Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley announces resignation
Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley announced Wednesday that she will be resigning at the end of the school year. She will continue in her role until June 30, after which she will remain available until Jan. 31, 2019, to help the new superintendent transition into the role.
She will be ending her current contract a few months early, said Andrew Caplan, president of the Park City Board of Education. The rolling two-year contract ends in June, 2019.
Conley did not disclose a specific reason for her resignation in letters to the Board and district staff. She was not available for comment.
In a letter to district staff on Wednesday, she said, “As each of us has to weigh and balance our lives with our family and work, I have made the decision to finish this current contract as superintendent.”
Andrew Caplan, president of the Board of Education, said that Conley first informed the Board of her decision in the post-session of the public meeting on Tuesday.
Caplan said that Conley mentioned in other conversations that comments from parents and community members at previous Board meetings, one of which recently included a negative statement about Conley, took a toll on her.
In an interview with The Park Record following that meeting, Conley said that there was an attack on her leadership and communication abilities. What upset her the most, she said, was that the concerned individuals did not come to her first.
“I find it discouraging that there can be a platform for someone that can find all of the problems that is unwilling to come in and solve the problems with us,” she said. “I’m going to be the first to say that I am a human, and that I make mistakes, but if there is one thing that I can tell you and my team believes in and my teachers know, (it’s that) I believe that we can do good things for kids.”
Bari Nan Rothchild, former president of Jeremy Ranch Elementary School’s parent-teacher organization (PTO), said that it was always apparent to her that Conley cared deeply about the students in the district, and that care drove every decision she made.
“I’ve never met anyone who has such deep reserves of empathy and deep reserves of caring and wants the best for every single kid,” Rothchild said.
Rothchild, along with Christie Worthington, president of the Park City School District PTO Council, and Megan Lucken, co-president of Trailside Elementary School’s PTO, said Conley made many positive changes – such as her emphasis on student mental health and creating policies for the dual-language immersion program. They, along with other parents and teachers, are sad to see her go, Worthington said.
“The feedback that I have received is sadness and disappointment,” she said.
They said that her accessibility and inclusion of parents and teachers in decisions was what they will miss perhaps the most. They hope that as the district moves forward, it finds a superintendent that can keep the momentum of open communication going.
The parents, as well as Caplan, recognize that the combination of open communication and active parents can invite backlash though.
“I think, as a community, we need to be mindful that that’s the kind of power that we have and be respectful of it,” she said.
Caplan said that the immediate step moving forward is to find a searching consultant who can start the process to find a new superintendent. A search committee made of district staff and community members will then be formed, which he hopes to do before the end of the year.
“(Conley) introduced a lot of different processes and policies into the district that were needed,” he said. “We don’t want to hit reset. A lot of very good work has been done.”
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The Park City School District offices were inadvertently locked, but security footage was reviewed and the only two community members who showed up were let in and joined in an informal chat with Board of Education members and staff.