19 November, 2010 - 06:01
Ken Durrant is in his third term serving on the Morgan School Board and is loving the experience. “ I have enjoyed every minute of it “ says Durrant. He is a lifelong resident of Morgan. His father was mayor of Morgan City and he graduated from Morgan High School. Durrant and his wife, Kris, have four children, three of which still live in Morgan, and eleven grandchildren. This year Durrant and his wife will celebrate their fortieth anniversary.
Durrant started his career as a school teacher. He taught music in Park City, then Heber City, and finally in Morgan. He then changed careers and became an electrician. He was hired at Holcim in this line of work and worked there for thirty years. He may have left education as a career, but has found a way to stay connected with helping students to have a good education.
The Morgan County School Board is made up of five members. Each of the members serves four years. The school board is a policy board and is not involved in the day to day administration of the schools. The superintendent oversees the administrative issues in the schools and reports to the school board. Each member of the school board has specific portfolio assignments, including the DATC, recreation, the water board, special education, etc. Durrant’s assignments are the recreation board and he oversees the audits of the school district.
Durrant has high praise for Superintendent Adams. When Ron Wolff left to become the Superintendent for Box Elder, Durrant says that Adams immediately stepped in and the school district, “didn’t miss a beat.” He also commented on the teachers. “We have been very fortunate to have quality teachers, quality administrators. People who care more about the kids than their pocketbooks….The teachers could go somewhere else and get a better salary. Some of them who drive in from another community could go to a school just across the street from their home, but want to come here. We are very, very fortunate in having good quality teachers. Many teachers drive past schools where they could make more money to come teach in Morgan.” Although Morgan has one of the lowest taxation rates in the state, the district has continued to have the highest graduation rates and some of the highest testing scores in the state. Durrant expressed that the leadership in the district and the quality of teachers were key ingredients to this success.
Durrant believes there are a number of factors that attract good teachers to the schools. In some cases the teachers want to have their children attend here, he observes. He also believes that the quality of students, the community support, and the feeling of closeness among the staff are key factors that help Morgan attract and retain great teachers on less pay than they could earn elsewhere.
Durrant sees many great things about Morgan, the administrators, the teachers, the students, and the community, but he recognizes that the school board is trying to solve a number of difficult issues. One of the most significant is related to growth and the ability for the school district to fund and support this growth.
Durrant reports that the Morgan School District added 100 students in the last year. That is a five percent increase and is during a time when the county ‘s overall growth has slowed. With this level of growth the school district will struggle to have enough funding to support the students with the limited tax base. Like all government entities in the county, the school board is challenged to meet the needs with the revenues provided by a residential tax base and only a small number of businesses in the county. Morgan has been able to sustain the high quality of education for students over many years without a county tax increase for education, but if rapid growth was to continue, he is concerned about whether this can be true in the future.
Durrant reports that within the next few years there will need to be work done on the High School. The school will likely need to be expanded as additional students are added. The original school was built in 1966 and does not have the infrastructure of modern buildings like a fire suppression system and air conditioning. It is also nearly at capacity. The school district made the decision this year to invest in a new physical education facility. This will allow the high school to accommodate multiple simultaneous classes. The district has also approved construction on a new bus garage. Both of these items are being financed through federal stimulus money that substantially reduces the cost to Morgan County residents.
Although it has only been a few years since the district built the new elementary school in Mountain Green, Morgan Elementary is already back to capacity. There is room for some growth in Mountain Green, but the school board is already considering the purchase of additional land for another elementary school that will likely be in the county’s future should growth continue or accelerate.
Durrant is also concerned about Federal and State requirements on the schools. While he sees some benefit from the No Child Left Behind program and Morgan is currently performing well on the tests, he observes that these requirements come without additional funding and with strings attached that can remove funding for schools that do not perform up to expectation. The No Child Left Behind requirements increase over the coming years and Durrant is concerned about whether any of the districts will be able to meet the ultimate target of 100% of students reaching the minimum threshold.
Even with these challenges Durrant sees a bright future for the Morgan School district. With strong leadership from Superintendent Adams, dedicated teachers, good students and supportive parents he sees a bright future for Morgan. He hopes to be able to continue to serve and looks forward to helping chart a future in which the students of Morgan continue to participate in one of the best educational systems in the state.