Even after decades in education, Alpine School District Superintendent Sam Jarman still gets emotional when talking about students.
Part of it, he said, is because he has grandchildren in school. The other is because he believes that schools don’t only train up a workforce, but help shape safe communities.
“I am committed to doing everything I can to provide our kids with the opportunities they need to be successful in life,” Jarman said.
Jarman’s career in education has led him through teaching and leadership roles at Provo High School, American Fork Junior High School and American Fork High School before he became the superintendent of the Alpine School District, where he has been for about the last five years.
But he didn’t enter the classroom with the intent of climbing the district leadership ladder. While obtaining his master's degree, he applied for leadership positions and was offered a spot as an assistant principal at American Fork High School. At the time, Jarman said he would have been happy to go back to the classroom.
“I think one of the main reasons that I did that was I felt like I could make an impact on a greater group, a larger number of people,” he said.
Now, he leads Utah’s largest school district, which had about 82,000 students this fall and continued to grow by about 1,000 students a year. That growth makes it difficult for Jarman to physically make it to the 92 schools under his jurisdiction, but he tries to stay involved by meeting with three school board members at a school every Tuesday morning and attending cluster meetings in order to sit down with teachers, principals and parents.
He knows the principals of all the schools in the district, but admits it’d be impossible to be familiar with every one of the district’s more than 8,600 employees.
“We try to make sure people know they are appreciated and it is a full team effort,” Jarman said.
The growth also means the district has been eyeing placing a bond on the ballot every four years in order to fund school construction. The district sees the need for new schools in growing areas, in addition to replacing aging buildings that were constructed prior to seismic code improvements.
“We want all children to have the very best educational opportunities and so we have to take care of all parts of the district from that end,” Jarman said.
The district is eyeing placing a bond on the 2020 ballot. It has not announced the bond’s price tag or potential projects that could be built from the funds.
In the end, he wants the district to be producing students who can do something with their learning and are creative, collaborators and critical thinkers.
“We are not about just producing a workforce,” Jarman said. “We are about producing kids that are learning. They know how to ask questions. We don’t want robots.”