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How would a charter WNCC High School benefit Douglas County?

by Dave Cook

A five-member committee of educators, including Western Nevada Community College professor Dave Cook, is seeking approval for a charter high school at WNCC in the coming year. The charter committee includes Cook; Herman Herbig, Douglas County attorney and a prior member of the WNCC Foundation; Dr. Jerrie Marston, Fernley High School counselor and past president of the University of Nevada, Reno Alumni Association; Dr. Karen Watson, Storey County School District director of personnel and special education and Coleen Meihack, E.C. Best Elementary School, Fallon, 6th grade teacher.

Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno already has a special high school for approximately 200 high school juniors and seniors in Washoe County, now in its second year. The school attracts students who want a different kind of educational experience and a fast track to college. Community College of Southern Nevada High School has operated in Las Vegas for three years.

n How does the TMCC High School program work?

Juniors and seniors take their few remaining required courses (English III and IV, history, government, math) from high school teachers at the TMCC campus from 12:30-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Their high school campus is at TMCC. The college provides about three classrooms to be used during those hours and a couple of offices for the high school faculty.

Students select their remaining elective courses from subjects offered by TMCC faculty and attend classes as would any other college student.

The focus is on academics and so there are no extra-curricular activities offered. Also, students must provide their own transportation.

Students are accepted for the program based upon maturity, motivation, planned goals, and the ability to successfully perform college work. Each student is evaluated by the high school counseling staff and is assisted in developing a planned program uniquely for his/her academic goals. Once accepted, very few students have been counseled out of this program. Students are graduating from TMCC High School with as much as a year of college credits completed.

n How might WNCC High School work as a charter school?

WNCC High School could be modeled after the successful projects at TMCC and CCSN. As a charter school, WNCC High School could accept prospective students throughout the larger service area of WNCC. This means that students living within reasonable driving distance from Carson City in Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties could attend WNCC High School even though they live in different county school districts.

WNCC High School could use a similar physical setup as its counterparts at TMCC and CCSN, that being a complement of classrooms for the required high school courses and office space for the faculty and staff. Although adequate space exists at the Carson City campus, the use of the Stewart facility to house the high school part of the program is being seriously investigated.

n Why would WNCC High School be chartered?

A charter school is actually an extension of a public school system. One valid reason a school can be chartered by private citizens in a Nevada community is to provide new innovative educational programs for the children living there.

The Carson City School District has not shown interest in sponsoring such a school. However, the superintendent of the Carson City School District has expressed his support and cooperation to the charter committee for the charter school project. Also, the superintendents of Douglas, Lyon and Storey county school districts have been contacted about the charter school project and they expressed interest.

The Charter Committee believes that there is more than adequate demand for this unique program within the four-county region with Carson City as its hub. The TMCC and CCSN high schools have been a win-win arrangement for both the colleges, which have experienced additional enrollment from motivated students, and for the families in these communities who have been able to enjoy this innovative educational program.

The WNCC Faculty Senate endorsed the concept of a school modeled after TMCC High School in its April 1998 meeting. In May 1998, individual WNCC faculty members voted in favor of the TMCC High School concept.

n How and when would WNCC High School start?

WNCC High School would require a special partnership agreement between the University and Community College System of Nevada and the Charter Committee. Ultimately, this agreement must be made with the UCCSN Board of Regents. The Charter Committee plans to work during the fall 1999 semester to meet with the administration, departments, faculty, staff and students of WNCC. The committee is dedicated to this in order to address concerns, provide information, and obtain feedback from the entire WNCC educational community about the benefits and impact of a WNCC High School.

At the end of the fall 1999 semester, the Charter Committee will ask for a vote of support from each of the WNCC College Council member groups. WNCC High School could start as early as fall of 2000. However, the start date could be postponed to fall 2001.

WNCC Professor of Business/Economics Dave Cook has been a proponent for creating an alternative high school in collaboration with WNCC. This is some information he provided to inform the college community. Cook is also a member of the Nevada State Board of Education.