Carson City school superintendent resolved to continue improving |

Carson City school superintendent resolved to continue improving

Jessica Garcia
Richard Stokes, Carson City School District superintendent, speaks during the Cool School Renewal event on Aug. 17.

Carson City schools might end up needing to “do more with less,” Superintendent Richard Stokes says, but his vision is to keep on an upward path in 2020.

“We’re not changing to a huge degree,” he said. “We’re going to keep moving in the direction we have been. We believe in our people. We believe in our students. We have the support of our trustees.”

The district’s resolve to improve graduation rates, strengthen its academic programs, build on its strategic plan through 2022 and continue with its operational and capital planning, such as with 1600 Snyder Ave., indicates what the administration wants from this year. Stokes said Carson City School District is “nicely positioned” to find success in its academic and operational endeavors.

This year, the high schools will focus on raising graduation rates. In December, the district announced its fourth consecutive year of increased rates at 86.79 percent districtwide, up nearly 6.5 percent since 2016. Pioneer High reported a rate of 82.3 percent and Carson High reported 95 percent.

“That’s an important measure for us,” Stokes said. “That gives our students a leg up on the future. There’s so little that can be accomplished without a high school diploma. That’s a critical piece for our job market in general.”

Future growth is expected, and administrators are working on attendance zones, particularly at the middle school level. Carson and Eagle Valley middle schools are in need of balancing, so the goal is to make zoning for both schools more uniform.

With many parents and the community as a whole believing Carson Middle School is too large, the operations department has been examining ways to tweak the boundaries and draw more students over to Eagle Valley. This means expanding Eagle Valley’s facilities such as adding more classrooms, offices and the accompanying infrastructure as Stokes shared at a community meeting in November.

So far, most parents seem to be accepting, Stokes said, and Eagle Valley would be scheduled to open for the increased capacity by the 2021-22 school year if everything works out. This could mean consuming much of the focus for 2020 for the district’s operational needs.

As 2020 progresses overall, however, Carson City will be planning for the 2021 legislative year, watching and preparing for what impacts on education will come out of the next session.

“We’ll do our duty in working with the legislators, with the governor, with the Department of Education from the district’s perspective on how the new funding mechanism is working, suggestions on how we might improve,” Stokes said.

He said his hope is that revenues will increase while carrying expectations that they might remain flat, which has the potential to lead to budget reductions.

Stokes said the district also is faring well with its strategic plan, approved in 2017 and remains in effect through 2022, when it will need to be refreshed. Stokes said he was pleased many of its components of its main tenets by now have been met and continue to keep staff moving in the right direction, including recruiting and retaining exceptional personnel, offering curriculum that matters, keeping engaged parents and families, creating healthy generations of Carson students and establishing a community in full partnership.

Stokes said he felt especially confident in the district’s investments with its curriculum and hiring practices. The district went through a textbook adoption at the elementary level last year. According to district spokesman Dan Davis, the new adoption, which is a seven-year contract, cost the district approximately $984,000 for K-5 materials for the next 30 years to replace the books.

“We have a lot of money invested in new materials; we have a lot of money invested in staff,” Stokes said. “That’s for a purpose. You can’t expect to have teachers referring to 1980 processes when we’re living when we are. You have to adjust, just like any good teacher.”

Stokes said teachers will continue to use their training and identify when there are issues that require additional attention.

“Teaching is an art form, but there’s also a science to it that requires input and adjustments here and there as we move along,” he said.

Stokes said overall, he’s proud of the district, the Carson City community and its collaboration with local partners willing to work with local educators.

“(I hope) we continue to work through problems and challenges. Our strategic plan cover says, ‘Our Community Inspires Innovators, Leaders, and Thinkers,’” he said. “We believe our community is in full partnership. Education is not something we can do in silos. Carson City is really nicely positioned for that to happen.”