“Reno Quality of Life” is Wrong About School District Again (Opinion)

Submitted by Richard Jay

Paul White of Reno Quality of Life published an article that was critical of the Washoe County School District, and it is filled with inaccurate comments. I would like to address them with the sourced, vetted, and verified facts.

First of all, it’s not the Reno School District; we are Washoe County School District, the second-largest in Nevada and the 59th largest in the nation.

As to budget deficits for 11 years now, that’s due to funding inadequacy from the state. Why are school districts required to submit their budget prior to knowing their funding? That makes no sense. Secondly, why is Nevada among the lowest in the nation for funding education?

General Revenue funding:

  • 2009-$6,609 per pupil,
  • 2018-$7,140 per pupil.
  • $6,416 per pupil when adjusted for inflation or a decrease of 3% (why in this robust economy?)

Inflation includes health care funding, merit raises, insurance increases, and overall inflationary items.

For the first time since the Great Recession in 2008, the WCSD Board of Trustees has passed a structurally balanced budget. This was accomplished thanks in large measure to actions by the state legislature and governor during the session.

The Board has also made $61.9 million in ongoing budget cuts over the past three years.

White constantly claims we are in last place. Who is last: Washoe County School District, or the State of Nevada? While the State of Nevada was ranked near the bottom, the latest report from US News shows Nevada has risen to #44. This has been long known, and the former State Superintendent wrote an article, “Fix Clark County and Nevada will rise.”

AP scores have increased in addition to other measurable standards, including graduation. WCSD has consistently been in the top ranks, and the latest report from Niche gives WSCD a B+ and ranks them 2,675 out of 11,850 districts, or in the 22.57% percentile.

Let’s give credit to our teachers, parents, and administration.

Getting rid of Restorative Discipline: This is something the district cannot change on their own. The Nevada Department of Education and/or legislature would have to make any changes. Would Dillon’s Rule take precedence here, perhaps?

RELATED:
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Mandatory intervention for low-grade students: Isn’t that what the additional time during breaks are used for with the students? How would you enforce a parent’s interaction? What’s the punishment and who administers the enforcement?

Please show us verifiable proof that 80% of graduates are not college-ready.

While attending college in the early ’80s, we all knew a class number ending in “R” was remedial. These classes have been around for a long time.

Meanwhile, the facts clearly show AP students have risen, AP/Honors diplomas have increased, and the number of National Merit Scholarship recipients continue to be strong.

Look at the increase in SAT/ACT scores. The US News article touts Nevada for strong increases in AP scores. College preparedness is just one of many criteria used by Niche.

Graduation standards are set by the legislature, and in 2014 they changed the standards, not WCSD.

Look at the graduation standards, then compared to the new requirement: more classes, testing, and class standards.

Eliminate the Chief of Staff position and 4 area superintendents. We have no Chief of Staff, and the district has gone from 6 to 5 (one recently promoted). The Chief of Student Services was recently eliminated, resulting in savings to the district.

WCSD currently runs at least 28% below the national average. A school district in Texas that is half our size in students, much smaller geographically, with lower test scores, and a much higher superintendent salary, has 12 area superintendents.

It’s no different than a Fortune 1000 company with mid- to upper-level management. Forbes published an article comparing school districts to companies and found all districts have to that have to have upper management.

Here are the numbers for WCSD’s administrator to student ratio:

  • National average administrator to student: 1:206.5
  • WCSD 1:288
  • WCSD has 3.47 administrators for every 1000 students; the national average is 4.84 per 1000.

Looking at the top municipalities in Nevada — to include school districts, cities, counties, universities — and you find WCSD has less than 10% of employees making more than $100,000 per year. One municipality has almost 40%. General administration is only 1.42% of the entire budget.

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The lack of transparency: The new interim superintendent has been extremely transparent to the point of publishing her daily appointment schedule online. WCSD is also transparent, and its website has been touted as being one of the most transparent in the nation.

Unscheduled trustee visits: Does he have facts again to back his statement? Are they currently visiting schools, and not telling him? Oh my!

The job of the trustee pays $700 per month as per NRS. They spend an average of 75 hours per month in board meetings, committee meetings, meetings with constituents, school visits, interviews, new school opening, and so much more.

It’s less than $10 per hour. Perhaps former Governor Sandoval was right, and they should be appointed.

Unannounced community leader visits: Great one. Safety of students is paramount, and we just can’t have the community coming and going into our schools, so let’s get real here.

Who makes the list, who monitors it, and who coordinates this? I know if I want to visit a school I have to receive written permission and ensure my background check is valid. I do go into schools for various reasons, such as Junior Achievement, FBLA, youth soccer, and more. Safety is the first priority — nothing less than number 1.

All parents must spend one day per semester: Another brilliant idea. What about the parent who works during school hours? It’s hard enough getting some to attend PTO/PTA meetings, let alone spending an entire day.

There are plenty of opportunities for parents to spend the day with their children, so let’s not get too much governmental intervention here.

Administrators spending time in 3 classes per week: Be ready to hire more administrators, which is not feasible. In addition, most came from teaching positions.

Mandatory drug testing for athletes and extra-curricular activities participants: Again that would fall on the DOE, NIAA, and/or the legislature. Please refer to Dillon’s Rule.

RELATED:
School District's Budget Deficit Jumps to $18 Million (Subscriber Content)

Patents often pay for students to participate in athletics and extra circular activities. Students are mandated to have a health/medical check prior to participating. Again, how does he know whether or not this is already happening? As a father of a former high school athlete, high school extra-curricular participant, I know how much I had to pay and was more than willing to pay. Look at the funding for fields, lights, snack bars, and field repairs, then get back to us.

Mr. White once again shows how he presents sound-bites and not the whole truth. It’s no different than when he attempted to get control over the election in 2018 through RenoElections.

Please look at the facts and research. This is an attempt to manipulate the public with less than accurate information.

Sources

  • Niche
  • USNEWS best high school ranking
  • Jay Matthews Challenge Index
  • Las Vegas Review-Journal
  • Dallas News – Highest paid superintendent in the US
  • This is Reno – Central Services reductions
  • James Guthrie-Former State Superintendent-Nevada Independent article
  • Nevada Independent – Reading/Math scores increasing
  • Fortune-Fair to Compare
  • Guinn Research Center
  • RGJ, numerous articles
  • Nevada Independent-How school funding works K-12
  • Pew Research Center-Media Fact Check tool
  • Nevada Independent – RenoElections and Scientific Being Research Foundation article
  • TransparentNevada
  • Washoe County School District DataGallery

Richard L. Jay has served more than 30 years in community leadership roles in the Reno/Tahoe area. A graduate from Reno High school, he received his Bachelors of Science in Economics from the University of Nevada. He also serves on the City of Reno Financial Advisory Board, and is an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, Sparks Rotary, and the Reno Youth Sports Association. In 2012, the Moana Sports Fields were renamed the Richard L. Jay Fields by the City of Reno. He was appointed by the City of Reno as Reno Tahoe International Airport trustee since 2017. He sits on the WCSD Safe and Healthy Schools Commission. 

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5 Comments

  1. I remember the days when a mid-sized newspaper like the RGJ had the intellectual chops and resources to get to the bottom of anything. Unfortunately, over the past 15 or so years, newspaper circulation has fallen dramatically nationwide so the quality of “news” reporting has fallen with it due to declining revenues. (This Is Reno is an exception.) Therefore lower paid and anemic attempts at reporting to the public “the state of education” in Washoe County only adds to the background noise of an increasingly suspicious community. The School Board should be holding outreach meetings with the public so the public’s understanding of at least one dimension of the debate can be aired out. In the meantime WCSD splashes around randomly in the water waiting for buoyancy to exceed dead weight. Whither a revolution at the ballot box…

  2. Let’s see your vetted and verifiable facts. No different than your inaccurate posts during the 2018 election. Nothing has changed and nothing ever will.

  3. I know Richard Jay and he’s a nice guy, but is an unabashed and very public Trump supporter, even after all we’ve seen this administration do. Perhaps the best example is the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, a woman with zero experience in public education and who only got the gig after donating millions to Trump’s campaign. I wonder what Mr. Jay thinks of our Secretary of Education? A relevant question, don’t you think?

  4. Richard – Like the School Board, you continue to distort the facts, mislead parents and the community, and ruin our students’ futures. In brief:
    • Quit complaining about funding. 5 states fund lower than Nevada, and ALL of them outperform our schools.
    • The budget was only “balanced” by taking primarily from student programs virtually none from administrative bloat.
    • The Board only cut the extra Chief of staff and other totally unnecessary positions within the last few weeks, AFTER the situation was exposed in the press and from groups like QOL-Reno.org and humiliated them. FAR more admin. cuts need to be made.
    • Yes, WCSD IS in last place, and it’s only people with zero education experience like yourself that ignore the statistics that every reputable school district in America has accepted for decades from legitimate sources.
    • It’s not 80% of our grads who don’t qualify for college; it’s 90%. Who says so? Just the most respected pre-college test in the country: the ACT. But I’m sure you know better…right?
    • Regarding your views on Parent involvement, making administrators teach, school visits, drug-testing, etc., they’re ALL wrong – but totally understandable illogic from again, someone who has never spent one minute as a teacher or site principal.
    • You didn’t mention the Board’s 5-2 decision to teach 11 year-olds about anal sex, group sex, etc., with the new sex ed. curric. I assume because you approve of it also?

    Suggestion: just take one week off from your bureaucratic work, and go into a WCSD classroom as a $12/hour substitute teacher, along with your uninformed and delusional education philosophies. After you have a week of total responsibility for 30+ students per hour, and get eaten alive in the classroom, let’s talk again.

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