Principal's Retirement Sets Off Chain Reaction of Change in Wasatch County School District
A single retirement triggered a number of administrative changes at the Wasatch County School District, which will go into effect July 1.
The retirement of a longtime Daniels Canyon elementary principal kicked off reassignments for 15 other district employees affecting all of the district’s schools. Superintendent Paul Sweat says some of the changes have been anticipated.
“In an organization, sometimes, something like that there's maybe some changes that were anticipated for the last year or two and this gave us an opportunity to disperse some, some renewal, in our schools and our school district and we're really excited about changes,” he said.
The district will still need to hire four assistant principals.
“Our entry level administrative position as an assistant principal and that's where we like to start folks and so we're just in the process of doing that,” Sweat said. “We have four assistant principal shifts open. We had a large number of very highly qualified candidates over 70 that applied. We interviewed a number of those in a first-round setting and we're just now ready to move on to our second round of interviews.
The school board met in a 5-hour retreat on Feb. 19. With two new board members as the result of last year’s election, Sweat says it was a good opportunity for board members to get to know each other and better understand the issues facing the district.
The biggest challenge, of course, is growth.
“The high school would be our biggest concern, our high school continues to grow and of course the COVID numbers this year,” Sweat said. “You know, it's made it a little more difficult to nail it down exactly, but we know that the growth continues here in our county there continues to be large scale subdivisions approved, almost, monthly.”
Meanwhile, the board will continue to master plan, but Sweat says it has no plans to put a bond on this year’s ballot even though they are running out of room in the schools.
“We need to move forward with providing more space for kids in our district and so I anticipate it will be sooner than later,” he said. “But not this year.”
As the district considers its future building needs – Sweat says they have learned that school buildings are needed for learning. While virtual learning works for some kids – it doesn’t for many.
“The largest problem we've ran into with online learning is some of the achievement gaps that we're concerned about with kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds, English language learners,” he said. “Our subgroups have not done well with online learning, and really all the way all the way through, it's, it's, some of our top end kids or high end kids will do just fine. But we, we know that we need our kids in school we need to be in front of them.”
He says staff members have continued to work through the vaccination process with nearly 80% almost fully inoculated. 20% of the staff, he says, have chosen not to be vaccinated. It’s a voluntary program he added and those working closely with children are not required to get a vaccination.
Sweat also says the board continues to work with the Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA) and is looking out for its own best interests to ensure it has the funding it needs to accommodate new growth. MIDA is in charge of building the new Mayflower Resort near Deer Valley on the Wasatch County side. It is using tax increment collections to finance the bonds to build the project and provide amenities to the other developments within the project area.
All of the increases in property value within the project area are used to pay off the bonds for the next 40 years. According to an Interlocal Agreement between MIDA and Wasatch County, MIDA will capture 75 percent of ONLY new growth revenue. Taxing entities, like the school district, will continue to receive the taxes based on the valuation of the raw land and on top of that, will receive their additional share of the remaining 25 percent.
“We're always concerned about things like that, but I think that it can end up being a positive for us in the end,” Sweat said.
Sweat told KPCW discussions with MIDA are ongoing.
**Story was edited on 3/5/21 to update new information from MIDA: An Interlocal Agreement between MIDA and the the Wasatch County means taxing entities will receive an additional 25% share of property tax as the proeprty within the MIDA project area increases in valuation.