UPDATED: Rock allegedly thrown through Park City superintendent’s window amid controversy surrounding improvements to taxpayer-funded home
UPDATE: According to a report from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, deputies investigated the alleged rock-throwing incident Nov. 8 and determined the broken window was a result of a stress fracture, likely caused by temperature. That finding was confirmed by a local glass company, the report stated. The investigation has been closed.
Editor’s note: An attribution has been added to the first paragraph of this article. Additionally, the story has been updated to characterize the attack as an alleged attack after a Summit County Sheriff’s Office investigation found an attack did not occur.
A person threw a rock through the back kitchen window of the Park City School District superintendent’s home Friday, district officials said, amid what they decry as rising online and in-person vitriol directed at the schools chief.
Neither the superintendent, Dr. Jill Gildea, nor anyone in her family were injured in the alleged attack, which a district spokesperson said was “absolutely targeted” at the family. Gildea lives with her family in a Jeremy Ranch home that was purchased by the district in 2018.
Gildea, through district spokesperson Melinda Colton, said in response to a Park Record inquiry that the alleged attack left her feeling “disbelief, hurt, sadness and anger,” and worried about repercussions for her teenager who goes to school in the district.
She added that it has made her family feel unsafe.
The incident occurred as online rhetoric has become increasingly aggressive criticizing the taxpayer-funded improvements to the home, according to district officials, and while the school district is grappling with a controversial teacher training program that has caused divisions in the community.
District officials say that, in recent weeks, posts on the social-media website Nextdoor have targeted the superintendent for improvements being done to the district-owned home, with some commenters posting images of the home, others publishing its address and still others inviting the public to knock on the door and take a tour of the house because it’s a publicly owned building. The Park Record is not publishing the address of the home in light of the alleged rock-throwing incident.
The posts have asserted taxpayers are footing the bill for $200,000 in home improvements, including a heated driveway.
Gildea said some commenters on Nextdoor said they would come to her house and vandalize the driveway project. Colton said people walked through the superintendent’s yard over the weekend and took pictures of the home.
The superintendent has also been yelled at on her street, two district officials said.
Gildea did not file a report with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office after the alleged rock-throwing incident.
Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Wright said Gildea requested increased patrols last week, however, and added that the superintendent has a reasonable expectation of privacy, just like everybody else.
“Of course they couldn’t barge in and take a tour of the home,” he said.
Colton said the district requested extra Sheriff’s Office patrols after a Salt Lake City news outlet published a story Thursday about the improvements that included photos of the home.
Park City Board of Education President Andrew Caplan called the situation shameful. He said the comments have gone over the line and become harassment and have included threats.
“Throwing rocks through people’s windows when they’ve literally done nothing wrong other than live in the community and be a neighbor is, in my opinion, disgusting,” Caplan said. “Frankly, I’m ashamed of the community and I’m embarrassed that people in Park City felt entitled to act out and lash out to any of our community members, let alone the superintendent of schools who is here to educate our children.”
In 2018, the Park City School District purchased the home for $870,000 knowing that it needed improvements, Caplan and the district’s business administrator Todd Hauber said.
Caplan said the decision to buy the home was based on community feedback that it was important for the superintendent to live inside the district boundaries.
It enables the person to be present at more functions and become part of the community, but also to be on hand if an emergency were to happen, Caplan explained.
The district has earmarked $200,000 for repairs to the home, $67,000 of which has been spent to date, Caplan said.
Hauber said that money has paid to have significant portions of the property regraded to stop water running directly toward the home, to shore up the driveway retaining walls that were failing in places, to regrade and repave the driveway and to improve the garage access.
While the pavement was dug up, Hauber said, crews installed most of the components necessary for a heated driveway, but it is not operational. He said that would be up to the superintendent to decide whether to finish the installation and use the system, which she would pay for. A contract stipulates the superintendent pay for all utilities, routine maintenance like plowing snow and homeowner-association fees.
Hauber said the decision to purchase the home was made before Gildea was chosen to become the next superintendent. He said the district owned a house for the same reason in the 1980s but sold it in the 1990s when a superintendent chose not to live there. The district has also owned housing for teachers.
He said candidates for open positions have turned down offers from the district because of the cost of living in the area. Another remedy the district considered was a housing stipend, which would cover the cost of living expenses, like a mortgage. He added district employees receive a $1,500 residential housing transportation allowance each year to offset increased costs of housing or commuting.
He said it made more financial sense to own an asset that appreciates in value rather than build in an expense like a housing stipend.
The school district has also been beset by controversy in recent weeks over a teacher training program at Trailside Elementary School that opponents call LGBTQ indoctrination. The district says is part of a state-mandated effort to stop bullying.
Comments made on social media and through anonymous emails have verged into personal territory in that controversy, as well.
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Representatives from the American Institute of Architects came to town Thursday, held a community visioning session and dinner Friday, worked all weekend and presented a 75-page report to the community Monday.