Churchill County School District opens performing arts center

The Churchill County School District Board of Trustees met Wednesday to tour the Churchill County High School’s new music building and discuss student achievement.

Maintenance Director Brian Byrd showed the spacious new performing arts center’s acoustic, lighting, storage and green room features. Concrete risers were replaced with portables ones, making outdoor concerts possible, and televisions backstage allow production monitoring.

Byrd said mezzanine creation would have cost much more than anticipated but the footings placed give that option later. The theater has a projection screen and state-of-the-art sound system. Byrd said phase three is paint and carpet touch-ups as well as padded auditorium seats to add to the theater experience.

The new music room, with a multi-purpose floor, has a prep sink for properly cleaning instruments, and bathrooms include changing areas, mirrors and hooks. The wall-to-wall storage was done based on student numbers and growth; every percussion item was measured to create a place for everything from flutes to the large marimba keyboard.

“I know that I just feel tremendously grateful,” said music teacher Tom Fleming, adding the community deserves the structure. “Fallon’s got talent. There’s so much talent. And the production team is second to none.”

Trustee Carmen Schank said CCHS shows are as professional as those she’s seen on Broadway, and the center reminds her of a collegiate building.

Students describe it as beautiful, exciting and something to be proud of when other schools visit. One said they can walk into Mr. Fleming’s office now, while another responded laughing, that won’t last long.

Lahontan Elementary’s principal and Parent Involvement Committee President Sheila Washington discussed how parent engagement is benefitting teachers, families and education. Washington reported everyone is enjoying the robust literacy nights as well as other events and perks because of parent and teacher involvement.

Lahontan kindergarten teacher Jeremie Sorensen said she’s seeing Northside Early Learning Center preschoolers come up to kick off kindergarten well — from reading, knowing colors, problem solving (perhaps leading to less tattling, she said) and knowing how to spell their name as well as capitalize the first letter.

“All I can say is, well, I can’t say enough,” Sorensen said of the pre-kindergarten program.

Trustee Matt Hyde said parent involvement is key in his opinion.

“I really applaud your guys’ efforts,” he said. “It’s outstanding. Thank you.”

CCHS Principal Kevin Lords talked about what the high school is doing to support credit-deficient students. He said from parents and teachers to athletics or another interest, each child is different in what switches on their care for learning.

Lords outlined how much teachers including special education instructors make themselves available before and after school as well as offer lunch meetings, quiz retakes, reviews and rubrics. He and the board discussed positive peer pressure to do well and finding a motivated mindset sooner.

“I just want kids to understand how important it is to have a high school diploma,” Hyde said and volunteered to be involved.

Board President Clay Hendrix recalled the recent tour.

“It’s refreshing to go there and see the sparkle in the eyes of the students,” he said.

He added the issue is cultural and systemic, that students have things going on in their lives and the board can sit there and talk but everyone needs to be thinking outside the box.

“We have these four walls that are around us ... We have to do a better job of thinking outside the box to make a connection,” he said, adding it’s not about the dropout rate or upset parents. “What we really want is kids sitting somewhere and saying I wanna graduate.”

Churchill County Middle School English teacher Kristina Loesel said she thinks CCMS is making huge efforts, but it also need help with more community resources such as mental health and any sort of social services.

Transportation Director Steve Russell showed a CCHS student-created emergency evacuation video to be posted online and used to communicate school safety measures.

The board viewed photos from the recent professional development day, when two guest presenters guided how to look at student work and better assess which students understand what and strategies to focus on those skills before the unit is finished.

During public comment, E.C. Best Elementary third-grade teacher Becky Dodd said she hopes in response to Superintendent Dr. Sandra Sheldon’s 10 percent raise, teacher raises are done as well to better match cost of living. CCMS special education teacher Becky Mathews also encouraged this.

Senior Kayla Buckmaster spoke about former CCHS assistant softball coach Dean Schultz, who was let go in October. She said she’s known him since she could walk, and he was the best coach she’s ever had. She said she wished she had known the situation before the outcome.

“He would take a bullet for any of us,” she said. “He will be greatly missed in our program.”

The next board meeting is Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. in the Old High School auditorium (“The Pit”).


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