South Sanpete school board impressed
with student leadership in Manti
By Lloyd Call
Apr. 26, 2018
MANTI—The South Sanpete School District got a real treat at their monthly board meeting last Wednesday when two smartly-dressed students—a second and fifth grader—conducted a tour of Manti Elementary.
Kenlee Carlisle, second grade, and Kyan Mickelson, fifth grade, showed off artwork on walls, the Sweet Victories Board, the Greatest Leaders Board, the Lighthouse team and explained school programs, as well as achieving their own leadership goals. “I wasn’t this sharp when I was in elementary school, Board President Kim Pickett quipped. “I was lucky if I could tie my shoes at that age.”
Principal Karen Soper was beaming after the tour. “Students know what they know and they are empowered,” she said.
Manti Elementary is recognized as a “Leader in Me” school. Students are taught leadership and life skills based on “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
District Superintendent Kent Larsen said, “schools that build strong cultures over a few years also show an increase in test results, by as much as 20 percent.”
Paul Gottfredson, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, told the board that the bid deadline had to be extended for the district’s summer projects because only one company had submitted a bid. “It’s a catch-22,” he said, “when the economy is great, like it is now, companies are committed to lots of other projects, and it’s hard to find competition. When the economy is bad, we had lots of contractors hungry for work, so we got lots of bids.”
Board members then shared what they had learned at the recent National School Board Association, held recently in San Antonio, Texas. Gary Olson commented on classes that examined charter vs. public schools. In Arizona, for example, about 35 percent of students attend charter schools. Surveys asked teachers and parents why they sent their children to charter schools. The survey said teachers felt more appreciated, and likewise, parents felt better treated in charter schools.
“We do have our work cut out for us,” board member Olson said. “I believe we do a very good job in our communities, but there are always ways we can improve.”
Board member Mark Olson attended lectures on different kinds of schools. “Our district doors and principals’ doors are open all the time,” he said. He also wondered if trade classes offered in one school could be extended to students from another school. “What if we had a Manti High student who wanted to attend a trade class being taught in Gunnison?” he asked.
District Superintendent Kent Larsen talked about personalized learning, as well as school security. “We feel good about keeping up with law enforcement officers locally,” he said, “but the FBI wants to conduct a training exercise sometime after school is out to fine-tune our cooperation with law enforcement.” He also said he had talked to Gov. Gary Herbert, who likes what we are doing in our rural schools, and wants to continue follow-up meetings on school security.
Board member David Warren learned about student mental health issues. “In school incidents, such as the Florida shootings, it is obvious that when students have mental health problems, it can expand far beyond themselves,” he said. “Most students with mental health problems just want to belong, and knowing that is a root cause can give us concrete things to address.”
Board member Grant Stevens discussed legal liabilities that schools face, such as “do we have a have a trans-gender policy?” Larsen said the district did have a policy, but had not yet faced that issue, although, he said, “Undoubtedly we will face it one day.”
Mark Anderson, who is the CTE coordinator for several school districts, discussed how career pathways are being refined for students who want to focus on a career early enough in schooling to take relevant classes in high school, as well as college. Utah’s “Talent Ready Effort” aims to help high-school students select pathways they are interested in and then coordinate efforts with higher education.
“For example, Snow instructors in one field really don’t know who their counterparts are in high schools; and vice-versa, high school teachers don’t usually connect with secondary teachers. If they connected better, high school teachers could better prepare students for related college courses,” he said.
Finally, the last goal is to engage community and industry partnerships to make sure pathways are relevant. “If a student can come out of education with certifications in certain fields, that should make them more attractive to industry and business needs,” he said.