Editor’s note — Both The Fallon Post and Lahontan Valley News are writing recaps from Candidates’ Night on Tuesday. The LVN is reporting on the school board, while The Fallon Post is reporting on the city council and sheriff.
Candidates for the Churchill County School Board squared off against each other on Tuesday answering questions about why they would make a good trustee for the next four years.
Seven candidates competing for four seats attended Candidates Night at the Fallon Convention Center, which was sponsored by the Churchill County Republican Central Committee, Lahontan Valley Broadcasting, The Fallon Post, and the Lahontan Valley News.
The same four sponsors also presented Candidates Night in May before the primary election. Editor Rachel Dahl of The Fallon Post and editor emeritus Steve Ranson from the Lahontan Valley News asked each candidate four questions. They also explained their candidacy and what inspired them to run for the school board, which is a four-year term.
Incumbents seeking another term on the nonpartisan school board are Matt Hyde and Amber Casey-Getto. Newcomers include Julie Guerrero-Goetsch, Walter Henderson, Joe McFadden, Bill Post, and Ivy Ward. The school board race is nonpartisan.
Candidates also answered questions for both newspapers before the Candidates’ Night.
Career and Technical Education
The first question focused on Career and Technical Education. The CTE programs have deteriorated from one of the premier programs in the state to its current status over the last five years. Is CTE important?
Ward is the owner of Ivy Land, a preschool/daycare that also offers gymnastics, martial arts, and dance. She also attended Churchill County schools. She is running for school board because she believes that she can help improve our school district. “I care about our kids, and I want them to have a great experience going to school,” she said. “Our teachers need to know that we support them and our parents. CTE programs are wonderful and amazing. We have to have them. Not all of our children will go to college.” Before completing high school, Ward said students must be able to enroll in some type of CTE programs such as woodshop or mechanics. She said the school district must continue offering agricultural education classes and computer programs. “We need to give them a basic trade and that will help keep them ready to go at least until they figure out what they (students) want to do,” she added.
McFadden is a managing member of McFadden Electric. He said he’s a product of the CTE program and took classes in welding and ag mechanics and attended state competitions as a member of Skills, FFA, 4-H. “Not everyone wants to go to college,” he said, “you can build a successful life through this path.” McFadden said there are great CTE programs offered locally, at the state level, and national. He added the school district should also look at successful programs and model those programs for Churchill County.
Hyde, who is seeking his third and final term due to term limits, is employed by CC Communications. “I am a product of CTE,” he said. “It’s not going anywhere.” Hyde said more jobs are available for employees in the trades than those who completed a college degree. Hyde also said not many classes are offered in CTE and it has been a struggle for school districts to find educators qualified to teach CTE classes. “It’s difficult to find them and more difficult to retain them,” he said of CTE teachers. Hyde said he’s currently organizing a round table where a group of like-minded individuals can have a dialogue about CTE careers and learn-on-the-job such as students working with local contractors.
Guerrero-Goetsch, Administrative Services manager for Churchill County, said she supports CTE programs. If elected as a trustee, she would like to see added opportunities for Churchill County students. “Not all students are college bound,” she said, adding the school district should provide every opportunity for students to be successful. Guerrero-Goetsch said she would still encourage the partnership between the school district and Western Nevada College that would allow the two education institutions to fill jobs with qualified students. She said there are unique opportunities in the geothermal industry, as civilians working at Naval Air Station Fallon and in other trades located in the Lahontan Valley. Guerrero-Goetsch said she would look at expanding those programs and also seek assistance from the Churchill Entrepreneurial Development Authority (CEDA) to provide opportunities so students can be successful in whatever trade they enter.
Henderson, a retired custodian with the Churchill County School District, said he agrees with the previous candidates, but he said the school board needs to find the money. He said teachers need to be respected and assist students with their education. “They (students) have to decide themselves,” he said. “Teachers help students go through life.”
Post, a former broadcaster and most recently a state representative (assemblyman) in the Oregon Legislature, said CTE is crucial. “So many trades, so many jobs are available right now,” he said.
Post said good paying jobs are available for those workers who have a CTE career background. He said the school district must fund the CTE classes. He said many students won’t attend college and instead enter the trades. “The kids have to have the opportunity to get career education as has been stated already,” Post said. “Kids aren’t necessarily going to college and that might not even be the best thing for them. A career education, that’s what’s needed and whatever it takes is what I will give.”
Getto is seeking her second term on the school board. She and her husband John farm more than 1,200 acres and are co-owners of Desert Oasis Teff & Grain. “I agree that CTEs are super important,” she said. “Every small business owner in the agriculture industry recognizes the need.” Getto said she also recognizes the need for CTE programs and the importance of developing strategies for the vocational industry. Currently, she said businesses such as construction or even Desert Oasis Teff could develop entrepreneurial-ships or internships for the students. Getto, though, added it’s difficult to find the staff to teach the CTE courses.
Parent Involvement with Curriculum
The second question asked the candidates their thoughts on allowing parents to be involved with the creation of the curriculum.
“Obviously, parental involvement in the school and the home is priority No. 1 for the students,” McFadden said. The parents’ input on the curriculum is important and they should be able to know what’s being taught. They need to be involved to exercise their opinion,” he added.
Hyde said as a parent he recognizes the professionals who create and write the curriculum. He said the state of Nevada requires standards to be taught and met, and that’s an issue. “We try to hire the best people we can,” Hyde said. In programs such as sex education, he said it’s important for parents to be involved and have a say. Hyde said he encourages parental involvement, but parents must understand the required state standards. “I want parents involved.”
Guerrero-Goetsch said trustees must listen to their educators and obtain more input from them, the curriculum must meet guidelines and adhere to state standards. The school district needs to involve teachers more when selecting the curriculum and parental involvement is important. “We work with our families, and everyone has unique situations,” she concluded.
Henderson said the district needs a curriculum. He said many households don’t have both parents. He also said teachers have enough problems with budget cuts. “They need to up the teacher wages,” he said. Henderson said the district needs to have more instructional aides to help students with their subjects such as math and science or if they, the students, don’t live in a two-parent household.
Post said he doesn't want parents writing or developing curriculum, but he said they should know everything that’s being taught in the schools and have a say. “Teachers have a lot on their backs,” he said, adding his wife is a special education teacher and spends time developing individual education programs (IEPs). “I would urge those parents here and listening to the radio to get involved if you are not now.” Post talked about his mother and the high standards she established when he attended school. “You are not going anywhere until your homework is done,” Post said, reflecting on her edict. Post said that type of parental enforcement has been missed during the last several generations.
Getto said parents need to be involved, but not too involved with creating the curriculum.
“My parents wanted to pick out my curriculum, and I was homeschooled for a few years,” she said.
Ward said parents are not the enemy, and they should be involved with what’s being taught in the schools. She also praised the teachers who develop the curriculum. “Teachers are educated professionals,” she said. “They are taught how to teach subjects. They are taught to write curriculum, and therefore, they need to be given the opportunity to do that.” Ward said teachers entered the field to reach out and touch children’s lives.
The third question dealt with staffing. The school district doesn’t have enough substitute or regular teachers and consequently, they teach classes during their prep times. What can the school district do to entice more teachers to Churchill County schools?
“There’s a teacher shortage across the country,” Hyde said. Professionals who begin their teaching careers are not receiving a great starting pay or living wage. “It becomes bad if you’re a starting teacher, you would qualify for a free or reduced lunch if you have a child. That’s terrible. That’s why we don’t have teachers.” Hyde said the district must think outside the box because he doesn’t think the state government will fix the problem. “I don’t have a lot of faith, it’s up to us.”
Guerrero-Goetsch said teacher pay is an issue, and she would also like to look into the salaries and see where Churchill County falls with other districts its size. “Being paid a living wage is important,” she said. She knows many teachers enter the profession because they love to teach, but there are also teachers leaving the district. “It’s the culture. They have issues with the way things are being handled. They feel they’re micromanaged.” Guerrero-Goetsch said teachers have expressed their desire to teach, but they’re required to attend meetings that take them away from their jobs. “We need to create a more positive culture,” she added, emphasizing teachers should have a more positive environment.
Post said it’s the environment. He said it’s not the pay but other items such as the healthcare benefit. “Churchill County School District needs to attract teachers,” he said. Post said he’s heard from bus drivers, custodians, and teachers, and the stories break his heart. “It’s not the teachers. It’s across the board,” he said. “As you know we're kind of stuck with what the state gives us.” Post said the school board must develop priorities to ensure teachers and classified employees are happy.
Getto said she doesn’t feel like it’s a teacher shortage but rather a worker shortage. She said it continues to be a problem at the state level. “I would like to see Nevada (the legislature) fund education first in the budget,” she said.
Ward said as a small business owner, she has faced staffing shortages. “Our teachers are not different,” she said. “We cannot put our teachers in a situation where they don’t have recourse or support from the administration.” Ward said other teachers also said they don’t feel the administration supports them, especially with discipline issues. “If your teacher doesn’t feel like they have support not only from the parents but from the administration, then why be there?” she said.
McFadden thanked the staff who have done more than what they’re paid to do. He also said the district walks a tightrope in what money they receive from the state. “We need to advocate for our district the best we can and to get things right,” he added. “Many of us are not happy with what’s happening at the state level where changes need to be made.”
The fourth question asked how Churchill County can be more competitive with other area and local schools so students will succeed with their post-high-school education.
(Note: Answers veered off the topic to compare schools to Oasis or to focus on discipline. This was a general question. Nothing was mentioned about home-schooled students, either; consequently, the second half of the question was ignored in how Churchill County students will succeed with their post-high-school education.)
Most of the candidates said it’s not fair for Churchill County schools to be compared to others.
“We don't need Oasis Academy,” Guerrero-Goetsch said. “We can be competitive if we raise our standards and raise student achievement.” Guerrero-Goetsch said charter schools are not a good fit for everyone, and many parents choose the district school for various reasons such as the expanded athletics program. She did admit Oasis doesn’t have the discipline problems as the Churchill County schools.
Henderson said the teachers are doing the best they can do. He also said Churchill County schools have more discipline issues. “When I went to school, and if we messed up, we got the paddle,” he said. Henderson said he doesn’t know how the district can fix the problem, but he said it needs to be fixed.
Post was surprised the question morphed into behavior. “We all agree we want more money from the state,” he said. Funding needs to be prioritized and money should be taken away from “some of the crazy programs. There is so much wasted on projects,” he said. Post said teachers can’t have a hands-on approach to their teaching and discipline is a problem in the classrooms. “Discipline will make us more disciplined in some ways,” he added.
Getto said she doesn’t want to see competition. “Parents should have the right to send their children to whatever school they want,” she said. Churchill County, though, has 3A athletics, a large vocational program, and diversity with faculty and students. “The whole community should work with each other and not in competition against Oasis or Oasis against Churchill County,” she said.
Ward said, “It’s unfair to compare Churchill County students to Oasis because they have a different way of going about things.” Ward, however, said Oasis has a good discipline policy and that should be adopted in the Churchill County schools. She continued his response by saying students must understand the rules, boundaries, and limitations.
McFadden said students must be given any and every resource to help them. He also said the last several years of education during the coronavirus pandemic have been difficult for everyone. “As a community, we have to get together for our students and support them, our staff, and get through this,” he said. He sees a cultural shift and morale seems to be improving at the high school. “There are great things happening nationally there,” he said.
Hyde questioned the topic and wondered why the two schools are being compared. “Our high school is way better,” he said. The district schools are preparing their students for the next step, and at the middle school level, students are recognizing their pathway to learning. Graduation rates concern him. “What I worry about is getting 27% of the kids not graduating graduated. That’s what I worry about.”