School board takes tough stand on split
No longer the kinder, gentler school board and in response to newspaper stories which publicized the Douglas County School Board’s decision to support the Lake-Valley split with numerous conditions, the school board met Wednesday to rescind the motion and redo it with stronger language.
“We need stronger language,” said trustee Don Forrester. “The Tahoe Citizens Committee told the Legislature that we support it. I can’t see it as a positive for anyone. You (a possible new Lake County) don’t just go get a school board with no experience or an administration that’s as good as the one we’ve got here.”
“I think it’s obvious the school board is missing the point,” said TCC president Michael D. Jabara, who did not attend Wednesday’s meeting. “The parents of the students at Tahoe schools do not believe the school district is providing the best possible education for their children.”
The TCC is currently lobbying the Legislature to allow the Lake portions of Douglas and Washoe counties and Carson City to form their own county and school district.
“We can’t be nice,” said board vice president Mary Bennington. “It (the previous proposal) sounded kind of wishy-washy.”
“Last time I backed down, I won’t this time,” said Forrester. “I can’t see how it can be good. Rick (Kester, director of business services) can’t see how it can be good.”
Forrester said the TCC has been spending millions of dollars on lobbying the Legislature with all their employees in Carson City every day.
“When the president of Heavenly Valley, general manager of Harrah’s and the president of Barton Memorial Hospital feel we’ve got a problem in the (Whittell) high school, then there’s something wrong,” said Jabara.
“I feel like we’re the last bastion for the school district,” said Forrester.
“I don’t think we should back down,” said board president Cheri Johnson. “I don’t see how it’s in the best interest of the kids.”
“Now we need to be firm in what we’re saying,” said board clerk Diane McCoy. “It’s not a win-win for both (the Lake and the Valley). I can’t support it.”
“None of the numbers I’ve seen from the TCC are accurate,” said Bennington. “The bonding capacity of the Valley would be cut in half.
“The TCC hasn’t convinced me it would be advantageous for both sides.”
“It’s going to be the Legislature who decides this issue,” said Jabara. “I’m confident they understand we have significant problems at Tahoe, both with schools and with other services.”
“We have no numbers, we have nothing,” said Kester. “I don’t see how it could be good for anyone.”
Kester said that the TCC was trying to make the process easier for new school districts to form with the state.
“If they make the process easier, then the state may have many small school districts down the road and that’s not good for anyone.”
While the other members of the school board and administrative staff discussed the issue, trustee Randy Wallstrum sat quietly crafting a motion to encompass all the sentiments that would be the school board’s new, harsher position on the split.
When finished, he and the other board members worked on the language a little bit and came up with:
“We, as a board, cannot support the division of school districts unless it can be proven to be advantageous, both academically and fiscally, for all students within the county, and not detrimental to other districts in our state. Given the current available information, we believe any division would adversely affect our students.”
The board voted unanimously to adopt the new motion with trustees David Brady and Michele Lewis absent.
“The TCC is confident that the Legislature will take decisive action that would let us create a Lake Tahoe Basin school district,” Jabara said.