SLC School District Superintendent Expresses her Concerns for Upcoming Years

Superintendent+Dr.+Lexi+Cunningham+speaks+to+a+group+of+Highland+students.++
Superintendent Dr. Lexi Cunningham speaks to a group of Highland students.

Superintendent Dr. Lexi Cunningham speaks to a group of Highland students.

Maggie Lea

Maggie Lea

Superintendent Dr. Lexi Cunningham speaks to a group of Highland students.

Kat Schilling, Co-News Editor

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“I worry about safety,” Lexi Cunningham, the Salt Lake City School District Superintendent, said on Wednesday while speaking to a group of Highland students.  “We are putting cameras and buzzers in the front of each of our elementary school so we can better control those entry points and next we will work on our middle schools and our high schools, so I think we have had a heightened sense of awareness for safety.”

Amidst the recent trends of violence in schools across the country, Cunningham was quick to react in a way that would make schools in the Salt Lake City School District as safe as possible.  Due to the discomfort she takes in not being able to confidently guarantee that schools are entirely safe and her love for all children, Cunningham has made safety a priority as superintendent.

Safety relates to more than just avoiding violence, though.  Another element of safety that Cunningham takes very seriously is the issue of mental health.  Not only does Cunningham hope to provide help for students that ask for it, but she wants to find ways to identify these students and get them the help they need before it is too late.

“I think [the priority] is getting students and teachers to understand that for some of our students they probably don’t have a lot of adult interaction in their life, so how do we as a school figure out where those students are and how to help those students,” Cunningham said. She also related the issue of mental health to that of violence, hoping that by providing the help that some students may need, unsafe situations can be avoided.

“I also think [the priority] is helping students to deal with anger in a way where they can express themselves with words rather than fists,” Cunningham stated.

Another issue Cunningham has been focusing on is keeping classes at a reasonable size, despite Utah’s low funding for education.  In order to ensure there are enough teachers for all of the students, the Salt Lake City School District tracks the number of students in each grade from kindergarten in order to develop an accurate prediction of class sizes once these students hit high school.

Even as more teachers are being hired, though, large classes remain hard to avoid.  Though core classes often have a fairly uniform number of students, the addition of electives add one more complication to the creation of schedules.

“You may have a really large class here at Highland, but for every really large class, you’ve got two or three smaller classes,” Cunningham said.  “Principles have to make decisions on what’s a magic number to let a class go.  You may have eighteen students that have signed up for calculus AB, knowing those students need that class, but if you let that class of eighteen go, you know you’re probably going to have to have a class of 35 or 36 somewhere else.”

Originally being a superintendent for a school district in Arizona, the change to a Utah school district has been challenging when it comes to rationing out the schools’ limited funding.  Despite Utah spending the least amount of money on each student in the U.S. Cunningham hopes that her efforts will move the district in the right direction.

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