Superintendent's Newsletter - August 17, 2021
Dear Salt Lake City School District families and community,
I want to share some exciting news to kick off the August newsletter. I am thrilled to announce the hiring of our new Associate Superintendent, Dr. Gwendolyn Johnson-White. Dr. Johnson-White is a dedicated education professional with more than 30 years of experience. She spent her K-12 years in the public schools in the Palm Beach County School District and earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Nova Southeastern University. She earned a Master of Education from Florida Atlantic University in Guidance & Counseling, an Educational Specialist degree in Administration and Supervision, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University, respectively. Dr. Johnson-White is looking forward to working with all stakeholders; the superintendent, board, principals, staff, students, parents, and community in the Salt Lake City School District to improve academic achievement for our students.
As I sit here thinking about what message I want to share, the voice in my head reminds me to continue to think about the children. I am thinking about our children, and I am working hard to be the superintendent they need me to be at this time and in this moment. No matter our individual beliefs, I implore you to remain focused on the children in our village. They need us; they count on us to work together, communicate with one another respectfully, and advocate for them to receive an educational experience that is second to none.
The work I do as superintendent on behalf of our children is not easy, but I have committed to doing it because it is the work I love. Know that my decisions, while not always popular or supported by everyone, are always informed and made with the best interest of our children in mind.
As we near the start of school, I hope to count on you and your support to make this year a great year for our students. Navigating the third school year touched by a pandemic will not be easy. But this pandemic will not define us. It will not limit us, nor will it stop us from making every effort to provide as much “normal” as possible for our children. Safety is a paramount priority of ours. Would you please help us ensure all of our children are safe? It takes a village to ensure our children can thrive in the healthiest learning environment that we can provide. It takes all of us working together, doing what is right for all children collectively, that will make a difference in the end.
I stand firmly on a promise to lead our district into greatness. Salt Lake City School District will become a world-class district. Will you join me? Our children are worth it!
Timothy Gadson, III, Ph.D.
Salt Lake City School District
Back to School Fair
Please join us on Friday, August 20, for our districtwide Back to School Fair! This is a chance for you to learn about districtwide programs, services, and resources. It’ll also give me a chance to meet many of you in person, which I’m looking forward to immensely.
The Back to School Fair will be a fun activity for your children too, with music, food trucks, free drawings for prizes, and more. We are also partnering with the Salt Lake County Health Department to host a free COVID-19 vaccination clinic during the fair. The vaccines are free and are open to anyone in the community, age 12 and older.
The fair will be held on the field behind Glendale Middle School, Friday, August 20, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. More details are available on the district website.
As we finalize our plans for the 2021–22 school year, we have put together COVID-19 mitigation recommendations that will be in place in our schools for the 2021-22 school year. In summary,
- The district encourages all individuals age 12 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The use of face coverings is strongly recommended and encouraged for Salt Lake City School District employees, students, and visitors while indoors or while riding a school bus.
- The district strongly encourages visitors and parents to wear masks when inside our schools and to schedule appointments, if possible.
Detailed information about our COVID-19 Mitigation Plan can be found on the district website. Remember, "it takes a village" to ensure the safety of our staff and students. I want to thank you for joining us in this effort to keep our school communities safe by getting vaccinated if you haven’t already done so and wearing a mask when visiting our schools.
COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics
We are excited to announce that, in partnership with the Salt Lake County Health Department, some of our schools will be hosting COVID-19 vaccination clinics for anyone in the community, age 12 and older. Making vaccines more readily available is an important step in keeping our schools and students healthy this school year, and we are excited to offer this opportunity.
Late Start Information
Earlier this year, our Board of Education voted to implement a later start time for our high schools. Studies have shown that late start in high school reduces sleep deprivation in students. High school students who get inadequate amounts of sleep are significantly more likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety. In high schools where late start policies have been adopted, students have measurably lower anxiety levels, better emotional stability, better impulse control, and increased academic and athletic performance.
Implementing late start for high schools in Salt Lake City School District also has a ripple effect on transportation and busing for middle schools and elementary schools and requires adjusting start and end times for nearly every school.
Our Commitment to Equity
Within our district, attending to equity is foundational to our strategic priorities and our district’s equity framework. Our policies focus on eliminating prejudice based on racism, bigotry, and bias based on cultural, economic status, gender identification, disability, and age. We are aware of the impact these biases have had on education in the past, and we are determined to address them in our current practice.
Salt Lake City School District embeds equity work in our schools. We are committed to providing students with an education that reflects the voices and contributions of many different perspectives, including Indigenous people, Black people, people of color, immigrant groups, non-traditional families, and people with varying religious and belief systems. Our teachers and administrators look at data organized by race and other demographic indicators to help us take meaningful actions and measure progress toward student achievement. We ask staff members to participate in professional development about race and examine our practices and policies to produce equitable outcomes for students.
Schedule for Teacher Professional Development
Salt Lake City School District is committed to supporting its teachers and increasing their capacity to deliver world-class teaching by providing them with evidence-based learning opportunities. Correspondingly, on August 3, the Board of Education approved four at-home (asynchronous) learning days for students during the 2021-22 school year. On each of these days, teachers will participate in high-quality professional development to increase their skills in supporting students.
The approved asynchronous days are:
- Tuesday, October 5, 2021
- Tuesday, December 7, 2021
- Tuesday, February 15, 2022
- Tuesday, April 19, 2022
These four learning days originated from a new requirement from the Utah State Board of Education for our K-3 teachers to participate in professional development that wasn’t already scheduled into our school calendar. As we considered how to comply with this state requirement, we felt that the importance of helping all our teachers improve their practice, despite these days not being scheduled on our previously approved calendar, made adding four asynchronous learning days our best solution.
On the four asynchronous days, all K-12 students in the district will learn at home. Teachers will provide learning tasks and materials to students in advance. Many of these tasks will not be computer-based and will support students’ learning in the classroom.