was a high school rodeo team.

Thomas worked with students and the rodeo team, nicknamed the Sidekicks, for years at the high school. The program not only motivated students to pass their classes, but it also encouraged them to change their lives.

It was these students who inspired Thomas to write his first book, Sidekicks. The book is a collection of stories about life lessons these students learned under the guidance of Thomas.

Sidekicks was published in July 2016 after three years of writing. Shortly after the book’s publication, Reed Thomas was approached by a young man. Thomas didn’t immediately recognize the man, but after a brief introduction the young man told Thomas that he saved his life as a young boy. Because of Thomas’s influence, the young man had decided against taking his own life. This confession struck Thomas into inspiration of writing another book.

Thomas’s second book, Sidekicks Challenger: 21 Life-Changing Challenges to Empower Teens, written in collaboration with Nadine Matis, is an interactive extension on the lessons learned by the sidekicks. This book is also the guideline for Thomas’s new school presentation material.

With two successful books under his belt, Thomas is now planning on taking these tips on the road for teens. Thomas will be traveling to schools in Utah and Oklahoma to present Tips for Teens, his 45 minutes motivational presentation. The presentation will be to present teens with 7 of Thomas’s 21 life-changing challenges to empower them.

Thomas is also hoping to collaborate with local schools to use his books as a fundraiser for clubs and activities. “I’ve had some golden years being retired from being an educator, but now I have this urge to go back in, so that’s what I’m doing,” he said.

Thomas’s first presentation with be at a local school in Sanpete county this Friday. He will continue to tour Utah and Oklahoma this spring.


The award winning drama department at the North Sanpete High School will be performing the smash-hit musical Newsies next week at the school.

North Sanpete to perform ‘Newsies’ starting Jan. 16

Newspaper carriers sing out in fight for their rights [Read more…]

Solar power saves school district $68,672


By Robert Green




Three North Sanpete County schools running primarily on solar power for the past six months have saved the school district $68,672, according to Superintendent Sam Ray.

The energy savings were reported by a representative of energy contractor Siemens at the November North Sanpete School Board meeting.

The district has partnered with Siemens and the Rocky Mountain Power Blue Sky program to build solar arrays at the North Sanpete Middle School, Moroni Elementary and Fountain Green Elementary.

All three systems are designed to utilize energy conservation devices and net metering, where unused generated solar power can be fed into the power grid to offset costs.

However, by far the biggest savings comes from the schools generating their own electricity and not having to buy as much power from the utility company, Ray said.

All three schools are meeting a target of generating 80 percent of their electricity, Ray said.

And in the summer months, when school is out but he sun is beating down in full force, the school district can sell the excess energy it generates back to Rocky Mountain Power, Ray said. This provides additional savings and will help the district pay off the bond it took off to finance energy upgrades.

A performance review of the three schools by Siemens from April to Septembers show most operations are expected to exceed the cost savings Siemens guaranteed when it designed the systems.”

The solar panels at Fountain Green Elementary were not working at full capacity during this period due to trip breaker problems; and solar production at Fountain Green was slightly short of expectations, but the situation is being resolved, and more savings should be realized in the future, Ray said.

The solar arrays at North Sanpete Middle School and Moroni Elementary were producing energy consistently during this time frame.

Superintendent Ray is proud of the district’s decision to go solar.

“Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Power Blue Sky program we were able to make this whole project possible and put up all these solar panels,” Ray said. “It will help us generate revenue to pay off our bond. It actually helped us to get the financing at the best possible terms.”

In early 2017 Ray and others were looking at ways to upgrade their antiquated heating systems. Many of the schools had converted old coal fired boilers into natural gas, and they were beyond repair, Ray said. The district also didn’t have any funds for new furnaces and while they were looking for funding options, they came across the Rocky Mountain Blue Sky program.

The district received a $576,224 Blue Sky grant to build the solar array at the middle school and secured a low interest bond to fund other energy improvements.

To see a video on the district’s new solar program, go to http://nsanpete.org. There is also an interesting website people can visit to check out each school’s power production. It is www.sunnyportal.com. Click on the tab “publicly available PV systems” and type in the city of the school to be monitored.

School district looks at programs that protect and help children at risk


By Lloyd Call




Ellen Aste, new early education liaison for both the North and South Sanpete school districts, will be responsible for helping children find adequate preschool services.

MANTI—Mark Olson will be the new president of the South Sanpete School Board next year, replacing Kim Pickett, with Grant Hansen acting as vice-president.

At their monthly board meeting Wednesday, Nov. 12, the board got a detailed report on the Children’s Justice Center (CJC) from director Diane Keeler, who also requested the school district appoint a school district representative to serve on the CJC board of directors.

Keeler explained the Justice Center’s role in advocating for children who suffer from abuse. “One problem in the past is that a child who has been abused has to go through a traumatic series of interviews with many different agencies,” she said.

Now, regardless of whether the Division of Family Services, law enforcement, or any other agency launches an investigation, the child only has one interview with a skilled interviewer at the Justice Center.

The goal is to change the procedure an abused child goes through during the investigation process.

The Children’s Justice Center literature says, “The Children’s Justice Center(CJC) is a homelike facility, which serves children and families who are experiencing the crisis and chaos that comes with the disclosure of significant physical or sexual abuse of a child.
“The center is designed to help children feel safe and comfortable so that they may begin to deal with the difficult and often frightening issues that surround abuse. The focus and function of the CJC is to reduce the trauma of the child abuse investigation and help the child feel safe to reveal the truth.”

Another organization also addressed the board. Kyle Parry, who represents the “Community That Cares” program said the focus of this program is to target students who are struggling with attendance and are at risk. A team of volunteers conducts home visits and one-on-one counseling with the students.

“We are working with as many as 50 students per school,” Parry said. He also asked for a representative from the school district to serve on that organization’s board of directors.

The board also reviewed results from a previous board work meeting on suicide prevention strategies and confirmed that the best of those resources would be implemented district-wide.

The board also saw the SAGE results from the Ephraim Middle School. The results were slow coming in from the state, but show steady improvement over the years. The middle school’s scores are above state averages (see accompanying chart).

Ellen Aste has been named the new early education liaison for both North and South Sanpete Sanpete School Districts. This is a new position funded for one year by a grant received under the guidance of the Sanpete County Inter-Generational Poverty Committee. The goal is to provide preschool services for low income children in Sanpete County.

Aste will be responsible for developing an action plan with districts and families to help children find and connect with adequate preschool services and be prepared for kindergarten.

Finally, the district noted that two Sanpete schools were named as Fall Sports Academic Champions. The honors went to Gunnison Valley High School in football and boys’ golf, and to Manti High School in girls’ tennis.



Fountain Green Elementary teachers Darcie Stansfield (left) and Tori Larsen teach third and fourth grades collaboratively with Nicole Hansen (not pictured) through what is called “professional learning communities” (PLCs). They say the method enables them to “look at our students as a team” and to understand them not just academically, but behaviorally and socially as well.

Fountain Green Elementary finds success with Professional Learning Communities


By James Tilson




FOUNTAIN GREEN—“Professional learning communities” (PLCs), which enable teachers to work as a team, have put Fountain Green Elementary and other North Sanpete School District schools at the leading edge of teaching methods.

The idea is to get teachers, who may teach in different classrooms, to work as a team in identifying student needs and sharing ideas about how to help children progress.

At Fountain Green Elementary, the PLC’s are set up by grade level. Grades K-2, Grades 3-4 and Grades 5-6 are each taught by three teachers. Each specializes within the group and helps others in the team with their lessons. The teachers meet  once a week to do a data review, a performance review and a progress review on students. Once a year, the teachers do a behavior review as well.

According to principal (and sixth grade teacher) Robyn Cox, PLC’s help teachers to look at students in-depth, “not just academically, but behaviorally (and) socially, seeing what we can do to help them.”

Cox explains team teaching allows a teacher to specialize and become an expert within her specific field. It also requires team members to work together and compare notes on each student. Team members learn from one another, gaining new viewpoints and experiences.

Teams also observe other classrooms within the district to see what’s working for other teachers. “The only way to get real growth is if you’re part of a community, instead of isolated by yourself,” Cox says.

Fountain Green Elementary began using PLC’s after attending a training session four or five years ago in Las Vegas sponsored by Solution Tree, a company that creates educational materials and provides teacher training.

According to Cox, PLC’s have been used for years in the business world, but Solution Tree was the first to apply those methods to education. North Sanpete decided to use the method district-wide.

At the same time, Utah began an initiative called “Assessment to Achievement” or A2A. A2A also focuses on team-teaching methods, using both PLC’s and collaborative teaching. Today, the teams are found not only at different grade levels within the same school, but there are also school-wide teams and even district teams.

“We’re probably ahead of the game,” Cox says. “It’s empowering. Our teachers can look at their own data and approaches to say ‘Here’s where we need to change.’”

Darcie Stansfield, a third and fourth grade teacher, explains how her PLC uses collaboration to teach students “meta-cognitive lessons,” in other words, teaching students to think about how they think.

“The kids naturally just want the answers, but they won’t learn anything that way. We ask them big questions and make them use their own thoughts to get the answers.”

Stansfield says that not only do the students grow, but so do the teachers. “This has been a huge ‘ah-ha’ learning experience for us.” She says that by watching each other, all the teachers have grown. And at the same time, the students are recognizing their “meta-cognition.” Each piece is building on the others.

Tori Larsen, also a third and fourth grade teacher and one of Stansfield’s team members, specializes in math within her PLC. But “I don’t just worry about their math,” she says. “We [the team members] can see all of their progress, and compare notes and data. The teachers can look over each other’s work, make suggestions from different perspectives, and help each other.”

Nicole Hansen, the third team member with Stansfield and Larsen, emphasizes how the team aspect provides support. “I absolutely love it. In my nine years of teaching, this is the most support I’ve ever had.”

Hansen says that her team helps keep her away from negative feelings. “We build each other up through the week. Also, we help each other with new insights and bounce ideas off each other to come up with even better solutions.”

Stansfield says that getting students to think has proved to be more fun for the students. “The students feel there is more fun, and not as much pressure. They participate, and think, and connect their lessons to things they already know. It helps them with retention, too.”

Hansen points to the a theme her PLC is using this year. Stansfield, Larsen and Hansen always remind their students to keep a “Growth Mindset,” to continue learning even if they don’t know the answer right away. They tell their students “I don’t know the answer…yet!”

Schools evaluate suicide prevention strategies

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Principal tells school board about STEM program


By Robert Stevens




In Corby Briggs’ (center) North Sanpete Middle School class, students use advanced technology such as the 3D printers (seen here) to build the school’s Green Power race car and learn drone flight concepts, among other high-tech skills. They also learn more traditional shop skills such as engine mechanics.

MORONI—North Sanpete Middle School (NSMS) is helping students prepare for a future career in technology or engineering.

During the North Sanpete School Board (NSSD) meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20, NSMS Principal O’Dee Hansen reported to the board and to Dr. Sam Ray, district superintendent, on the school’s strong emphasis on STEM education.

“As a former middle school technology education teacher, I am excited with the career and technical education provided by NSMS,” Ray told the Messenger.  “We have fine career and technical educators at NSMS who provide amazing opportunities for their students to stimulate future career preparation. We are clearly preparing students for their future, not our past.”

Hansen’s report served to reinforce Ray’s statement.

As a One-to-One school, NSMS issues an iPad to every student, and the devices are used to complement education in most subjects. But other exciting technology is being implemented there as well.

Corby Briggs has been teaching at the school for 16 years. Although he is still teaching traditional skills, a visit to his class reveals a myriad of technology and engineering opportunities for students.

Alongside 15 different specialized STEM learning stations, Briggs has multiple 3D printers and CNC (computer numerically controlled) machines for use in conjunction with computer-aided drafting.

Students design their own creations (cell phone cases are popular) and generate them via 3D printing.

North Sanpete Middle School students in Carey Ivory’s class tinker with robotics and learn to code in her after-school program dedicated to the tech skills.

Hansen says many students have proudly taken home their creations, and the levels of intricacy in some of them have been impressive.

Briggs’ two-level classroom is also home to the school’s electric race car. Students designed and built the car; they have raced it on the school’s track and have competed in races against schools all over the state. The car took sixth place in its most recent race.

Briggs also teaches about flight technology, including drones and drone safety. The unmanned aircraft continue to increase in popularity for recreational and commercial use. As with other STEM equipment, the school gives kids a taste of the concepts to wet their appetite for more as they move on to high school and college.

“Middle school is an exploratory period in education,” Hansen says. “By the time they get here, they’ve gotten a strong basis of fundamentals from elementary school, and we want to provide them with a taste of what is to come in the future.”

He adds, “We are creating an environment to prepare our students for the 21st Century workplace.”

Elsewhere in the school, other STEM concepts are being taught.

Carey Ivory runs an after-school program that teaches coding and robotics. Students choose to participate outside school hours and during school flex time.

“They love to come in here and tinker,” Ivory says. “I’ve been to some workshops, but a lot of it has been providing the opportunity and telling them, ‘Let’s learn this together.’”

Hansen says some of the kids who have tried their hand at coding immediately displayed interest in the highly marketable skill.

Other tech-related education is in the works at NSMS. With a grant from Rocky Mountain Power, the school is the site of one of the largest Blue Sky solar energy projects in the company’s catchment area. Solar panels outside the building meet nearly 80 percent of the school’s energy needs.

Hansen says he wants to use the school’s solar system to educate students about renewable energy and allow them to collect and analyze solar energy data.

The school is also planning to install a real-time, digital stock market ticker for use in a business class, where students will be given “play money” and required to invest it as they see fit and see how their investments create returns or losses.

Hansen says the funding for some of these programs and classes has come from Gear Up (a federal program created to help prepare students for future education and careers) and from the State and Institutional Lands Trust Fund. Gear Up gave the school a $90,000 grant, while the school received approximately $60,000 from trust lands.

He hopes the school can continue to offer more STEM opportunities to students hungry to learn.

Manti High financial literacy students: Melissa Seely, Miranda Slusser, Peyton Tapp, Jentry Young, Cari Carmody, Avie Eichelberger, Vivianne Leers, Russell Christianson, Gavin Patterson, Dakota Peterson, Adian Larsen, Carlos Marroquin, Connor Bushnell.

Financial literacy students celebrate 10th anniversary of program at Zions

By Lauren Evans

Staff writer



MANTI—This year is the 10th anniversary of the state requirement that students take a financial literacy course in order to graduate from high school, and state data suggest the course has had a positive impact.

Manti High School students in Devin Shakespear’s financial literacy class marked the occasion on Tuesday, Nov. 20 with birthday cake and a serving of financial wisdom delivered by David Warren, branch manager of the Zions Bank Manti Branch and a member of the South Sanpete School Board.

An October 2018 report from the Utah State Auditor showed high school graduates took a financial literacy course have better financial knowledge and make smarter financial choices than graduates who never took such a course, generally people who graduated before the course was required

Utahns who graduated high school after 2008, when financial education became a requirement, also fared better on the personal finance survey than peers in neighboring states.

“As a nation, we often talk about the state of Americans’ finances in terms of negative news and the many ways people are falling short,” Warren said. “It’s a pleasure to recognize these students and the progress we are making in Utah by celebrating this 10-year milestone in financial literacy.”

Each year, more than 40,000 Utah students take the class and learn skills they will use as adults. The half-credit financial literacy course, designed for junior and seniors, covers topics such as saving, spending, budgeting and investment strategies.

In general, Americans struggle to save. Fifty-five percent of Utahns and 57 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in a savings account, according to a 2017 GOBankingRates survey.

But U.S. teens exhibit some promising financial behaviors. A 2017 TD Ameritrade report found that more than half of teens (56 percent) have started saving money and more than 40 percent of teens (43 percent) follow a budget.

According to Zions Bank, parents can reinforce money lessons at home by taking these simple steps:

First, look over your child’s paystub and help them understand taxes, withholding and gross pay verses take-home pay. If your teen isn’t currently employed, find ways for them to take part in family budgeting and financial decisions.

Second, encourage your teen to open a bank account and set aside savings each month.

Finally, parents should model healthy financial behavior. Studies show that kids tend to mimic their parents’ spending and savings habits, for better or for worse.

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