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School board candidates square off

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

Some candidates for four of the seats on the Douglas County School Board spoke about their positions on the competencies and school district communication at a program hosted by the Soroptimists International of Carson Valley Tuesday.

Veronica Hulsey, who is running against incumbent David Brady for the Area 1 seat, said the biggest problem facing the district is communications, and the current board is ignoring the problem.

She also said also has concerns about the competencies.

“As a parent of a special needs child, I know how important testing is to determine how to place students, but overburdening children with testing gets redundant,” Hulsey said. “The employability competency is one I have problems with. As a small business owner, if students don’t come to school, they shouldn’t get credit for that class, but they shouldn’t lose credit for employability also. We need to look closely at the competencies surveys of what parents understand about the competencies.”

Her competitor, David Brady, was unable to attend.

William Laughlin and incumbent George Echan, who are facing off for the Area 3 seat, both spoke.

Echan, an attorney at the Lake, said the public believes many myths about the district as fact.

“One myth is that (many) teachers are leaving the district,” Echan said.

He said nine teachers retired last year and 23 left for personal reasons like a family move. Of those, he said, 15 completed exit surveys and nine teachers said they would come back to the district to teach if they could.

Echan said the teachers are understandably upset about the lack of raises, but the public doesn’t understand it is the Legislature, not the school district, which is responsible for providing those raises.

Echan said he supports the competencies and won’t listen to naysayers who maintain the students won’t be able to meet the higher standards. He said competencies are basics like math, oral speaking skills and computer programs that will be necessary whether students go to a four-year college or right to the workforce.

Laughlin, who has lived in Zephyr Cove for 24 years and works at Bently, Nevada Corp., said he became interested in running for the school board when he was denied information by the district.

“About 1-1/2 years ago, I went to the board with concerns and the board would not pay attention to me and that bothered me,” he said. “I agree that there is misinformation about the school district. I’m a person who has been trying to get information.”

He said he tried to obtain documents about the district’s SAT scores after the numbers were presented to the school board at the September meeting.

“I wish I could tell you what they are. After the board meeting, I was told I can’t get the figures until they are compiled in about two weeks,” he said. “The establishment of openness and communication is important and I will do everything I can to see people get what they are looking for.”

John Raker is hoping to hold onto the Area 4 seat he was appointed to in December 1998. He was not at the forum, but his challenger, Douglas High School teacher Randy Green spoke briefly before returning to his classroom on his concerns about the competency system.

Green said he sat on the committee that helped write the competencies and was proud of the result.

However, he said, teachers now have concerns that are being ignored by the school board.

“Their concerns are placed in a secondary position to implementing a time table. We are going to lose time (if we have to remediate to these tests) for children to extend and refine knowledge,” Green said.

He said he wants to be considered as a citizen rather than a teacher by voters. Green said a teacher has a right to be on the school board and he has no conflict of interest because, with 23 years experience, he has topped out on the salary scale and no longer receives raises.

Keith Roman, who taught at DHS for 34 years and was involved in coaching and as athletic director during that time, is now employed at Kinko’s in Carson City. Roman said his experience with the youth of the community makes him a viable school board member.

“Most of my life has been devoted to young people. I understand young people. I believe young people should not be allowed to be mediocre,” he said.

Raising standards is a good idea that was not examined close enough before implementation, he said.

“We need to stand back and take a look. We are going to be a ‘test and remediate’ school district. It siphons off money that could be going to more important programs. We should have more of an emphasis on vocational training that leads kids to actual certification,” Roman said.

His competitor, Charles Pullen, who works at the Silver Legacy Hotel and Casino in Reno, could not attend.

Jim Keegan is running for the Area 5 seat and is unopposed. He did not attend.