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West Jordan Journal

Jordan District asks legislators to prioritize support of high quality educators

Feb 06, 2023 02:32PM ● By Jet Burnham

Bingham High sophomore Claire Burnham and her sixth-grade teacher Frankie Walton speak to state legislators about the impact of their relationship. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

The Jordan School District Board of Education hosted a breakfast for state legislators Jan. 11 to share their educational priorities and to answer questions from representatives preparing for this year’s legislative session.

The Board asked for support from lawmakers as they focus on providing safe working and learning environments at schools and in recruiting and retaining high quality educators and educational support professionals.

“We understand that the fundamental thing that makes education great, that affects the lives of individuals, are great educators,” Board First Vice President Niki George said.

In his Supercast podcast, Jordan School District Superintendent Dr. Anthony Godfrey regularly highlights outstanding employees who have an impact on students. One of the teacher-student relationships he featured was Bingham High School sophomore Claire Burnham, who has become a national youth storyteller because of the support of her teachers at Jordan Ridge Elementary. Burnham and her sixth-grade teacher Frankie Walton shared their story with the legislators at the breakfast. 

It reminded the legislators of the teachers that have had an impact on their lives.

“My ‘Mrs. Walton’ was Mr. Young,” Rep. Mark Strong (house 47) said. “I had him three classes a day for my entire senior year of high school. I still talk to him—every few months I call him.”

An intern for one of the state representatives shared that the only reason she had good attendance during her senior year was because she had a connection with her choir teacher.

Rep. Jordan Tuescher (house 44), who attended Jordan District schools, said, “Each of my elementary school teachers was really amazing,” but he remembers specifically his fifth-grade teacher. “I just remember being given more responsibilities and being looked at differently from a teacher than I had in the past.” 

Tuescher still sees his AP political science teacher, Scott Crump, who taught the class at Bingham High for 25 years, and now works as a green coat at legislative sessions. Jenicee Jacobson, who is now an administrator at West Jordan High, was Tuescher’s debate teacher his senior year and helped him become who he is today. “She really took an interest in us and found ways for us to be able to accomplish the things we wanted to do,” he said.

Godfrey’s podcast also highlights the behind-the-scenes workers such as aides, nutrition workers, custodians, bus drivers and other support personnel who are critical to creating a successful educational environment for students. Currently there is a shortage in these positions—custodial crews are the most short-handed right now. The Board told legislators their current priority is to be able to provide competitive pay to fill these positions.

“It's easy to look at a school, and the teacher, but we have so many people that play a huge part in the education of our children, and we hope that we can recognize all of those needs,” George said. “Students are constantly receiving extra help through education support professionals, receiving experiences in the lunchroom and receiving relationships through school bus drivers.”

Board members also reported on how legislative funding has been spent. Their priorities have been employee pay, school safety and mental health resources.

They took time to answer questions legislators had about topics such as student attendance and discipline and the procedure for banning books.

Bingham High School ProStart students provided the food for the breakfast and the Madrigals Choir performed two songs.

JSD hosts a legislative breakfast every year before the legislative session. Last year’s legislative breakfast was particularly productive. It took place at Herriman High School, which on that day happened to be implementing the test-to-stay protocols the governor had put in place. When the lawmakers saw the procedure in action, they immediately texted the governor about the problems with the protocol.

“It was a very striking moment,” Associate Superintendent Mike Anderson said to lawmakers at this year’s breakfast. “It was thanks to your jumping in at that point that we were able to get some things changed rather quickly at the state level.”

Godfrey said the entire state benefited from the lawmakers’ efforts that day.

“That’s the best example of us working together in really difficult times,” he said.