Rally explores options for school board

Patrick Peters speaks at a rally in Minden Park on Monday night that saw around 130 residents gather to discuss what to do in response to the majority of the Douglas County School Board.

Patrick Peters speaks at a rally in Minden Park on Monday night that saw around 130 residents gather to discuss what to do in response to the majority of the Douglas County School Board.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

Around 130 people gathered in Minden Park on Monday night to discuss the Douglas County School Board majority and brainstorm ideas ranging from recalling four of them to putting up a strong slate of candidates next year.

Passing out cards saying “We deserve a better board” with a QR code, the group is organizing an election campaign, whether that comes sooner or later.

Speaker Patrick Peters, who has been vocal at school board meetings, detailed some of the challenges that come with a recall campaign.

Recalling the three school board trustees would require at least 7,250 signatures from voters who cast ballots in the 2022 election, and more likely 8,000 signatures. Not only will they have to obtain signatures, they will also have to pay to have the petitions counted, Peters said.

Sitting School Board Vice President Doug Englekirk will be more difficult to recall, since petitioners would have to obtain 8,541 signatures from voters who cast a ballot in the 2020 general election.

Former Douglas High School Principal Marty Swisher suggested posting a strong slate of candidates next year when four board seats are up for election.

Peters related how he waited for school board trustees to look up from their phones when he spoke at public comment and told one of their supporters he was “going to command the room.”

One of the complaints speakers at school board meetings have had is that four trustees were spending a lot of time looking at their phones.

A public records complaint was filed in Douglas County District Court seeking emails discussing the hiring of attorney Joey Gilbert from Douglas County School Board members.

The plaintiffs accuse school board President Susan Jansen, Secretary David Burns and trustees Katherine Dickerson and Engelkirk of deliberating through private communications, which is a violation of the Nevada Open Meeting Law. The Record-Courier confirmed on Friday that a half-dozen open meeting law complaints have been filed against the school board since the beginning of the year.

Plaintiffs are also seeking an expedited hearing on the matter. No date had been set as of Friday afternoon, and the case has been transferred to Department II District Judge Tom Gregory.

Plaintiffs in the petition for a writ of mandamus are former Douglas County School Board Trustee Robbe Lehmann, Swisher and former Human Resources Director Joe Girdner and parent Dean Miller.

The writ is seeking a court order that the district provide public records, along with fees and court costs.

Girdner resigned effective July 29, citing behavior of the new school board toward district staff in his letter of “constructive discharge.”

“My primary concern is the long term well-being of the district, particularly with regards to the fear that is spreading among staff,” Girdner said in a note to The R-C. “There’s a culture being created in DCSD by the new board members and their supporters that many teachers, administrators, and support staff are afraid of. With a national teacher shortage DCSD can’t afford to lose any staff members, which will happen if this culture continues.”

Girdner said the disrespectful treatment Superintendent Keith Lewis has received from the new trustees was “deeply disheartening.”

Backed by the Douglas County Republican Party, Chairman Jim McKalip defended the endorsement at an Aug. 8 school board meeting. All the candidates in the race last November were registered Republicans.

“I would like to support our new school board members,” he said. “I think they deserve a chance, there are a lot of problems to solve. Let’s face it, they would not have been elected if the public was happy with the way the schools were running.”

None of the new trustees have had students in the school, though both Burns and Dickerson’s spouses have been substitute teachers.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment