PROVO — A concerned parent group's proposal to create a task force to study critical district issues received a warm welcome from Provo School Board and administration during a study session Tuesday evening.

Provo Superintendent Randall J. Merrill applauded the group's efforts and said, "I think we should do this."

The task force would study demographics and needs; research best practices from around the world; and then develop a framework that the board can choose to use when making decisions regarding secondary schools in the future.

Christian Faulconer, representing the parents' group, presented a list of issues the group believes the district should be concerned with now — and in the next decade — focusing on middle and high schools.

The issues are:

• Facilities and location of schools: Dixon Middle School and Provo High School may require rebuilds or significant improvements. Timpview High School will be in need of significant upgrades over the next 10 years.

• Teacher shortage: The district needs to attract and retain teachers.

• Changing demographics and more at-risk populations: The district needs to develop coordinated programs to target the needs of at-risk students.

• Transition between elementary school, middle school and high school: Programs need to be developed to improve continuity.

• Parental involvement: Parents should be educated so they can be supportive of higher standards expected of their children, and non-English speakers need to become involved.

• Increased competition at the secondary school level: Charter schools and private schools continue to grow.

• More is expected of children: Students need to be prepared for post-secondary education.

• Unity: As parents work together on specific programs rather than specific schools, the community will be more unified.

The task force should have a unifying effect for the district, which sometimes gets caught in an "east versus west" attitude, Faulconer said.

Board member Shannon Poulsen said, "I love the idea of unifying this city."

The task force could also help the district be prepared for the next bond referendum. The current bond debts expire around 2015, according to district officials.

The task force would consist of seven core members including parents, educators, university representatives, community members and city leaders. The school board would help determine the task force members.

The task force would report to the school board quarterly, Faulconer said.

The goal is to work together in brainstorming and deriving positive solutions.

"We want people who are open-minded and committed to collaboration and unity," Faulconer said. "We are not looking for people to come and complain and whine."

Board member Carolyn Wright questioned whether the work of such a proposed task force shouldn't be done by the elected community council members.

Faulconer, however, said the task force would go forward as proposed — with or without the school board's blessing. "We're concerned parents. And frankly, we're going to do this either way," he said.

Faulconer added if the board approves of the task force, it would legitimize their efforts and provide access to district resources.

The secondary education task force proposal could be placed on the Provo board agenda for potential board approval at next month's meeting.

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