Noel Zabriskie
Teacher, School Administrator

Noel Zabriskie, Brigham Young High, Class of 1966
Noel Zabriskie in 2006

Brigham Young High School
Class of 1966

New leader ready to face challenges

OGDEN -- On the wall of Noel Zabriskie's office hangs an Olympic torch and a photo of him running the torch during the 2002 Winter Games.

"Being a torchbearer and having the torch that represents the Olympic spirit is very similar to being a superintendent and carrying that torch for education for the city of Ogden," said Zabriskie, who will take over as Ogden School District superintendent July 1 when Cathy Ortega retires.

During Olympic orientation, the torch runners "were told we would feel like a celebrity, and it had everything to do with what we had in our hand. It didn't necessarily have to do with who we were," Zabriskie said.

Zabriskie's co-workers in the Weber School District, where he has been the human resources director for almost three years, may disagree with his modesty.

"Noel has the talents and the abilities that position needs. He's well respected -- a man of honor and integrity," said Nate Taggart, Weber district spokesman. "He's a great guy," added Pam Wahlen, Zabriskie's receptionist.

After his new job was announced Tuesday, Weber district staff members decorated Zabriskie's office doorway with balloons and a sign reading: "Congratulations Superintendent Zabriskie."

Zabriskie, 57, of Ogden, is taking it all in stride for now. There are many challenges awaiting him when he takes over the reins as superintendent.

Ogden district is facing declining enrollment and slumping property tax revenue growth.

"I think one of the biggest challenges is the resources. The declining enrollment is going to create a stretch of those resources," Zabriskie said.

The district needs to think about its best use of those resources, he said.

"Are there things we are doing we no longer need to do? Are there things we need to do a little bit better?" Zabriskie said. "That may create opportunities for people to come into the school district and increase our enrollment."

District voters will decide June 27 whether the district should bond for $95.3 million to upgrade and replace aging school buildings.

"I really do believe the bond will do some things to help students learn and it will help the Ogden community," Zabriskie said.

"I think it will help pride in neighborhoods. I think it will help economic development in the city.

"But most importantly, I believe it will enhance more up-to-date learning opportunities for kids."

Zabriskie knows all about going to school in old buildings.

He graduated in 1966 from a K-12 lab school run by Brigham Young University. It was in the old BYU Academy -- built in 1892 and 1902 -- before the building was renovated and turned into the Provo City Library.

At BYU, Zabriskie earned his bachelor's degree in Spanish education in 1972 and a master's degree in education curriculum and instruction in 1977. In 1984, he received his general administrative certificate from the University of Utah.

Because he had been involved in Scouting throughout his youth, he had been thinking about becoming a Boy Scout executive.

"I found a lot of satisfaction helping and serving others," Zabriskie said.

But he also wanted to use the Spanish-speaking skills he gained in a mission to Uruguay and Paraguay for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He headed to T.H. Bell Junior High in 1972 for his first job -- teaching Spanish.

Zabriskie and his wife, ReNon, bought a house in Ogden. Four of their children graduated from Ogden High School. Their fifth child is a student at Mount Ogden Middle School.

Zabriskie said he likes teaching teenagers.

"I enjoy their enthusiasm. I enjoy their energy," he said. "True, occasionally, we have to pull them back a little bit, but that's OK."

One such occasion occurred a few weeks ago when Bonneville High School students staged a protest because the contract of one of their favorite teachers was not renewed. Five student representatives demanded to speak with a district administrator.

The task fell to Zabriskie.

He admits he was a bit nervous as he sat down with the angry students -- two of whom were still wearing their protest shirts.

"They were coming over with a specific viewpoint and addressing it to me in an appropriate manner. They wanted to be listened to," he said.

"I think that's important when problems arise -- that we listen and put ourselves in the other person's shoes and try to understand the basis for their point of view."

Zabriskie said he gave the students some general information and helped them understand the district's viewpoint.

Bonneville High Principal Leslie Meyer agrees. "It helped the kids to talk to someone in the district."

Zabriskie said he switched from teaching to administration so he could have a positive effect beyond the classroom.

He spent five years as assistant principal at Bonneville High in Washington Terrace, then 10 years as principal of Sand Ridge Junior High School in Roy.

Zabriskie was asked to work in the district office in 1997. He served as the supervisor of secondary education and then director of secondary education. He became director of human resources in July 2003.

In his spare time, Zabriskie enjoys jogging, reading, Scouting and doing yard work. He also sings with a community group called Wasatch Master Chorale.

By Amy K. Stewart
Ogden Standard-Examiner staff
Monday, April 24, 2006

Ogden district maximizes educational opportunities

By Noel Zabriskie
Guest commentary
Ogden Standard-Examiner
Monday, November 8, 2010

As the Superintendent of the Ogden School District, I have had the pleasure of watching our district transform itself in order to implement our mission: "maximizing education opportunities for all students, in a safe, nurturing environment."

In order to do this, we have completed major facility upgrades, such as building new schools: Odyssey, Heritage, Shadow Valley Elementary Schools; remodeling the junior highs to add new science areas, library media centers, and other classrooms, as well as building a new Ben Lomond High School, and remodeling Ogden High School.

We put into place a new grade configuration (K-6, 7-9, 10-12), junior high activities and athletics, and the eight period A/B block schedule at the two high schools, just to name a few.

Our district has continued to write grants that will bring "best-practice" professional development to our teachers and students. This includes a "high tech" high school grant to provide more technology opportunities to our students at Ben Lomond High School.

Most recently, the Board of Education voted to "raise the bar" and further "maximize education opportunities" by approving the differentiated diploma. The differentiated diploma gives four levels that a student may achieve in order to receive a diploma from Ogden School District:

* Basic Diploma (24 credits): This diploma is currently being offered at Washington Alternative High School, and through a transition period, will also be available to students at Ben Lomond and Ogden High Schools who are seniors that will not have enough credits to graduate with the amount needed for a "traditional" diploma. Students earning this diploma meet all minimum state core requirements as well as six electives.

* Traditional diploma (27 credits): This diploma is currently offered in our two comprehensive high schools. When the district was on the trimester/six period schedule, a student had to earn 30 credits in order to graduate. Now that we have shifted to the A/B eight-period block schedule, a transition period will be put into place to gradually move the students to the 27-credit requirement. Those graduating in 2011 will have to earn 29 credits; the Class of 2012 must earn 28 credits; and for the Class of 2013, 27 credits. Students earning this diploma will meet all minimum state core requirements as well as nine electives. The requirements for this diploma will prepare students for post-high school education opportunities.

* Honors diploma (27 credits): The requirements for this diploma will better prepare students for post-high school education opportunities. Students earning this diploma will meet all minimum state core requirements as well as math proficiency of pre-calculus, equivalent or higher, with a grade B or better; completion of Level 2 foreign language with a grade of B or better; completion of at least six honors classes (grades 10-12) in the following areas of study: two English/language arts; two science and/or social studies, and two honors elective classes, with a grade B or better in all six honors classes. Students at Ben Lomond and Ogden High Schools are eligible for this diploma.

* International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma (27 credits) All minimum state core requirements as well as successfully passing all requirements of the IB high school diploma as outlined by the International Baccalaureate organization. This diploma will only be earned at Ogden High School in the future. The Board of Education is committed to prepare our students for post-high school education opportunities and for the workplace. After all, "maximizing education opportunities for all students" is what we are all about.

Noel Zabriskie is superintendent of the Ogden School District.

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