Former Douglas County School Board trustee Sharla Hales said Thursday comparing scores between two different testing regimes to claim the school district is failing is “inaccurate and inexcusable.”
“It’s not true, it’s not good for our district and it’s not good for business,” she told a full house at the 31st annual Douglas County Business Council’s Critical Issues Conference.
Hales served on the school board for 12 years and was also the attorney for the Churchill County School District for many years before she was elected county commissioner, though she said the thoughts are her own.
“When you are trying to recruit people to live and work in Douglas County, if they have kids, they surely Google Douglas County School District and it’s going to give them pause,” she said.
She said research shows a positive correlation toward student achievement if the superintendent and school board work together.
“We know that our current school board majority is undermining the ability of our superintendent to do his job,” she said. “They are seeking to take away his ability to send communications to families. This undermining of the superintendent’s role is going to create more bad headlines and negatively impact student achievement.”
She asked if the level of disruption experienced at the school board level was necessary to preserve the community’s values.
“Biological males using girls bathrooms is not and never has been an actual issue in Douglas County schools,” Hales said. “Our community’s values are that men compete with men and women compete with women. There is no argument about that in Douglas County.”
She said preserving the community’s values can be done without all the disruption.
“The point of preserving our community’s values is not so we can make headlines, so we can say look how conservative we are in Douglas County,” she said. “The point is to actually instill those values, actually preserve those values. That’s what’s important.”
Superintendent Keith Lewis argued that it’s apples to oranges to compare scores from 2014-15 when the state required students to take a proficiency exam to 2022-23 when the state only requires that juniors take a college entrance exam without requiring they pass.
The new majority on the school board has drawn national attention to its efforts to implement policies designed to drive out Lewis under the cover of a variety of social issues.
Lewis said that Niche.com had named Douglas the best school district three years running.
While Nevada is pinned to the bottom of states in rankings by Education Week, it’s 18th in academic performance.
Douglas’ state proficiency rankings are first in math and science and fourth in English language when compared to other traditional high schools in the state.
“Our kids are doing great, our kids are smart, our kids are coming out of our schools prepared,” Lewis said.
Neighboring California and Massachusetts have the second highest composite ACT scores in the nation, but only require 4 percent of students to take the test, according to Learner.com
Of the half-dozen states that require 100 percent participation, scores are among the lowest in the nation.
Valley resident Denise Beronio said her daughter, who isn’t planning on attending a four-year university, didn’t try on the test because it didn’t apply to her.
“Mandatory ACT tests really holds no weight for kids who aren’t going to attend a four-year college,” she said. “If we had a test that actually carried weight instead of being a mandatory test that doesn’t, you would see numbers that would reflect more accurately actually how are students are learning.”
Sen. Robin Titus praised the panel consisting of Hales, Lewis, Cade Baligade and moderated by Bryce Clutts for addressing the issue in a straightforward manner.
“None of you ran away from the controversy here in Douglas County,” she said.
The R-C is a gold sponsor of the Critical Issues Conference, which was held at the Tahoe Blue Events Center.