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Teachers, counselors tearfully plead to school trustees for more resources

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A handful of special education teachers and counselors on Tuesday pleaded with trustees for the Washoe County School District for more resources.

They said lack of staff and resources is unsafe and prevents employees from adequately doing their jobs.

Michele Erikson, a teacher at Spanish Springs Elementary School, said: “We have been told by district personnel that the business office says that you have enough staff, it doesn’t matter how much data you collect, or regardless of student needs, that decision on additional resources will not change [which] is contradictory with what we are told during district special education meetings and trainings.”

Another special education teacher also said she does not have the resources to do her job within legal mandates.

Ciera Conley said she was running two special education pre-kindergarten classrooms and that she effectively is working two jobs.

“We have students who bite and hit and kick – we have all of that,” she said. “I do 30 diaper changes a day. My aides do 30 diaper changes a day. We have changed them three times a day.

“I’m trying my best,” she added.

Derek Hughes, the counselor at Bohach Elementary School, said his school has an enrollment of 815, which, according to recommendations, should’ve triggered a new half-time counselor. 

He said he was told there are no district resources available.

“The majority of my time is spent in a reactive posture rather than a preventative one,” he said. “My ability to teach whole school classroom guidance …, along with the school-wide activities and initiatives that support social emotional learning are being severely impacted as I’m just one person and can only do so many tasks.”

Amanda Jones, a special education facilitator who serves eight schools, also said a lack of resources are impacting the ability for students to learn.

“As you know, we are short staffed in the Washoe County School District,” she said. “I have cried with my teachers and administrators who are giving everything that they have to give.”

She said staff are quitting due to lack of resources.

“I have witnessed professionals crying and shaking profusely, not sure if they can make it through the day, let alone for the semester or even the year as our student needs are continuously growing,” Jones added. “Some of our special education teachers and staff are walking out due to the stress of the special education burdens.”

Calen Evans, Washoe County teacher, calls for more education funding from the Nevada Legislature in Carson City on Feb. 15, 2021. Image: Bob Conrad / This Is Reno.
Calen Evans, Washoe County teacher, calls for more education funding from the Nevada Legislature in Carson City on Feb. 15, 2021. Image: Bob Conrad / This Is Reno.

Calen Evans, head of the teachers union, agreed and said resources are woefully inadequate. He called upon the trustees to tap into fund reserves to address the problems.

“I’ll be 100% honest, it’s hard for me to sit in these meetings and celebrate when I know that so many of our educators are struggling so badly,” he said. “You will see a mass teaching exodus again. We can do more as a district right now. We have teachers being crushed by short staffing, right now.”

Trustees did not respond to their concerns but said Superintendent Susan Enfield was taking notes and would follow up with their concerns.

Other board actions

Trustees approved a $91,00 contract to hire a lobbying firm. Pinyon Public Affairs had two people – former City of Reno employees – to discuss their services for the upcoming legislative session. Trustees said hiring the firm for that amount was cheaper than paying an employee.

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Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.

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