New member of Park City Board of Education brings business background
June 16, 2015
Philip Kaplan had never dreamed of being a public servant or of occupying a seat on a school board.
But when longtime Park City Board of Education member Moe Hickey recently announced he was stepping down, Kaplan saw a chance to make a difference. Having come from a family that emphasized the importance of giving back to the community, he decided to apply for Hickey’s seat.
"It wasn’t like an ambition I’ve had for a long time," said Kaplan, who was selected to join the Board over two other candidates after an interview process. "It was more like the opportunity just came up. I’ve been very involved in the schools since the moment we got here almost two years ago, and I’ve had several people approach me and say, ‘You should do this. You would be perfect for this.’ And it just sounded like what the Board needed was somebody with my skills."
Kaplan comes from a business background, where he has founded or served on the board of directors of several companies. He said his skills are in strategic planning and finances — he emphasized his desire to see tax dollars spent wisely — and that he believes he will be a valuable member of the Board.
"This was one of those rare circumstances where someone not elected by the public gets a seat," said Kaplan, who will take his place on the Board July 1 and be officially sworn in at the first public meeting of the 2015-2016 school year. "So the Board could actually look and say, ‘Hey, what skills do we need?’ as opposed to, ‘Who is the public giving us?’ I knew I was qualified to be on the Board, but the question was whether my skills were better for the Board than two other great candidates that have other skill sets."
After buying a second home in Park City in 2007, he moved to town full-time in 2013. Kaplan, who has two children, said the school district’s strong reputation was a big factor in deciding to make Park City his family’s permanent home. He said he wants to do all he can to ensure the district keeps moving in the right direction.
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"I believe in the schools and I believe in the school district," he said. "I also believe there’s always room to improve if people are honest about it. My approach is definitely going to be to confront issues in reality, not in wishful thinking. That’s how I’ve always tried to run my businesses, and I’ll do that here."
Kaplan said he has spent time in local schools since coming to Park City full-time, regularly reading with children at Ecker Hill Middle School and serving on the Park City Education Foundation’s board of directors. He said that, along with attending the Board of Education’s public meetings, has prepared him for his new role.
However, he still expects to experience a bit of a learning curve.
"There’s a drinking-from-a-firehose phase, where maybe you’re a little overwhelmed by the volume of information," he said. "Then you start to get comfortable, but you have to be honest about what you know and what you don’t know because you’ll never know it all."
Kaplan said public education is important to him because he’s seen first-hand how a college degree doesn’t necessarily mean someone is completely prepared for the workforce.
"In business, over the years I actually saw how deficient in writing and communication and math college graduates can be," he said.
With that in mind, he wants to make sure Park City students are not among them. The goal, he said, is to ensure everyone who enters the district leaves with a first-class education.
"It’s cool because if you touch a couple kids in the right way in their education," he said, "you can really change their life trajectory."