The Carson City School District Board of Trustees voted to renew current Family Life Advisory Committee representative Stephanie Cook’s membership for another three years after weighing professional engineer Christine Sylvester for the position Oct. 25.
Cook’s term will be completed in November after serving for the past three years. Cook and Sylvester both applied and were asked to attend the meeting to introduce themselves and interview for the advisory role. The position has been advertised in the Nevada Appeal.
Each described what they felt was the FLC’s most important function, their approach to controversial issues and how they would handle others’ reactions to choices they would make in approving course materials pertaining to sex education, the human reproductive system and communicable diseases.
Cook, a program manager who maintains the development and implementation of substance abuse treatment facilities for the state’s Division of Public and Behavioral Health and assists with budget control and policy, has two children in the district. She said her background in health and human services is useful in understanding challenges and diverse topics for the committee.
“The most important aspect is offering resources to health teachers in middle and high school,” she said. “As we look at family life and health classes, it’s important to have tool kits for health teachers.”
Sylvester, a licensed professional engineer who has worked in traffic safety with the Nevada Department of Transportation, recalled attending medical school to become a doctor before finding it wasn’t the career path she wanted. But she remained fascinated by the pharmaceutical pre-clinical work before she entered engineering.
“You just can’t close your eyes and put your head in the hole,” she said of the family and reproductive issues the FLC discusses to help instructors and students. “You get a bigger community to work with you and make progress.”
Sylvester has three daughters and said she wants them to understand their bodies and choices and has regular, age-appropriate conversations with them about family life and reproduction. She also expressed the importance of leaning on previous opinions and using good judgment in material selection for the district.
“You shouldn’t be using a resource that hasn’t been used by anyone else anywhere,” she said. “You don’t do that in engineering. It isn’t that you can’t be innovative. … You look at the material that has been vetted by other groups and what their opinions are and you weigh your gut, as in, ‘I don’t want my kids to see this’ or ‘Maybe this is exactly what we’re looking for.’ ”
Sheila Story, committee chairperson and Carson High School’s chief nurse, introduced both candidates to the board and reminded them the current makeup is five parent representatives, one medical representative, one religious representative, one school counselor, one teacher and one chairperson. It consists of all females, with one male.
Trustee Mike Walker asked legal counsel Ryan Russell if the board could take a vote on the candidates, with Russell affirming the board could do so after public comment.
When asked to perform a vote about who they would select as a candidate, the board voted 4-3 in favor of Cook.
“I think we’re very blessed we have two amazing people,” Trustee Stacie Wilke-McCulloch said. “I think we’ll be blessed if either of you get it, and if you don’t, you have lots of opportunities (to help in the district). I’m leaning toward Ms. Sylvester because of the age-appropriate answer.”
Trustee Don Carine said he leaned toward Sylvester originally only because of the state’s term-limits provisions, while Trustee Laurel Crossman said Cook’s background provided an important perspective to the committee.
“We know we have vaping and other issues,” Crossman said. “That is an important insight.”
During public comment, resident Heather Koche said it was important to her to know what students are learning on more sensitive topics.
“What is going on right now, and what I’ve opposed, is throwing too much at (kids),” Koche said. “It’s important that we don’t just stick with the same people. … I think a fresh set of eyes (on the committee) would help.”
Ultimately, the motion to appoint Cook to the board was approved 5-2, with Wilke-McCulloch and Trustee Joe Cacioppo opposed.
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