Carson City school board candidates differ on methods of instruction

Joy Trushenski

Joy Trushenski

Carson City School Board candidates Joe Cacioppo and Joy Trushenski maintain opposing views when it comes to serving all Carson City students effectively through online or traditional instruction and regarding the Common Core state standards.

The two candidates for the board’s District 7 seat, overseeing Seeliger Elementary and Carson High schools, took part Monday night in the Virtual Candidates Forum at the Brewery Arts Center. The debate was cosponsored by the National Grassroots Broadcasting Network, the American Association of University Women Capital Branch, the League of Women Voters, Sierra Nevada Forums and the Nevada Appeal.

Incumbent Cacioppo, running for his third and final term in the seat, said Monday he wants to continue advocating for students in an equitable manner as he’s done since he was first elected. He was born in New York, spent his early elementary years in California and moved to Nevada with his wife, now a teacher in the school district, along with the oldest of his three children 25 years ago. He is a principal civil engineer who served in the U.S. Army from 1984 to 1992 in active duty infantry and as a reservist.

He was first elected to the Carson City School Board in 2012 and currently serves as vice president but also filled the role as board president in 2016.

Challenger Trushenski, 69, retired from a career with the Nevada Department of Corrections as a caseworker. She spent five years in the Navy Reserves working in submarine surveillance with a secret clearance and worked as a lobbyist.

Trushenski said her main priority, if elected, is to eliminate the Common Core State Standards, adopted by 41 states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity, according to Common Core provides a set of academic standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade for English and mathematics that states choose to adopt and establish expectations for learning. It does not dictate how teachers should present their instruction in the classroom.

Trushenski says these standards are highly expensive, flawed and ineffective. According to a Carson City Republican Committee candidate forum video taken in May, Trushenski claims “Common Core … didn’t take into consideration what the parents wanted,” elaborating it was developed solely for public education and that no private school ever used these standards.

“It robs parents of involvement, indoctrinating students instead of educating them,” she said at the debate.

She expressed a desire to return to traditional means of instruction rather than being so dependent on online means of learning. Handwriting isn’t emphasized as much as it used to be, she said.

“The parents have to be aware of what is being taught to our children,” she said. “It’s all under copyright laws. This stifles creativity and innovation. We have to get our teachers back to teaching, not just being monitors.”

Cacioppo acknowledged Common Core is a “controversial issue.”

“It certainly has not yielded the results that people would like to see,” he said. “But also, the goal of it when it started was to try to make sure everybody was getting a baseline education.”

Asked how funding for the schools has been affected by COVID and what changes the district could be made in response, Cacioppo cited the district’s 40 percent tax base provided by casino revenues lost from closures impacted when the pandemic hit. He said the district ultimately ended up facing a $6 million to $9 million loss on top of a $56 million deficit, a “significant” decrease for a district that he said runs its programs and services efficiently for its size without seeking to look to make staff cuts first as a solution when making cuts as necessary. He proposed minimizing the use of outside vendors and cutting curriculum or other programs as alternatives.

Trushenski said in spite of COVID, it’s time to fully reopen the schools and to reduce subjects taught that are not as relevant.

“I would reduce some of the teaching subjects that are not as important as learning to read, write and arithmetic,” she said. “I have not been a school board member, but as for budgeting, I would look at every detail and find out where we can eliminate costs.”

The candidates also responded to a question about the district’s protections for teachers, staff and students during the pandemic. Cacioppo said while the district has worked hard to comply with Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directives to ensure safety for educators and students before allowing anyone back into school facilities, more could be done and talked about the board’s 4-3 vote in July to adopt its hybrid model and his own vote against it.

“I wound up voting no for the hybrid model because I wanted to make sure we had safety measures in place and at the time, I didn’t feel we had all the measures in place that maybe we needed to do, and I’m talking like prescreening, temperature checks and whatnot before staff and students walked into our buildings,” he said.

He also said the district is subject to checks

Trushenski said COVID-19 should not be considered as dangerous for children and said “deaths have been inflated.”

The candidates also were asked about improving teacher morale, to which Cacioppo said teachers currently are struggling with an “insurmountable” amount of work to do working from home, trying to keep students accountable on Zoom while keeping up with lesson plans, not having their summers off and serving on committees. He said the district must find a way to retain its current staff.

Trushenski said bringing in retired teachers at minimum wage to assist the district’s current teachers would be a way to offset their burdens and to keep them as “important assets.”

During closing statements, Trushenski said the educational system ultimately is at the hands of politicians and the elimination of Common Core would be a key strategy to improving students’ academic achievement.

“The price tag of $4 million is too much for a failed educational system,” she said. “We need to get back to the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic and allow parents to have a say. … We need to teach knowledge and life skills to children that will teach them to be free thinkers.”

Cacioppo said there is more work to be done to improve test scores and help students succeed.

“We’re doing good things in our district, we’ve increased our (Career and Technical Education) to provide a robust program, and I’m going to continue to advocate for our students,” he said.

To learn more about the candidates, go here

To watch the forum see below:


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