OGDEN -- The Ogden School Board and two district officials have earned a top honor in a program that promotes professional development.
The seven-member school board, along with Superintendent Brad Smith and business administrator Eugene Hart, have completed Level 1 of Master Board requirements on a website developed by the Utah School Boards Association.
Of Utah's 41 school districts, no other can boast 100 percent board, superintendent and business manager participation.
"JoDee Sundberg, from the Alpine School District, came up with the idea two years ago," said Joyce Wilson, the Ogden School Board member and Ogden's representative to the Utah School Board Association. "We split into committees, and came up with different areas where training would take place."
The five professional development areas selected were continuous improvement, advocacy, community engagement/collaborative relationships, accountability and foundation of effective governance, said Wilson, who served on the USBA committee.
The committees devised ways each requirement could be met, and posted the information on a password-only portion of the USBA website. The site keeps track of participants' reported achievements, and it records scores.
"Some of the options were reading or participating in meetings, and some of it was getting to know legislators, meeting with them, and inviting them into schools," Wilson said.
Taking a finance class and doing a board assessment also were required.
Competition got fierce as the mid-December deadline approached, Wilson said, but Ogden took top honors, percentage-wise, with a score of 45 percent. The next closest percentage was 41, Wilson said, adding she does not know exactly how the USBA site awarded its specific scores.
The professional development program will last four years and have four levels, Wilson said, with additional requirements and more in-depth study required each year. Since the program is relatively new and assessment options are still being refined, the board did a self-assessment this year, Wilson said.
"We went through, making some determinations on areas where we felt strong or weak," she said. "Now we are starting to work on how we adjust some of those areas where we have weaknesses."
Board members determined they could do a better job in "communicating things not only to district employees, but to the community," Wilson said.
"One of our strengths is we can see the direction we would like to take district," she said. "Student achievement is our main focus, and that is what is driving the board and district leadership."
Wilson said she and the other board members enjoyed the readings they did, including books on leadership topics. They also gained a better understanding of challenges other school districts face.
"We have our challenges in Ogden, including economic hardship and non-English speaking students, but some districts in the more rural parts of our state are without Internet access, and have children who ride the bus for two hours to get to school," Wilson said.
"It's given me a better understanding of the issues in our state, and other ways to approach problems. A lot of times we don't have to reinvent the wheel. There's another district in Utah or in the United States that has solved similar problems. And the evaluations have helped me. Sometimes you think things seem to be going along fine, but then you realize maybe you could do better."