Guest Editorial. June 20-22, 2012
June 20, 2012
In the 1980s, when we began our teaching careers in the Park City School District, fifty-nine graduating seniors walked the floor of the high school’s multipurpose room. On Friday, June 8, 342 seniors walked the artificial turf of Dozier Field a field named after the late high school principal who, along with many other dedicated educators, helped build the strongest academic school district in the state of Utah.
This standard of excellence, established years ago, is alive today. As a result, graduates will attend Yale, Penn, MIT, and numerous outstanding liberal arts schools. A few graduated with fifteen or more Advanced Placement classes (twenty-one are offered at PCHS and almost 1,100 tests were taken this year, a remarkable number for a 3A school in Utah), and many students will begin their undergraduate education as sophomores, not freshmen. Others will have traveled with school programs to China and South America, while some will be attending prestigious art and music schools.
Recent graduates return often to share how their Park City education prepared them for the rigorous academic experiences at Harvard, Stanford, and the military academies. They routinely praise the district and their teachers to show their gratitude for the outstanding education received.
We share these thoughts because today our community and our schools stand at a critical crossroads. If as a community we want to maintain a standard of academic excellence and keep our competitive edge, we must reinvest in our schools.
Research tells us that well prepared and dedicated teachers are the key to achievement and quality schools. As a community, we want to attract and retain the best educators possible. This means bringing in highly educated teachers with a wide range of backgrounds, and experiences, reflecting the geographically diverse Park City community and its expectations for excellence.
We want to maintain reasonable class sizes (any serious, professional educator will tell you 35 in a class is not the same as 25). We want teachers teaching in their areas of expertise. We want to preserve outstanding programs, like our very successful film/media classes, that make Park City unique. We want to innovate. We want to continue to build on what was started many years ago and create the best possible educational opportunities for the future generations.
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This said, we are greatly encouraged by the recent School Board decision to reinvest in our schools. Raising taxes in today’s political climate is not easy. We should applaud their courage and determination to do what is right. This decision will allow a great school district to remain on the cutting edge and continue to strive to be the best, making the Park City community proud.
We, the teachers, are prepared to do our part and negotiate a multi-year contract that will allow our community to engage in significant long-term educational planning. As critical stakeholders, we want to be an integral part of the planning process helping to restore teacher morale and building a strong, cooperative working relationship with the Board of Education.
Park City understands this is serious stuff. We realize people move here because of these beautiful mountains and the exceptional quality of life this community offers. And central to this quality of life are the community’s public schools. Let’s continue to academically challenge our children and give them the intellectual, cultural, and economic opportunities to do great things with their lives. Together we can build an even greater school district. Everyone benefits.
Jim Fleming and Ed Mulick are Park City High School teachers and co-presidents of the Park City Education Association.