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The City Journals

Granite Superintendent Wins Statewide Honor

Sep 29, 2016 03:56PM ● By Bryan Scott

The Utah School Superintendents Association selected Granite School District’s Martin Bates as Utah Superintendent of the Year for 2016–17. (Granite School District)

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

The Utah School Superintendents Association selected Granite School District’s Martin Bates as Utah Superintendent of the Year for 2016–17. 

“It really is an honor,” Bates said. “The 41 superintendents in the state are great women and men, and we all work really hard. To be honored and recognized by them and be able to represent them is an honor.” 

Bates was notified of the award in September, and he will represent the state at a national superintendent conference in February where he will be in the running for the National Superintendent of the Year title. 

It’s not by chance that Bates was selected as Utah’s representative, Terry Shoemaker, executive director of the state’s superintendent association, said. The 41 superintendents in the state are a close-knit bunch, and they realize Bates has much to offer, he said. 

“He’s just one who is thoughtful about policy development,” Shoemaker said. “His ability to coalesce complex issues in an understandable way made him valuable in those development processes.” 

Bates didn’t plan to be a superintendent, but he did plan for a career in education. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were educators, and he said it was his goal to keep that tradition. 

Early in his career he secured a math teaching job at a Provo alternative high school but took an administrative internship with Granite School District when there was an opening. 

“I love it at Provo, but I figured I’d enjoy working with 1,500 kids more than just working with 180,” he said. 

Bates went on to hold administrative positions in Provo and Salt Lake City school districts before returning to Granite as the assistant superintendent over administrative and legal services. In 2010 Bates was promoted to superintendent. 

He said he desires to bring a personal touch to the role of superintendent. While he’s in charge of administrative functions, Bates said he doesn’t forget that his job is centered on education and learning that often occurs in classrooms. 

“What I feel most strongly is that our children are our most valuable possession,” Bates said. “I want to help give them a solid foundation and opportunities to grow and be successful and be contributors to the community. I try to share that.” 

Bates tries to visit each school during the academic year to observe students’ learning, he said. He hosts town hall meetings at the high schools and runs a blog where he posts Superintendent Snapshots, short video clips in which he talks about news going on in the district. Superintendents across the state support the programs Bates has implemented in Granite schools, according to Shoemaker. 

Bates invites teachers and administration to make school a learning-based environment instead of a teaching-based environment, where it’s not about the teachers’ performance but about the students’ understanding, he said. Schools who follow this model perform better academically, he added. 

“It may sound like a little thing, this teaching and learning shift, but I am amazed at how far we have come in a few years,” he said. “It’s been a culture shift.” 

Incremental differences in education may seem insignificant at first, but Bates said he can reminisce on seven or 15 years at Granite School District and see that their faculty, staff and administration are heading in the right direction.