The beginning of the Carson City School Board meeting honored the first responders and supporters of the students who were injured in the Kings Canyon crash in November.
Carson City deputies, paramedics and firefighters were present at the meeting to accept the gratitude and appreciation from the families and students involved in the crash.
“We wanted to recognize the heroic persons … who made tremendous efforts that night and after,” said Superintendent Richard Stokes.
More than a dozen uniformed personnel were given a standing ovation from the crowd for those who were first on scene at the accident in November.
“The parents (of the victims) would like to acknowledge and thank the first responders,” said Jennifer Ward-DeJoseph, family liaison, as she started to cry. “Your actions and expertise that night and kindness and concern after is so appreciated.”
Stokes also made sure to recognize those at CHS, Carson City and beyond who provided their support, monetary donations and prayers during and after the incident.
“It has been nothing shy of amazing,” Ward-DeJoseph said.
Through GoFundMe accounts and fundraisers, the community raised more than $94,000 to give to the families of the victims. The GoFundMe, started by a fellow students raised more than $50,000 on its own, and schools in districts surrounding Carson even stepped up to raise funds and do their part to help.
“This will forever be in our hearts,” Stokes said.
The school board also listened to two presentations about improvement plans for the two-star elementary schools in Carson City.
Fremont and Empire elementary schools recently received a two-star rating from the Nevada Department of Education. The ratings are based on various factors of student achievement.
For both schools, the goal for 2018 was to raise numbers so 50 percent of students score proficient in math and English.
“We know proficiency is a ways away for us but we do know we can help our students grow and continue to close the gap to get closer to proficiency,” said Empire Principal Susan Squires.
Part of the problem was attributed to the method of testing for second graders, Squires said. Previously, the assessments were read to the students to complete it, but that has been changed so now the second graders have to read the tests to themselves.
“Taking away that support was difficult for them,” Squires said.
However, they’re working on improving those assessment scores. One way is having the teachers teach how to take those assessments so students aren’t confused when they see the test.
“One thing our teachers do well is to help take a certain test, not to teach for the test but how to take it and prepare them in a way to take that certain test,” Squires said.
One of the goals is to expose the students to grade level literature so they’re familiar with it when they see the assessments. Squires said the students don’t have to necessarily be reading at their grade level but they want them to be familiar with it so it’s not as shocking and confusing when they see it on the assessments.
According to the school’s assessments, 40 percent of students would’ve been proficient in the winter for English and 10 percent would’ve been proficient in math for Empire.
The next step, Squires said, is to continue to professionally develop with data discussions, writing instruction with authors such as Gary Hogg, working on writing in math, grade level grading and planning and working on building better relationships with the students.
“(Our teachers) don’t see that data as not so great, they see it as moving forward and making changes,” Squires said. “We are only points away from the next level and they realize that and they are ready to put in the extra work to bump it up.”
Over at Fremont Elementary, the sentiment and goals are similar.
Proficiency for the SBAC is projected at 36 percent and math projected at 17 percent for the winter. Principal Ward-DeJoseph said their goal is to have 50 percent proficiency for reading in 2018 and 30 percent or more in math.
“We have identified the root causes for low achievement,” Ward-DeJoseph said. “This is our journey, it is messy, it’s hard because we had to tear it back and look at our systems to see why it isn’t aligned with our student growth.”
She said they’re hoping to set up more expectations and systems of communications, evidence of student learning and data analysis.
“We know it is a process … our data discussion was brutal, it was tough,” Ward-DeJoseph said. “How we go from good to great is a process and we believe in our projections.”
The Fremont principal also released the school’s new vision, mission statement and guiding principles that will hopefully help them achieve those goals.
“Those five stars, we are headed in that direction, we are just missing a few stars right now,” Ward-DeJoseph said.
In addition to the individual schools, Stokes also updated the board on the state of the district.
Some key points included student demographics, special programs comparisons, ACT scores, per pupil basic support numbers and more.
Stokes also said that enrollment has been increasing over the last four years. Enrollment in 2013 was 7,525 on Count Day in August and 7,723 for the 2017-2018 year. The district has lost 40 students since Count Day this year.
The district also saw this year an increase in employees, specifically with executive, classified and certified staff. Stokes reported the district had 897 employees in 2017 and 948 in 2018.
“Even though we are in the positive light, it doesn’t mean we have enough to get what we need done,” Stokes said.
There also has been an increase in daily average attendance, however Carson is still lower than the state average.
In 2017, Nevada saw an average of 97 percent daily attendance while Carson only saw 94.7 percent. Stokes said the two-star schools play a factor in those numbers, as some of the star rating is based on constant absentees.
The high schools also have seen increased graduation rates in the last four years, In 2013, Carson City had a rate of 75.87 percent graduation rate, the state had a rate of 70.65 percent; in 2017, Carson City had a graduation rate of 83.9 percent, the state had a rate of 80.85 percent. The graduation rates include Carson High, Pioneer High and the Adult Education program.
Carson High had a graduation rate of 93 percent this year, but Stokes said they can continue to keep doing better.
“Our graduation rates are like milking a cow, no matter how great you did that day, you still have to get back up in the morning and do it again,” Stokes said.
He also informed the board of the goals the district has created for the upcoming year. The district wants to maintain the strategic plan, continue to focus on academic rigor, ongoing support for instruction, limiting new initiatives and continuing capital projects.