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School board chooses new members

by Merrie Leininger

The Douglas County School District chose an insurance agent and one of their own over the other applicants for two school board seats.

John Raker, who has lived in Gardnerville since 1993, has worked for State Farm Insurance for 15 years and owns his own State Farm office.

Raker told the board that he wanted to be a part of the educational community, in addition to his involvement with the Chamber of Commerce and Carson Valley Sertoma Club.

Before she cast her ballot, board member Cheri Johnson said she felt Raker was the person who best understood what the role of the board was.

“You’ve got a pie just so big and you have to figure out how to slice this thing. It’s the board’s job to make priorities to do the best we can with what we have,” Raker said.

To ease the burden on the district, Raker said some of the responsibility should be “laid at the door of the parents.”

Before the interviews started, Board Vice President Don Forrester said he felt Douglas High School teacher Randy Green could not legally be a member of the board, but Superintendent Pendery Clark said everyone should listen to both applicants with equal consideration.

Green said he understood he had put the board in an awkward position, but he felt he had a right and a civic responsibility to apply to the board.

The district’s attorney has said the Nevada statute denied anyone who has a financial interest in board proceedings from being a board member. Green has been a DHS teacher for 22 years.

“I’m as far over on the teaching salary scale as I can go. My financial interest lies on Wall Street,” Green said. “I wouldn’t resign from something I love. It is the best part of my day outside of being with my family. If you don’t pick me tonight, I will go into the classroom tomorrow and try to be a better teacher than I was today.”

Johnson made a motion to accept John Raker as the board member for the area 4 seat and the board unanimously agreed. Board member David Brady abstained because Green is a client of his.

Green thanked the board for allowing him to interview and said he wouldn’t give up his fight to allow teachers on the board.

“I thought the whole process was very fair,” he said. “I realize the uncomfortable position I put them in, but there was no other way to raise the issue. Now I will probably call my attorney and we will plan a strategy how to move on from here.”

Raker was sworn in and sat with the board during the area 7 interviews, but did not ask questions or vote.

He said he was nervous during the interview.

“I think the process is very unusual. It is not often you are called upon to get specific answers to questions,” he said. “I’m very pleased and now I have the challenge to live up to the expectations. I have a lot of homework to do.”

n Area 7. Randy Wallstrum, current board president, Keith Roman, former Douglas High School teacher and coach, and Willie Edwards, state Tobacco Education and Information Officer, were the next up.

Wallstrum did not run for a third term, but after no one else did, he decided to apply for the two-year position.

Brady asked the group to discuss the best and worst aspects of the district.

Wallstrum said it was difficult to narrow it down to just one, but said apathy on the part of the parents and the community is the biggest problem the board faces because it is the hardest to fix.

“We still have a whole bunch of kids who come to school hungry and the parents don’t give a damn,” he said.

Edwards said the worst problem facing all schools is the revolving door teachers go through.

“The biggest problem is the lack of trained teachers and the turnover rate that it leads to,” he said. “It is considered an entry-level position.”

Roman said the biggest problem is students who don’t care about getting an education and have no respect for teachers.

“You try and try so hard every day to spark an interest and it’s so frustrating,” he said.

The board picked Wallstrum because of his leadership and seniority.

“Randy is a strong believer and supporter of what we’re doing. We ned his commitment,” Michele Lewis said. “His answers are so common-sense and I’ve always appreciated that.”

Brady agreed.

“He has a seniority we don’t have that is critically important. He’s been here since the beginning,” Brady said.

Wallstrum will be sworn in with all the newly-elected officials Jan. 2.

Wallstrum said he was grateful to the board for choosing him.

“I’m glad they agreed I could provide some long-range perspective for where we’re heading. We have some lumpy times coming up,” he said.

Being on the other side of the table was a whole new perspective, Wallstrum said.

“It was weird sitting on this side of the table. You can sit on the other side all you want, but sitting on this side – it will test you. It’s healthy,” he said. “I prepared to ask questions in the first series of interviews, but I didn’t know how to prepare for my interview.”

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