Carson City School Board seeks community feedback after superintendent interviews

Carson City School District administration building.

Carson City School District administration building.

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The Carson City School District is requesting the community’s feedback on the six superintendent candidate interviews held this week to narrow down the school board’s final choices to two.

The school board gathered Tuesday and Wednesday in the Carson City Community Center’s Bob Boldrick Theater to interview three internal and three external applicants by Zoom, asking 10 questions in 75- to 90-minute intervals. Most were left with enough time to ask questions of the board about its expectations for the role or vision for the new superintendent’s relationship with the community once current Superintendent Richard Stokes retires in June.

Plans to improve student achievement, offering newer ideologies on professional development and prioritizing school districts’ expenditures in times of crisis or success were among the questions asked the candidates vying for the position both days.

Applicants addressed their priorities for their first 90 days in the district, community engagement, plans to gain support among dividing factors of equity-based learning, COVID-19 response and critical race theory, experience or approaches to managing budgets, advocating for public education on various levels and dealing with unethical behavior and other strategies or pressing educational issues.

Andrew Feuling, the district’s current fiscal services director, has served Carson City since March 2014 and previously lived in Wisconsin, having worked as a school business specialist for Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee, a school business manager for Salem School District in Salem and taught high school economics and social studies for East Troy School District, East Troy.

Feuling said if selected for the role, providing a “health check” on the community’s current status would be one of his highest priorities by listening to parents and students and building trust among the community. He also sought to promote more volunteerism in the schools to encourage “the everyday awesome,” referring to providing individual attention to students, finding funding opportunities that have secured needs before or during COVID-19, such as cleaning products or surveillance equipment for schools, or reducing barriers or ensuring alignment in curriculum and setting higher goals in academics for students.

“If you want your community to thrive, if you’re going to have true ownership, you have to have some level of engagement,” Feuling said. “…I think that physical engagement is probably the most critical thing we need to bring back and not just bring back but enhance it, and that is to bring people in schools. Part of it is seeing is believing.”

Dr. John Goldhardt of Manchester, NH, superintendent of Manchester School District, has worked in education for 33 years and currently works under the direction of a 15-member board, also previously working as an executive director, principal and director for other school districts in Utah. He has visited Carson City several times during his lifetime and while he had planned to stay in New Hampshire with his wife and family as a new grandfather, he commented that Carson City offers “the perfect setup” and size with its school district.

Goldhardt said he prefers a competency-based approach in academics, preferring it for its equitable and rigorous nature allowing students who master concepts faster to move on when they choose. He referred to a new method having been piloted and employed in his own district in which students of two different grades learning in the same classroom and working on one competency and taking assessments when needed, with data and attendance improving because students overall feel more successful.

He also referred to success in making tough long-term financial decisions in good and bad times that ultimately work to a district’s benefit, such as closing one elementary school that had fallen into disrepair and combining with another nearby school to help save approximately $6 million in the district’s budget.

“You have to look at really matters and what can we do and make more efficient but what we can live without so we don’t hurt kids … it’s hard,” Goldhardt said. “In a surplus year, that’s hard because I was used to not having much. I’ve got to make sure these things can’t be permanent because what happens when revenue slows down again? … I believe a budget should be aligned in the good times and bad times. There should be deep dives taking place taking care of the needs of the district and the district learners.”

Fremont Elementary School Principal Jennifer Ward-DeJoseph, a 26-year veteran of Carson City School District with experience as a former assistant principal at Carson Middle School, implementation specialist at Eagle Valley Middle School and Empire Elementary School and as a teacher at Empire, addressed her accomplishments in raising Fremont from a two-star to a four-star school and experiences as an administrator and instructional coach at the elementary and secondary levels to improve curriculum alignment for students.

She spoke of employing methods in social-emotional learning and safety that have resonated well among staff and students at all levels, including children on individual education plans, to keep them safe, advance transportation needs, change mindsets and increase diversity. She also emphasized providing extra support to staff and changing the culture inside schools with so many educators in need of great opportunities for advancement.

“I think as a superintendent, I’m not meeting the individual needs of every student, I’m helping to set up the system,” she said, describing what her role would be as superintendent. “…How the superintendent ensures (students’ skills) is looking at how students have access to the tools in the interest of the students. … We have to look at what we value, and with a growth mindset, I think that’s an important component.”

Tasha Fuson, Carson City School associate superintendent of educational services and former Carson High School principal, also worked in Washoe County School District as Spanish Springs High School’s principal and assistant principal at Reno High School after moving from Clark County, where she also worked as an educator. Fuson shared her successes as the principal of two of Northern Nevada’s largest high schools in the past decade and their challenges facing significant budget reductions, sharing she is ready for the next step as superintendent, to engage the community, focus district wide on goals and key topics in CCSD’s strategic plan and improve teacher morale and to bring new or different communication strategies and outlets, such as town halls, for community members to express their views on school board decisions or policies.

“The one thing I love about Carson City is we’ve always been able to be respectful and to listen to each other,” Fuson said. “Finding another avenue to do that so that our community can make a more full explanation to some of the concerns they’ve brought (might help). Board meetings may not be the best way to do that.”

Dr. Miranda Kogon, associate chief of student equity and opportunity of Denver Public Schools in Denver, Colo., and once director of special education for DC Public Schools, special education adjunct professor at George Mason University and behavior specialist for ages 6 to 22 at Fairfax County Public Schools, said developing a “common language in the context of Carson City” would be one of her top priorities if she were to be selected for the position. She said she sought to do all it takes to help close achievement gaps, bring developmentally appropriate curriculum to help propel students and to be empathetic to all viewpoints, saying she was excited by the possibility of working in a capital city.

“I want to make sure we understand each and every student and their families and their stories to be culturally responsive and engaging with their families,” Kogon said.

Kogon has served as a member on several advisory boards and state and national organizations in Colorado and Washington, D.C. on which she said provided insight into helping to improve interventions for poor attendance problems in public schools in the D.C. area.

Dr. Verenice Gutierrez, director of educational equity and access for Salt Lake City School District, Salt Lake City, Utah, previously served as an academic advisor at the LEEP Dual Language Academics of Texas in San Antonio and as a second bilingual coordinator in the San Antonio Independent School District in which she worked on English as a Second Language instructional materials and provided resources to support staff to achieve program goals. Born to Mexican immigrants, including a mother who Gutierrez said always instilled the importance of education, she graduated high school early, earned multiple college degrees and focused her career early on as an educator, gradually becoming selective about where she would teach and become an administrator.

She said school districts tend to be more welcoming to those who have social capital, arguing for the importance of community engagement at all levels regardless of what language anyone speaks and saying she often has had to have difficult conversations with previous equity teams at schools about cultural celebrations to ensure no one feels left out.

“If we don’t go into the community, we don’t hear stories, and the community is the center rather than the district,” Gutierrez said. “We need to go to them. … We need … to see where we’re failing to engage our full community.”

All six candidates during interviews this week said they would not teach critical race theory.

The board now will seek feedback from district staff, parents, families and community members on the interviews through a survey, which is available online at

The surveys are open through Sunday and are available in English and Spanish and can be completed on a desktop computer or mobile device. Participation in the surveys is voluntary.

Also as of Tuesday, as the candidate interviews began, only six of the seven trustees were present for the special meetings. Board president Richard Varner read a statement Tuesday announcing Trustee Stacie Wilke-McCulloch would be recusing herself from participation.

“I acknowledge that one of my comments at the last board meeting has been viewed as hurtful and I am sincerely sorry for any hurt caused,” according to Wilke’s statement. “I will be recusing myself from taking part in the superintendent interviews. I also took immediate actions when this matter was brought to my attention to educate myself so that it will not happen again.”

Wilke confirmed with the Appeal by e-mail Wednesday evening that the comment referred to in her statement was from the board’s Jan. 18 special meeting held to establish the criteria for and take possible action on the hiring process for the superintendent.

“At this time it has not been determined if I will participate in the final round,” Wilke said.

Varner announced on Wednesday once surveys are completed, the board will receive the responses on Feb. 1, with deliberations and discussion scheduled for a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 2. At this time, board members will narrow down their selection to their top two candidates to come in for a final round of interviews and a tour of the district. Discussion and possible action will be taken to select the board's top one or two candidates to be interviewed on Feb. 22 or 23, if needed, for the vacancy. The special meeting will be held in the Robert Crowell Board Room of the Carson City Community Center.

What: Carson City School Board of Trustees special meeting
When: 5:30 p.m. Feb. 2
Where: Robert Crowell Board Room of the Carson City Community Center, 851 William St.
Agenda: Narrow down superintendent candidates from six to one or two to be interviewed on Feb. 22 or 23 if needed


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