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Students at Park City High School load onto the bus to head home after a busy first day back at school. Christopher Reeves/Park Record.
Park City High School Principal Bob O'Connor dodged through a crowd of students Monday and entered the front office in an official PCHS Student Council zip-up pullover. The first day of his second year as principal had been just as busy as he had anticipated.

"It's a pretty good school," said O'Connor, "so when you try to target areas of improvement, it's tough to find those things to improve that can be measured."

After five years as an Assistant Principal at PCHS followed by 10 years as a principal at Treasure Mountain Junior High, O'Connor became the Principal at PCHS last year.

Given his friendly and welcoming demeanor, it is no surprise that O'Connor's favorite part of the school year is getting to interact with his students in the hallways, before and after school, and at lunch. Nevertheless, making sure PCHS continues to be a top-notch education facility is his main objective.

PCHS is ranked No. 397 on Newsweek's list of America's Best High Schools in 2013, and O'Connor plans to keep improving with the help of the school's full-time educators.

"I feel like I've gotten to know the faculty better, and we've built some trust over the last year," said O'Connor. "We can attempt to put our school improvement plan in place and implement that."

A few primary objectives of the plan are: attempting to close the achievement gap between the Caucasian and Latino students in the school and continuing to increase access to technology.

O'Connor is also hopeful for the Sheltered Instruction Observational Protocol (SIOP) method implemented at the high school.


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SIOP is the method of delivering instruction at a consistent matter throughout the building so that objectives are clear to students and methodology is used in a similar fashion among all the teachers, he said.

The Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies (PCCAPS) Program has also been integrated into the schedule at the high school, which will provide students with opportunities that a lot of them might not have ever had, according to O'Connor.

The PCCAPS program offers five different courses: Engineering, Business Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Global Business Development and Marketing, Interactive Design I-II, and Interactive Design III.

Students participating in the program attend classes at both the high school and Treasure Mountain Junior High, effectively treating the two schools like a college campus to help students transition into upper-level programs.

O'Connor also addressed the issue of large classroom sizes at the high school. While there was quite a bit of hiring done this summer, a lot of it was replacing teachers. The number of full-time educators has remained mostly the same, he said.

"We made math, science and language arts classes a priority and did our best to protect class sizes in those subjects," said O'Connor. "However, that means that the elective classes have increased in size."

The high school will not have an accurate count of students until after Labor Day, when more students will return to school after one last family summer vacation, he said. The official count will be taken Oct. 1, but so far, O'Connor said it looks like the numbers have increased, if only slightly.

School safety is another important issue. At the PCSD Board of Education meeting on Aug. 20, school safety policies were discussed. O'Connor elaborated on the policies stating that all doors at the high school will now be locked every day except for the main entrance where visitors must check in and out.

Locks on the doors have been replaced by badge swipe stations to more effectively monitor who goes in and out of the school, and more than 100 surveillance cameras surround the building.

"Locking all the doors might create an inconvenience for students and faculty who park on the opposite side of the high school from the main entrance, but it is necessary after the most recent school shootings across the country," said O'Connor.

With new safety policies in place, a bump in student enrollment, and an efficient student-learning model in place, O'Connor has nothing but a positive outlook for the new school year.

"We're going to maintain the level of rigor and achievement that the students are used to here and hopefully have some fun along the way," said O'Connor.