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District on brink of outstanding achievement

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

George Echan says that if the students, teachers and parents are willing to work hard, the school district is on the brink of “outstanding achievement.”

Echan is asking the voters to return him to the Area 3 school board seat he has held for two years to ensure the strategic plan will be followed through as planned.

“I think we are really at a crossroads. If the community does not have the courage to finish this program, I fear we will never have elevated standards,” Echan said.

Echan said the standards are not perfect, but the problems will be worked out at the annual strategic plan committee meetings in January.

“I’m not self-satisfied in the least little bit. I don’t proclaim (the competencies) are perfect, but we really need to keep our eyes on the higher standards,” Echan said.

Echan, 55, is a business and real estate attorney who lives in the Kingsbury area. He ran unopposed to fill a vacancy in July 1998, and has sat on several other boards and committees.

He was a member of the Douglas County Planning Commission, chairman of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, a Tahoe-Douglas Rotary board member and a volunteer arbitrator for Douglas and Washoe district courts.

Echan has a son, Todd, 18, who was Whittell High School’s salutatorian this year and is now a freshman at the University of Redlands in Southern California.

Echan said he would like the board to review the employability competencies.

“From what I have heard in the classrooms, it probably needs some more work,” Echan said.

He said some details in the English competency and the documentation of what each student has completed should also be cleaned up.

– Communication. Echan said improving internal communication is a huge priority for the school board.

“Teachers need to be listened to to see where the process can be improved. We need continual input at the board level. Externally, the community and all the stakeholders need to know what we’re doing.”

Echan said he would like to see school meetings with teachers at least twice a year.

Echan said communications with parents could be improved if they would attend meetings more.

“Probably one of the most disappointing things for me has been the low turnouts for the (candidates’) debates. It is an obligation of parents not to buy into the rumors or negative publicity, but to really know the issues to make firm judgments,” Echan said.

He said despite the difficulties of being a board member, he wants to continue.

“Being a school board member is not the easiest job in the world, but the rewards are terrific. There is not a thing more rewarding than knowing you are working for the kids. They are our most important resource and our legacies. It makes the vilification and the negative people worth it to me,” he said.

Echan said the administration, school board and the teachers must work together to urge the Legislature to increase education funding.

“Seventy percent of our total income comes from the state. The true crisis of public education is a lack of a stable funding source,” Echan said. “I have real concerns. There has been no money for teacher raises in the last 10 years. Nevada teachers have only had a 10 percent increase over that time. It is difficult to ask teachers to work harder for higher standards when they don’t have fair compensation.”