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Murray Journal

New Viewmont, AISU principals, Murray High assistant principal focus on student learning

Jul 31, 2018 03:05PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

New Viewmont Elementary Principal Jennifer King can be found taking walks with her two rescue dogs or curled up, reading a book — that is, when she isn’t busy doing her educational duties, volunteer activities or supporting her two kids in gymnastics and mountain biking.

“I love to read,” she said. “I looked forward to going to the library every Saturday with my mom.” 

King said Dr. Seuss books are amongst her favorites. 

“Dr. Seuss is so powerful on so many levels. It’s an amazing teaching tool for the young — all the way through college,” she said. 

King is replacing Matt Nelson, who has served as principal at both Viewmont and Grant elementaries, and will become East Midvale Elementary principal in Canyons School District.

Along with King as a new Murray School District administrator is Laura deShazo, who joined Murray High School as an assistant principal the last four weeks of school in the spring replacing Theresa Mbaku, who returned to Salt Lake School District. 

At nearby AISU, Tasi Young will take the helm as principal replacing Nathan Justis.

Nelson, who also worked at Riverview, Murray High and Parkside, appreciates serving in Murray District. 

“I’m grateful for the trust they’ve given me to teach and be principal,” he said. 

Nelson has made an impact from teaming up in 2010 with Parkside teacher Cal Beck to create an ongoing partnership with the Salt Lake Valley Health Department to create a garden where students would plant and harvest vegetables that could be served at school. Later, as Grant’s principal, he teamed up with an Eagle Scout and his dad to create a garden for that community.

Nelson said there have been moments of fun amongst the learning as well ­— as he tried out a slip-and-slide made of shaving cream and dyed his hair blue as a reading goal incentive at Grant or was decorated as a Christmas tree at Viewmont for students who exhibited positive behavior. 

“I’m going to miss all the kids, teachers and the people. It’s really been great knowing so many people in this close-knit community,” he said. 

Being part of the community is key to King as well. 

“I want them to feel safe and included at school so they can be the best person they can be and truly learn,” she said, adding that she hopes to review safety drills and communication to make sure they’re effective. 

As King is meeting with school and district personnel this summer in preparation for the school year, she anticipates getting to know people and the community, not immediately make changes. 

“Every school is unique and each has different reasons why it’s successful and that is what I need to learn about Viewmont,” she said. “I want to take a step back, watch and get to know the school culture. I’ll have a presence and an open-door policy.” 

King said she already has heard about Eagle Rallies and Yes Days and plans to continue those programs. 

“I love that the PTA is so involved and is supporting positive behavior and having a strong impact,” she said. 

King, who comes to Murray from the Park City School District, moved around while growing up as her dad was a Marine. 

“Home was Utah since my mom was from Utah and I have grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins who lived here,” she said.

While spending much of her childhood in the Deep South, she came to Utah and earned her bachelor’s degree in history. She earned her master’s in education at Florida State University on a two-year scholarship and began her teaching career there before earning her administrative licensure at Utah State University. King also has her national board certification.

“I love teaching. When I was asked if I had any desire to go into administration, I said, ‘No. Teaching is just amazing,’” she said. 

However, after 13 years, she was asked if she would be an instructional coach part-time and she accepted that while continuing to teach in the classroom.

“I saw the impact on students and could reach more students than beyond my classroom,” she said. 

In time, she took a position in the district office, where she continued to impact more students. 

“I’m still in the classroom every day – it’s just a different kind of interaction through a different lens,” she said. 

She plans to continue supporting teachers and helping wherever she’s needed in Viewmont classrooms as well as on the playground or in other parts of the school. 

“I want to establish relationships with the kids and interact with them,” she said. “The educators that stuck out to me were the ones who got to know you, your strengths and weaknesses and who supported you and pushed you to be more successful and develop those areas where you could grow.” 

Similarly, deShazo is settling into her role as Murray High assistant principal, returning to the school where she once taught computer information technology, website design and Microsoft certification classes in the business and marketing department.

“My passion is students,” she said. “It was a difficult decision to leave Murray High, but I saw the possibility to reach students statewide with career opportunities and to create an initiative that would impact more than one school and it was a great opportunity.” 

deShazo worked for the Utah State Board of Education as a career and technical education coordinator, helping students earn certifications and training or steering them toward an advanced degree. During her tenure, she visited every high school in the state.

“Eighty percent of Utah high school graduates don’t go on after graduation so getting a certification or training was a leg up. It was a success story to hear students say they got a $1 or $2 raise because of a skill they learned in high school,” she said. 

Murray High students are one of the state leaders in taking concurrent enrollment courses, with 42 percent of the juniors and seniors enrolled, she said. In addition 86 percent are taking career and technical education classes and 28 percent are enrolled in advanced placement courses, with the last number on the increase.

“Murray High’s student body demographic is changing as we’re more diversified (than when she taught seven years ago at Murray) and that is a positive for the student body,” deShazo said. 

deShazo, who skis and competes as a triathlete, is looking forward to teaming with Principal Scott Wihongi, who also recently returned to Murray High after working in Corner Canyon High administration in Draper, and serving under Superintendent Jennifer Covington, who was deShazo’s mentor when she began teaching at Murray High. 

“I know Jennifer Covington as a teacher and personally saw her leadership so I know Murray has strong leadership,” she said. “I’m grateful to be back.” 

AISU’s Young, like Murray High’s deShazo, is familiar with the school he is returning to this fall as he was a member of the founding team of the school. More recently, he comes from Utah County where he has been the head of Meridian School since 2010, where he was known for working with organizations worldwide to implement education innovations for the increasing global demands that students face. 

Young received his bachelor’s and his juris doctorate in business management from Brigham Young University.