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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Cottonwood citizen, business partner, elected officials thanked for supporting school district

Oct 30, 2017 04:50PM ● By Julie Slama

Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore, seen here at Ridgecrest Elementary’s 50th anniversary, was awarded the Canyons School District Apex Legacy Award. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Few things catch Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore off guard, but that’s what happened when he received a call informing him he was a recipient of the Canyons School District Apex Legacy Award.

“I was told I’d be honored for my contributions to Canyons School District and I was surprised,” he said.

In September, Cullimore was honored as a Canyons Apex award winner along with 12 other individuals and community partners who were recognized at the school district’s eighth annual Apex Awards banquet. Winners for the crystal award, which is the highest honor given by the Canyons administration and board of education, were nominated by the public.

“We host this event every year to pay tribute to those in our community who have stood should-to-shoulder with us as we have worked to deliver a world-class education,” said Board President Sherril Taylor. “Whether your jobs are in a classroom or at the state capitol, you have taken to heart the sentiments that it takes a village to raise a child, that many hands make light work, that teamwork, as so eloquently stated by Andrew Carnegie, ‘is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.’”

Cullimore appreciated the recognition.

“It’s wonderful, but I was doing what I saw best for our community and our kids,” he said.

Cullimore referred to the official 2009 launch of Canyons School District and his supporting the vote to divide Jordan School District in half.

“Cottonwood Heights heavily wanted a new district. Two of our elementary schools, Cottonwood Heights and Mountview, had closed and there was talk of closing another. Our schools weren’t getting upgrades and our community was being affected with the closures,” he said.

Cullimore, who served as chair of the mayor’s committee, met with several others to ensure the vote passed in his community. He also has served as chair of Bella Vista Elementary’s school community council and with Jordan Education Foundation.

But he’s not always in board rooms. Cullimore also will step into the schools, wearing a Dr. Seuss hat, to read to children, or to talk about his careers both as mayor and as CEO of a medical device company to middle school and high school students.

“Education is what it’s all about and we need to invest in our community, our kids, our future,” he said.

State Rep. Marie Poulson, who won the Apex Elected Official of the Year Award, also is a staunch supporter of Canyons School District and public education.

“I taught 20 years in the classroom and was involved in the PTA with my five kids in Canyons schools,” she said. “There are few of us with classroom experience in the legislature who really understand what the effect is going to be when we talk about issues concerning students and the classrooms.”

Poulson, who has the voice of the teachers, the parents and the community alongside the interests of what is best for school children, said much discussion falls on standardized testing. While it’s good to have benchmarks, she said much of it should be reorganized.

Poulson said she can compare it to farming with the saying, “If we spend all our time weighing and measuring than feeding, it’s a problem.”

“I think that’s where we are. Perhaps we’ve gone overboard. We look at SAGE standardized testing, school grades, high school juniors testing in English and so many more. We don’t always recognize what is going on in the classrooms, how teachers are helping our students grow. I know. I’ve been there. We need to streamline it,” she said.

Poulson also said she hasn’t stepped far away from schools. She still returns to talk to Canyons students about serving in the house at the state capitol as well as give tours.

“This award is really meaningful as I’ve worked so many years with children and it comes from other educators,” she said.

Working in the schools is at the heart of Rayna Drago’s service, who won the Canyons Volunteer of the Year Award.

As a two-year PTA president at Canyon View Elementary, Drago is often found volunteering, fundraising, tutoring and mentoring — serving just about wherever she sees a need.

She said her focus is to brighten a child’s day, but she also wants to give those around her a boost. For example, Drago had just sent out an email with a silly joke when she received a call from the district.

“I thought, ‘oh no, someone didn’t like the silly comment I put in,’ and so I thought I was in trouble,” she said.

Instead, the call was to tell her that she would be receiving the Apex Award.

“It was overwhelming and totally unexpected,” she said, adding that when former Canyon View principal BJ Weller surprised her with balloons at recess, she was instantly surrounded by students cheering.

“Everyone said I lived at the school for those two years and I just took it to a new level. They knew if there was a job to be done, I’d get it done,” she said.

Drago said simple things like a movie night, having a dude lunch for students and their dads, grandfathers and other male role models or posting photos of the principal and having kids search for “Where’s Weller” brought smiles to the students.

“I just looked for fun things, new events and activities for the students to make a difference in their lives,” she said.

Impacting students’ lives is what RizePoint’s goal has been for the past two years, said its CEO Frank Maylett.

RizePoint, a Cottonwood Heights-based software company, was awarded the Business Partner of the Year.

“I was in a meeting when our chief marketing staff member came in and said, ‘I’m happily interrupting’ and told us about the award. I’m pragmatic. I thought, ‘Why us? We haven’t done enough. There’s more we can do,’” he said.

However, RizePoint has donated $5,000 to the Canyons Education Foundation to provide scholarships for students to attend STEM camps so about 20 students each summer can learn about space, computer science, engineering, marine science and more.

“We want to expand that so more students can benefit,” he said.

Maylett understands the hardship many students and their families face and know without help, they may not be able to attend such camps.

I grew up with a single parent and we were incredibly poor. I couldn’t pay for a lot of participation fees and sports, so STEM camps were out of the question,” he said.

Maylett is a believer in providing service and giving opportunity to those in his community.

 “One day per quarter, we shut down the company to go out to do service. It’s an investment I’m willing to make to help our employees be better employees and to help people in our community,” he said.

 Recently, RizePoint employees talked to area students and had mini coding lessons at Utah STEM Fest and helped with United Way. They also have helped get supplies to East Midvale Elementary students.

 “I think about the bumper sticker, ‘think globally, act locally.’ If all the businesses could step up to help our schools, think of the significant impact we could make,” Maylett said. “We celebrated the award in our office with the focus being on we’re helping young people’s success. We pay it forward and toasted the students and Canyons School District.”

Several employees who serve for the entire District were honored, including External Affairs Director Charlie Evans, Nutrition Services Director Sebasthian Varas and Student Support Services Instructional Specialist Susan Henrie.