School district presents at luncheon

Uinta County School District No. 1 Activities Director Bubba O’Neill speaks during last week’s Evanston Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — Standing in for Evanston Chamber of Commerce Director Tammy Halliday, administrative assistant Janika Tyler welcomed guests to the Nov. 14 Chamber luncheon at the Uinta County School District No. 1 administration building. 

Tyler announced the Chamber business of the month was Ivory and Iron, owned by Amber and Randy Lamb. 

UCSD No. 1 Superintendent Ryan Thomas was the guest speaker for the luncheon. Thomas began by reminding the audience that the school district is the largest employer in the county, they are community leaders and they play a big part in the community. 

“We have an obligation to our 2,700 students and to our 600 staff members to do everything we can to ensure a quality of life for them. We take that challenge very seriously,” Thomas said. “I do think and I say we are the best-kept secret in Uinta County in what we offer to a small rural community in Wyoming is impressive.”

Thomas added that UCSD No. 1 has been recognized nationwide and that sometimes people don’t realize the quality of education the county has. He went on to say one of the reasons for that is great students and the quality and talent of the staff. Because the salaries are good, Thomas said they have been able to recruit top-notch teachers. 

Thomas said the school board’s emphasis on safety and security has been an important goal and they continue to improve on that. Thomas talked about the rapid notification system and how that works in order to mitigate loss. He explained the new equipment and the training that takes place, including crisis drills.

Thomas said they have challenges right now with students vaping and smoking, which has reached crisis levels in the U.S. They are working on how to stop the vaping in classrooms as the students have figured out how to vape without any signs of vapor clouds.

 Thomas said there has been good improvement in district communication. Currently, the focus has been on collaboration with teachers having time to work together toward achieving goals. He said the reason for the late start Mondays is to give the teachers the time they need to work on becoming more effective teachers, as they have the biggest daily impact on the students. Thomas said the Marzano method the district is utilizing is one of the most respected in the field of education, is well researched and provides an external audit. 

“I believe that all kids can learn but not in the same way on the same day,” Thomas said. “It takes time to achieve the levels of the High-Reliability Schools model. We are certified in Level 1 (safe, supportive, and collaborative culture) and hope to be certified in Level 2 (effective teaching in every classroom) by 2021. We are also working on Level 3 — guaranteed and viable curriculum.”

Thomas said that every year the schools are evaluated and compared to other schools in the state. The  2018–2019 scores for the Uinta County Schools showed Aspen and Clark elementary schools are partially meeting expectations; North and Uinta Meadows elementary schools are meeting expectations; Davis Middle School and Evanston Middle School are both meeting expectations; Evanston High School is partially meeting expectations; and Horizon High School exceeded expectations.

Thomas then introduced the principals and staff in the audience and turned the time over to Bubba O’Neill, activities director for UCSD No. 1.

“I just want to cover a few things in what we are trying to accomplish for the schools and community.  We host a minimum of ten activities per month and they are not all athletic events. The activities at the schools bring in people and that helps the community,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill mentioned the track meet in the spring that brought 1,000 students to Evanston; the all-state music program two years ago that brought families and students here; the middle school Jamboree, which again brought lots of families; and many other events, which all bring business to Evanston.

“We try to consciously plan activities and consider the community and school district as partners. It is worth the cost to the school district to sponsor these events. For instance, the Border Wars (volleyball tournament) brings 350 athletes plus their families to Evanston and they stay in motels here two to three nights,” O’Neill said.

Ryan Thomas added, “We are proud of our school and our community. We want to be good partners. We are you and you are us.”

Thomas then took questions from the audience. 

Shelly Horne asked, “Do you still teach history in the Evanston High School?”

Doug Rigby answered, “Yes, we do.”  He explained how it is broken down into time periods for different grade levels.

There was a question about the high school drop-out rate and Thomas said the real figure for that is only 9%. He added that Wyoming reading scores are sixth in the nation, Wyoming math scores are seventh in the nation and that Uinta County is high in the state. Fourth graders are tested randomly on reading and math by outside experts and teachers are not even in the classroom when it is done.

Rotary President Brent Hatch said the Rotary is grateful that the school district allowed their members to come to the schools and give 300 dictionaries to third graders. 

North Elementary principal Diane Gardner commented that in 2018 the Student Council at North had made quilts and delivered them to the Shriners Hospital in Utah. While they were there they ate at the Chuck-A-Rama and the manager came to their group and complimented the students on their good behavior. 

“We have great students and we are proud of them,” Gardner added.

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