At a meeting on Nov. 12, the Carbon County Board of Education accepted comments from residents in attendanceconcerning the problems and successes of the school district.
The subjects introduced by the board included teacher accountability as well as quality, communication and overscheduling of students.
The members asked for comments about the areas that had been selected as specific concerns from the last "What Counts?"program meeting.
Several parents complained that some teachers are not held responsible for their actions and performance.
The board of education explained that the school district is setting up new programs to help in the area.
First, the district is examining the abilities and habits of instructors who have students transfering to other class sections or different teachers in the same grade.
In addition, the school district has set up a mentoring program for new teachers with master instructors who can help them through their rookie years.
"We also have a new evaluation instrument that is being used to look at teachers performance," said district superintendent Patsy Bueno. "But the best way for us to find accountability is for parents to watch what is going on in the classroom. If you are having some kind of problem with that, you need to come to the principal and talk about it."
Closely aligned with accountability, teacher quality was also a topic of conversation at the meeting.
Attendees reported that some teachers in the district may need to change their habits and the way they operate.
One resident complained about teachers at one local school talking about other teachers to students and parents.
Another resident claimed that some of the teachers at the high school swear during classes and extracurricular activities.
"We are trying to teach our kids the right way to live and that doesn't help," said a parent. "The respect level that kids have for teachers is important."
Another resident indicated that respect is the point. If students don't respect the teachers and what they do, little education will take place.
Board members at the meeting reported that they are working on achieving uniform teacher excellence across the county. But some of the problems lie in compensation and the legalities of dismissing teachers who do not live up to what the district wants.
The constraints on salaries to attract the best people comes from what the Utah Legislature appropriates to the school district.
The board also pointed out that members are working on education development for teachers by providing strong in-service programs.
The discussion of quality teachers then turned to communication between parents and the school district.
Some parents complained that the reception at schools when they visited or called about a concern was cool.
When they have a problem with a staff member, parents were reminded to contact the school and follow the chain of command when reporting the matter.
The advice was if there is a problem call the principal first, and if it is not resolved then to call the district.
"We ask that parents resolve their problems at the school level first because if they call here and they haven't talked to the principal about a situation we will refer them back to that person," said Bueno.
Boardmembers pointed out that the district is doing a lot of things to communicate with the public about the schools.
They pointed to the weekly interview of school officials on KOAL radio, the school page that appears weekly in the Sun Advocate and a number of other articles that appear in the local publication.
The officials also explained that they considered the family night activities presented four times a year at schools as a good attempt at communication.
Back to school nights, the districts website (and student information system at carbonschools.org) and the ability for parents to be able to email teachers is another way they feel they have been working toward better communication with parents.
During the first meeting on the program a couple of months ago, many attendees said students were being overscheduled and youth had way to much to do.
At that meeting and at the session on Nov. 12, there appeared to be some confusion about what that meant.
Some parents talked about too much homework while others said the schools needed to find at least one night when the school didn't schedule any activities.
"Many will think trying to find a night off will be impossible," said board member Barry Deeter. "But we are trying to come up with a night when everyone can be off. We are tied to some nights because the Utah High School Activities Association determines the schedule for many athletic and competitions."
The district said because of that they have determined that Monday nights seem to be the best and they are working toward that. However, some students are in so many things that schedules can conflict, so that if they want to be on a team sport and want to do something with another club or organization, some nights those things happen at the same time.
The district personnel suggested that parents need to get with their kids and look at their own scheduling patterns and decide what the student should be involved in and what they can't be because of conflicts either with home schedules, other school activities, clubs or church.
At the end of the meeting, board member Wayne Woodward pointed out that this second meeting of the group was not the end of the process and that more meetings would be held later in this school year to get input and to see how the district is doing on improving the subjects that were discussed.
Editors note: Today's story is the second of two articles about the ongoing process of using the "What counts?" program in Carbon School District.