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Five finalists selected for second school board seat

By Jeri Chadwell

The Washoe County School District (WCSD) Board of Trustees has narrowed the field of candidates to fill the District D seat on the board to five people: Beth Smith, Hawah Ahmad, Ann Silver, Tyler Rogers and Serena Robb.

The board of trustees will select one of the candidates on Monday, July 26. The District D seat is one of two to be filled following the resignations of trustees Andrew Caudill (District C) and Kurt Thigpen (District D). Caudill resigned to take a job in another state. Thigpen has cited medical reasons for his resignation.

Caudill’s former seat, District C, was filled last week by Joe Rodriguez, who works for the Nevada State Fire Marshal’s office. He was among six final candidates who were interviewed by the board.

The five candidates for the District D seat have a range of professional experience in education, lobbying, sales and marketing. They were determined by the board of trustees through a ranked-choice voting system during a special meeting held Tuesday.

Beth Smith worked in marketing for International Game Technology for many years. She now serves as the company’s diversity and inclusion global program manager for North America.

Smith has served on the district’s zoning advisory committee since it was formed in 2017 following the passage of the WC-1 ballot question, which raised taxes in the county to fund capital improvement projects in the district. In her written statements, Smith told trustees she was interested in the position because she is “deeply connected to and passionate about the District’s mission of creating an education system where all students achieve academic success.”

Hawah Ahmad is a lobbyist for the Clark County Education Association. She was born and raised in Reno and holds bachelor’s degrees in neuroscience and political science from the University of Nevada, Reno, as well as a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law. She’s currently working on a master’s in business administration from the Paul School of Business at the University of New Hampshire.

In her application for the position, Ahmad told trustees, “Though I am a registered Democrat, I know how to work across the aisle and to ensure that every stakeholder feels heard and that effective policies are implemented.”

She also noted that, having no children in the district, she has “a perspective that is purely policy based.”

Ann Silver is the CEO of the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce. The chamber is the largest business organization in northern Nevada with more than 2,000 members whose companies employ more than 90,000 Washoe County residents.

Silver said her interest in the position is two-fold. She wants to align educational content with the development of a workforce pipeline for graduates from WCSD schools—and she wants to “promote the magic of the classroom and the opportunities available to those who are inspired to learn, question, discover, and explore what paths lie ahead after graduation.”

Tyler Rogers is the senior director of utility sales for software company EnergyHub, which is one of several companies that run demand response programs for energy usage nationwide. The company’s software can be paired with things like smart thermostats to help homeowners and businesses reduce their energy consumption.

Rogers is a graduate of the district. He served as the student representative on the board of trustees in 2003.

Rogers told the board of trustees that the job “hits close to home” for him since his wife is a WCSD high school teacher and his daughter will be entering school in the district in the next few years.

“I attended elementary, middle and high school within District D schools,” he said. “Having historic, present and future stakes in the district’s success is a critical value I can bring to the board.”

Serena Robb worked for the school district for 36 years, serving as a speech therapist, school counselor and principal among other positions.

Robb spent the majority of her nearly four decades with the district as an administrator and oversaw the opening of Damonte Ranch High School, created a drop-in center for students in transition and replaced at-home suspensions in her school with at-school detention programs.

“I believe it’s worth mentioning here why I spent the majority of my tenure as a WCSD full-time employee as an administrator,” she said. “While working as a counselor I began having ideas—ways to improve student learning. As an administrator, some of my ideas were successful. Other needed tweaking. Together with my colleagues, I constantly assessed, took action, reassessed and took more action. One thing never changed: My effort to improve student learning.”

This Is Reno will report on the selection of one of these five candidates on July 26. The board of trustees will have its first regular board meeting with the new trustees later that afternoon following the selection.

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