By Kylie Rowe
In her second year as President of the Washoe County School District (WCSD) Board of Trustees, Angie Taylor said, “it’s the best time in the world to be us.” There are four new board members bringing fresh questions, ideas, and angles to look at the state of WCSD. Graduation rates are at an all-time high and with the passage of Washoe County question 1 there a tremendous amount of momentum.
Beyond evaluating the business reasons to move to Northern Nevada, corporations and their employees are most concerned about the region’s national public education ranking. I asked Angie Taylor what we can say about WCSD with Nevada’s ranking as 49th in the nation.
“We are not 49th; that is our number for the state,” Taylor said. She added that we have to remember that “Clark County School District is so large; they are the 5th largest district in the country with over 300,000 students.”
With 64,000 students in enrolled in WCSD it’s difficult to compare the two districts, and CCSD faces a whole different set of challenges than does Washoe.
When you pull out Washoe County performance indicators from the state, we fare somewhere in the middle of national school rankings. As a county our graduation rates are at 77 percent, an all-time high. The goal is to achieve an overall graduation rate of 90 percent by 2020. Nearly 50 percent of WCSD students graduate with an honors diploma, an indication that students are working hard and taking rigorous courses to prepare for the future.
One of the programs that contributes to higher graduation rates is WCSD’s Signature Schools. Each high school in the district has a signature academy with areas of focus. Students interested in performing arts would want to attend Damonte Ranch High School, those interested in international business would select McQueen High School, and so on.
Students can also attend the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology (AACT), the advanced career and technical education academy. And Truckee Meadows Community College gives some students the opportunity to complete high school with an associate’s degree, and others may now earn a certificate in advanced manufacturing via the technology school right across from AACT.
Earning an associate’s degree or certification is an excellent pathway for students and a critical opportunity to fill the skilled workforce demand in Nevada’s growing manufacturing industry. WCSD partners with businesses and organizations in the community to fulfill the goal that students are ready for college, a highly-skilled career, or the military.
Key employers that have recently relocated to Northern Nevada, such as TESLA, Panasonic and Switch, meet with WCSD to identify skills area high school students need to join this expanding and highly skilled workforce.
With so much positive momentum in WCSD, it’s an exciting time to move into and grow within the community. Opportunities to capture a highly skilled workforce are increasing, especially as we continue to work together via public private partnerships. The future of Washoe County is in the hands of us all, so it’s important we work together to support our students and simultaneously meet the growing workforce demand.
Kylie Rowe is the Vice President of Corporate Relocation at Dickson Realty, an ambassador for Reno, Sparks and Lake Tahoe. Find her on Twitter: @KyRoBiz