In 2020, COVID-19 brought much of Carson City’s ability to bring volunteers into its classrooms to a “screeching halt,” incoming school district Superintendent Andrew Feuling says. But that’s a situation he hopes to rectify with certainty and sincerity once he assumes his new position in July.
The former teacher and principal knows what it means to brace for more difficult times, and he hopes the 2022-23 school year will be the time the Carson City School District will return to normalcy.
“We know we have this opportunity for people to get into schools,” Feuling said. “The reality is we need help. We need community support. We need parental support to make schools work.
“Kids are with us for only six-and-a-half hours a day, so the more support we have both outside and in, the better for everyone, and what I believe to my core is that anyone going into a school and volunteering and seeing the work being done and seeing the amazing work kids are doing, I think it would just be a huge eye-opener to see the amazing things going on.”
Feuling’s call to make school campuses safe, community-friendly sites and bring volunteers back into the classrooms is his hope to restore what was lost in the pandemic. Not long ago, schools were shut down, visitors no longer could access the buildings and experience children’s learning opportunities, and many students themselves quickly became disconnected socially when their own education became remote or hybrid. So, Feuling said he is excited to help encourage people to come back.
“In some ways, seeing is believing when we have people volunteering in the schools and we see what staff is doing and the kids’ smiling faces and the excitement,” Feuling said. “I think that really helps frame what we are doing and where we’re going and that ultimately the focus is on what is really happening in our schools.”
Feuling said it’s important to offer a base of understanding, trust and communication now with many of the recent issues and concerns that have been raised in the past year. Community members attending school board meetings have voiced frustrations regarding racism, critical race theory, policies or materials being reviewed by the Family Life Advisory Committee. Questions also come into the district’s administrative office regarding student safety after the recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“There are always going to be difficult times that come up and there are always going to be people not happy with specific items within any organization,” Feuling said. “If we have this shared vision in values that the community has decided upon and the board has approved, the focus has moved the organization in that direction to get the outcomes for the kids that we want.”
Any disconnect taking place could be attributed to a misunderstanding for motivation, district spokesman Dan Davis said. Parents or members of the public are welcome to put on a name badge and take a tour to see what happens in or outside of a classroom with a teacher or administrator, saying it would likely change one’s opinions of what takes place.
Feuling said he hopes to show where Carson is at its most successful as the district is able to make progress in obtaining more funding, especially in per-pupil terms, he said.
“The Legislature, three times over the last 15 years, has commissioned studies saying what would it cost to provide an adequate education for our schools and they defined adequate as meeting all of the requirements and all of the mandates for all of our schools,” Feuling said. “Three times they’ve asked for that same answer, and it would cost in total about $2 billion more than what’s going into education. In per-pupil terms, they would have to add about $3,000 per pupil of funding in the state of Nevada to reasonably make that happen.”
To adequately staff Carson High School, which has about 180 on staff, that would meet state requirements in this way, Feuling said, the school would need about 270 staff members to satisfy the state’s demands.
“It’s hard because I realize I’ve had to view things through the finance lens,” he said. “But it is just such an obvious concern in Nevada that really needs to be dealt with. If we can start making progress on that side, we certainly can offer more opportunities to our students at all levels – better opportunities, quality opportunities – and I think the more we can start those opportunities and explore to kids at a younger age as they move up to middle school and high school, where we’re the most successful AP (Advanced Placement) program in the state, where we’re one of the best, if not the best CTE (Career and Technical Education) program in the state, I mean, what is offered to our kids is incredible.”
Feuling takes over from his predecessor Superintendent Richard Stokes on July 1 and appreciates his “keep calm and carry on” demeanor he has maintained in all of his community interactions that kept him successful on the job remain with the district 14 years, well beyond what most top-level administrators would be willing to give.
“Mr. Stokes, for those who don’t know him, is genuinely the finest human being I have ever known,” Feuling said. “I think it’s impressive to me how open he is to conversations with anyone at pretty much any time. We talk about having an open-door policy, and it is literally an open door.
“For most of us, it took COVID to understand the importance of the entire system,” he said. “Teachers clearly are critical to what’s happening in education. And with COVID and what has happened, you really have had to take a step back to see there is this entire system and all of your employees are so critical to the daily function of what you do, and I think Mr. Stokes understood that well before COVID.”