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School board members honored

by Linda Hiller, Staff Writer

The three outgoing members of the Douglas County School Board were honored with plaques and platitudes Tuesday at their last official board meeting.

John Raker, Don Forrester and Randy Wallstrum each had words for fellow board members and others in attendance at the December board meeting held in the Carson Valley Middle School library.

n John Raker. Raker, who was on the board for two years before losing to Douglas High School teacher Randy Green, reflected on the positive and negative aspects of his school board experience.

“I have gotten to meet some very wonderful people, some of the best in the business,” he said. “And, seeing the inside of the education system – as a parent of two kids – gave me a good understanding of the strategic plan and the heart of what we’re doing here.”

On the flip side, Raker said he has been disappointed in seeing how political the education system can be.

“People try to politicize education to get ahead and that bothers me,” he said. “I want to shout a warning to the people of Douglas County, be very cautious of the teacher’s union – it is becoming as big and influential today as the AFL-CIO was in the (Jimmy) Hoffa days.”

Raker said he is also leery of what he sees in the media, and urged people to consider the bias of each news organization when reading news stories.

“In history, you have to know the bias of a historian, and in the case of newspapers, you have to understand their particular bias,” he said.

Superintendent Pendery Clark said Raker always took his job seriously and worked well with other members of the board in his short tenure. Board member George Echan said Raker’s “steadiness and intelligence” would be missed and member Dave Brady called him the “voice of reason.”

“I’m proud of the way you handled the election,” said member Cheri Johnson.

n Don Forrester. Outgoing board member Don Forrester, eight years on the board, was lauded for his intensity and passion.

“I applaud your passion for education,” Echan said. “Nothing about you is oblique.”

“Don and I started around the same time,” Clark said. “You could always depend on Don.”

Forrester said the most frustrating part of being a school board member was watching the “bad rap” that public education gets. He admonished remaining board members, all in attendance, to do something to stop the dissension between the board and administration vs. district employees.

“That’s got to stop,” he said. “We’re all after the same thing -educating the kids – and whoever is on the new board, they have to work together as a team.”

Forrester urged board members to be active in the community in service organizations, and to spread the word about all the good work the school district is doing. He said that in order to improve relations with newspapers and other media, the administration, specifically Superintendent Clark, should speak directly to the press in the future, rather than filtering information through the community liaison.

n Randy Wallstrum. With 10 years as a board member, Randy Wallstrum said his decade has been far from a thankless job and could often be exhilarating.

“The dedication and professionalism I’ve seen here, the above-and-beyond, is goose bumpy stuff,” he said.

Wallstrum said he hopes the new board can behave in a way that former board member Alicia Smalley once did in a memorable event he recounted.

“She gave me a lesson in class and style,” he said. “She was a single mom, very liberal, a social worker who was very perceptive and she’d really advocate for something. She’d really advocate.”

Wallstrum said Smalley was outvoted one time 6 to 1 and she stood her ground on the issue. When a groundswell of supporters showed up to continue supporting her on that issue, she told the people it was time to move on since they’d been outvoted, and not to further waste the board’s time.

“She was a phenomenal lady and it was classy thing to do,” Wallstrum said.

He also urged the district and the teacher’s union to work together to form a constructive dialogue.

Echan called Wallstrum a “Clydsedale, plowing the field one step at a time,” and Brady applauded his level-headedness.

“Randy has the ability to use common sense and humor with any situation,” Clark said. “He’s so focused and so clear on what we’re doing, and he doesn’t get distracted.”

The next board meeting will be at 3:30 p.m. at Kingsbury Middle School on Jan. 9, with new members Jim Keegan and Keith Roman seated and elected teacher Randy Green’s status yet to be decided.

A hearing is scheduled in Douglas County District Court on Dec. 29 on the school district’s request to stop Green from taking his seat.

The district has sued to keep Green from taking office, citing state laws that school board members can’t serve they have a financial interest in the board’s actions.

None of the new members was in attendance for Tuesday’s presentations.