Veteran school trustee seeks re-election |

Veteran school trustee seeks re-election

by Scott Neuffer

Three available seats on the Douglas County School Board will be filled for the next four years by the final judgment of voters come Nov. 2.

The school district has seen some tremendous changes since the last election in 2008, not least of which was the hiring of a new superintendent. State budget cutbacks also continue to threaten everything the local board does, while the requirements for adequate yearly progress, under No Child Left Behind, continue to steepen.

Neither will voters forget the debate over SpringBoard. In June, trustees voted 5-2 to adopt the controversial English curriculum for secondary schools despite the protests of teachers, parents and students.

So, let the discourse begin. Six candidates have filed for three seats, including two incumbents, Tom Moore and Sharla Hales, a former Douglas High English teacher, Jeanette Turnbeaugh, and a Minden Town Board member, Ross Chichester. The pool also has Valley dentist Scott Forvilly and Ruhenstroth resident Wayne Archer.

n Sharla Hales, 50, is a lawyer who has lived in Minden for 20 years. She is seeking her third and final term as trustee for School Board Area 2.

“I filed for re-election because education is more important than ever,” she said. “Our students have to be ready when they graduate to go on to college and obtain jobs that will allow for careers that support families. I’m passionate about this. I think it’s critical work to get this done. In many respects, the district is headed in the right direction, but we need to make improvements. With additional budget cuts looming, there is no room for mistakes. The work we do has to be precise and effective.”

Hales said voters should back her because of her experience and knowledge.

“I have the experience and knowledge to do that kind of effective work, even if we have to operate with diminished resources,” she said. “My track record proves we can do effective things without increasing costs.”

She pointed to individual interviews school counselors hold with every eighth-grader and their parents to discuss college and career plans and appropriate high school courses. She said the practice, implemented about three years ago, has been highly successful.

“We say every student, and we mean it,” she said. “It’s a highly effective tool to help students get serious about the skills they need. Parents have told me they wish it had been in place for their older children.”

Another reason voters should back her, Hales said, is that she believes in high expectations.

“For students, this means giving them a challenge and expecting them to meet that challenge,” she said. “For employees, this means making sure every taxpayer-funded employee is adding value to the education of our students. For parents and families, this means making sure parents support students the best they can.”

In a budget crisis, when deciding which programs to cut, Hales said all programs should be reviewed carefully.

“You have to make sure you’re getting a value for every program you’re spending money on,” she said. “The general rule of thumb is to keep cuts away from the classroom.”

When asked about No Child Left Behind (five schools didn’t make adequate yearly progress last year), Hales said the federal program is not a fair assessment of Douglas County schools.

“It doesn’t concern your students who are high-achieving or those who are in the average,” she said. “In fact, one or two students can cause a school to be designated on the watch list or in need of improvement.”

However, Hales said, No Child Left Behind has brought about some improvements.

“We need to take the good and build on it,” she said. “A better system would account for all students, not just those who haven’t met the bar. I just don’t know an easy way to capture the picture of the whole school in one designation.”

For example, Hales said a school can be strong in advanced placement, but weak in career and technical education.

“Is there one designation that can cover all areas? Probably not,” she said. “The person holding schools accountable needs to see all areas of importance.”

Regarding SpringBoard, Hales originally voted for adoption and remains a firm supporter.

“It is a good thing to allow teachers creativity, but it is a better thing to make sure every student gets instruction in the skills that are critical to be successful in college and in a career,” she said. “That’s what SpringBoard does, and that’s what our district has been missing.”

Hales said there is overwhelming evidence to show grammar taught alone is ineffective, and that the way to teach grammar is to embed it in the study of literature.

“That’s proven,” she said. “I want to be clear. I want teachers to bring creativity and not lose that, but it just needs to be channeled, and we need to make sure every student gets challenged and receives the instruction they need.”

As with all programs and texts, Hales said, “We’ll monitor and adjust it as we move forward.”

n Hales’ challenger, Gardnerville resident and dentist Scott Forvilly, could not be reached after several attempts.

According to a previous article, Forvilly has been practicing at Lake Tahoe in the Zephyr Cove Dental Center since 1996, and his parents Frank and Susan Forvilly operate the Round Hill Pines resort.

In 2008, Forvilly opened the Arrowhead Dental Center in Minden.