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EQUITY

REQUIRES

ACTION

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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.

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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.

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Gathered Online Since Original Letter 
(updated April 29, 2022)

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

Michael 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

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