Carbon School District Press Release
Mika Salas was named the new Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for Carbon School District on June 11, while at the same time the district began advertising for a new principal for Helper Middle School where she has been serving as the chief administrator for five years.
“I was a bit torn about taking the position, but I am looking forward to it,” she said. “It took a lot of soul searching to even apply for the job. I do very much love the whole Helper community and the school. I have loved everything about it for years. I will miss it all.”
Salas has a lot of Helper Middle School in her blood. She not only attended there as a student when she was growing up, but she also taught there for a time before becoming principal. But those things pale to the love she has for the staff and faculty at the school. Her greeting of students daily at the front door of the building is almost legendary, and it shows her dedication and energy. Now, instead, she will be sharing her talents and drive to make things better with many schools.
“In her new position, she is going to have an impact on thousands of students in the district,” said Carbon School District Superintendent Lance Hatch. “She is that good.”
She said that while she was thinking about applying for the position, she started to ponder about how much she could help.
“I kept coming back to the idea that if I could help other schools and their students to become more effective, I should do it,” she said. “Lance is a very instructionally sound superintendent. Having the opportunity to learn from him and work with him will be great. I think he has the right vision for the district as a whole. I want to be a part of that. It was just an opportunity that professionally, I had to take.”
Under her leadership, SAGE (Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence) scores at Helper Middle have grown quickly. In 2013, the school had a D as a school rating from the state. Last year, it claimed an A position according to the state report and was one of the top rated middle schools in the state because of it.
One of the things she did while principal, and a difficult thing to do anywhere, in any profession, is to make the school a place where both students and staff loved coming to learn and work. Along with a very skilled and dedicated group of teachers, counselors and classified employees, she helped to create a tiered behavior management system that helped many students with behavior problems resolve their differences and improve academically. Much of that comes from her honesty with students about their situations. And while sometimes what she has done seemed tough, it was always done in the spirit of helping students and teachers. When it came to the extra things to be done at the school, it always seemed to everyone that had anything to do with Helper, that she was always there.
Hatch said that her new duties will be expansive.
“My belief is that the superintendent of a school district should be the one that evaluates principals and is hands on in that regard,” said Hatch. “She will not be doing any of that. She will be a huge support to the schools as an expert helping them to problem solve, to work through CTE (Career and Technical Education), instructional issues and to help with collaboration in Professional Learning Communities.”
The superintendent pointed out that the district recently went through three days of fairly intensive work sessions with some teachers and all administrators on the new approach they will be taking to getting things done in the next year.
“The schools came out of it with an improvement plan and goals all based on the analysis of data,” stated the superintendent. “So, we need someone to champion that effort. That will be a huge part of Mika’s job. It’s about curriculum, because it is about the essential things we should be teaching. It’s about instruction, because the new improvement plan will be based on data that will help us to reach our goal. And then it is about helping our teachers to implement. Add to that the job of assessment, in which we monitor what is working and what is not, and this becomes a very big job.”
Salas’ experience as a teacher began in Davis School District, where she taught junior high for a year. After that, her husband Steve, who was at the time a brand new Highway Patrol Trooper, was sent to Green River. She lived there for four years and worked for the Southeast Education Service Center where she helped teachers implement technology in the four county area. She then came to Helper and worked as a math teacher for eight years and later became the math specialist for the district, a position she left after three years to become the principal at Helper Middle School in 2013.
“I have to say that I feel kind of bad about not being able to say goodbye to the kids at Helper,” she said. “But then I am not very good at goodbyes. But you know, it is like a perfect storm. We are moving forward with our collaboration and with the help of Ed Direction (a consulting firm that is working with the district on improving collaboration) it is all going to come together, and come together well.”