Candidates for the Churchill County School Board squared off in a Candidates Night forum last week to discuss their reasons for running and what they envision for the future.
Fallon Community Theater and the Lahontan Valley News hosted the hour-long forum that was attended by seven of the eight candidates. Patty Julian did not attend.
The seven candidates attending Candidates Night included Fred Buckmaster, Amber Getto, Clay Hendrix, Matt Hyde, Carmen Schank, Deby Smotherman and Dr. Tedd McDonald. Background on each candidate and their platforms are included in a special section in today’s LVN.
In their opening statements for the nonpartisan school board, Getto said her main focus will be on the district’s vocational or Career Technical Education program, working with curriculum alignment and addressing the substitute teacher and classified shortages. Getto said she is a strong supporter of drug and alcohol prevention instruction.
Hendrix is seeking his third term. He said Superintendent Summer Stephens’ first-day address to the staff was important.
“Let’s change the mold, let’s change the perception, the history,” he quoted her as saying. “Let’s unify our school district and let’s move forward.”
Hendrix said he would also like to see students become career and college ready.
Hyde is seeking his second term, and his focus is on student achievement.
“We need a good curriculum in place to have support for our students,” he said.
Hyde said the budget also needs to support students. He expressed concern with past practices of the school board by eliminating teaching positions because of a lack of funding. Additionally, Hyde said it’s important to have a safe, healthy learning environment and to make students career ready.
McDonald, who served for one term on the school board more than 25 years ago, had left Fallon to enter medical school. He eventually returned to Fallon to work for Banner Churchill Community Hospital. McDonald had an opportunity to serve as chief medical officer for Banner, he cited his management training as a strong asset.
McDonald said when he first served the school board, he loved the job. Now, McDonald said he would like to help the board move forward.
Schank has been a trustee for seven years. She explained how the board creates policy and hires superintendent to carry out that policy. She presented statistics on the school district to include the budget, number of students and salary.
Important factors affecting the school district, said Schank, include the quality of education and academics, parent engagement, technology and the Character Counts program.
Schank said the schools are showing significant growth.
Smotherman said as a board, the members must work together. If elected, she vows to visit the schools and hear from the teachers, administration and staff in addition to seeking community input.
“I love Fallon and love our community and want children to be ready to go out in the world excited,” she said.
Buckmaster said he wants to be a strong voice on the board with the CTE program. He cites his strength as a teacher who taught vocational classes.
Buckmaster said he will research the issues and talk to people and be a productive part of the school board.
The candidates offered ways in which they can stay informed as a trustee. Buckmaster said he will obtain as much information as he can such as talking to people and getting their feedback. Hendrix, said he will use data and other feedback to identify facts and come up with an action plan. Likewise, Hyde said be careful in collecting information.
Schank added she would seek information from various school-district directors and listen to staff members and teachers. Both Getto and Smotherman said they would research the facts and ask questions. McDonald would seek resources and then determine if the information is reliable.
Candidates discussed other educational opportunities in Churchill County and how they relate to competition. McDonald said during the next five to 10 years, the school district may need to merge and compete with other schools. Smotherman said parents have a right to choose any school to educate their children; however, she said if she had school-age children, she said it would be a conflict of interest if they attended the charter school.
Both Getto and Schank said parents have the right to choose.
“Competition is great,” Schank added.
Hyde, whose wife is a teacher at Oasis Academy, said he does not dictate to her where to work, and he advocates choice.
Hendrix had children who attended Churchill County High School and Oasis. Hendrix, however, said CCHS has successful programs and offers a wide assortment of classes and programs.
Buckmaster said he also believes in choice.
“Same with school … if you want to go to the charter school, great; if you want to go to the high school, great,” he said.
Moderator Nathan Strong asked candidates what they have done to further their understanding of the school board since the June primary.
Smotherman, who retired from the school district last year, continues to attend meetings and keeps up-to-date on board policy. McDonald said he reviews minutes and talks to friends who are educators.
By virtue of their role on the school board, Schank, Hyde and Hendrix attend meetings and research the issues. Schank said she looks at the budget and where the district is heading. She also referred audience members and fellow candidates to use the district’s website for agendas, minutes, budgets, etc.
Hyde said he also relies on obtaining information and bases decisions on fact.
“You can’t make them (decisions) on emotions,” he said.
Hendrix said he enjoys the debates among the trustees and listens to his constituents.
“The board is made up of people with different experiences,” he said.
Buckmaster said he did most of his research before the primary election. He said his goal for many years is to serve on the school board.
Candidates discussed their priorities and which CTE classes they champion.
Buckmaster said he would like to see more vocational classes return. Additionally, he would like to see students begin a particular program in their freshman year and then continue the coursework throughout their high-school years.
Hendrix said no matter what the school district does, the federal government will change its goals. He would like to see technology made readily available for students and to educate teachers who wanted to teach CTE classes.
Hyde said teachers know where they need the most help. He added having a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t lead to growth. He would like to see more information technology classes so students can obtain their certificates in high school.
Schank said school performance plans must set benchmarks. She said sixth- and seventh-grade students meet with their counselor at the beginning of the year, and high-school students set their goals, which are tracked. She would like to see more students go into nursing and for others to become involved with FFA, woodshop and the construction program.
Getto said he hasn’t done too much research on the Star Rating system implemented by the Nevada Department of Education.
“I’m not a fan of teaching to the test,” she said.
Getto said she would encourage the FFA program, and she said the CTE program is heading in the right direction.
Smotherman said she agreed with Hendrix regarding the government changing it programs every 2-3 years. She said the schools need more counselors. She would like to see more business and mechanics instruction.
McDonald said in the medical field, the culture at the hospital is to patients first. Likewise, he said the school district’s culture to be to children first. He said any rating program should be based on the children.
McDonald said he’s interested in expanding the high-school’s HOSA- Future Health Professionals program.