The three nonpartisan races for school board are the only three local countywide races on the ballot this November.
School Board trustees Robbe Lehmann and Heather Jackson are facing challengers Susan Jansen and Katherine Dickerson, while David Burns and Roberta Butterfield are vying for the newly redistricted seat vacated by term-limited trustee Ross Chichester.
All six positions are nonpartisan and countywide, though trustees must live in the district they represent.
Last week, the candidates participated in a debate hosted by the Good Governance Group at the Douglas County Community & Senior Center.
The last question sought to find out what trustees felt were the two most pressing issues facing the school board.
“Mental health and school funding,” Butterfield said. “We really need to be working with and hopefully getting some people in place who are going to ensure that our schools get the funding we need.”
Burns said he felt that the board needed to treat people who come before them with more respect.
“Financing and getting parents back involved,” Burn said of the two critical issues facing the district. “Communications with parents is key. We don’t know what’s going on with our schools.”
Jansen agreed that the district is going to take a big funding hit from the state.
“I think we’re going to have to figure out how to get as much money from the state, so we can maintain programs,” she said.
Jansen said she felt changes in Title 9 and federal transgender rules may be a serious issue.
“Biden’s new transgender rules and the change in Title 9, I think that might cause a big problem,” she said.
Lehmann said he felt teacher retention and school safety were the top issues.
He offered to show Burns how to find information about the district’s finances online, where the district is required to post them.
“We are having a hard time recruiting teachers because it’s expensive to live here,” he said. “We are having a hard time retaining teachers because they are being attacked at every corner.”
Dickerson said the disparity is salaries between teachers and bus drivers and janitors is an issue.
“These people are the glue that holds the schools together,” she said. “They’re financially an afterthought.”
Dickerson said the district should be finding more money to hire teachers, instead of hiring administrators.
“Why are we hiring more administrators?” she asked. “There is just something wrong with that picture.”
She said the district’s financial picture isn’t going to be better.
“You are going to have to be crafty to figure out how you’re going to get the money you need, because we’re going to take a hit,” she said. “Probably a couple of thousand dollars per student.”
Jackson pointed out that the new administrators were hired to replace retirees.
“We actually didn’t replace every position,” she said. “We hired less positions because we needed more money.”
Jackson said two-thirds of the categories that regularly rank Nevada at the bottom for education nationally focus on the amount spent per student and parents’ demographics, two things the school board and district have no control over.
“The third portion is academic achievement and Nevada is 18th in the nation,” she said. “Douglas County is No. 1 in Nevada, and we need to let everybody know that we have great schools and that our kids are successful when they leave these schools.”
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