Guest editorial: School district won’t be able to do better than Superintendent Conley
I think if we work really hard, we can convince Ember Conley to stay with us for a few more years. Try as they might, I don’t think the School Board will be able to attract anyone of her caliber through a national search, because I just don’t think there is a better fit in the world for us. She’s a numbers person and a change agent. Change is difficult. Parents are difficult. I applaud the School Board and the Staff and Faculty for being willing to put up with all that. I could certainly never do it. Roads, landfill, solid waste, land use, public records: those things I can handle. They’re easy by comparison.
If you think of what Ember Conley and the School Board has been able to accomplish during her short tenure, you’ll understand why I’m reluctant to let her go. I’ve been here for 31 years with 6 mediocre-lackluster-bombastic Superintendents and only one other good one: Nancy DeFord. Beg Ember to stay and support her efforts because here’s what she’s already done:
- Park City High named one of the top 500 schools in the nation
- Increased graduation rate from 89 percent in 2013 to 97 percent in 2017, which is the top 1 percent of the country
- Awarded elementary school, Jeremy Ranch Elementary, as a National Blue Ribbon School, the first in PCSD
- Led two successful contract negotiations with staff after coming into an environment of federal mediation for contract negotiations
- Improved the achievement gap for Latino students
- A top five Advanced Placement rate district in Utah with a 75 percent participation rate and a 70 percent pass rate with the distinction of being awarded top AP School in the state in 2015 and the top two AP students in the state in 2016
- National speaker and advocate to combat opioid crisis in youth with two national publications in School Administrator Magazine and the ASCD •Education Update (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)
- Improved outreach with Latino community by creating an entire department for student outreach
- Enhanced community partnerships, including the support of Communities that Care and Summit County Health Department
- Developed STEM programs at all elementary schools
- Implemented coding for all elementary students
- Added a gifted and talented specialist at each elementary program
- Developed the Beverly Taylor Sorenson dance specialist at Parley’s Park Elementary
- PCSD was named the only Apple Distinguished Program in Utah for 2014-16 for implementation of its “one-to-one” initiative that supplies students (grades 2-12) with laptops to use in the classroom and to take home
- In U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 rankings, Park City High is one of only three high schools in Utah to earn a gold medal
- Successful implementation of international recognized Dual Language programs by the Spanish and French Embassies
- Added crucial administrative staff — Associate Superintendent of Student Wellness and Director of Communications — with a focus on student wellness
- Doubled the number of nurses in the district from 3 to 6 to address student health needs
- Created new academic program for the Park City Learning Center through using the Summit Academy approach
- Increased counselors and added social worker counselors to support families and students
- Developed nationally recognized full-day preschool program and added free all-day kindergarten for all students (the only district in the state)
- Named to two national education organization boards that include AASA (The School Superintendents Association) and the Horace Mann Executive Board
We need her wise counsel, we need her willingness to adapt and we need continuity. We don’t need to be spending $50,000 for a national search to find something we already have. Beg Ember to stay and promise to listen and “play nice” with her. I think she can listen to dissent. She certainly listens to the adverse comments she gets from me. I think she can listen to you, too, when you disagree. We just need to hang on to her for a few more years. We’ve come so far.
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There is a problem when the Park City Council becomes a council of activism; a council of philosopher monarchs that knows best, picks and chooses the causes de jour on behalf of the peasantry.