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Incumbent says his experience makes difference

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

School board member John Raker faces two competitors in the primary race Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Raker was appointed to the board in December 1998. He says he is a better candidate than John Louritt and Randy Green because of his 1-1/2 years of experience.

“In asking people with experience in this area, in their opinion, it takes 2-3 years before a person is up to speed; before they’ve learned enough background about the issues to make a concerned decision. I’ve done the homework. I speak the language. I know the issues,” Raker said.

Raker said he feels now that a tentative agreement has been made between teachers and administrators for the teacher contract, both sides can begin to repair rifts that occurred during the 18 months of negotiations.

“Unfortunately, the state legislature pitted the teachers against the district, and I’m glad we finally did reach a negotiation,” Raker said. “I think it’s a great agreement. Both sides have conceded to a certain extent. What we need to do now is to get both of these players to pull together to get the state to give money for teacher raises so we don’t have to go through this again.”

There’s an absolute need for a coordinated effort to lobby the legislature for a pay raise next year, Raker said.

“In my opinion, it borders on negligence to continue to demand higher standards without compensation. Two years ago when Gov. Guinn was first brought into office, he gave pay raises to all state workers except teachers and that’s unconscionable. They’ve got to pay more to attract and retain the very best teachers. We need to figure out a way for the state to justify a pay raise,” he said.

Raker said most of the animosity aimed at the school board is from a small number of teachers.

“That is a manufactured problem. I think the animosity was played up by the union leadership – about 30 teachers saying there’s this animosity. I know many teachers in this county and I have no animosity for them. In fact, I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. I hold no ill feelings toward the teachers. I would hope they would try to pull together for the benefit of our children.”

Raker said what people don’t realize about him is he was raised in a family of teachers. His mother and her three sisters were teachers, his sister and a cousin also are teachers.

“My family, all told, probably has 120 years of teaching experience in Nevada dating back to the 1930s. I was raised in a family of teachers and have the utmost respect for teachers. I would love nothing better than to improve their lot in life,” Raker said.

Raker has four children, two who are grown – Veronica, a research scientist for European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy, and Vince, an English teacher in Japan.

Two of his children are in the Douglas County school system. Lisa is about to start the 9th grade at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School and Michael is a 6th grader at C.C. Meneley Elementary School. Raker said he had been involved in the school district many years before his appointment to the board.

He and his wife, Maria, who works with him at his State Farm Insurance office, moved to the area in 1993. Since then, he has been active in the parent-teacher organizations and a green-track representative of his children’s’ schools.

n Strategic plan. Raker said he wants people to know he supports the strategic plan and he supports Superintendent Pendery Clark.

“I want to make sure we continue the implementation of the strategic plan. It was put into play in 1994 by a very far-sighted group of folks on the school board. It’s got to be carried out. We’re in the actual day-to-day workings, and in order to succeed, we’ve got to continue the plan as it’s currently laid out,” Raker said.

He said he understands there will be some difficulties in implementing the graduation requirements for the class of 2002, but said he feels it is necessary to continue.

“The strategic plan is not perfect. There are some things we will just have to live through and get past. Yes, it is unfair to those students caught in a transition phase, but I don’t know any other alternative than just get through and do the best we can. The end result is better-educated kids,” Raker said.

He encouraged those people who have issues with the strategic plan to address the board at its two-day, yearly public meeting in January.

“We are more than happy to have anyone come talk to us about improving the plan. It is a living document and it’s revised as needed,” Raker said.

n Rubber-stamp. Although he supports Clark, he said he doesn’t understand where the impression comes from that the board consistently approves her recommendations.

“There seems to be some concern the current board is a rubber-stamp, and that is absolutely false. I can’t think any discussions we’ve had that would lend credence to that. I’m an independent thinker. I just happen to agree with Pendery on a lot of issues. I know a lot of people aren’t Pendery fans. Her job is not a popularity contest. It’s a very tough, demanding job and we need a tough, demanding person to do that job. If Pendery is somehow disposed of, I would still fight for the strategic plan,” Raker said.