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For Draper Elementary teacher Yinyao You, the only way to express his feelings about receiving an award that’s so prestigious only a handful of people in the world have ever received it, is with an exclamation point.

You was selected to receive the Individual Performance Excellence Award from the Confucius Institute at the University of Utah, a recognition given to only 30 individuals worldwide, including university presidents and educational leaders. He is one of five individuals from the United States to receive the award this year, and the only guest teacher in the U.S. to be recognized, according to the Confucius Institute.

“ItIMG_0156.jpg is my great honor to get this award!” You said in an email sent from China to his colleagues, friends and administrators in Canyons District after he received the award from Madam Liu Yandong, Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China. “I know I can’t thank all of you enough!”

You received the award on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Xi’An, China, as part of the 12th annual Confucius Institute Conference. He will remain out of the country until school resumes in January. The other four recipients of the award from the U.S. include two directors of the Confucius Institute, the president of Alabama A&M University and the president of Miami Dade College in Florida. Remarking on You’s contributions to the state's immersion program, Utah Chinese Dual Language Immersion Director Stacy Lyon said the award is “well-deserved.”
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Earlier this year, You was named the International Teacher of the Year by the Utah Foreign Association. As an involved educator who teaches 2nd grade Chinese immersion students by day and kung fu and tai chi after school, You has also been recognized as an Outstanding Educator by the Utah PTA and Star Teacher by the College Board.

He was chosen for his most recent award out of a pool of some 525 Confucius Institutes scattered through 146 countries in the world. The non-profit institution was established to promote Chinese language and culture in foreign countries, according to the Confucius Institute Headquarters website, English.hanban.org. The Individual Performance Excellence Award is one of the highest honors offered by the Institute.

“It’s a really big deal for the CI headquarters, and it’s a positive affirmation of what Yinyao has contributed to Draper elementary,” Shin Chi Fame Kao, Outreach Coordinator at the Confucius Institute at the University of Utah, said in an email informing Canyons of You’s award. “We are very proud of having him in our team and wish that he will continue to work for Utah in the future.”
Because we all breathe the same air, and share in the responsibility to safeguard it from the harmful pollutants emitted by our homes, businesses and vehicles, Canyons District has declared all of its school campuses idle-free zones.

With inversion season upon us, we're re-issuing our Clean Air Challenge and inviting families to join us in combining car trips to conserve gas, walking and biking to school instead of driving, and reducing schoolyard idling during morning drop-offs and afternoon pickups.

On Earth Day, 2016, Canyons became the first school district in Utah to go idle free at all of its schools. The campaign kicked off early in the morning at Ridgecrest elementary school where students greeted drivers with placards, informational pamphlets and window clings to place in vehicles. Signs were placed at all of Canyons’ schools and “no idling” pledges were sent home with students, encouraging parents to voluntarily pledge to turn their key and be idle free.

The idea originated with a parent who dropped by Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe’s office just over a month ago to share her frustration at seeing exhaust billowing into the air at her child’s school’s parking lot. Briscoe took her concerns to the Board of Education, and within a matter of weeks, the district’s “no idling” campaign was born. 

“Besides educating students, I feel we have some responsibility for their health, and their future health,” says Briscoe, noting that projections show school enrollment doubling over the next 30 years.

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Parents spoke, and we listened. Starting with the 2019-2020 school year, Canyons District’s schools will let out for the summer in May, instead of the first week of June.

“Teachers and parents have expressed concern about our schools letting out later than those in neighboring districts,” says Planning and Enrollment Director Dr. Floyd Stensrud. “The later end-date makes it difficult for families to coordinate summer vacations and for high school students to compete for summer jobs.”

The changes will take effect with the start of the 2019-2020 school year, and were approved by the Board of Education based on recommendations by the District’s Calendar Committee, which is made up of employees, and parents. Teachers also provided input via two extensive surveys.

Under the new calendars, there also will be fewer Fridays when school is not in session, alleviating the need for working parents to secure child care. There will be no change in the number of instructional days or holidays, and Brighton High will remain on a trimester schedule.

To aid families in their planning, the new, tentatively-approved calendars for 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 can be found on the District’s website.
Alta High School last week welcomed talkative visitors for the 30th annual Black and Silver Debate Tournament. 

Eighty schools from 14 states were represented at the Tournament of Champions-qualifying event, with 500 students who came from as far away as Florida to compete.  

From Thursday to Saturday, some 200 adult chaperones and judges accompanied the students, who debated various topics in public forum, policy debate, and Lincoln-Douglas debate. “It’s very busy, logistically speaking,” said Alta debate coach Tanya Roundy. “It really pulls us together as a team, because they spend a lot of time working to get things to come together and managing the tournament together.”

Alta history teacher Rique Ochoa first established the debate tournament 30 years ago to provide his students an opportunity to compete at a high-level tournament without having to travel. Debaters who make it to the finals at the Black and Silver tourney qualify to go on to compete in the national Tournament of Champions.

In later years, host schools were no longer allowed to compete in their own tournaments, to avoid the appearance of bias. However, the Black and Silver competition is still a great opportunity for Alta’s debate students to use their skills, Roundy says.

“They use a lot of their speech skills, meeting new people, talking about these topics, hearing perspectives and arguments from all over the United States,” Roundy said. “They also get the benefit of learning how to manage time and organize and event plan.”

This year, Alta’s debate team had a bumper crop of 30 novice members and six varsity members. The team has students on the wrestling team, swim team, basketball players, actors, and all academic levels, Roundy says. She attributes the growing interest in Alta’s debate team as a carryover from the debate programs initiated in the District’s middle and elementary schools.

“It can really bring a lot of students with different interests together,” Roundy said. “Debate allows them to explore whatever their strengths are and build on those.”
The Board of Education, acting as a Board of Canvassers, on Tuesdsay, Nov. 21, 2017 voted unanimously to accept the tally of the votes in the Nov. 7 bond election — the results of which will enable the District to immediately continue building up Canyons with modern, safe and welcoming schools.   

According to the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office, 57.8 percent of the 51,429 residents who cast ballots voted in favor of the District’s $283 million bond proposal. Some 42.2 percent voted against the tax-rate-neutral measure. Voter turnout was 48.2 percent.  A canvas, or an examination, of the returns is required two weeks after an election. 

Funds garnered through a series of issuances will be used on 11 major construction and renovation projects. This includes rebuilds of Brighton and Hillcrest high schools, a significant renovation of Alta High, a rebuild of Union Middle, rebuilds of Peruvian Park and Midvalley elementary schools, a new school in the White City area, and a new school in the west Draper section of the District. Offices at six elementary schools will be remodeled, classrooms will replace the portables at Corner Canyon High, and 18 other elementary schools also will get windows and skylights to bring in natural light to classrooms and hallways.

With the vote of confidence, the District is moving quickly to realize the facility-improvement plans created at the outset of the bond proposal. On Tuesday night, the Board unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing the issuance of up to $49 million in general-obligation bonds to pay for construction and for refunding certain obligations of the District for a cost savings. The bonds can be sold after the required 30-day contest period of the bond election.

The Board already has selected the general contractors to oversee the construction of new Brighton and Hillcrest high schools and the major renovation at Alta High. An architectural firm also has been selected to design the new Union Middle. Even with the actions, the Board members have firmly emphasized that no project-priority list has been approved.  The contract approvals simply secure a price for contractor work. The Board will continue its discussions regarding project timetables at an upcoming meeting.

After the Board officially accepted the ballot count, Board 1st Vice President Nancy Tingey noted the successful bond vote came nearly 10 years to the day that residents in Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Midvale, Sandy and the town of Alta voted to create a new school district, which eventually became Canyons. “This is historic,” Tingey said. “I think it’s a major event for our District. Driving here (to the meeting) tonight, I was thinking back 10 years ago, when the District was created and what has been able to occur in the past 10 years in our community. I wanted to recognize that and celebrate that.”

The canvassed results show the majority of voters in every municipality in Canyons District voted in favor of the bond. In Cottonwood Heights and Midvale, 62.5 percent voted in favor of the measure. In Draper and Sandy, the figure reached 56.6 percent and 56 percent, respectively.

Canyons Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe congratulated the Board on the successful outcome. “It took courage to put the measure on the ballot,” he said, adding that the successful vote, and by such a significant margin, is a reflection “of how the general public feels about the direction of the District.” 

Board President Sherril Taylor said the state of the facilities on the east side of the old Jordan District was a major reason why residents voted to create CSD. An architectural review done at the District’s founding indicated that CSD buildings needed $650 million in needed repairs.  Since 2010, when patrons approved a $250 million bond to start addressing the facility needs, CSD has completed 12 of 13 promised school-improvement projects. The 13th project, a renovation of Indian Hills Middle, is expected to be complete in time for the start of school in fall 2018.

The sense of excitement is nearly palpable, says member Mont Millerberg, who served on the Board when the 2010 bond proposal was approved with 50.66 percent of the vote. The buzz at Hillcrest High’s sold-out-every-night production of “Les Miserables” was the potential of having a state-of-the-art auditorium at the newly rebuilt school, Millerberg said.

“It really does boil down to the parents and the patrons,” President Taylor said, adding that many of the bond supporters no longer have children in Canyons District schools.  “They realize that we are paying forward to the future. I am proud of my generation for doing that and voting for the bond to take care of their grandchildren and other peoples’ children.  We would not be the country we are without public education, I guarantee that.”
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