The 2019 Apex Awards, the highest awards given by the Canyons Board of Education and Administration, were presented to 17 educators, administrators, community supporters, leaders, and public education advocates on Tuesday, Sept, 10, 2019.  

The honorees, accompanied by friends and family, as well as District officials, mayors, state legislators, and other dignitaries, were feted an a by-invitation-only banquet and ceremony at Corner Canyon High, one of the first new-building projects undertaken by Canyons after the public approved a $250 million tax-rate-neutral bond in 2010 to address building needs.   

The four winners of the 2019 Legacy Award, which is CSD’s equivalent of a lifetime achievement award, were not only instrumental in the development of the District’s ambitious construction schedule, including the construction of CCHS, but also the establishment of CSD’s current vision, mission and academic and financial plans and frameworks. 

As they were announced as the Legacy Award winners, the nearly 400 attendees of the ceremony gave a standing ovation to Tracy Scott Cowdell, Sherril H. Taylor, Kim Murphy Horiuchi and Ellen Wallace.

The four were serving as members of the then-Jordan School District's Board of Education when the people in Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Midvale, Sandy and the town of Alta voted to create the first new school district to be created in Utah in nearly a century. 

As a result, Cowdell, Taylor, Horiuchi and Wallace served in their duly elected posts on the Jordan Board of Education while also laying the groundwork for the operations and mission of the school district that would eventually come to be known as Canyons, which has quickly become one of the largest and most innovative school districts in Utah.

Faced with a looming July 1, 2009 launch date, the group did double-duty and worked tirelessly, both individually and in concert with municipal leaders and community partners, to build up Canyons from an simple idea to full realization. With professionalism, courage and smarts, and against political challenges, they set the course and established a vision for CSD. Simply put, they made history. Canyons would not exist — or at the least be so successful in so many ways — if it weren’t for their commitment to building a rock-strong foundation for the District.

Cowdell and Taylor also served as the Board’s first-ever Board of Education President and Vice President. Taylor also served as CSD’s second Board President. While Cowdell and Taylor led the Board, CSD rebuilt or started construction or renovation work on 16 schools.

At the 10th annual event, which also served as the District’s Decade of Distinction Gala, Canyons Board of Education President Nancy Tingey congratulated the all the winners for their contributions to Canyons, both while in its infancy and today.  The 2019 Teacher of the Year from all CSD schools also were recognized for their contributions to the success of CSD. 

“Eleven years ago, we started this historic journey of working together to build a world-class school district for our community,”  Tingey said. “This year’s winners of the Apex Awards certainly have helped Canyons District on our journey, and we are grateful they are part of the Canyons District family. Their commitment to the success of our schools, whether from the very beginning of Canyons District or in recent years, is very much appreciated and has made a difference.” 

She also recognized those who attended the events held in 2009 to celebrate the start of Canyons District, including banquets, sign-changing parties and bus parades.  

“Many of you here tonight were instrumental in the creation of Canyons District, and celebrated with us at our Kick Off Banquet the night before we officially became the 41st school district in Utah on July 1, 2009," she said. “This celebration tonight, a decade later, is a continuation of the traditions of community engagement that were established at the founding of the District and is our way of extending our heartfelt appreciation for that tireless dedication.”

Other 2019 Apex Award winners include: 

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  • When it comes to academic contests, there are few as rigorous or prestigious as the National Merit Scholarship Program. Of the more than 1.5 million high school students who entered the competition this year, only 7,600 will prevail to win an estimated $31 million in scholarships—and among those in the running are 15 Canyons District students.

    Students from Brighton, Corner Canyon, Jordan and Hillcrest high schools today were announced as semifinalists for 2020 National Merit Scholarship Awards. They are among 16,000 top scholars nationally and 155 in Utah to advance this far in the competition.  

    The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents fewer than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors. The number of Utah semifinalists is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors. Semifinalists must have an outstanding academic record and show participation in school and community activities as well as leadership qualities.

    The finalists and winners of the 2020 scholarships will be announced in the spring. The students and their schools are:

    Brighton High
    Grace A. Sheffield
    Jacob Simmons

    Corner Canyon High
    John Bodell
    Cooper C. Gardiner
    Camryn J. Young

    Jordan High
    Richard J. Barnes
    Isaac Christiansen

    Hillcrest High
    Horace Gao
    Luke Kim
    Advait Mahajan
    Victor A. Petrov
    Sraavya Pinjala
    Marcus J. Turnbull
    Laura H. Wan
    Emily Zhang
    Does your child thrive on complexity, master concepts with ease and show strong feelings and opinions — or even tend to be self-critical? It can be difficult to know if your child is a high achiever or exhibiting signs of being a gifted learner. Every child is unique and no two gifted children are alike.

    But there are tests to assist parents in determining whether their children would benefit from placement in an educational setting, such as, Canyons School District’s SALTA magnet program for advanced learners—and now is the time to sign up for testing.

    Students in kindergarten through the seventh grade can apply online to test into the SALTA program starting Monday, Sept. 9 through midnight on Thursday, Oct. 3. Unfortunately, we are not able to accept late applications. slide 1

    Due to the time-intensive and rigorous nature of the process for determining a student’s fit for the program, parents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the testing requirements and characteristics of advanced learners (see below) before completing an application. 
    Testing is a two-day commitment, and results will be distributed in late December.

    Elementary-age applicants may choose between one of two possible dates per testing block and the following testing locations. More details as to the time and location of the testing will be made available through the application process.

    Elementary Testing Block A: October 25 and 26
    Midvale Elementary
    Canyon View Elementary

    Elementary Testing Block B: November 8 and 9
    Peruvian Park 
    East Midvale
    Willow Springs

    All middle school students are tested at Mt. Jordan Middle, with exception to Midvale Middle students who are tested at their school.

    Middle School Testing Block: November 5 and 6
    Midvale Middle
    Mount Jordan Middle

    Questions? More information, can be found at, or by calling the Instructional Supports Department at 801-826-5044.
    Note: Recordings and documents for agenda items can be accessed via BoardDocs by clicking on the corresponding agenda items.

    Update on Canyons Transition Academy

    The aim of the Canyons Transition Academy, which was started in 2009 for 18- to 22-year-old special education students, is to help the men and women in the program gain the skills necessary to live independently. Special Education Program Administrator Nate Edvalson told the Board of Education that 62 students are enrolled in the 2019-2020 program, currently housed in the Canyons Administration Building-East. The academy is for students with a certificate of completion from their high school and whose senior class has already graduated. During classes, led by five special education teachers and 24 paraeducators, students learn social-, time- and money-management skills, self-advocacy, home living, and computer technology. In addition, he said, such companies as Wal-Mart, O.C. Tanner and Larry H. Miller Automotive Centers, among several others, partner with the program so students can obtain vocational experience. Edvalson also said a recent Open House for parents was well-attended.  Members of the Board and Special Education staff members engaged in a dialogue about programmatic and facility issues. 

    Emergency Preparedness Committee Update

    The Board of Education heard a report on the work done by the Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Risk Management Coordinator Kevin Ray. The committee was formed in 2016 to update the District’s Incident Command Manual, which had not been updated since 2011. Since then, the committee has updated the manual, streamlined emergency communications, built plans to respond to emergencies, and created a monthly drill schedule for schools. An awards program for schools that conduct all the required monthly drills also has been created. The major initiatives of the committee for the coming school year include a districtwide implementation of the DIR-S mobile app, a study of locks that should be installed in classroom doors as new schools are built and renovated, and an update to the Incident Command Manual that will include sections regarding support services in the event of a trauma. 

    MasteryConnect Pilot

    Some 200 teachers have volunteered to learn more about MasteryConnect, a software that could facilitate a standards-based gradebook for elementary schools. According to Instructional Supports Program Administrator Kenna Sorensen, once the teachers participate in a training, they can signal whether they would like to continue in the pilot. The first training will be held on Sept. 5. After teachers receive training, they’ll be asked to use MasteryConnect to track student progress. Information on the pilot would then be provided to parents during the September Parent-Teacher Conferences. On Oct. 1, the Parent Platform would go live. Feedback would be solicited for an another presentation for the Board in November.

    Required Trainings

    In two separate presentations, the Board of Education was provided required trainings on Utah’s Open Meeting laws and the laws and practices related to Utah’s School Community Councils. Canyons District’s Legal Services Director and General Counsel Daniel Harper presented the information on the open meeting laws and Public Engagement Coordinator Susan Edwards provided the information on SCCs.

    Pledge of Allegiance, Inspirational Thought

    Alta High student leaders presented the American and state flags and led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Alta High Principal Dr. Brian McGill thanked the student government for attending and participating in the meeting and expressed appreciation for several of his teachers and mentors who guided him in his academic journey. Alta kicked off the year by winning $500 from the Canyons Education Foundation in a spirit competition against other CSD schools.  He said the money will be used to support Alta’s social-emotional learning initiatives. McGill said 112 students over three co-horts of the unique-to-Alta early-college Step2theU program have saved a combined $1.7 million in university tuition as a result of participation in the classes. The school, which counts about 2,300 students, also has high numbers of student who display college- and career-readiness, he said. The school also closed the gap in the number of minority students who are participating in college-ready activities such as Advanced Placement classes. McGill also said the administration has focused on bolstering the culture and climate of the school so all students feel welcome. McGill ahanked the Board for the renovations and upgrades that are being done at 41-year-old Alta, thanks to the voter-approved $283 million bond. 


    The following were recognized by the Board of Education for their achievements: 
    • Josephine Garrett, a student at Draper Park Middle, for winning a National Reflections Award of Merit
    • Brett Rosen, Brighton High soccer coach, for being named by the United Soccer Coaches Association as the Boys Small Public School Coach of the Year
    • David Morrill, a teacher at Jordan High, for being named one of five Utah finalists for the 2019 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
    Patron Comments

    Patron Heather Watson asked the Board to revisit the transportation guidelines and consider extending transportation to secondary students who, as a result of state rules, qualified for busing their sixth-grade years but do not qualify in the seventh grade. She says students in her Union Middle community must cross busy roads and intersections to get to school. 

    Consent Agenda

    The Board of Education approved the Consent Agenda, including the approval of the minutes of the Aug. 20, 2019 meeting of the Canyons Board of Education; hire and termination reports; purchasing bids; student overnight travel requests; an interlocal agreement with Salt Lake County for Swimming Pool Usage; approval to move a portable classrooms; and approval of a Board meeting schedule for 2020-2021. 

    Superintendent, Business Administrator Reports

    Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe noted that the district continues to work in lockstep with local police agencies in response to emergencies. CSD’s Emergency Preparedness Committee has held debriefing meetings with first responders to talk about what went right and what could be improved in future incidents.  He also reported on last week’s PTA and SCC leader luncheon with the Superintendent and the Kindergarten College-Ready Days held at elementary schools.

    Business Administrator Leon Wilcox reported on fixes that have been made to faltering air conditioning systems at Alta and Jordan high schools. He also gave Corner Canyon High’s big shout out for the big win on the gridiron against Bingham High, one of the top-ranked teams in Utah. 

    Board of Education Reports

    Mr. Mont Millerberg reported on attending the PTA and SCC luncheon, the beginning-of-school assembly at Union Middle, and East Midvale’s Kindergarten College-Ready Day.

    Mrs. Amanda Oaks also attended the PTA and SCC luncheon, said she cast her ballot for her local SCC, and toured the new classrooms at Corner Canyon. Oaks also attended the CCHS vs. Bingham football game. She commended student-athletes on the Charger wrestling team for helping clean up the grandstands after the football game.  

    Mrs. Amber Shill said she and President Tingey met with the Cottonwood Heights Mayor and City Manager to coordinate the work between the city and CSD, attended the Calendar Committee Meeting, and thanked the Superintendent for hosting the luncheon for PTA and SCC leaders. She also attended Friday Night Lights at Brighton High.

    Mr. Steve Wrigley thanked the Office for Public Communication and the Risk Management Department for responding to the emergencies and ensuring the Board and leadership is kept abreast of incidents. 

    Mrs. Clareen Arnold reported on a presentation that focused on how to reduce stress in students.

    Mr. Chad Iverson said he attended several school events and made his annual commentary on the BYU vs. University of Utah football game.

    President Tingey expressed appreciation for her fellow Board members and District staff members for their work. She also attended a Kindergarten College-Ready Day where students were asked to “do their very best” every day so they’ll be ready for the rigors of college and the  careers of the future.
    Josephine Garrett knows what it’s like to meet a hero in real life.

    Last year, as a student at Draper Park Middle, she decided to enter the National PTA Reflections program to tell her story. The program encourages students from all grades and abilities to explore the arts and express themselves through a variety of mediums, from literature to music composition. With the 2019 theme of “Heroes Around Me,” Josephine, known to her friends as Josie, knew just what to do.

    She looked to her neighbor, who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, for inspiration. Her neighbor, although sick, had decided that she would perform acts of service for her last 12 months of life, and as Josie watched those acts unfold, she was moved. “She was amazing,” Josie said later. “She was a real hero.” JosephineGarrett

    First, Josie, who is now a student at Corner Canyon, submitted her entry on the school level. She won there, so she moved on to the next level, competing against several other schools. From there she progressed to the District level, then region level, and finally, she made it to the state level of the Utah PTA, where her essay, titled “Day By Day,” was selected to move forward to the national level of the competition.

    “Hero-like characteristics are in everyone. We just have to find them,” Josie wrote in her essay. When asked how she defines a hero, the subject of Josie’s piece, Annette Ferran said, “Someone that inspires someone to be better and give hope.” Josie agrees and wrote about how Ferran “inspires everyone to be a hero by doing service. … Tomorrow gets better all of the time living by Annette’s example—day by day.”

    Josie found out that she was selected as a Merit Award winner just a few days after her neighbor passed away. Her entry was selected from submissions from some 5,000 local PTAs from throughout the country. For her award, Josie received a bronze medal, a Certificate of Merit, and an invitation to attend a celebratory banquet at the National PTA Convention in Ohio. Her work will also be featured with other winning entries from the National PTA Reflections Program in a traveling exhibit, beginning on January 13, 2020 at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C. and ending in June 2020 in Louisville, KY. The Reflections Program was started in 1969, and is offered free of charge to participating students.

    “We are so proud of Josie and her accomplishment,” said Tonya Rhodes, Utah PTA Region 17 Director. “We appreciate her message that a hero is someone who looks beyond themselves, who lifts those around them. We are so happy her entry was selected to win an Award of Merit on the national level during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Reflections Program through PTA.”
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