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Midvale Journal

New Canyons District administrative changes aimed to enhance student education

Nov 07, 2023 11:52AM ● By Julie Slama

New Canyons School District Assistant Superintendent McKay Robinson takes a spin on a tricycle during a Sandy Elementary event in 2019. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Canyons School District recently made some historic decisions, including naming McKay Robinson as assistant superintendent and Tom Sherwood as the District high school director amongst other administrative appointments.

Both are familiar faces in the District.

Robinson, who has been the elementary schools’ performance director the past four years, will now lead the implementation of Canyons’ new strategic plan with the intention to improve and enhance student education, provide professional development and supervise directors in several areas. He also will be part of the decision-making in the superintendent’s cabinet meetings amongst others.

He already has had influence in the district as he helped to lead and support elementary school principals through the COVID-19 pandemic. He also was part of the team who helped to build safety protocols in Canyons schools. For his contribution, he earned 2022 Apex Award as the Administrator of the Year.

It’s not the first time he’s been honored.

Robinson earned the 2012 Utah Association of Elementary School Principals’ Rookie of the Year Award and the 2013 Utah PTA Outstanding Administrator of the Year, where he served as Lone Peak Elementary’s principal for six years.  He then was principal at Sandy Elementary for four years and was awarded the 2016 Innovator of the Year Award from the Canyons Association of Elementary School Principals. During his time in the district office, he also was lauded with Utah State University’s 2000 Teacher of Tomorrow Award.

The 23-year educator was inspired at an early age to enter the profession.

“It was my third-grade teacher, Mr. Miner, who stepped up in my life and became more than just a teacher,” Robinson said. “He became my advocate, my biggest fan, and my hero, inspiration. It was at that time as an 8-year-old that I decided I wanted to be just like him. Ever since that time I have known what I wanted to become and do with my life, and I have never looked back.”

Robinson, who earned his bachelor’s in elementary education with a minor in Korean from Utah State University, began teaching at Sprucewood Elementary. While teaching there, he earned his master’s in teaching at Grand Canyon University. He was awarded his master’s in education in administrative licensure, leadership preparation program at Brigham Young University shortly after teaching fourth grade at Butterfield Canyon Elementary in Jordan School District and being an intern assistant principal at Southland Elementary (Jordan District), and at Union Middle (then Jordan, now Canyons District) and Lone Peak High (Alpine School District). He earned his doctorate in K-12 leadership and policy in 2020.

While known as a baseball aficionado, he also is an outdoors enthusiast, camping with friends and family and racing his road bike in cycling events including the 200-plus mile LoToJa (Logan to Jackson, Wyoming) Classic, which is one of the longest USA cycling-sanctioned bike races in the country.

Sherwood, the recipient of Canyons’ School Administrator of the Year APEX Award in 2021, steps into the director of high schools after serving the past 15 years as principal at Brighton and Jordan high schools. This is his 26th year in education.

“I’ve developed a good understanding of instruction, high school athletics and activities, and have a vision and carried out that vision for the schools; I have made strong efforts to be transparent and friendly and welcoming to our school communities,” he said.  

That helped Sherwood transition to his current position where he will use his visionary leadership to guide and support principals at the District’s five comprehensive high schools as well as at Canyons Technical Education Center, Diamond Ridge and Entrada alternative schools as they prepare students to be college and career ready. 

“I want to help principals be more effective in what they do. The job of the high school principal has become so big that it’s more than one person can do and it’s a high-demanding, time-consuming job. The average high school principal probably averages between 60 to 70 hours per week of labor and that includes extra work supervising athletic activities, dealing with personnel issues or working with the community about concerns. In this new position, I want to problem-solve to make it more manageable so principals can focus more on the most important work, which is student learning,” Sherwood said. “I’ll serve on the superintendent’s cabinet to help make informed decisions that impact high schools and make sure that we’re trying to move forward in a positive way with policies, procedures and resources.”

Another part of his position is to help coordinate and be the liaison with athletics and activities.

“Athletics and activities are a big part of what we offer in high schools. My involvement with the USHAA Board of Trustees and executive committee the past 12 years has really helped me learn a lot about best practices,” Sherwood said. “I’ll be helping with making sure that all coaches follow the state requirements, making sure that our district’s coaches get more training on appropriate coaching techniques and positive coaching behaviors. Ultimately, I want to make sure that we’re doing the best job we can and providing the best product we can for students.”

During his tenure at Brighton, where he also previously taught biology and chemistry, Sherwood oversaw the building and transition from the old school to the current and ensured education continued throughout that and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Those were challenging years, especially with COVID on top of it and keeping everything safe. We were holding instruction in that manner while building a school and making sure that the new school had all the necessary elements. When we started, I had no idea how big of a challenge and how time consuming that would all be and then it was compounded. I’m proud of the finished product as well as what we’re able to accomplish during those years,” he said.

Known as a multitasker (Sherwood has a sign in his office from his assistant principal that reads “don’t interrupt me while I’m texting” as he admits to texting, calling and doing everything at the same time), he will stop to listen to a student or take a break to boogie down on the dance floor with them (while admitting he doesn’t dance).

“I’m going to miss the students, giving them a high-five, cheering them, watching them perform, seeing their presentations, their banter back and forth in the hallways, just developing good relationships with the students in my building,” Sherwood said. “They’re why I got into education—to make a difference in the lives of students. There is something about teenagers; their energy and positivity is contagious and they’re just a fun group of people to be around.”

Other recent Canyons’ appointments include Butler Middle School’s principal Paul Logan as the District’s federal and state programs director, replacing Wendy Dau, who was appointed Provo City School District’s superintendent; East Sandy Principal Bryan Rudes will replace Logan at Butler Middle and Scott Dwyer will join him as assistant principal after working as an adaptive physical education teacher in the District’s special education department. Midvalley Elementary’s Assistant Principal Dan Ashbridge will become East Sandy’s new principal.

Corner Canyon High Assistant Principal Marielle Rawle will replace Sherwood as Brighton High’s principal, and joining her as an assistant principal will be April Sagala, a Jordan High counselor.

At Corner Canyon, Dina Kohler, formerly Hillcrest High assistant principal, will take the helm as its principal as Darrell Jensen left to be Provo City School District’s assistant superintendent. Jordan Denos, from Davis School District, will serve as an assistant principal for the Chargers, as well as science department chair Taylor Anderson, filling the vacancy of Steve Bailey, who retired. OJ Gulley, an Oregon middle school principal, will take Kohler’s place as Hillcrest High assistant principal. λ