Meeting painful to watch
To anyone hearing or caring about the Douglas County School Board, if you are wondering what the heck is going on, here is a brief summary:
• The board has passed every funding request for district capital improvements.
• The board has passed pay increases for certified and classified personnel.
• The board passed policy that restricts curriculum that promotes unconstitutional tenants of Critical Race Theory.
• The board passed policy that would restrict the district from accepting grants that required the inclusion of CRT curriculum.
• The board did not implement policy that would restrict biological males from competing in female sports and using female locker rooms because that issue is still making its way through the courts
• The board did change legal counsel, which thus far has cost the district more money, but the new firm identified critical issues with the DCSB Bylaws and has had to defend trustees from endless frivolous legal filings from a political faction in Douglas County that seeks to remove the legally elected trustees from office. Hopefully, once the courts rule on protecting girls, the new firm will be able to advise on policy that will protect the young women of Douglas County.
It was painful to watch the Sept. 12 DCSB Meeting via Zoom. The majority of complaining commenters self-identified as educators, so their repeated misunderstanding of the basic principles of representative democracy was disheartening. The Founders under-took the task of forming a “more perfect union” based on checks and balances that allows the people through their elected representatives to decide how their government should function. This form of governance has been copied in Nevada so the concept of “balance of power” between elected positions (legislative authority), and unelected administrative positions (executive authority) shouldn’t be confusing or confounding, especially to people with bachelors and master’s degrees.
It was particularly unsettling to witness a trustee suggest over and over again that our school board should ignore Nevada statutes, especially when that trustee was on the previous board that voted to amend the by-laws such that they most likely violated state statues.
To Superintendent Lewis’ credit, he asked pertinent questions, and on this issue he is simply caught in the crossfire of ill-conceived decisions by previous boards.
The coup de grâce was in the final moments of the meeting a past board member tried to stall the proceedings so the board would not be able to approve a “critical need” request by Superintendent Lewis to hire two social science teachers for the district. If the past board member and his supporters had been successful the district would have had to wait until the next board meeting to take action to hire retired teachers, and classrooms would have had to be covered by substitute teachers.
For people who berate and harass some of the members of the board for “not caring about the children,” it just seems like a sophomoric and quite frankly malicious strategy to simply destroy the DCSD in order to undermine the board.
Topaz Ranch Estates
PAC against politics?
What’s wrong with this picture? The new majority on the school board is advocating keeping politics out of our schools but the ad is paid for by a political action committee—Nevada 1st PAC.
Spend money on education
Regarding the full page ad from the Nevada 1st Pac about keeping politics out of our schools.
It seems to me that politics is exactly what the current board is bringing to Douglas County Schools. I’m curious as to how diversity, equity and inclusion could possibly be considered racist, when its tenets are the exact opposite. As for CRT, once again it is a law school seminar that shows how the legal system in this country has had negative impacts on people of color.
You would have to be a complete moron to look at history and think it has not (exclusion laws, Jim Crow, racist policing, sundowner laws, mandated segregation, housing covenants, etc.).
So what is this Board really trying to do? It wants to ensure that the ACLU brings a lawsuit against Douglas County for which we, the taxpayers, will foot the bill. I don’t know about you, but I would rather we let trans-kids live their lives with dignity, teach history as it was, not as MAGA rewrites it, and spend our tax dollars improving educational outcomes, rather than enriching a law firm.
How much will Gilbert cost?
At the Sept. 12 Douglas County School Board meeting Joey Gilbert showed his lack of legal expertise. There are issues with his having invoiced the district for $35,000 in his first month. That works out to $420,000 for the year, and that doesn’t include what Mr. Gilbert will charge to defend the Board in its attempt to write bathroom policies that violate state laws. Turns out Mr. Gilbert may have sent a revised copy of his contract, without identifying the revisions, that step may have invalidated the contract as it change things so Mr. Gilbert no longer represents the school district, like the previous law firm, he now represents the School Board.
But it was Agenda item 12, Suspension of certain Bylaws. Mr. Gilbert told the Board these bylaws illegally transferred power from the Board to the Superintendent. The problems with Mr. Gilbert’s statements is he has implied the previous law firm failed their duties to the Board in allowing the changes. Later Mr. Gilbert admitted the Bylaws were not in violation of Nevada’s Revised Statues. He claimed the problem was transferring power to the superintendent, but the proposed changes do nothing to change the role and responsibilities of the superintendent, other than to remove the superintendent role in inspecting and copying records in accordance with all applicable laws, this policy, and applicable regulations. The role was given to no one.
The overwhelming majority of the changes do not even mention the superintendent. They are changes to how the board itself behaves. They want to strike the bylaws stating “Members are obligated to abide by the majority decisions of the Board while retaining the right to seek changes is such decisions through ethical and constructive channels and in accordance with all other bylaws and policies.” What they want instead is “members are obligated to support the decision of the board publicly and privately.”
So Mr. Gilbert started by telling us one thing, but inspection of the documents revealed something totally different. Mr. Gilbert seems to have a problem being straight forward and truthful with the board and with our community. He seems to be willing to obfuscate the issues rather than providing truth – our current board majority wants to tighten their control on dissent to their unpopular agenda.
Board giving contradictory messages
I am the mother of a freshman, sophomore and senior at DHS. We have been a DCSD family since my kids attended kindergarten at Jacks Valley. For 13 years I have not felt the need to make public comment at a school board meeting. Yet, at 11:50 p.m. Sept. 12 when my heart strings tugged at me to speak regarding the agenda item at hand, I responded. I stood to comment regarding Superintendent Keith Lewis’ request to declare a critical shortage of teachers in the district. I supported the action, yet wanted to voice my concerns over the larger issue that such a request indicated. I hoped to draw the board’s and the audience’s attention to one possible reason by sharing the disheartening news that Carson High School has quietly started accepting students from DCSD who feel endangered by the proposed discriminatory policies of this board. Before I could make my point as to how this could directly relate to the current difficulty in persuading teachers to work in our district, President Jansen vehemently cut me off. She banged her tiny gavel in an “off-with-her-head” kind of way, claiming irrelevance. I was so shocked by her behavior, I didn’t realize I was still talking. I tried to make my point quickly so she could see the relevance when she again rapped her gavel, like a tyrant wielding her scepter, and hammered until I was silenced. Afterward I was shaking from the physical shock of being treated with such rudeness and disrespect.
To add insult to injury, today Pres. Jansen’s husband was overheard at Pulse gym saying that I must have been following my husband’s orders to have made my comment. His reasoning? My comment was after my husband’s. Sexist.
Ironically, this same group has the audacity to take out a full-page ad in today’s newspaper with the false claim they are “Saving our Girls.” Our girls. But not our moms. I’m beginning to wonder if this school board wants to save “our girls’’ from their moms. So far their overt messaging to these girls reads something like this:
“We want to save you girls. You’re our girls. But we don’t care about your moms. Please don’t listen to your mothers, girls. We don’t. If your moms ever want to offer their unique perspective on your current life’s challenges, ignore them. Or, if their opinions have merit, we suggest you give credit to your dads for coming up with those perspectives and telling your moms what to say. If/when your mothers do make public comments (on your behalf, on the designated platform, at the appropriate time) we promise to do our best to silence their voices and dis-credit their opinions. Deal? We all know that if moms have anything important to say it couldn’t possibly be their own views they are sharing, but something their husband/partner/man-in-their life told them to say. But don’t worry. We’ll save you.”
Trustees won’t listen
My name is Bobby Goodspeed. My family has lived in Carson Valley for 45 years. My husband George and I raised two daughters who both attended Douglas County schools K through 12th grades. I currently have four grands in this school district and one who has graduated. A daughter and son-in-law have been employed by the district for many years, and I retired after working for 13 years as a Special Education Aide. I have skin in this game.
That being established, I really have very little else to say because there are no words to which Susan Jansen, Katherine Dickerson, David Burns, and Doug Englekirk will listen. They have made it abundantly clear that they heed only the words of their handlers.
There are no words to adequately describe the anxiety, frustration, and sadness that the aforementioned Board members are causing as they intentionally and methodically dismantle an excellent school district, brick by brick. Never did I imagine, in all my years of living here, that Douglas County School District would find itself in such jeopardy.
There are no words for the four puppets’ blatant refusal to listen to input from parents, administrators, teachers, or members of the public, as they are demonstrating serious fiscal irresponsibility in hiring attorney Joey Gilbert, are moving forward to replace an incredibly competent and highly respected superintendent, are making the very tough job of teaching so much tougher, and are further marginalizing already marginalized students.
Regarding the intent and the direction of these particular Board members, there truly are no words to describe the damage that four people with a highly politicized agenda have the power to cause. It renders one quite speechless. The eight-hour Board meeting on Sept. 12 said it all.
Even with all my current distress, I somehow am managing to hang onto a wee bit of hope and trust that in the end, regardless of the time frame, reasonable people shall abide. Douglas County deserves better.
Politics at the expense of children
There is a lot of noise surrounding the school board and their recent actions regarding the district legal representation, bylaws, and conduct. The three newest members of the Douglas County School Board ran on a platform of Republican political ideology and were elected by a majority of the residents who cast ballots in the last election. I think it is fair to say that they are doing exactly what they were elected to do, which is push a political narrative and pick a legal fight at either the state or national level regarding education policy. They are doing exactly that.
The board has removed the previous legal representative, an expert in education law and policy, and replaced them with a defense attorney who has both personally and professionally touted himself as a “fighter,” and who happens to have the same political affiliation and campaign talking points. The board is trying to make bylaw changes that will make it easier for them to make district policy changes with minimal oversight.
This is the beginning of changes that will allow the board to make contentious policy decisions and changes that will result in union, department of education, or ACLU lawsuits that can push political narratives into the courts. This has various effects on ballot initiatives, headlines, and down ballot political races in future election cycles which is the entire goal of the newly elected board members and the political leadership in Douglas County. The problem is that they are doing this exercise at the expense of our children, the superintendent, and the district staff and teachers. The current school board has not made any curriculum changes or significant policy decisions. If “woke” ideology is so toxic why haven’t they made or even proposed any meaningful changes to combat this scourge? The reason is because woke culture doesn’t exist within DCSD, and most of all, because the current administration and staff are professionals who focus on educating students, not teaching an agenda. The results of this initial focused attack on Keith Lewis will be to remove an educational leader from the district and insert a political puppet. This will make it easier to find staff and student situations that can be exploited for political gains. Staff and teachers that want to educate students will leave. Parents and families with means will relocate out of the area. The political echo chamber will get even larger, and the coffers of the school district will be spent on lawyers. The students will be the ones who suffer the most, but student education and achievement are not the focus of this board. The administration, teachers, staff, students, and parents have let their opinions and voices be known at almost every board meeting. It is for naught, and as many of the previous letters to the editor from Douglas County Republican political leadership have noted, this is exactly what they elected this school board to do.
Proposed bylaws out of step
When I read the proposed changes to the school board bylaws my first reaction was that it was out of step with other Douglas County practices. For example, I had just read about the emergency incident map the County and the Sheriff are providing to us, this is the kind of consideration I have come to appreciate. These proposed bylaws appear to be going away from past practices for community needs by moving toward restricting the involvement of the affected parties and consolidating authority to a small group.
The expertise needed to provide education lies with the superintendent, the administrators, the teachers, and the feedback from parents and students. The board should provide guidance when needed based on the standards for performance by the providers, the feedback of parents and students, and developing trends. The standards for that performance should be generally accepted practices and response to local conditions. Standards should not reflect any narrowly held ideology or manufactured crisis. The acceptance of standards must be based on verifiable needs and must clearly benefit the student.
I have always been impressed by the quality of the Douglas County school system. I get this from the students I’ve talked to. At last week’s meeting I was struck by the accolades for the Superintendent, the positivity of the teachers who spoke, and comments by a group of students.
During the meeting I became aware of several issues. I was concerned by the issues raised regarding the Gilbert law firm. Education law may be new territory for them. If some of the charges are due to inexperience, I hope we are not covering the cost to bring them up to speed.
Additionally I sensed a change in the flow of internal communication within the board and also between the board and the school administration. I can imagine the complexities of successfully managing a big organization like this. Information flow, clearly understandable mutual goals, and morale are key.
Let’s be sure that any changes result in measurable benefits to the students, they are the most important stakeholders here.