School district veteran says good-bye after 30 years

Nancy Bryant spent the night of June 9 doing what she's always done at school board meetings: Outlining changes in policy, highlighting concerns, answering questions from board members.

However, when she finished her presentation this time around, board members didn't immediately move onto the next agenda item. Rather, they gave her a hearty round of applause.

June 9 was Bryant's last official school board meeting. The 52-year-old assistant superintendent of education services is retiring after 30 years with the Douglas County School District.

"There's definitely some sadness. I'm leaving while still enjoying the job," Bryant said in the district office on Tuesday. "But my goal was to be here for 30 years, and now it's time to try something else. When I wake up on July 1, it will be the first time, since I was 15, that I won't have a job."

Bryant is a native Nevadan. She grew up in Carson City and graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a degree in education. She was 22 years old when she went to teach for the Douglas County School District. In 1979, overflow students from Gardnerville Elementary School were still being taught in the back room of what is now the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center.

"I taught in there for the first six months," Bryant said.

Around Christmas of that year, Bryant and others packed up their materials and headed into a brand new school in the Gardnerville Ranchos. That school was Meneley Elementary, where Bryant taught third-grade and some multi-age classes for nine years.

"It was fabulous, my favorite grades," she said. "It's when students learn cursive and multiplication and get your jokes."

When Scarselli Elementary opened on the other end of the Ranchos in 1988, Bryant transferred and taught there for four years. It wasn't until 1992 that she made a leap into administration, first as vice principal of Meneley.

"Moving from a teacher to an administrator is hard," she said. "You lose a little contact with the students. I did miss being in the classroom, but at the same time, it was exciting working on large-scale projects."

The next step for Bryant was into the principal's office. In 1996, she became the principal of Pinon Hills Elementary in Johnson Lane.

"One of the hardest things was opening the new school," she said. "We had a month to get it open, to get all the paperwork and Peachies printed in time. It was exciting, but it was difficult for us to separate from Jacks Valley, which was very crowded. We had different ideas. Everyone was used to Jacks Valley, but we wanted a school with its own traditions. The parents were very involved and very supportive."

Bryant said being a principal is challenging, even when coming from a vice principal position.

"I didn't think a principal could make that much difference in the feel of a school, until I became one," she said. "You have to decide what to stand for, which hills to die on, and which to let go. You have to interact with the students, the staff and the parents with one goal in mind: To do what's best for the students."

In 2005, Bryant moved to the district office and became assistant superintendent of education services.

"It just seemed like the right time," she said. "I had worked on the original strategic plan and district accountability, so I had the history of where we were going, and I wanted to make sure I was part of where we would end up."

Among Bryant's responsibilities over the last four years have been overseeing curriculum and instruction, testing and assessments, and alternative and special education.

"It's the largest department," she said. "We deal with a lot of policy and also truancy and expulsions."

Bryant said her monthly truancy meetings included the district attorney's office and juvenile probation, among other agencies. She said some of the meetings were discouraging.

"There is more than one reason why kids are truant," she said. "You'd see what some of our students are dealing with on a daily basis in their family settings."

Bryant said her job was not to intervene in home affairs, but to offer students as many services as possible.

"We could make connections with students and set up mentorships at the site," she said. "We couldn't change their lives at home, but we could affect their lives at school."

As assistant superintendent, two services Bryant saw implemented were a revamping of the district's night school program, and the establishment of ASPIRE, a motivational alternative program designed for struggling students.

"There was really a big push to improve alternative education," she said. "Those were two big projects that were time-consuming but worth it."

Still, Bryant considers leading Pinon Hills Elementary her biggest accomplishment.

"I'm proud of opening the school," she said. "It continues to be an excellent school, and I like to think that part of that stems from its foundation."

Bryant also feels pride when the fruits of her past work show up in the present.

"It's gratifying when students stop me in the store and tell me I made a difference in their lives," she said.

A few weeks ago, Bryant saw graduate from high school the first class that had gone all the way through Pinon Hills Elementary.

"It was fun to watch them and talk to them and see what their plans are," she said. "They'll be successful. They look a lot more confident now than when they first walked into kindergarten."

As for the future, Bryant is still unsure where life will take her.

"I want to learn to quilt, and I do love crafts, and, of course, I need to clean out the closets," she said. "But I'm open to a new career, to something else. I'll probably look into consulting. I do have a minor in business."

One thing Bryant is sure of, though, is the appeal of a certain summer beach.

"I want to spend more time at the Lake," she said. "It's my favorite place to be."


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