Garrison moves on after time on school board | ParkRecord.com

Garrison moves on after time on school board

After four years, she says she’s proud of her efforts

Nancy Garrison was apprehensive when a friend suggested more than four years ago that she run for a seat on the Park City Board of Education. She was passionate about education but had never seriously considered serving in public office.

"To be quite honest, I'm pretty apolitical," she said. "But then I began to do my homework, meeting with people who had served in the past whom I respected, then going out and talking to community members. I began crafting a list of priorities that got me really excited."

Garrison, who had a long history of working with nonprofits in the Park City area, took a leap of faith into a different kind of service. Four years later, her time on the board is coming to an end, and she said it's been rewarding to see her work, along with that of her fellow board members, make a tangible difference in Park City's schools.

It's been gratifying to hear, as her time on the board has drawn to a close, that others have appreciated her efforts, too. She said she did her best to be an advocate for students and the educators who devote their lives to teaching them.

"I do feel like my contributions have been meaningful," she said. "And much more important than being meaningful to me is that they're meaningful to others. That's really what matters. … It's been a privilege to be a supporter of student academic achievement by supporting the people who do the hard work."

Despite enjoying her work on the board, Garrison did not attempt to retain her seat by running for reelection. The decision, she said, came down to time. Her teaching opportunities as an adjunct professor in the masters of education program at Westminster College have increased in recent years. Additionally, she is joining a company that specializes in employee engagement, where she will help public and higher education get the most out of their staff.

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Ultimately, she would not have been able to devote enough time and energy to her responsibilities on the board.

Regardless, Garrison leaves her elected position proud of a number of the board's accomplishments during her tenure. What sticks out most, she said, is something she worked diligently to address during her four years in office: The relationship between the district and its teachers and other employees has improved exponentially in recent years, after a tense negotiations process in 2011 and 2012.

Garrison helped lead a much smoother follow-up round of negotiations in 2015 and worked to usher in an atmosphere of cooperation between the district and its staff.

"That was something that I brought to the board because I have a degree in industrial labor relations and I have done labor negotiations in the past," she said. "Over this four years, we've really made a very deliberate determination to improve the climate for all of our employee groups."

She is also satisfied at having helped lay the foundations for the district to significantly narrow its achievement gap, she said. While underserved students are still lagging behind their peers, she said the district, under the leadership of Superintendent Ember Conley, has come a long way.

"I see all the elements in place for that progress to come to fruition," she said.

For that and other reasons, Garrison is optimistic about the future of the district. She said it remains one of the best districts in the state and is positioned to offer an even better education to students in coming years. She hopes that, after four years, her efforts hastened the progress.

"This continues to be an exciting time," she said. "I will, as always, continue to be a huge supporter of the Park City School District."