Fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency
The District needs to re-evaluate its decisions and decision-making processes from top to bottom. Too much is unclear and unknown to the tax-paying citizens. We have to make fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency our highest priorities. In addition, we need to make the difficult decisions necessary for the long-term financial health of the District. We can't keep robbing the fund balance to make the budget.
Restoring public confidence and trust
The best leaders listen carefully to those affected by their decisions, then take responsibility for the decisions they make. There is always more that the School Board and executive leadership of the District can do to listen well to the public, and to acknowledge and take responsibility for their actions, good or bad. It will be my priority to give community involvement in decisions an even greater emphasis in all we do in order to build and restore trust.
Reducing School Overcrowding
Our WCSD schools are at an average 98+% capacity today. We have some schools that are at 148% of capacity, with children taking classes and tests in hallways, separated from other students only by blue plastic tarps. How can we expect them to achieve excellence at math or science in these conditions? In order to sustain our region's economic prosperity, we must not only educate our children well for the new economy, but also provide modern facilities for them and for the 10,000+ additional students expected in coming years. Communities that do not invest in their infrastructure, including good schools for their young people, will not remain competitive in the global economy. The proposed sales tax ballot question can only be used to build and improve facilities. If it passes, the District will need to quickly and efficiently organize to manage long-deferred construction. If it fails, the District will need to quickly work with citizens, legislators and others to implement what will undoubtedly be less than desirable alternatives. Not long ago, Washoe County voters approved a tax increase to fund a new regional Animal Shelter. Our children deserve no less.
While the immediate crisis in the shortage of teachers in Washoe County has been addressed due to measures implemented at the State level, these measures are not good solutions for the long term. Relying on individuals with little or no classroom experience and inadequate training to teach our kids is not going to make us a world class school system. We need to think long-term about elevating the dignity of the teaching profession and fostering an expectation of teaching as noble work if we are to attract and retain the best and the brightest individuals to teach our young people. We need to continue to invest in training and developing our teachers, instilling in them the same high expectations we have of our students. We need to celebrate and recognize the great work being done by so many dedicated WCSD teachers and staff. They are our families' partners in building healthy, well-educated, responsible future citizens, and they deserve our thanks and support.
Expanding counseling resources
Not only do our kids lack adequate facilities and teachers, they also lack adequate resources for college and career advising and navigating the tricky path to responsible adulthood when parents don't have all the resources they need to help. It often takes weeks for students to see a counselor. Our schools and our children are less safe to the extent that issues like bullying or abusive home lives or conflicts between students aren't dealt with quickly and professionally. As a former high school counselor and volunteer at the Nevada Mental Health Institute, I know firsthand the devastating--and potentially dangerous--effects of unresolved interpersonal issues. The American School Counselor Association recommends one counselor for every 250 students, yet some of our schools have only one counselor for more than 500 students! These young citizens need additional support to adequately face all the challenges of growing up strong and successful in our complex, modern world.