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School district superintendent candidates to be announced Friday

By ThisIsReno

By Carly Sauvageau

Five candidates for the Washoe County School District superintendent position will be announced Friday, April 1. 

William Bryan, head of the Bryan Group, told WCSD trustees at their Jan. 11 meeting that his team hopes to have a new superintendent in place before Kristen McNeill retires on June 30, and for now they are on track.

Bryan told trustees five qualified candidates are moving forward in the process, each with very different backgrounds, personalities and education backgrounds. Long interviews have been completed, and Bryan said the next steps include a short interview, meet and greet, background checks and community input on the interviews. A decision can be made following completion of these steps. 

The Bryan Group plans to hold a Zoom meeting on April 8 where each candidate will tell one “up story,” or a story that invokes a good feeling, and one “down story” where each candidate will share a story where they wished they had handled a situation differently. 

These will be shared in place of the promised video of each candidate’s long interview that the Bryan Group had originally planned to share with the trustees. 

The recorded long interview, which is commonly provided to clients, was requested to be pulled by more than one of the applicants, according to Bryan. He said this is a rare occurrence for the firm, but it has happened occasionally. 

The long interviews were guided storytelling that lasted up to five hours. During that time, the Bryan Group said, some candidates were afraid they had shared too much detail that could reveal who they were talking about, though no names were mentioned. 

Though the candidates were comfortable sharing these interviews with the board of trustees, according to Nevada Open Meeting Law the material would also have to be made available to the public. Several candidates were not comfortable with this and said they would drop out of the process if sharing the long interviews publicly would be required. 

In an effort to keep the candidates, Bryan pulled this part of the process.

WCSD Trustee Diane Nicolet during the Jan. 25, 2022 Board of Trustees meeting. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

Trustee Diane Nicolet said she understood that a long interview with people may reveal something that they hadn’t wanted to, but changing the whole process to make some candidates more comfortable was concerning.

“That’s a red flag to me because you are in this situation where you’re being interviewed for a very important job and you cross the line? And so now we’re going to redo the process because some people are uncomfortable because they crossed the line?” Nicolet asked.

Bryan defended the decision.

“Well remember you’re protecting the people they talked about as well, even if they’re not using names they become identifiable without a doubt… It’s more important that we get the story and that we and the search advisory group get to see it in detail and run it against the criteria,” Bryan said. “You don’t want things edited, and that’s more important.”

Trustee Jeff Church, who has been against confidentiality in employee complaints in prior meetings, said he did not share Nicolet’s concerns. He said it made sense that the candidates would not want to share particular details that could put them at risk of a lawsuit if specific people’s identities were revealed.

Trustee Ellen Minetto also shared concerns of revealing too much information, adding that  since the applicants could be involved in education, kids’ information may be made public, putting them at risk.

Nicolet said she understood where her fellow trustees were coming from, but persisted on the issue.

“I understand, and protecting people is major,” she said. “Did the applicants know about the open meeting law situation and did they know that the interviews would be viewed by the public?” 

“Yes,” Bryan said. 

The candidate meet and greet, where candidates will tour the district, meet with board members in groups, have question and answer sessions with “key stakeholder groups” and have a press conference, was proposed to be held between April 18 and 20. Some of these activities will be streamed virtually, though no solid plan is yet in place.

Budget planning approved 

The school district is planning an analysis of compensation, staffing and other issues to be discussed at the April 12 board meeting. A work session for the budget will be held on April 26 and May 24. The final budget plan is due June 8.

While the amount to be spent in the next fiscal year will be concrete on June 8, WCSD Budget Director Jeff Bozzo said money can still be moved around, and with a new superintendent coming in this summer, he expects the budget will be adjusted. 

Trustee Joe Rodriguez motioned to approve this plan, Nicolet seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

New elementary school in southeast Reno named after JWood Raw

The new elementary school in southeast Reno, due to break ground on April 15, will be named after JWood Raw, a former Washoe county educator and administrator. Trustees approved the name in a  6 to 1 vote with Nicolet in opposition.

The other names considered for the school were Sessions S. “Buck” Wheeler, another Washoe county educator, and Rio Wrangler, after the parkway in that area. 

A survey sent to residents of southeast Reno came back with a majority for naming the school after Michael Landsberry, a teacher who was shot and killed after trying to negotiate with the shooter of the 2013 Sparks Middle School shooting. 

Despite the majority vote, it was not included in the final options presented to the trustees by the district’s naming committee. 

The committee said that write-ins for Landsberry on the survey, in large part, were influenced by a social media campaign. Because no one physically showed for public comment, they didn’t include it in the names to be considered.

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