Let’s be a community
I write this letter to you as an almost lifetime member of the community. We moved here from Oregon in 1994 when I was barely 10 years old. When we moved here the community embraced us and helped to make sure that my family became successful not only in business but also as members of the community, and we equally supported the community. Though we are lucky enough to be entering our 30th year here, things have sure changed.
Why is part of our community against affordable housing? Why do they assume that the people who take care of them at the grocery store, gas station, dry cleaner, etc. can afford to live here? Why don’t these people talk to the people around them and find out who they are and how they can help them to continue to live here, where most of us have grown up and where we want to raise our families.
Let’s be the most community oriented place to live. I know for a fact that there are numerous places where people can volunteer or donate to and they can use your time and money to grow. You never know when you may find yourself in need of one of our organizations. Some examples are, The Suicide Prevention Network, Family Support Council, Aktion Club, Backpack Buddies are just a few. If these organizations don’t ring a bell then start up a conversation with one of our locals and I guarantee they will have some ideas.
Show up at a county commission meeting and ask for affordable housing. Let’s be a community that loves and supports each other.
Good art show
I’m pleased that I was one in a large group of art lovers who attended the opening reception of the 3rd Annual Sierra Nevada Invitational Art Show and Sale held at the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center on Sept. 30. Nine of the West’s best artists came together to showcase a curated body of high-quality creative works, seen for the first time. The show was created by local Artists Teri Sweeney and Joe Millazo. Teri Sweeney has lived in the Carson Valley for over 17 years. Her work is an outstanding representation of the beauty that surrounds us here. Joe Milazzo re-located her from Arcadia, California and his work with the Pencil and Ink is a God-given talent. Sheri Greves-Neilson, is another local Artist. Her wonderful paintings of animals she finds on the local ranches rest in many local homes.
This Show is representative of the evolving arts and culture scene here in the Carson Valley. It’s a perfect example of our local talented Artists Connecting - Collaborating - and Creating. As this continues, our Carson Valley Artists are working to make our Valley an ever-bigger Arts Destination. Many Thanks to Dennis Little, the Museum Director and his talented staff of volunteers who hosted the Show.
The Sierra Nevada Invitational Art Show is the result of Teri and Joe’s vision of the Fine Arts as a unifying force in our Valley. It is produced for the enrichment of our residents and to showcase the incredible talents of our Artists. What could be better?
Grateful to Fall Festival team
On Oct. 7, I took my daughters to the annual Fall Festival at Heritage Park. I would like to thank the dedicated team at Main Street Gardnerville for organizing such an amazing event! My family and I have gone to this event many times, but this year it was better than ever. There was so much to do and it was equally fun for both of my daughters, who are ages 9 and 4. Many of the vendors had games set up for the kids, which we really had fun with. The entertainment was great, and I liked the way it was mixed up between music and other performances, such as dance routines. With the games, bounce houses, entertainment, and food, we were entertained for hours. One of the reasons why I love living in Douglas County so much is events like this. Thank you to everyone who made this possible and for your contribution to our community!
Lighten up a little
With all the serious letters to the editor lately, it’s about time for some humor. Seeing the beautiful trees with leaves turning bright colors reminds me of our since departed friend and accomplished cowboy poet, Ken Gardner. Ken said he once entered a contest in a magazine to write the best poem about autumn leaves. Here is what he wrote:
Autumn Leaves, by Ken Gardner
“Once every year,
And autumn leaves!”
Good one, Ken! Thanks for the laugh.
Board doesn’t care
The Douglas County School Board action on Oct. 6 continues to make a bad situation worse. Instead of following through, even though the outcome was unpopular with the parents and staff, the board reversed course and surprisingly voted to retain Keith Lewis. After months of contentious public meetings and public discord, as well as what I can only imagine were even more divisive private meetings, the two parties agreed to part ways. The Board does not support Keith Lewis and his leadership and has acknowledged that publicly. After formal and public agreements, the board reverses a decision and retains Keith Lewis? For what? For more poor treatment and division? I can’t help but wonder if this was intentional just to put Keith in an unwinnable situation. The board has already brought forth bylaw changes to limit the superintendent power and usurp the superintendent authority. The position of DCSD superintendent being reduced to a paper tiger is still to be voted on. I doubt anyone would want to work under those circumstances, unless their personal and political objectives aligned with the Board, and not with the education of the children of Douglas County.
The Board does not care that this community doesn’t just want Keith Lewis retained, they want him to be able to provide leadership and direction for the district, with the Board’s support. The leadership that has Douglas County ranked as the best district in the State for the third year in a row. Three years in a row! The Niche ranking is a direct result of years of commitment to education. Commitment to staff (2nd best in Nevada). Commitment to student achievement. It is a direct result of not getting distracted by political rhetoric and focusing on education. To date, this board has not demonstrated any concern for maintaining the leadership and team who brought that level of education to our small community. Now they just want to tear it apart for a political objective. A recent Letter to the Editor derides Keith for standing in the way of the Board and doing what they were elected to do. If caring about students, staff, and education are standing in the way of the Boards objectives, that says all it needs to about the intentions of the Board. And the overwhelming support of Keith from parents, staff, and students provides additional insight into what portion of the community is supporting the board. It is not the majority of people with children or a vested interest in education. Have your beliefs, fight for your freedoms, vote for your party or your candidate or your ideology, but what the Board is trying to do is to push a political agenda at the expense of our children. That is not only wrong, but also pure evil.
A parent’s perspective
At the last school board meeting, I sat with Giselle. She read the papers and came to see for herself what all the drama was about. I was amazed. That is good citizenship! It also made me think of others that may be confused by the many articles and opposing opinions. To help clarify, I made a timeline. Of course, this is from a parent’s perspective.
Spring 2022 - Susan Jansen, David Burns, and Katherine Dickerson registered as candidates for school board. None of them are parents. The campaign got ugly. Their team ran with a very offensive slogan: “Save our Schools.” They called the incumbents and current administration “woke” and “liberal.” Their platform included “saving girls’ sports” and “keeping boys out of girls’ locker rooms,” both transgender issues in the world but not present in this conservative community.
June -Nov 2022 - The Republican Central Committee sent texts and mailers to all registered Republicans endorsing them. Parents see this as an inappropriate move. The school board is supposed to be non-political.
Nov 2022 - Jansen, Burns, and Dickerson won. Now there are zero parents on the school board.
Jan 2023 - Parents present the idea of a parent survey to the board. The board seemed receptive, however at future meetings they disregarded all parent survey results. Parents became frustrated from not being heard. Eventually the survey stopped because results were completely ignored.
Spring 2023 - The majority of the board: Jansen, Burns, Dickerson, and Englekirk consistently came to meetings with their minds made up. It seemed they were discussing matters outside of school board meetings. This breaks open meeting laws. As elected officials all their communications are public record and the board is required to deliver up all such messages when requested in a reasonable time. They failed to do so. Lawsuits were filed for violating open meeting laws.
Spring/Summer 2023 - President Jansen was caught on a hot mic calling a public commenter a “POS.”
Summer 2023 - The board fired their legal team. Without taking other bids, they hired Joey Gilbert. His fees are considerably higher. In two months Gilbert charged $112K. This is compared to the previous attorney’s $5k/month retainer. Parents were and continue to be livid.
Sept. 2023 - The board majority proposed changing many district bylaws, They claimed that the bylaws gave too much power to the superintendent. They also wanted to decrease public comment time. Parents increasingly felt that the board didn’t want to hear from them.
Sept. 2023 - The school board meeting was very contentious. The superintendent, Keith Lewis, refused to sign the attorney’s contract. The board paid the attorney nonetheless.
Oct 2023 - The board held a special meeting to end the Superintendent’s contract. Hundreds of outraged parents attended to support Keith Lewis and repeatedly called for the resignation of Jansen, Burns, and Dickerson. Surprisingly, Englekirk voted against the motion.
Parents want the board to listen, trust Superintendent Lewis, and not micromanage him. If they won’t, parents, including me, want their resignation.
Compare length of service
I believe that if there is some doubt that Keith Lewis and some members of the board will not be able to work productively together then we need to make a choice. Look at the standing of our school system. How long has Keith been here and how long have those members been on the board? That kind of status does not happen overnight. Easy to see where the credit goes and which direction to maintain. The recent issues with the school board are very concerning. I watched the entire proceeding and after listening to all the comments I was reassured that the system can get back on track and when the required changes are made it will stay on track.
The comments regarding the conduct of some of the board members were disturbing. The failure to respond to emails, the seeming lack of familiarization with school operations and the questionable ability to manage outside legal services.
Regarding the legal services. I have the impression that the board believed that there was nonconformance to some current policies. Mr. Lehmann reasoned that this might have been determined by consulting with the State Education Department or the Attorney General to learn if this was the case or to understand the level of nonconformance and recommend corrective action. But, perhaps, the board decided to go to Mr. Gilbert with the question. In light of the inexperience with education law it’s possible that even if easy, inexpensive, fixes were available they might not have been apparent to this firm. I don’t know all the details so I might be wrong and over simplifying, but the legal expenses to date are alarming. Additionally, I understand there is a proposal to engage a “forensic accountant”, why?
I won’t go on any longer because everyone who has followed this has made many of the same observations I have so there is no need to be repetitive. It’s time for consolidation of our observations and to work toward a resolution. I have observed members of this board attempt to remove a very highly regarded, successful superintendent, his record and accomplishments are crystal clear and supported by many testimonials. Additionally, the reasons for the current legal expenditures, compared to past performance, are questionable.
The Douglas County School System is top-notch. This is supported by ranking, and for me, by the quality of the students and teachers. So, what has all this done for our students, what is the agenda, what is the benefit to education? On Friday we witnessed a turnaround, but major changes may still be needed. Our students are the best things we can provide for the future, we must maintain an environment where they can thrive.
Thanks to teachers and staff
In light of the recent controversial school board meetings, I felt compelled to applaud our outstanding teachers, School District staff and administration. Mr. Lewis is an exceptional leader who continues to be unnecessarily criticized, and undermined. He genuinely cares about his staff, the students, and the future of the School District. DCSD employees are a wonderful group of highly dedicated, inspirational, and compassionate educational professionals who continuously go above and beyond making a lifelong impact on their students. Teachers and staff definitely play a key role in the development of our youth. You’re the heart of every classroom, the soul of every school.
The extra efforts from all DCSD staff on a daily basis continue to help children grow, develop, flourish, and shine. These efforts do not go unnoticed. Your patience and understanding cannot be undersold. Despite the ongoing, unnecessary controversy, you all continue to show up and give it one hundred percent teaching and working in good faith each and every day. As a parent, and resident of this great community, I sincerely and wholeheartedly want to thank all of you! You are appreciated! It is because of you our youth will thrive and continue to dream big. Keep up the great work and know that this community supports you. We are fortunate to have you all!
The School Board should take notes from each and every one of you and remember who they are representing. The lack of leadership shown by this school board is a disgrace, embarrassment, and a disservice to the School District staff, administration, and Mr. Lewis. Most importantly the future of this country, the students at Douglas County School District. You should be ashamed of yourselves.