Five months ago, brand new Tooele School District Superintendent Scott Rogers made headlines by cutting the district budget to the tune of $666, 828. (“New Superintendent Already Cutting Costs,” July 16, 2013)
His actions struck me then as decisive and creative, though I grudgingly noted that a la carte was taken away from school lunch. As a parent of children who attend Grantsville High School and Grantsville Junior High, I took a wait-and-see approach.
So far, I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen. I can only speak for GHS and GJHS because that’s where I, as a parent, see the impact of this leadership change and hear about it from my own children. If improvements in my city schools are any indication of what’s been going on elsewhere in the county, I think we are headed in the right direction.
Change hit GHS hard literally days before the start of the school year, when Superintendent Rogers, along with the rest of the school board, appointed Mark Ernst as GHS’ new principal.
Not being a Grantsville-ite from pioneer stock, I didn’t realize until I read an article about outgoing principal Travis McCluskey that he’s a true-blue (pardon the expression, Cowboy red fans) GHS loyalist. I could see why the change was hard for some to accept. I do have to say that when I asked McCluskey about his new assignment, his answer was very classy and gracious, a true example to me of someone who takes the higher ground.
Change is never easy. Change can be fraught with fear of the unknown.
For me, however, Ernst was not an unknown factor. I knew him before he took over the reins at GHS, both as the principal at Blue Peak High School/Community Learning Center and as the dad of my daughter’s friends. As the CLC Administrator, Ernst was always friendly, professional, and accessible. So I was excited to see what he could do for GHS.
One of the areas where I’ve noticed a huge difference has been the utilization of the Community Council, an organization of parents, teachers, and administrators that meets once a month to improve the school.
My husband, Drew Allen, who is the council chair, reports of conversations with Ernst where he brings up a concern, and the principal replies that he’s already started looking into the issue. Not only that, but usually, a solution follows soon after. I also appreciate that he has high expectations of students and faculty.
And then the happiest of days came when GHS had its turn and finally got a scholarship coordinator like Tooele High School and Stansbury High School, the previous lack of which I bemoaned in an op-ed (“All high schools need a scholarship coordinator,” May 29,2012).
As the parent of a senior, I can’t tell you how excited I am to have someone like Jolynn Peterson on my daughter’s side as she sifts through scholarship information. Not only that, but Peterson has been very helpful and encouraging to students as they prepare for and go to scholarship interviews.
No doubt, seeds were planted through the previous administrations. Still, it takes special leaders like Superintendent Rogers and Principal Ernst to not only listen to concerns, but to implement solutions so quickly and decisively.
Jewel Punzalan Allen is a memoir writing coach and an award-winning journalist who lives in Grantsville. Visit her website at www.TreasuredStories.net.