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EQUITY

REQUIRES

ACTION

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NEWS & DEVELOPMENTS

Students at School

DECEMBER 10, 2020

Our original letter requesting a process to build a new high school on the west side of SLC.

Student

OCTOBER 2022

Letters between SLC School District and SLC Council Members Victoria Petro and Alejandro Puy.

Woman Working

NOVEMBER 1, 2022

Our follow-up letter to the SLC School District, and their response.

ReadLetter
Original Letter

A letter requesting the creation of an authentic, community-engaged process of building a new high school on the west side of Salt Lake City.

The following letter was sent to the Salt Lake City School Board and School District on 10 December 2020.

A PDF can be downloaded HERE and includes an attachment with supplemental information, which is referenced in the letter and was delivered along with the letter.

December 10, 2020


Melissa Ford and Nate Salazar
President Salt Lake City School Board
440 East 100 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84101


Larry Madden
Superintendent SLCSD
440 East 100 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84101

 

Re: Community Request


Dear Ms. Ford, Mr. Salazar, and Mr. Madden:

We’re all aware that 2020 has presented unprecedented challenges for our students, teachers, parents, schools and communities. Your collective leadership and science-driven decisions to hold all classes online have not only protected countless children, families, educators and staff, but now appears prescient given the current surge of COVID-19 infections. 

 

At the same time, we are deeply concerned about the effects that exclusively online classes have on the social-emotional health of students and the impact on student achievement, which is worsening the achievement gap for students of color and those who are economically disadvantaged. However, today we write to you on another matter of equity that has been much more longstanding. 

 

While our current focus is rightly on pandemic-related matters, we will eventually return to traditional conversations about growth, allocation of resources, and educational equity. As such, we write this letter as concerned parents, city residents, and community advocates for two reasons: (1) to ensure that our concerns have been documented at the outset of any future planning; and (2) to request that the Salt Lake City School Board and School District work with us and the community as a whole to begin an authentic, community-engaged process of building a new high school on the west side of Salt Lake City.   

 

To be clear, we are seeking a process that we understand may take significant time and will necessarily include many considerations; however, over the coming months, we will continue to press for a process that is both: (a) informed by the needs of students and families throughout the district, particularly those on the west side of our city for the reasons outlined in this letter and supplemental information; and (b) undertaken with the deliberate objective of addressing educational inequities by creating new opportunities for our long-underserved westside community.

 

This request is motivated by a myriad of negative impacts that have resulted from forcing most westside students to attend high schools across the city. To give you an idea of the scope of this problem, Highland High School has 221 students and East High School has 1,164 students that live west of I-15. While that is only 11.5% of Highland’s student body, this accounts for a majority of East’s student body (56.8%).

 

Altogether, a total of 1,385 students must travel across an interstate and a whole city to attend a high school disconnected from their neighborhoods, their communities, and sometimes their peers. 

 

Beyond transportation and convenience, these geographical disparities present greater inequities in terms of educational outcomes, extracurricular participation, parental involvement, and a sense of belonging. The supplemental information provides perspectives from former students, parents, educators and community members about the long-standing impact of not having a high school to serve the Glendale community and surrounding neighborhoods.

 

It’s also worth noting that a new high school located on the west side of our city can also be an opportunity for the School District to develop a community school, which has shown gains in student performance and returns in social value to the community. Perhaps most importantly, this model has shown success in increasing student enrollment. Again, our request is for a process to discover what needs may be fulfilled, but we also want to illustrate the importance of viewing that process as an investment than can benefit students and families across our city.

 

This request is the result of many conversations among parents, educators, students and former students within our community over many years. This letter was composed with contributions from the signatories and other community members. The signatories below are an initial list of supporters and we intend to begin sharing this request letter and gathering additional signatures from within our community. We mention this because we want to be open and transparent with our intentions and our direction. 

 

We do not make this request lightly. We appreciate that the School District’s immediate priority must be navigating through the current pandemic. At the same, we feel that COVID-19 has only underscored the disproportionate burdens and underlying inequities confronting our westside students and families. For years, our westside high school students and their parents have expressed their discontent with the distance and disconnection our current system creates. However, our history with the closing of South High School (see supplemental information) has shown us that our westside community has too easily been left out or ignored when planning decisions are made. So our request may be early for some, but it is long overdue for many of us. 

 

We feel that this letter and the supplemental information reflect longstanding concerns within our community that we hope guides any future planning and budgetary decisions.

 

While you may feel free to contact any of the signatories individually, for the purpose of responding to this letter and all signatories together, please send correspondence through the following contact person, who represents a nonprofit community advocacy organization and has helped facilitate this letter among the signatories:

 

Richard Jaramillo
UCLR | Utah Coalition of La Raza
P.O. Box 389
Salt Lake City, UT 84110
(801) 613-8257
richard@uclr.org

 

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to working together.

 

Sincerely,

 

PARENTS WITH STUDENTS ATTENDING SLC SCHOOL DISTRICT

Amy Jordan, Glendale parent

Sara Farah, Glendale parent

Billy Palmer, Glendale parent 

Tina Tuifua, Glendale parent

Dr. Paul Kuttner, Glendale parent

Elsa Bermudez, Glendale parent

Erica Aguilar, Glendale parent

Ana Palma, Glendale parent

Inoke Hafoka, Glendale parent

Osman Osman, Glendale parent

Rosie Peralta, West Valley City parent

Laura Hernandez, Rose Park parent

Scott McLeod, Liberty Wells parent


FORMER STUDENTS OF SLC SCHOOL DISTRICT

Itzel Nava

Sharay Juarez

Yair Marin

Siosaia Langi

Rahermila Neupane

Maria Machorro

Diana Bustamante

 

COMMUNITY MEMBERS & ADVOCATES

Rep. Angela Romero

Haloti Liava’a

Dr. Leticia Alvarez Gutiérrez

Jarred Martinez

Dr. Adrienne Cachelin

Jennifer Mayer-Glenn

Richard Jaramillo

Sol Katia Jimenez 

Turner C. Bitton


 

CC: All current and incoming members of the Salt Lake City School Board

Download the Letter as a PDF
(includes supplemental info)
Descarga una versión español
(incluye información complementaria)

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LetterQuote1.png

East High School

1,164 students (56%)

live on the west side.

Highland High School

221 students (11.5%)

live on the west side.

Total of 1,385 students travel across the city to attend high school.

LetterQuote2.png
South High School

More than thirty years later, many of the initial impacts of displacing South High’s

student body have not only remained, but have strongly reinforced systemic inequities.

LetterQuote3.png

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Gathered Online Since Original Letter 
(updated September 12, 2023)

Additional Signatures

Concerned SLC School District Parents and/or Students (past or present)

Erika Kreutziger

Bethany Jennings

Stephany Murguia

Joy Pierce

Cintya Partida

Ed Muñoz

Laura Hernández

Kimberly Schmit

Duane Fifita

Deirdre Straight

Julianne Rabb

Jason Rabb

Jorge Rojas

Suyin Chong

Lavinia Latapu

Janet Ramirez

Sofia Frost

Nina Feng

Kent Bond

Suyin Chong

Susie Porter

Amanda Esko

Anne Cook

Rosalba Dominguez

Amy May

Cristina Guerrero

Amanda Finlayson

Dana Rossi

Ken Perko

Saia Langi

Mychael Johnson

Elizabeth Barajas

Alex Robinson

Karen Lara

Chuck Landvatter

Ahmed Khalaf

Jennifer Newell

Annabel Sheinberg

Susana Amezcua

Melissa Lander

Dane Hess

Megan Carter

Luis Zazueta

Rachel Rees

Becca Hodgkinson

Stephanie Roghaar

Cesar Robles

Ciriac Alvarez Valle

Akary Geraldo

Miguel Trujillo

Roxanne Langi

Aaliyah Juarez

Ana Isabeles

Elsa Bermudez

SLC Residents, Educators, and/or Community Advocates

Rylee Smith

Louisa Bradford

Stella Ray

Nicholas Western

Jessica Cleeves

Brittany Dew

Abraham Vasquez

Saolo Betham

Dhiraj Chand

Beatriz Trejo

Kristin Knippenberg

Emily Arntz

Lea Lani Kinikini

Elaine Clark

Paula Bickerton

Julie Hamilton

Taylor Allegrini

Kyle Hayes

Chelsea Malouf

Madison Sudweeks

Emilie Jordao

Ann Darling

Rosie Ojeda

Nora Bloem

Laura Erdman Wheeler

Poonam Kumar

Beam Deji-Olatunde

Carlos Robles

Kim Koeven

Anahy Salcedo

Cassidy Van Deursen

Amira Snounou

Alyssa Belford

Sidney Garcia

Elizabeth Young

Abigail Tanner

Sonny Partola

John Henderson

Brianna Puga

Martha Hernandez

Linda Paternina-Serrano

Letters between Salt Lake City Council and Salt Lake City School District

We will be adding the text of the Salt Lake City Council Members' letter soon. For now, you can view the SLC School District's reply to the Salt Lake City Council Members.

October 20, 2022

Council Member Victoria Petro-Eschler

Council Member Alejandro Puy

Office of the City Council

451 South State Street, Room 304

PO Box 145476

Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-5476

Dear Council Members Petro-Eschler and Puy,

On behalf of the Board of Education of Salt Lake City School District, I want to thank you for your thoughtful letter of October 15, 2022 wherein you asked that the Board “consider exploring a Westside [high] school.” I know from discussions with Board members that they have read the letter carefully and points you make resonate with them. I am pleased to respond on their behalf.

 

Your letter is timely; in January we will begin a process to study population projections and trends, enrollment, boundaries and facility conditions. Underlying each step of the process will be consideration of best instructional practice, a large part of which will certainly be supporting students and their families in a context greater than individual classrooms. As you may know, the Board will also welcome new members onto the Board in January following next month’s election. For several Board members, it will be their first opportunity to wrestle with the issues and sometimes competing concerns – several of which you address in your letter.

 

Please be assured that we will take steps to inform and invite city leaders regarding the process and I encourage you to feel free to attend Board and community meetings and take opportunities to participate.

 

I thank you again and look forward to working together with Salt Lake City as we jointly serve our constituents.

 

Sincerely,

 

Martin W. Bates, Ph.D., J.D.

Superintendent

 

cc. Mayor Erin Mendenhall

SLC Council

Follow-Up Letter and Response

We will be adding the text of the SLC School District's response soon.

FOLLOW-UP LETTER TO SLC SCHOOL BOARD & DISTRICT

November 1, 2022


Melissa Ford and Nate Salazar
Salt Lake City School Board
440 East 100 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84101

Martin Bates
Superintendent SLCSD
440 East 100 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84101

 

Re:    Follow Up on 2020 Community Request for Westside High School Process


Dear Ms. Ford, Mr. Salazar, and Mr. Bates:

 

This letter follows up on our December 2020 request to the Salt Lake City School Board (“Board”) and Salt Lake City School District (“District”) to launch an authentic, community-based process to design and build an innovative new high school on Salt Lake City’s Westside. 

 

Since our initial request, we have had the chance to speak with several members of the Board as well as with District leaders. We have shared how this proposal would help address historical and present day inequities, benefit students and parents, and draw people back to the district. With strong Board and District leadership, and partners like the University of Utah, this proposal could benefit families across the district as part of a larger vision for enhancing the District’s secondary options.

 

We have also continued discussing the prospects of such a high school among parents, teachers, and community members in schools and neighborhoods on the Westside, as well as with parents, teachers, and community partners across the District. People have been overwhelmingly in favor of the idea, while raising important questions about programming, location, demographics, and the impact on other high schools. These are the kind of questions that can be addressed through a truly community-based and inclusive process. 

 

We had hoped the Board and the District would have included the idea of a high school in the southwest quadrant in its recently undertaken feasibility studies for West and Highland. Given the momentum these conversations have been gaining, as evidenced by the recent letter from Salt Lake City Council Members Alejandro Puy and Victoria Petro-Eschler, we feel that this is an ideal time for the Board and District to take the lead on the issue. 

 

To that end, we request the Board and District take concrete steps to study the proposal, invite comment from the public, and respond to community desires. Specifically, we request the following:

  1. Amend the feasibility studies currently underway with West and Highland to include a possible reduction and reallocation of the student body from the current 3 high schools in the District to a possible 4 high schools.
     

  2. Have the Board attend a parent meeting at the Glendale/Mountain View Community Learning Center in order to hear directly from the community about the inequities and challenges parents face from not having a local high school for their students.
     

  3. Add this issue to a Board study session in which the Board can hear from community members, partners, and education professionals about prospective benefits that a 4 high school system would bring to the District.
     

  4. Add this issue as an item to the Board’s meeting agenda in the near future, either at the same time or following the study session. 

 

We invite you to revisit our 2020 community request, which included greater discussion of the issue itself and supplemental information including qualitative data from parents, students, educators, and community advocates. 

 

Also, since our December 2020 meeting our community group of parents, students, former students, educators, community members, and advocates have termed ourselves Education Collective SLC. For the purposes of coordination and response, you may communicate with any of the undersigned or by email to equity@edcollectiveslc.org.

 

We have also included the names of all those who have signed on to our December 2020 request, which has been available online at www.edcollectiveslc.org, to reflect the spectrum of support for our community request.

 

We look forward to working together for a more equitable future.

 

Sincerely,
Education Collective SLC
Jennifer Mayer-Glenn
Paul Kuttner
Richard Jaramillo


 

CC:    All current members of and candidates for the Salt Lake City School Board

Download the
Response from

SLC School District

This follow-up letter included signatures from Concerned SLC School District Parents and/or Students (past or present), as well as Supportive SLC Residents, Educators, and/or Community Advocates. All signatures can be viewed on the PDF copy of the follow-up letter.

SLC SCHOOL DISTRICT RESPONSE (via email)

November 2, 2022


Dear Ms Mayer-Glenn, Mr. Kuttner and Mr. Jaramillo,

I am in receipt of your email of last night, including its attached letter. Receipt was timely as last night was a board meeting and I was able to chat with several board members who had seen it as well. Itzel Nava, an apparent signatory of the 2020 letter, addressed the Board during comment time and was articulate and persuasive. I have added her as a recipient of this email.

 

I have read your email, current letter, and the 2020 letter closely (I was able to find the 2020 letter on your website). I must confess I was not familiar with Education Collective SLC prior to last night, I know you more from your connection with the University of Utah in Campus-Community Partnerships and University Neighborhood Partners.

 

In your note you indicated your awareness of a letter sent to the Board by two City council members. I have attached our response to them. You will see in the response that the Board has a process for studying boundaries and populations – and the consequent effect on facilities. In this context, you may be familiar with the Utah State Supreme Court discussing school boards (specifically the Board of Education of Salt Lake City School District in fact), and stating: “it is inherent in the nature of the board’s function in managing school district business that it have a broad latitude of discretion in order to carry out its objective of providing the best possible school system in the most efficient and economical way.”

 

I trust you understand that the Board is mindful of their duty towards all 200,133 residents of Salt Lake City, whose tax dollars they spend. Taxing authority has been given the Board to provide an education for its 19,000 students. No individuals feel the tension between the public duty regarding taxation and spending those resources on behalf of children’s futures more than our school board members. In keeping with its policy therefore, as referred to in the letter to the City council members, the Board will have a study session in January where populations, boundaries and facilities are discussed. This will include discussion about, among other things, optimal school size – including optimal high school size – for educational purposes, not simply economy and efficiency. I am confident that the conversation will include discussion related to the City council members’ letter and your current letter as well.

 

Given the Board’s function and responsibility, we respectfully decline the opportunity to follow the process you enumerate in your letter. The Board will follow its own process. That having been said, the Board’s process continues beyond January, and includes most, and perhaps all, of the activities you suggested in your current letter, albeit likely in different order, by different names and on the Board’s own timeline. For that matter, state law is quite proscriptive regarding steps a Board must take when boundaries are adjusted. I’m confident you recognize that a new high school would involve boundary changes. The Board is committed to, and its policy and process so reflect, adhering to state law.

 

We thank you again for your letters and assure you that the Board invites robust community participation in helping the Board fulfil its obligations.

 

Sincerely,

 

Martin W. Bates, J.D., Ph.D.

Superintendent

Follow-Up Letter
SLC School Response
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