Salt Lake City School District Team Puts Focus on Student Success at National Conference


Glendale Middle School is part of national Priority Schools Campaign

More than 300 teachers, support professionals, union and district leaders, community members and parents from 17 states including a group from Salt Lake City, concluded a three-day forum to share strategies for success in school transformation efforts. Participants in NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign forum, themed Changes, Challenges and Collaboration, traveled to New Orleans recently and left with new strategies to continue their school and communities’ path toward student success.

Local attendees at the New Orleans conference included individuals representing all levels of the Glendale Middle School education community:

  • Salt Lake City School District Superintendent McKell Withers;
  • Salt Lake Board of Education member Kristi Swett;
  • Glendale Middle School Principal John Erlacher;
  • Glendale Middle School teacher Greg Mohammed;
  • Glendale Middle School area parent Elizabeth Montoya;
  • Salt Lake Teachers Association President Susan McFarland;
  • Utah Education Association Director of Educational Excellence Sara Jones; and
  • Wasatch UniServ Director Elaine Tzourtzouklis

The conference was sponsored by the NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, a multi-year effort to support educators working to raise student achievement at struggling schools, in partnership with school districts, administrators, families and communities.

“We are making a commitment with Glendale Middle School educators, parents, district and school board leaders to put students first in transforming our schools,” said Susan McFarland, president of the Salt Lake Teachers Association. “We don’t get a chance very often to share experiences about what works and what doesn’t, and this is an opportunity to share that type of information on a national scale.”

A strong collaborative effort sharply reduced discipline problems and raised attendance at Glendale Middle, while student performance has increased. Glendale also achieved federal requirements of Adequate Yearly Progress in 2010-11 as the school completed its first year of the program.

The conference was opened by a speech from National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, who declared, “The status quo must go. We need to be dissatisfied with the way things are. It has to gnaw deep down in your gut so hard that you can’t stand it. That you can’t take it for one more day that it stays the way it is. That you not only accept change, you demand change.”

During the forum, participants in site-based teams shared their strategies and experience, interacted with reform experts and connected with experts and resources from NEA and its partners.  Participants included more than 300 teachers, education support professionals, union leaders, district administrators and parents, representing 39 Priority Schools from 17 states.

NEA’s national campaign centers on promoting collaborative work on five research-driven elements that lead to permanent systemic change:  leveraging community assets, improving staff capacity and effectiveness, developing family and community partnerships, improving district and local association capacity and collaboration, and improving student achievement and learning.

“The teams from these Priority Schools are doing the hardest work in education—and the most important,” said Van Roekel. “We are finding that we really can make a difference in a child’s life, if all of the adults work together.”

Forum participants heard from senior U.S. Department of Education officials, interacted with other education reform experts and connected with resources from NEA and its partners. One new resource is a virtual mentoring program for Intensive Support Sites. This pilot program, a result of a partnership with the Center for Teaching Quality, features 41 accomplished teachers to serve as virtual mentors to their fellow educators in priority schools.

NEA also unveiled new research on strategies to involve parents and communities in schools, a key reform strategy that is often ignored. More than 30 years of research has shown that parent, family and community involvement correlates with higher academic performance and school improvement.

“NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign can create a ripple effect for change in education policy and practice nationwide,” said Van Roekel. “This conference is about more than possibilities – it will focus on real examples of how systems and schools can be transformed to help students succeed.”

See previous stories from local schools:


Utah: For Schools and Associations, Priority Schools Campaign is a Real Opportunity


NEA’s ‘Priority Schools Campaign’ addresses needs at SLC school


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