Carson City School Board Trustee Stacie Wilke-McCulloch took a 14-year ride full of tough and easy decisions, and it’s one she’s proud of especially since she went through the local school system herself, as did her children. Now she hopes her grandson will, too.
Carson’s public schools aren’t perfect, but she’s in no hurry to leave the city now.
“There’s not a better place to raise your family,” she said. “Open Parks and Recreation and the cultural arts programs are getting better, and it’s just a nice community, and you don’t have to deal with Reno and Sparks. I can’t think of anywhere better I want to be. I’m pretty excited to be here.”
Wilke-McCulloch is wrapping up her final term as a school board member with 29 years of public service to the area on local committees and youth organizations. She ran and served as a trustee in 1998, followed by a term on the Nevada Board of Education. She was reappointed to her CCSD seat in 2009 and served as board president twice.
“The first time I ran was just because I had just had my second child and I wanted a smaller high school for them to go to,” she said with a chuckle. “Nobody had applied by 3 (p.m.) on deadline day, and my kids were saying, ‘You should apply,’ so there we go. But I think the motivation was to be involved in Carson City. I went through the schools here and my kids went through here and I’m hoping my grandson will. It’s been a positive experience.
“You don’t appreciate (Carson City) until you leave,” she said. “I did leave 10 years ago and traveled the world and went to Arizona.”
While she recently lost her bid for the city’s clerk-recorder position, she has maintained consistently that she loves spending time most with family away from her community service.
As a trustee, she has been the proudest of helping to fund CCSD’s nutrition services program and making sure all students were properly fed.
“We transferred $750,000 a year from the general fund into the nutrition fund, and last year it was finally $0 and it might even be positive this year where nutrition gives back to the general fund,” she said. “In my last 14 years, that’s been my biggest accomplishment, and we worked really hard from doing it on our own to getting it earmarked with Chartwells (food service provider) to see the children getting fed and making it work for everyone.”
Wilke-McCulloch also highlights the strategic plan, a community-involved process that helped CCSD obtain its Race to the Top grant funds as a top applicant and eventually secure district staffing and programs. And while Carson City already had its one-to-one laptops for students as the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, she has noted local partnerships with the Carson City Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Ken Furlong have expanded during her tenure on the board. The partnership with the city’s Board of Supervisors to support the school resource officers who have demonstrated to students that law enforcement has a positive influence on the community has been successful, she said.
“The other (success) is our (public information officer),” she said. “We didn’t have a communications director. We were trying to do too many things and trying to figure out how to get someone in there. Our superintendent and associate superintendents were too busy trying to get out the good news and there was no option for getting out the good news in departments that are so outstanding.”
But even when the work or the decisions have been tough, Wilke-McCulloch said the school board has kept its priorities straight and kept unified on keeping students’ and teachers’ interests at heart.
“We’re not just a yes-yes board, either; we’ve had good discussion,” she said. “I’m proud of the way we worked things out in most cases.”
Wilke said perhaps the most evident and timely example of the board members’ aptitude to work through their independent viewpoints was in the superintendent search in the 2021-22 year. The board showed it longed to set the district up for success after former Superintendent Richard Stokes’ leadership without being fragile of each others’ feelings, and this was a strength she said she appreciated.
“With the trustees that voted against A.J., it wasn’t that we didn’t think A.J. couldn’t get the job done,” Wilke said. “When we made a vote, even there were people on the other side, we said, “OK, A.J.’s our superintendent, let’s go.’”
Naturally, the years have brought their disappointments, too, but everyone always worked hard to keep moving anyway, she said. The district’s inability to capture the 1600 Snyder Ave. property might be one of its biggest oversights in capital investments with few resources on the market to transform large properties into a school campus for cheap without having to build from the ground up in little time.
“That could have benefited the district in a lot of ways,” Wilke said. “But between Mark Korinek and Mark Johnson and AJ, they’ve worked very hard with all of our projects to be fiscally responsible, and with Marty Johnson (of JNA Consulting Group) to keep our bond rating up to do those projects like Eagle Valley Middle School that have been necessary for rural counties.”
Wilke-McCulloch said going forward, as new board members come in and as CCSD prepares for change in the next few years, the district should look to the horizon with the Pupil Centered Funding Plan. She said she has enjoyed her journey.
“We’ve worked really hard with the associations to keep programs available and the people that we have,” she said. “I hope we’ll be able to do that in the future. We were lucky enough to have the ending fund balance that we have, which we were lucky enough in my first go-round.
“I would tell (the new members and board) to dig in and remember it’s not personal,” she said. “We’re all focusing on what’s best for the kids, and as long as we can work together with a common goal, that it’s what’s best for the kids, they’ll accomplish as much as they always have.”