From the time he was a young boy, John Bone learned the real value of education. He saw - through his parents' example - that effective classrooms bring out the best in others.
Now Bone is known by his associates across the state and nation as one of the greatest innovators in education for making classrooms more effective. He was recently selected as "Principal of the Year" by the Utah Education Association for his achievements."I would get very bored in a sense if new things were not happening," he said. "That may be a weakness because a person has to be careful not to change things that are good, but in my opinion schools always need change."
Bone's title as innovator comes mainly from his work in developing the year-round school concept. In 1980 he became the principal of Provo School District's Westridge Elementary, a brand new school that would be one of the state's first schools to implement the year-round program.
And now Bone is considered a national leader on year-round schools, said Vern Brimley, Provo School District's administrative assistant to the superintendent.
"I think he's been very innovative," he said. "He works very well with his staff. He's pioneered some excellent work in year-round not only for Provo but the state."
Bone also developed Student Educator Parent (SEP) Conferencing where students attend conferences along with their parents and teachers. Westridge is home of the first SEP model in the state.
The conference is a time where the students, parents and teachers discuss what can be done to help a student grow.
"This is personally what we want to be about - building trust levels," Bone said. "We make everyone account for their actions, but we are all in it together."
The school also uses a sophisticated computer management system, which keeps a database of test scores and class projects. The system allows teachers to see in black and white what their students have mastered as they go through the year-round program.
On a visit to Bone's office at Westridge, it's evident that he has a great desire to be a good educator and provide students with a valuable education. His office wall is lined with awards from various organizations.
In addition to the UEA Award of Excellence as "Principal of the Year," Bone was selected as "Innovator of the Year" in 1986 by the Utah Association of Elementary School Principals. He has also been the recipient of the PTA's Golden Apple Teaching Award.
He serves on a number of boards, including the regional committee for year-round schools and on the board of the Assessment Center at University of Utah. The assessment center is made of administrators from throughout the state who assess and develop new ideas for schools. It is sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Bone also served three years as chairman of the Utah State Board of Education's Advisory Committee for the Handicapped. That appointment most likely came for his involvement in developing the resource program for moderately to mildly handicapped students in the late 1960s.
That is what Bone calls his first opportunity to be involved in creating a new approach to education. And later when Westridge was in the planning stages, district officials designed the school as the home of the special education program under Bone's direction.
But as his humble nature would have it, Bone says, "All awards and appointments are an outcome of working under good people. When you have really strong teachers that work well together it makes you look good. I'm not in a power position, I just want to help bring out the best in all of us.
"I think my success primarily comes from being dumb enough to risk trying new things and breaking traditions."
He said a number of people come all the time from the state and other states "to see what we are doing here, and what really strikes them is the morale of teachers. This is a comfortable atmosphere."
Bone said morale is high because teachers have a choice about their contracts and work load. Under a varied contracts system, teachers can work year-round, nine months, or they can share a contract with another teacher.
Total support from faculty and parents who have had the courage to change tradition has helped the district to implement the year-round program, he said.
The Westridge year-round program operates on a calendar of 45 days in school, 15 days out of school. There are 172 school days in the year, but it is equivalent to the 180-day requirement because days are slightly longer.
The Provo School District model is used in the Jordan, Granite, Murray and St. George school districts as well.
"It's been the most popular year-round calendar in Utah," Bone said. "We went that way originally for the educational point of view to see how kids would do academically, but now schools have no choice but to go year-round to keep up with the population growth."
Capacity increases by 33 percent when a school goes to the year-round program.
Bone said, "Kids are so far advanced that it is scary. It puts the responsibility on educators and parents to keep a step ahead. Schools ought to be stimulating."