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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Jameson best principal in state, will represent Utah nationally

Sep 03, 2022 11:59AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Wile E. Coyote never had a chance against the Road Runner in the Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoons.

The same may be said against those vying for the Utah Elementary Principal of the Year honor against Alta View Roadrunners’ principal Scott Jameson, who’s application was as put together and submitted as fast as the comic blue bird.

Jameson, who was named Canyons School District’s Elementary Principal of the Year, said he didn’t have time to attend the Utah Association of Elementary School Principals conference on Feb. 17 where he was named a finalist for the state honor. He also said he didn’t have time to fill out an extended application for the award.

“It's hard to be gone from the school; whenever I take a day off, it takes like three days to make up for it and I also don't feel like you should ever apply for that award,” Jameson said about the honor that happened this past spring. “I had so much I was doing that I didn’t have time to fill out this big packet. So, I just basically responded, ‘I'm not going to do that.’ But word got out and people in my community were saying things to me like, ‘I hope you win the state one.’”

That’s because after learning about it, parent volunteer and School Community Council member Dr. Allyn Kau found the application online and with the help of faculty and parents, completed and submitted the application, much of it unknown to Jameson.

“He was selected as the Canyons Elementary Principal of the Year and he didn't tell anybody,” Kau said. “I heard about it the second week of March and I emailed a congratulations and asked, ‘what’s next?’ Mr. Jameson deflected the attention, saying he didn’t have time and didn’t feel right about applying for an award. I understood his viewpoint because this last school year was the most difficult of all three years of the pandemic by leaps and bounds and there was so much to do. But just from what I've seen, over the past four years, his leadership style and the things that he's been able to accomplish, and more importantly, the things people around him are able to accomplish because he sets a fostering, positive environment. I told him, ‘You got to give it a shot.’ When he said he didn’t have time, I knew I was going to submit something because we appreciate all his efforts and all that he does, and his leadership style.”

She reached out to other parents, faculty, principals and administrators, and with their help, submitted Jameson’s 26-page application in half the time as his competition.

“His reach is so far. People were helpful and willing, and said, ‘he’s so deserving of this,’” Kau said.

Jameson didn’t realize his application was being written for him.

“I didn't know she was doing this until she finally said, ‘I have to ask you a few questions because there's a few final things on the packet that I can't answer.’ At this point since she put so much work into it, I answered the questions. I felt very appreciated and loved from her and all the people had helped with it. I thought, ‘this is so very nice of a thing to do’ and genuinely was touched, but that was all,” he said.

In mid-May, about 575 neighborhood and Spanish dual immersion Alta View students and faculty, Canyons administrators and UAESP members surprised Jameson in the school multipurpose room with the state award.

“I walked into the gym, and there are all the students and several principals from the UAESP, my family was there, the superintendent and (Canyons Board of Education Vice President) Steve Wrigley. I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, thumbs up.’ They had a banner for me, and it was kind of a fun. It caught me off guard,” he said.

It was a good day for the Jameson family as his daughter, Carissa, also was named senior class president at her high school.

“It was really neat to share the excitement of the day with her,” Jameson said. “Receiving this honor was such a big deal. Even before I got the state award, when I was a finalist, the PTA threw a surprise indoor parade for me, and the kids threw candy and wrote me a bunch of notes. I had a note from basically every kid in the school.”

Now, Jameson will represent the state at the National Elementary Principal Association conference in October and be considered for the national honor.

“I'm actually quite excited. I get a meet with educational leaders in Washington, possibly even the secretary of education and other educational leaders and talk about the state of education,” he said.

Jameson had a chance after the celebration to read the application that was submitted on his behalf.

“When I got to read the application that was submitted, I was like, ‘Holy cow. Who is this guy? He's really impressive.’ Dr. Kau is a very good writer and very smart. I'm really just an average guy who had a very good packet writer,” he said, quick, as usual, to share the spotlight. “The application is pretty honest. I really liked that part of it because I think sometimes when you have someone who wins an award, you view them as you know perfect. Then the reality is people get to places because they've had a lot of failures. They've had a lot of challenges. They've had a lot of struggle, and through those struggles and challenges and failures, they learn something and become better. So, I liked the way she showed my flaws and how we had to kind of work through and overcome challenges that came up, like listening to all sides of things to reach a consensus. I know I'm not perfect by any means and I know there's one million other people who are probably far more deserving of an award like this than I do, but it's fun to kind of reflect back, including the bumps and the bruises. Those things were tough at the time, but at the same time, that's what's helped me to learn and become a better principal.”

After 25 years—18 as an administrator, Jameson said he still wants to become a better listener.

“I am not a natural listener and I really struggle with it,” he said, and tells the story of sitting on the couch, listening to his wife. “I got on my phone and started doing something—and I stopped listening to my wife. My wife got up, walked off. She was gone for 15 minutes before I noticed she was gone. That's a true story. So, I have to really work at listening and that's what I found is probably the most important skill I could have is listening to everybody. You have to listen to people that have different perspectives. If you listen to everybody, you can actually make really good decisions and while every decision won’t go the way everyone wants, they’ll respect you for listening to them. So, I tell people, ‘my door is open, come in and tell me what you're actually thinking.’ I don’t want them to tell everybody, but me, but rather to come in and tell me so we can work through it. That’s what I’ve learned and tried to practice all these years. When I listen to others, we make great decisions. If I don't listen and ignore things, people stop talking and then that's when you make terrible decisions—and I did some of that earlier in my career.”

Kau, who wrote Jameson’s most significant accomplishment as a principal is to build relationships and develop leaders—“He recognizes that with strong relationships, anything can be accomplished”—said she was unaware of that Jameson wasn’t a natural listener.

“I’ve just seen firsthand what a great leader he has been. His style is not flashy; he definitely never draws attention to himself. He’s more of getting to know people, understanding what the needs are, understanding his staff and what their strengths are and listening to them. Most of the changes that have been implemented in the past three or four years, were suggestions that came to him. It was a parent that had a concern. It was a teacher who had an idea and then he listened, and he gave them the support they needed to develop it. There are so many different examples, and it wasn't because Mr. Jameson had the ideas. It was because he listened and had created the environment where other people who had those ideas could flourish,” she said.

Canyons Director of School Performance Alice Peck supported that trait in her letter of recommendation.

“Relationships are at the core of what Scott does and the results are evident in the work he is able to accomplish. He has the ability to ask the right questions when presented with an important task. His willingness to listen; to collaboratively search for possible solutions; and to focus on the essential implementation steps is outstanding,” she wrote. “I also know that Scott values relationships and will do whatever it takes to help our district become as collaborative as we possibly can be as we work to improve student outcomes.”

Jameson, whom many students love for his sharing one of their jokes each school day on the morning announcements—and alumni can recite even after their high school graduations, stayed out of much of the spotlight last year when he received the state Innovator of the Year Award last year for a program that has been in place for more than 15 years.

“I developed a way to discipline that focuses more on reteaching when kids get office referrals; I call it citizenship class. This is even before I knew what PBIS (positive behavior interventions and supports) was,” he said, saying he started it in his first year as Altara Elementary’s principal. “I hired my PTA president, and she ran the citizenship classes during lunch recess. She would teach some lessons, such as why we don’t call people names. She’d ask, ‘why don't we do this?’ and give them things we could do instead. It’s a chance to reteach students and help them understand the expectations and learn how to best meet them. When a lesson wasn’t being taught, then she'd be out on the playground being preventative and coaching kids on the playground.”

Jameson also has been honored as Canyons Student Advocate Principal of the Year and as Instructional Leader of the Year and has served on the district’s Leadership Implementation Team. Utah PTA recognized him as both the region and state outstanding school administrator and back in his teaching days, the Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce recognized his excellence in teaching.

While Jameson doesn’t have any immediate plans for retirement, he has dreams of his future.

“I thought about becoming a behavior unit teacher or aide because I know I could do that and then free the teacher up to be able to teach. I thought about becoming a Costco receipt checker. I thought about doing woodcarvings, with chainsaws and logs and carving bears. I don't know how to run a chainsaw and I've never sculpted anything, but I just think that's cool. I thought about opening a restaurant or becoming a Walmart greeter. I've been practicing, so when I walk into Walmart, I try to be faster at the draw saying, ‘Welcome to Walmart.’ I love smoking foods and put about anything on our smoker—pizza, macaroni and cheese, vegetables, any meat you can think of. My wife makes fun of me right now because we have four smokers and I realized the other day I didn't even know how to run our oven. I tried and I couldn't figure it out. I guess a career in baking is out for me, but maybe a job in the future as a smoker. I don’t know yet, and that’s OK, because I love where I’m at right now.”