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October 19, 2012
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Unopposed candidates discuss school board issues

Two incumbents on the Douglas County School Board have found their seats uncontested this election cycle. That doesn’t mean, though, they don’t have platforms for the future.n Gordon Ave. resident Karen Chessell, 52, is seeking her second full term representing School Board Area 1. Her opponent, Ron Santi of Stephanie Way, announced on Oct. 16 he was discontinuing his campaign for personal reasons.Chessell was appointed to the seat in 2006 and won election that year and re-election in 2008. She works for the Nevada Department of Education as an education programs professional.“I find this interesting, this kind of work,” she said. “I was a teacher for 22 years and have worked at the department of education for eight years. I find student achievement fascinating and want to help kids be successful. On other hand, I feel like the taxpayer has invested a lot in my training, and that I owe it to the taxpayer to run again. I’ve been to all the state association conferences. I feel like I know what I’m doing, and the learning curve for this job is a steep one.”Chessell said her top concern as a board member is to study the issues at hand and consider how her decisions relate to students. Her top priorities include college and career readiness for all students, the remodel of Douglas High School, and budgeting.“Hopefully we won’t have any more huge budget cuts like the ones we’ve had in the past,” she said. “I always have to be looking at how those recommendations will affect everyone.”Chessell said she was pleased that all schools made Adequate Yearly Progress last year under No Child Left Behind — the federal legislation that’s being phased out in a majority of states. “We have some wonderful employees,” she said. “They take the challenges that come before them, work hard and do what’s best for kids, and it shows.”She said the district will continue to be challenged by local alignment to Common Core State Standards, new curricular guidelines adopted by Nevada in 2010, but she believes Douglas County is ahead of other districts in the state. She’s also confident that the district will adapt to the Nevada School Performance Framework — a more inclusive school rating system that will replace No Child Left Behind starting this spring. “Our eye always has to be on the ball,” she said. “What is it we need to do, where policy is concerned, to ensure students have what they need to prepare and achieve?”Chessell considers passage of the continuation bond in 2008 among her greatest achievements on the board. The bond funded renovation of Pion Hills and Gardnerville elementary schools and the upcoming remodel of Douglas High, among other projects.“I think that we, as a board, have been very aware of the commitment made to citizens of Douglas County and have tried very hard to stretch those bond dollars as far as we can to do quality work,” she said. “I think I’m excited by the vote of confidence as much as the dollars, and the students are excited because of the improved learning environments they have.”Chessell also counts the ASPIRE alternative education program and board intervention funding among her top accomplishments. The latter funding is used in a variety of ways, such as tutoring, to assist at-risk students at each site. “I think it’s one of the things that helped us meet AYP this year,” she said. n Santi said he was discontinuing his campaign for family medical reasons, although his name will still appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. He said he would resign the position if elected. “I believe if one takes on this job, they need to be committed,” he said. “I can’t be committed right now. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”n In School Board Area 3, incumbent Cindy Trigg is running unopposed for her third and final term. The 58-year-old Kingsbury Grade resident is a retired flight attendant.“I want to say thank you to Douglas County constituents who have confidence in me to continue serving. It’s been a lot of hard work and well worth it and very rewarding,” she said. “One of my priorities would be a smooth transition to Common Core State Standards. Another is teacher evaluations and having a comprehensive goal/plan that brings in all parties, parents, teachers and administrators.”Well-known as a leader in local Democratic precincts, Trigg said she will be ratcheting down her political activities in the next year to volunteer with the Drop-Out & Truancy Prevention Network.“I want to keep politics out of it as much as possible,” she said. “With all these reforms coming up, and all the union bashing and every thing else going on, my priority is to keep education a nonpolitical issue. We need to put our kids’ education first. Our kids learn by all of us getting along.”Like her colleagues, Trigg anticipates the challenging nature of major wholesale changes in education.“Other than the budget, I think what’s going to be a challenge for us is keeping up with the changes,” she said. “Looking back, at one point in time you could never bring up the word ‘competency.’ It was the holy grail in the Douglas County School District. But look where we are now. Things changed overnight. We had to react. I would like to see us stay ahead of the ball and be proactive instead of reactive.”Trigg discussed what she considers the accomplishments of her tenure. “I guess what I’m most proud is at times standing my ground but going ahead whether I voted with the board or not, that I truly believe in the concept of the board and not the individual,” she said. “I’m proud of the four-day work week at the Lake (Whittell High School), and that the community thinks I’ve done a decent enough job to allow me to stay.”

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The Record Courier Updated Oct 19, 2012 06:17PM Published Oct 19, 2012 06:16PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.