Record editorial: School district gives master planning another go, but faces a tall task to win support
October 25, 2018
The Park City School District is embarking on a master planning process.
If that sounds like a familiar concept, that's because it is. The district has seemingly been engaged in master planning, in one form or another, since it kicked off an effort in 2014 that eventually led to an unsuccessful bond measure in 2015 and a pair of follow-up attempts that stalled before reaching the ballot.
This time, though, school officials are pledging that the process will be different. For starters, they say they're beginning this round of master planning with a new approach: Rather than focusing on facility needs from the get-go, they'll first explore the community's vision for education in Park City and let that dictate the final product.
School officials have even said that the process won't necessarily result in another bond measure. Given some of the known deficiencies of the district's facilities — the outdated Treasure Mountain Junior High School being the prime example — that seems unlikely, but the point the district is eager to make is that there is no predetermined outcome to sway master planning.
Parkites would be forgiven for hesitating to take the district at its word. A litany of missteps in recent years not only scuttled the 2015 bond and the succeeding efforts but eroded public confidence in the district's leadership.
New Superintendent Jill Gildea, alongside a Board of Education replete with fresh faces, will be tasked with winning back the trust of residents. They'll need to make good on the promise of letting students' needs guide the process, and they'll need to bring the community along during each step.
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It will require transparency and engagement that goes beyond posting the minutes of committee meetings on the district's website. It will require getting people who have been critical of the district involved early on, turning them into active participants and, eventually, evangelists for the effort. And it will require a willingness to acknowledge previous mistakes in order to avoid repeating them.
It's unrealistic to think the district will come up with a plan that garners unanimous approval. In matters like this, there will always be naysayers. But a proposal resulting from a solid process, well communicated to the community, will earn plenty of support — enough, even, to pass a bond if it ends up being necessary.
District officials say they understand. They've acknowledged the tall task ahead and have claimed they're serious about changing the community's perceptions.
As the latest master planning process begins, we should give them the opportunity to prove it and be willing to back them if they do.
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