Election: Raker wants to go forward with competencies; students will achieve
Keeping the school district on track for the competency implementation should be the board’s primary concern, says Douglas County School Board candidate John Raker.
Unfortunately, Raker said, the board’s attention is being pulled from what’s important by the candidacy of his opponent, Douglas High School teacher Randy Green.
“My primary concern right now is what seems to be strong support for Randy Green, because he’s bringing an issue to the school board that should be dealt with at the state Legislature. One of the misconceptions is that it is the Douglas County School District who is bringing this issue to court. Randy is bringing this controversy on,” Raker said.
He said the state Ethics Commission issued a ruling a couple of years ago which stated teachers couldn’t be school board members because they would be their own boss.
“I think he should drop out. I know this sounds self-serving. I don’t know how else to say it. If I were not his challenger, I would say the same thing,” Raker said. “Randy’s a great guy, and this is turning out to be a popularity contest, as opposed to the issues.”
Raker said the issues are the competencies. He said he doesn’t believe that children won’t be able to meet the competencies because the system hasn’t been in place for a full 12 years.
“My daughter, Lisa, is in the 9th grade and will be held to that standard. She will do whatever she has to do to get up to speed. If we hold children to higher standards, they’ll do just fine,” he said.
Raker said he understands teachers’ concerns, but they are being addressed.
“We’re asking them to change some of their instruction habits and that’s hard to do, but the end result is the children will be more prepared. It is a temporary inconvenience until they pick up the skills. The national trend is to raise standards in order to compete,” he said.
Raker said the board is willing to adjust the strategic plan and the competencies and have built in a yearly workshop to make changes.
“I bring a business background and have experience in problem-solving. It’s the nature of my business. We’ve got to identify problems, gather facts and move forward with some kind of answers,” said Raker, who has been an insurance agent with State Farm Insurance since 1983. He also worked for 12 years in personnel with the state and private business.
He was appointed to the school board in December 1998 and this is his first election.
The Rakers moved to Gardnerville in 1993. His children are Lisa, 14, and Michael, 12. Raker’s wife is Maria, who works for her husband as a receptionist. There are also two older children, Vince, 32, and Veronica, 34.
Raker was raised by his aunt in Winnemucca, and has four aunts, a cousin and a sister who are teachers. His mother was also a teacher.
Raker said he tries to spend time at each school and also spent a day riding a school bus.
“I’m trying to make myself accessible and learn as much about the district as possible,” Raker said.
He said to improve the Douglas County teachers’ lot in life is important to him. However, the teachers’ representation needs to change before that can happen, he said.
“That would be a wonderful first step to bringing both sides together instead of constantly looking for an opportunity to antagonize the district,” Raker said. “There is a distinction between the union leaders and the hard core working teachers. I have a problem with the union leadership. I have the highest respect for teachers. It is the highest qualified, least paid profession in our society.”
The school board will have to focus on getting more funding from the state Legislature next year, Raker said, but teachers have to understand there just isn’t a lot of money to go around right now.
“If there is no money, there is no money. The fact is, I think our teachers do deserve a pay raise. It is unconscionable on the part of the governor not to include money for raises. We are asking them to do more and take on the responsibility of the competencies,” Raker said. “The teachers need to work with the school district to approach the state Legislature to petition them for an increase.”
Raker said he was involved in parent organizations and not thinking about joining the school board when he was asked by two separate principals who independently asked him to consider it.
“They were looking for someone who cared, who was involved. I don’t have an ax to grind. We need people who have a clear mind and want to solve problems.”