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Election/Roman: School district needs to reassess competencies

by Merrie Leininger

The Douglas County School District needs to step back and look at what it is asking of the community’s kids and teachers, says board candidate Keith Roman.

Roman – who is running against Charles Pullen for the Area 7 seat being vacated by Randy Wallstrum – taught and coached at Douglas High School for 32 years.

Roman, 59, has lived in the Carson Valley since 1966 when he started working for the school district. Two years later, he married Mary, also a teacher. He retired four years ago from Douglas High School and continued to coach football and substitute teach until last year. He currently works in production and customer service at Kinko’s in Carson City.

Mary is a teacher at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.

Mary and Keith have three children, Brando, 29, Blair, 31, and Brodie, 19.

Roman said that, as a former teacher, he still is in touch with many of the teachers in Douglas County and they are unhappy.

“When you impose a strict competency system, which is a requirement to graduation, and you do it from the top down, there is little room for error. They haven’t come up through the system. It has been thrust upon them without an organized system. You don’t do that in any business. We’ve got to make sure it is right,” Roman said.

He said the number of tests students have to take presents a large problem.

“Right now, they don’t know how they are ever going to get every kid to take every test. Some of the tests have poor test questions that don’t follow the curriculum,” Roman said. “Out of 1,000 sophomores and juniors, 750 still have to take the foreign language test, and it is given before and after school and during lunch. How are we are going to convince kids to come in before school to take a test? I can see several hundred of them still needing to take the test at graduation time.”

Roman said he is not against a competency system, but students need to be exposed to that system from the beginning of their education to allow the bugs to be worked out.

“We need to start from the bottom up. Kids who are faced with this are going to lose interest in the system. We have kids who are just going to give up who wouldn’t have if we hadn’t imposed this system. We need to be responsible for those kids, too,” Roman said.

He said there are problems with the tests themselves because they are not based on the curriculum the students have been taught.

“There are so many problems with the tests, it is scary. I don’t want to see the district go back, let’s just figure out how to do it right,” he said.

Roman denied board members’ claims that there is a small group of vocal teachers who are unhappy.

“It’s not 40 teachers, it’s several hundred. You don’t treat your employees like that. And we’re not talking about a raise in salary here. When I go out to businesses, I am always impressed with the attitude of people I meet. And you know the businesses are taking care of these people. We need to help the teachers do their job and remove the things that get in their way,” he said.

Roman said the teachers have real concerns that the district isn’t listening to.

“Especially over the last eight years, the school district has just listened, but they have not heard what the teachers are saying. The high school teachers in particular are telling them this system is flawed. The majority have real reservations. They just do not get any response from the school board. It has got to be their way,” Roman said.

He said the board needs to show the teachers they are listening.

“We need to do the deeds for these people. Charlie Condron came into the high school this year and saw they needed new copy machines and got them. Teacher morale went up. Morale is about as low as low tide. It costs less if they come across for the employees and take their concerns to heart,” he said.

Roman said he has heard from community members who don’t get responses to their concerns, either.

“There are hundreds of people who are just fed up. The little things all add up. I think the school district is ignoring what the people want,” Roman said. “When parents have a problem, I would go down to the school and tell them to fix it. Then, people would start to say, ‘The school district isn’t half bad,’ and they will go out and tell their friends,” Roman said.

He said the school district has for too long relied on newsletters to get information to parents.

“I know it is frustrating and difficult to get parents involved. For 30 years, I tried to get parents to support things other than athletics,” Roman said. “The school board members need to go out of their way to inform parents. We could start a talk radio show where people could call in and ask questions. We could use e-mail to send problems in or get information to the district it might need.”