Hello! My name is Dennis Pratt. I was notified on March 30th that the Board had selected me to serve as the next Director of Merit Academy.
I have met a few of you in the past few weeks as I attended a couple of activities at the school, but I really look forward to meeting all of you in the coming weeks and months. One way I hope to talk with you is through “cottage meetings” that I plan to hold in your neighborhoods that will let you get to know me and my vision for our wonderful school.
By way of introduction, I was born and raised in Western Washington, about two hours north of Seattle, in a small rural community very near the Canadian border. I attended and graduated from a small public school that had a combined junior high & high school on one campus, quite similar to Merit Academy (each grade level had about 75 students), so I’m familiar with the kinds of academic opportunities, sports, fine arts, and other programs that can be offered in a school like Merit.
After high school, I attended BYU and then served a mission for my church in Milan, Italy. When I returned to BYU, I finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and was hired at Dixon Middle School in Provo. I completed my first Master’s Degree, also in Music Education, at BYU, while I taught my first three years at Dixon.
I ultimately taught at Dixon for twelve years as the band, jazz band, and orchestra teacher. While there, I grew and learned a lot and I really came to love working with 7th and 8th grade students, particularly because of the incredible potential they have.
After my years at Dixon, I pursued a second Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. When I graduated, I was hired back at Dixon as the Assistant Principal, where I worked for two years before becoming the Assistant Principal at Farrer Middle School (also in Provo), for three years.
Then I was hired as the Principal at Edgemont Elementary School. It was an underperforming school, with regards to student achievement, and I was asked to “turn the school around” and revitalize it (they had almost no extracurricular programs for students at the time).
Over the next twelve years, I worked closely and collaboratively with teachers and parents to initially focus on:
Improving relationships and building UNITY
Developing a warm, positive, safe, and productive school culture for all students, faculty, and parents
We went on to become a school-wide Professional Learning Community, focused on high academic achievement for all students. We developed systems for prevention of learning loss; interventions when students didn’t master necessary core learning; and remediations to help fill in significant learning gaps that students had. When I left Edgemont, our school was ranked in the top 10% of schools in the state in reading, English language arts, and math.
Under my leadership, Edgemont also received several significant grants; developed an award-winning fine arts program; and implemented a French Dual Language Immersion program in 1st-6th grades that earned an “exemplary” world-wide designation from the French government as a top-performing program. We also developed and implemented a very successful gifted and talented program to better meet the needs of our accelerated students.
In addition to my work in public schools, my wife, Carla, and I started and built up a very successful, privately owned music school in Lehi called Prattland Music Adventures. Over six years, it grew to serve over 350 weekly music students from very appreciative families. We sold this business several months ago, and I am now ready to take on this exciting new opportunity with Merit.
I feel deeply and passionately that we need to work together to make sure our Merit Academy students are:
Learning and growing at high levels (like at Harvard),
Safe, disciplined, and developing good character traits (like at West Point), and
Happy, having fun, & feeling cared for and loved (like at Disneyland).
This is my vision for Merit Preparatory Academy. This is who I am, and I stand ready to serve you and work with you in meeting the learning needs of our precious students at Merit!
I have spent the past few weeks on a discovery, listening, and learning journey that has included speaking individually with nearly all of our wonderful teachers and staff. As mentioned earlier, I would now like to continue this journey by meeting with small groups of parents in about 8 or 10 neighborhood “cottage meetings,” in the homes or backyards of some of you, our parents. I want to meet as many of you as possible, and learn what your interests, hopes, and concerns are, so we can develop a shared vision for what and who we need to become as a school. Then, we’ll start strategically planning and charting the course to move forward to become that school.
If you are interested in hosting one of these “cottage meetings,” please contact our main office to let us know (801-491-7600). I will let you know soon when and where these gatherings will be, so hopefully you can join us at one of these, and we can work together to develop our plans to move forward.
I have much to learn and together we have much to accomplish. I should also make you aware that I have selected Mr. Mike Condie to serve as the Assistant Director at Merit, and I look forward to working with him.
Thank you for your faith and trust in us as a school to help educate your children and students. I sincerely want to partner with you to achieve our important goals and objectives, and to attain these critical results for all of our students at Merit—a school filled with so much good and so much more potential.
I look forward to seeing and meeting with you soon.
Thanks for your time today!