Washoe County School Board Trustee and President Angela Taylor has been running for a state assembly seat in this month’s general election. If she wins the seat, Nevada law will require her to give up her District E seat on the school board; no individual may hold more than one elected office at a time.
WCSD staff, anticipating her potential departure, on Tuesday requested the board to proactively approve a process for filling Taylor’s seat if she is elected to the assembly.
Editor’s note: As of 5 a.m. Nov. 9 Taylor was ahead in her race and appeared to be the winner. WCSD officials shared information on how to apply to fill Taylor’s seat. The District E map is here, and instructions on applying for the vacancy are here.
District E represents the northwest section of Reno including Somerset, Verdi, and portions of Lemmon and Panther Valleys.
The reasoning behind the agenda item, according to Taylor and district staff, was to make sure that District E did not go unrepresented.
Trustee Jeff Church asked for the item to be pulled from the agenda, stating he believed there was more than enough time after the election to hear the item. Hearing the item, he said, could unfairly influence people in the general election – in progress as the board met.
Taylor said that, according to Nevada law, an elected official is to begin their term the day after Election Day, which would mean that District E would quickly need to find new representation. They did not have time to spare, she said.
The district’s general counsel recommended a timeline and appointment process for filling the potential vacancy, which was approved by trustees.
Should Taylor win her race, a solicitation for applications will be published on or around Nov. 9, with applications due by Nov. 15. Trustees would narrow the field of candidates “on or about Nov. 22,” then interview candidates and appoint a new trustee “on or about Dec. 6.”
The proposed timeline is similar to previous appointments conducted by the Board of Trustees in 2020 and 2021, according to staff, and nearly identical to the one chosen twice this year by Reno City Council members to fill two vacancies.
Trustee Beth Smith pointed out that because the process would take place during the Thanksgiving season, virtual attendance for potential applicants, board members and staff was acceptable.
Trustees voted unanimously to approve the process with Taylor abstaining from the vote.
Student behavior ID’d as key issue
Staff requested approval from the Board to submit a report to the state’s superintendent of public instruction identifying the WCSD Student Behavioral Manual as the district’s Progressive Discipline Plan.
The WCSD first created a “Student Behavior Matrix” during the 2010-11 school year and vetted it through a number of various groups. Each year, the matrix is reviewed and revised when necessary, according to staff.
For the past seven years, the matrix has been included as an appendix to a broader District Behavioral Manual. Both the manual and matrix are a template to “guide school-based decisions, and ensure consistency across the district with student behavior and discipline,” according to Paul LaMarca, the district’s chief strategies officer.
Throughout the state, each district board is required to submit a report to the superintendent of public instruction showing each school is in compliance with state law.
“There is no single topic that I have heard more [about] over my past year plus as a trustee than that of student behavior and discipline,” Trustee Smith said.
Calen Evans, president of the Washoe Education Association (WEA) gave public comment stating that drastic action needed to be taken to address student behavior.
“Student behavior is one of our key issues,” Evans said. “This is a very unifying issue across the political spectrum. I think everyone across the board understands that we need to do something drastically to address student behavior.”
Evans said that the largest cause of learning loss in the classroom is student behavior.
“You have a very, very small percentage of our student body that is drastically impacting the learning of the rest of them,” he said. “If we want to address learning loss, we have to start — before we take any other approaches — first with the mental well-being of our students and addressing student behavior in the classroom.”
Trustee Diane Nicolet said she would like to see attendance and interference in the classroom more broadly addressed.
“This is urgent,” Nicolet said. “The interference with instruction, and in particular cell phone usage, we need to get a handle on. It’s not good for anyone in the classroom.”
Trustee Smith said she would be okay with approving the matrix, but would like to see workshops held and additional agenda items scheduled so the board can further develop the manual as needed over the next year to address student behavior.
The Board approved the matrix and the intention to continue to adapt the manual as needed.
$3.4 million approved for transportation
A public hearing was held regarding the proposed issuance of up to $3.4 million in bonds for the purchase of school buses and support vehicles.
A public hearing is the first step in the process for the issuance of the bonds.
Debt services payments are estimated at around $960,000 annually for the four-plus year life of the bonds, according to Chief Financial Officer Mark Mathers.
Trustees approved the resolution unanimously.
Emily Ortega Ruiz honored as first WCSD ‘Superstar’
Fifth-grader Emily Ruiz Ortega was honored as Drake Elementary School’s Student Superstar, the first student to be recognized in the new WCSD school spotlight program.
“She treats everyone with kindness and an open heart.”
Drake Elementary was recently recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School, which recognizes public and private schools based on their overall academic excellence, or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
Emily has attended Drake Elementary since kindergarten. According to her teachers, when Emily first began school she had limited English which left her feeling lonely. But through hard work and perseverance as she learned English. Emily had a “treasure-trove” of friends by the end of her kindergarten year, her teachers said
Emily grew as a student, not only academically, but in helpfulness within the classroom and with her peers.
As a fourth-grader, Emily was one of only three girls to make the Falcon Squad soccer team. Her coaches said she grew to be one of the most improved players, playing in every single game.
Emily regularly creates beautiful artwork for her teachers and classmates.
“She is a friend to everyone she meets — peers, younger students, older students, teachers and staff members alike,” one teacher wrote. “She treats everyone with kindness and an open heart.”
“She is a great Falcon, and we are proud of her,” Drake Elementary Principal Jason Shipman said.
The Drake Elementary team also gave a presentation on the school’s accomplishments as a whole, which can be viewed here.
In other items:
The Board voted to adopt a resolution recognizing Nov. 7 – 11 as National School Psychology Week, acknowledging the vital role school psychologists play in the personal and academic development of Washoe County students.
The Board voted to recognize Nov. 14 – 20 as National Apprenticeship Week in honor of the 85th anniversary of the National Apprenticeship Act, and acknowledging the district’s commitment in providing opportunities for all students and the importance of apprenticeships for our nation’s workforce.
Kelsey Penrose is a proud Native Nevadan whose work in journalism and publishing can be found throughout the Sierra region. She received degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from Arizona State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing with the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. She is an avid supporter of high desert agriculture and rescue dogs.