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OPINION: ASD split needed now; Bigger is not better, especially for schools



I attended last week’s meeting at American Fork Junior High, where MGT (Alpine School District’s hired firm) explained the advantages and disadvantages of a district split. I was interested in hearing the research results, but some statements made during the presentation gave me pause.

I have been a student, teacher, counselor, and, finally, an Alpine School District board member for most of my life. I have watched Lehi progress from being called the district’s “ugly stepchild” to being the “belle of the ball,” as MGT’s spokesperson, Lance Reynolds, quipped at the beginning of the meeting.

My perspective has been shaped by nearly 70 years of involvement in local education. My husband and I were teachers in the district for a combined 54 years. I have five children, four of whom were/are educators, and now I have four grandchildren serving as teachers in the Alpine School District. Two grandchildren are employed in the Canyons District. Seventeen of my eighteen grandchildren have been educated in the Alpine School District. I have seen the growth and decline in enrollment on both sides of the district over the last 50 years. My unique perspective comes from years of caring passionately about education in our area.

In the 70s, I was a teacher in Murray School District. It is a city school district, like Provo, Park City, and Logan. At the time, there was one high school, two junior highs, and five elementary schools. A small office housed the superintendent and his staff. I loved the tight-knit community of staff and educators in the Murray School District. We saw the superintendent in our school almost every day. There was a feeling of community and support throughout the district. I loved my years in Murray. I contrasted this experience with the 22 years working in Alpine School District, with extreme growth in the district’s south end. Its subsequent leveling off and then explosive growth in the north part of the district.

During last week’s meeting, Reynolds mentioned the difficulty Jordan School District had in its split several times. I was aware of some of the angst during the split, but today, if an employee of either Canyons or Jordan were questioned about the wisdom of the split, they would agree that it was the best thing that could have happened. Today, Canyons and Jordan School Districts outpace ASD teacher pay by almost $10,000 annually. A substitute teacher in Canyons makes around $200 per day; the rate is around $100 in Alpine.

We heard the term “economies of scale” several times in the meeting. Essentially, the term means the more you serve, the cheaper it is. As a board member, I heard this often and wondered how that broke out in actual dollars. I always heard we ran our district more economically than others, but I have not seen actual figures. The term “economies of scale” concerns business and supplies rather than schools and students. After an ASD board meeting, I often felt like I had attended a corporate meeting focusing on the bottom line rather than a school meeting focusing on student achievement. 

My sister taught in a California school district during my term as an ASD board member. She said the superintendent’s office was in the high school. The district did not have a curriculum department, human resources department, public relations department, transportation department, food services department, professional development department or facilities department. The principal was responsible for all these aspects of his students’ education and reported directly to the parents. Teachers were given much more autonomy and generally loved their work. I recognize the simplicity of this scenario, but we have reached a point where the district’s size has reached a point of diminishing returns. I could name several instances where the district’s size has made decision-making slow and cumbersome.


Today, Lehi is in a unique position of power and has the financial underpinnings and tax base to create its own city district. The time is now. 

I love the words of Dave Cox, a beloved Lehi resident, teacher and legislator who championed smaller schools. He often cited research that explained the value of smaller, more nimble districts. Cox quoted Gandhi, who said, “Men. . . should make their actual living and working in communities. . small enough to permit genuine self-government and the assumption of personal responsibilities, federated into a larger unit in such a way that the temptation to abuse great power should not arise.” 

“Lehi School District” I love the way that sounds!

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