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Teachers rally downtown Saturday to encourage support for education (updated)

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on
The BELIEVE sculpture in downtown Reno.

A nonunion teachers group is rallying on Saturday for a better education system. The event, at 10 a.m. at City Plaza, by the BELIEVE sculpture, aims to raise the perception of education in Nevada.

“Empower Nevada teachers was started to help give a voice to teachers in our community and advocate for the type of education system that the students in our classrooms truly deserve,” said one of the organizers, Calen Evans. “It was started by current Washoe County School District (WCSD) teachers who were just fed up with the status quo and wanted to do our part to create a new status quo for education in Nevada.”

The group said that, due in large part to low rankings, Nevada’s education system unfairly reflects upon teachers.

“This event is part of a larger movement to change the course of education in Nevada.”

“The event on Saturday is about bringing more awareness to this movement and further building support for the type of systematic changes we want to bring to education in Nevada,” Evans said. “Education in Nevada is not adequately funded or supported at the state level, and the students and teachers are the ones who end up paying for it.”

The event is slated to feature testimonials from community members, students and teachers. 

At a recent school board meeting, Evans invited all trustees to attend. One member of the Board of Trustees, Ellen Minetto, initially said she was going to speak at the event but had to back out due to district policy, according to Evans.

Minetto, responding to a question about this, said the specific board policies are 9051 and 9052.

“When I first agreed to speak I was not in contact with our legal counsel who later reminded me of these policies,” she said in an email to ThisisReno.

Three former trustees disputed this as a valid reason for not attending the teachers’ rally

Lisa Ruggerio, Verónica Frenkel and Dave Aiazzi each commented online and said the policies are not meant to dictate trustee behavior.

“I’m very familiar with this,” Ruggerio said. “But this is not law. This is a guide. There is no board policy police.”

Aiazzi agreed.

“That is the main function of an elected official — meeting with people,” Aiazzi wrote.

Empower Nevada Teachers’ Facebook page and website are highlighting community businesses that support education. Teachers have been dressing red on Wednesdays as part of their advocacy.

Many have expressed varying degrees of frustration with the school district, particularly at WCSD’s administration.

Evans said, however, that the event is focused on highlighting a more positive view of what teachers do.

“This event is part of a larger movement to change the course of education in Nevada,” he explained. “And we have to start now.”

UPDATE (10/18/19): This story was updated to include comments from Minetto and former trustees.

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