Ten years ago on July 1, 2009, the world of public education in Utah was changed when Canyons District became the first new school district to be created in the state in nearly a century.
A front-row seat to the historic creation of Canyons District, which was forged by the will of the people via a vote on Nov. 6 2007, has been afforded to Susan Edwards, Canyons’ longest-tenured employee.
Edwards, now the district’s public engagement coordinator, appeared this morning on ABC4’s “Good Morning Utah” to talk about the district’s accomplishments in its first decade and invite the community to a 10th birthday party.
The event is Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sandy Amphitheater splash pad, 1245 E. 9400 South. Hot dogs, chips, water, and birthday cake will be served to the first 500 people.
“It feels like Canyons’ history is part of my family’s history,” said Edwards, who was initially hired to assist the first-ever Canyons Board of Education and inaugural Superintendent, Dr. David Doty. “My family sees what you can accomplish, they see the relationships and the strength it takes just to battle through. They’ve learned a lot about community service, and how important education is to me.”
Edwards was among the first few staff members to work in makeshift headquarters while making plans to launch the district just eight weeks after the official founding date. She recalls the early mornings, long days and late nights to make sure enough had been done to successfully start school on Aug. 26, 2009. But the hard work of the Canyons community has paid off — and has exceeded many expectations.
In the past 10 years, CSD teachers have delivered 18.3 million hours of instruction, cafeterias have dished up 28 million meals, and CSD bus drivers have logged 15.7 million miles. In just 10 years, Canyons has rebuilt or renovated 13 schools and started work on four others and developed a unique differentiated diploma program to reward students who go above and beyond the state graduation requirements. CSD students also have won a whopping 43 state UHSAA championships, a newly implemented $50,000-a-year-to-start salary schedule is attracting teachers from all over the country, and CSD students are outpacing peers on year-end tests, in some cases by as many as 13 percentage points.
Before Canyons was created, Edwards was involved in her children’s school community as a member of the school community council and PTA president. After Canyons’ creation, Edwards continues to devote her time and energy to supporting the District and its students, even if her own kids have moved on.
“I still want Canyons to be the best it can be,” Edwards said. “We’ve got 34,000 other kids. Our staff, our teachers, our children, our communities, they all rely on Canyons doing a good job. It’s not really a job we get to fail at. If we do, we’re failing a classroom of kids, and their whole education is impacted. We don’t get to fail because we are producing the people who will run our world for the next many years.”
A Decade of Distinction • By the Numbers
- Canyons’ five traditional high schools have staged more than 50 fall musicals, cheered 43 team state sports championships, and prepared graduates for roughly $300 million in college scholarship offers.
- Seven new schools and special programs have come into being.
- The Board of Education has approved some kind of employee compensation increase every year of the District’s existence, including a proposal this year to bring the starting teacher pay to $50,000.
- The Canyons Education Foundation has fueled teachers’ ideas for improving instruction through the award of $708,000 in Innovation Grants.
- Canyons’ students have outpaced their peers on year-end tests, in some cases by as many as 13 percentage points.
- Canyons’ graduation rate has reached an all-time high of 89 percent.
- With two, tax-neutral voter-approved bonds, we have built, rebuilt or renovated 13 schools with plans for major upgrades to eight more—all while maintaining the Canyons’ AAA bond rating.
- Canyons has welcomed the contributions of 126,000 volunteers in our classrooms.