Meet the candidates for Churchill County School Board | NevadaAppeal.com
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Meet the candidates for Churchill County School Board

GREGG MALKOVICH

Please give a background of yourself and why you are running for school board.

My name is Gregg Malkovich. I am a retired educator with more than 29 years of teaching and administrative experience in Nevada with a teaching degree from Western Montana College (now the University of Montana Western) and a Masters of Educational Leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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I believe that all children have the right to a high-quality education which honors each child’s needs and prepares each for the unique path each will take. Children deserve educational personnel that care, respect, and grow while encouraging every child to do the same. Every child deserves school and district leadership that is fearless to look forward to creating a bright future by understanding the successes and missteps of the past. Every child deserves leadership that is informed, well-rounded, reflective, and fiscally responsible. Leadership must have integrity and the courage to do what is right even in the face of controversy. Every child deserves leadership that focuses physical, human, and fiscal capital to efficiently and effectively meet the mission, vision, and values of ChurchillCSD and Fallon.

This focused lens allows leadership to reach out and assist to meet these goals without overstepping the boundaries of its role.

I am the most qualified candidate for ChuchillCSD Board Trustee. I have lived in the community since 1993, serving more than 29 years in Education. I’ve worked for nine different superintendents and dozens of School Board Trustees, attended dozens of school board meetings, and sat through multiple closed sessions in the roles of Assistant Superintendent, Principal, and parent. I have experience working with school district attorneys on issues to ensure ChurchillCSD’s interests and have worked through budget cuts as well as times of growth. I’ve recruited teachers and had to see positions cut. I’ve hired over 100 past and current school district employees and conducted job performance evaluations for nearly every position within ChurchillCSD. I’m confident I can successfully engage in evaluating the Superintendent.

I’ve also worked with and been a member of organizations with other Nevada district superintendents and individuals at the Nevada Department of Education to include work with NDE folks to obtain grant funding for our PreK program and to advance Early Childhood programs. I understand what it means to be a School Board Trustee. My experiences will allow me to make very informed voting decisions which impact Fallon students, families, staff, and community. I understand that the decisions made must reflect the reason schools exist … students! I do believe that more budget cuts are coming, but Fallon has been through many of these and has always bounced back … We are a true “Can Do” city.

I have the experience and historical knowledge of the district that very few others in Fallon could. I can share things that have been done, things that have worked and things that haven’t. I believe that as we “move forward” and charter new territories, I can help “give back” time (I am retired), energy, dedication, and knowledge for the benefit of our community.

The state is in the middle of changing the funding formula for Nevada’s schools. Will this change be more beneficial for Churchill County Schools or should the state have more give and take when dealing with individual school districts?

As of the time of this submission, this is a statewide work in progress. Under the most current details, Churchill would not lose money per pupil. The bigger picture is that while education has been underfunded, we have a statewide committee who is listening to small and large districts to try to determine a fair and equitable formula for funding. Funding, especially under COVID, is fluid.

As long as legislators and districts work together to strive for equity between small and large districts and to serve diverse populations, we must be flexible to see what these committees bring. Again, under the current formula, Churchill is a “small winner” which means that there isn’t a negative impact to their formula. Patience, diligence, and informed conversation must lead this work as it moves forward.

I would be proud to serve the board and ChurchillCSD on this committee as I have many years of budgetary experience as well as many connections to individuals at NDE and at the state level.

The school district has outsourced food services. Would you be in favor or not in favor if the school board wanted to extend outsourcing for janitorial services and transportation?

Outsourcing is tricky. I understand some of the reasons behind outsourcing (releasing staffing issues…from management to front line…and potential opportunities for cost savings). In my experience with food service, ChurchillCSD employees were allowed to remain ChurchillCSD employees. New employees were hired through the new organization. We do not want our ChurchillCSD employees to have to leave ChurchillCSD, because resigning from the district would impact PERS. Quite simply, ChurchillCSD should never outsource because it’s easier.

ChurchillCSD needs to look at what is best for students and the community through the lens of the vision and values, and decide from there. I could be in favor of outsourcing if the physical outcomes are better, the monetary outcomes are better, and there is some sort of a “grandfather” way to allow employees with longevity not to lose PERS. Lastly, we cannot outsource without key items written in a contract. These could include penalties if services are less than anticipated. Honestly, students need transportation and clean schools. We need to look at janitorial and transportation services as a whole, through the lens of why we are here, and make appropriate decisions from there.

If and when the coronavirus pandemic has disappeared, should the school district retain both online and in-person instruction?

The pandemic will disappear. Regardless of community health incidents, schools exist to create optimal student outcomes. A school board exists to manage the improvement of community-defined student outcomes. ChurchillCSD needs to continually hear what all believe are the vision and values for students.

The school board acts on these, not on personal opinions and politics. Parents need voice and choice. For some, digital learning could be the best option for a student’s outcomes, but it is not the answer for all. Teachers selected for digital learning must be chosen, not force transferred. There are some teachers who will excel in person, and others who will excel online. I personally do not believe distance learning is the answer for most.

Schools exist to help families develop future citizens. Social Emotional Learning, physical time with peers, athletics, and interpersonal skills such as collaboration and negotiation need to happen daily and in-person. Screens hinder some emotional contact. However, I do believe all parents know their children best, and they need multiple options for education. Then, I believe all kids (or nearly all kids) need schools. Students deserve quality teachers no matter which platform they choose.

Would you favor the continuation of the partnership between the school district and Western Nevada College by expanding more programs for high-school level classes?

            I have worked for WNC, and I totally am a fan of its programs. WNC serves our community well. Truly, the college track is one path that we want our students to consider. The career path is another. We cannot shove students more to one path than the other, especially in Nevada where service, manufacturing, and technology jobs are on the rise, just to name a few.

WNC offers a great collaborative plan for some of our students, but we must remember that it isn’t the answer for all. I am in favor of having the college prep program as large as we have a student demand to match it. WNC has also supported classes for career path courses. I believe we need to support that path as well. I believe ChurchillCSD’s partnership with WNC should support as many courses for BOTH college and career paths as we can foster. The collaboration in both paths is a win-win for the school district and the community in general.

 I believe ChurchillCSD should look at student and community interests and demands and allocate resources (physical, human, and monetary) accordingly.

School districts across the state have experienced problems in hiring staff and then keeping them in the rural setting. As a trustee, what would you do to help Human Resources attract more educators and keep them in Churchill County?

 In my role as Principal and Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, I attended many job fairs recruiting teachers. It’s been a specialty of mine. In the process, I have learned that prospective teachers need someone to give them great reasons to come. Recruiting staff must let them know the great things here in Northern Nevada.

Once here, great staff and community members need to help support them and help them learn our great area and make it a home. I came to Nevada “for one year” and have now been here for over 30 years. As a school board member, I would be willing to go recruit teachers, to help make digital resources for recruiting, and would be in support of long-term tiered bonuses to get and keep qualified, effective teachers.

A second action step would be to develop leaders from within so they do not leave. Finally, we need to continually praise and reward our current staff. Recruiting is key for growing our staff. Retaining our high-quality teachers is equally important. Keeping great teachers in our great town should naturally be happening as long as we are doing our job to take care of them every day.

What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of our current school system?

ChurchillCSD has several strengths, but the biggest strength is in its human capital. People are our biggest strength. With over 85% of the school budget coming from salaries, we have to spend this money well. Taking care of our people will allow us to continue to grow and continue to be great. That being said, one weakness that ChurchillCSD has, is the ability to meet the differentiated learning needs for staff. Just like students in Fallon, staff has individual skills, abilities, and needs.

Veteran teachers’ needs are different than a new teacher. Even when new initiatives are rolled out, some teachers will learn those quicker and easier than others. The district must differentiate as much as (if not more than) what is necessary and required for teachers to do with students. The one-size-fits-all approach to professional development cannot be one that ChurchillCSD implements. Instead, we must work to reach every teacher at their individual growth need.

We need to continue to allow teachers ample time to learn through collaboration, data analysis, peer learning, and job embedded professional development. These investments will reap benefits for students.

What is the one biggest change, issue, improvement you would like to see occur or would you advocate for during your term on the school board?

There is not “one biggest change” that I would want. To me, “one biggest change” is selfish and based on my personal opinion and perspective. As an elected official, my personal opinion doesn’t matter. It is the opinion of the citizens of our community. But the issue is even bigger than that.

Given ANY 4-year term, life brings change. Think of even the past 4 years. Legislative changes have caused work to be done, COVID has impacted students, and coming forward, budgets are going to be impacted, not to mention the changes in technology that will impact education and life in general. COVID has created a great deal of work and stress upon students, families, staff, and the community.

Staff has made multiple changes with hours of work that should be recognized and honored. In the next 4 years, I want the community to have say, I want students to be healthy, learning, and thriving, and I want to see healthy growth in the entire ChurchillCSD organization. We need all staff and students to learn and grow. We want students to become productive citizens. We want a healthy thriving community.

What is your opinion about communication between the board and the staff, visiting schools, and how much opportunity would you have to spend observing and talking to staff at school sites?

Communication with stakeholders is a job component of a school board trustee. A trustee must listen to the school community to understand its vision and values, then, work to implement the vision and values, monitor progress, and communicate back to stakeholders. Visiting schools to talk to teachers, and observing (as invited), is important.

Two way communication is paramount as well. Observation would be to see “the great” in our schools…not as evaluation. Evaluation is the responsibility of principals. Fallon is a small town. We run in to each other, and we visit. It is important to listen to everyone. It’s easy to listen to those who are the loudest, but we need to seek out the opinion of those who are quietly fulfilling the vision and mission of ChurchillCSD. We need to seek out more opinions, and not be afraid to ask for and analyze a variety of data and facts. I am in favor of visiting schools. I want to provide times to visit schools that are optional for staff participation. As a public servant, my job is to listen, to be available, and to carry information to the whole board.

How would you proceed if your opinion is different from the rest of the board – would you be willing to stand your ground, build a coalition, or go with the flow?

 The decisions we make in life always are filtered through what we believe. However, as a school board member, the charge we all have is to make collective decisions based on the community as a whole. If I were to have a disagreement with the board, my question would first be, does my opinion match the community as a whole or do I need to rethink?

If board members bring a compelling argument to the group in a board meeting that I had been in opposition to, but understand, I would need to take that reasoning back to the Fallon community. In reality, the biggest function and responsibility here is honest communication and true listening (We all have two ears and one mouth). The board’s duties are to listen to the community and act on the community’s desires (not those of other board members or the Superintendent).

As an elected official, my job would be to stand for the community’s voice. In the event that my opinion is in opposition to other board members, my job would be to seek to understand, to work to bring common understanding to all, and to vote for what’s right for kids.

What would your support level be for maintaining or improving the Career and Technical Education programs at the high school and middle school?

 Career and Technical Education (CTE) is not only critically important in our community, but it is a state mandate. Students need the opportunity to graduate with a CCR (Career and College Readiness) diploma. I am in complete support of not only sustaining, but also improving and increasing opportunities for students to participate in CTE programs.

In Nevada, many jobs have doors open through successful CTE programs. ChurchillCSD must listen to Nevada’s industries and provide courses that meet current and future skill-based opportunities. We have WNC and many local businesses ready and able to partner with the school district to make this a success. ChurchillCSD needs to not only develop their CTE program, but we need to work to have a model CTE program in the state.

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PHIL PINDER

Please give a background of yourself and why you are running for school board.

I was born in Washington D.C. in 1953. My father worked for the civil service on the Trident missiles and as such, as I grew up, we moved to Southern California and then to Florida and back to Southern California. After graduating high school, I attended Stanislaus State University and received my bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1976 and went on to receive my lifetime teaching credential in California.

After college, I taught fifth grade and seventh grade and then high school math, science, and PE at Central Catholic High School in Modesto, Calif.. I coached freshman and JV football, freshman and JV basketball, cross country, and started the track program at Central Catholic High School. The track program would go on to win the league title the second year.

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 In 1982 I moved to Fallon and became the head basketball coach and taught math and biology for two years. I left Fallon in 1985 to become the vice principal for Central Catholic High School but returned to Fallon in 1986 and taught at Churchill County High School until my retirement in 2016. During my teaching years, I coached boys’ and girls’ basketball, track, golf, tennis and softball, leading several of these teams to the state competition. In 2011 and 2012 I was the head coach for the softball team that won back-to-back state championships. In 2020 I was inducted into the Churchill County High School Greenwave Hall of Fame.

My wife and three girls have all gone through the Churchill County School system. My wife Denice is a UNR graduate (the first college graduate in her family). We instilled in our daughters the importance of a good education, and always hoped they would achieve more than we had. Consequently, Kate has completed a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. Jill has a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and is currently in school to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

I am running for re-election because after 40 years of teaching, and coaching for the equivalent of over 60 years, and having served on the school board for one term (where I have also served on the policy and budget committees), I feel I understand the importance of a good education, both in and out of the classroom. Additionally, I understand what it takes to have a good school system in this day and age. Finally, I firmly believe extracurricular programs enhance the educational experience, whether it be FFA, band, choir, academic teams or sports.

My stand on education is a simple but important one. Students first, teachers second and then everyone else who supports the first two. I want to continue to try to bring the best system of education for our students and teachers to our community.

The state is in the middle of changing the funding formula for Nevada’s schools. Will this change be more beneficial for Churchill County Schools or should the state have more give and take when dealing with individual school districts?

 The changing of the funding formula could be a positive or a negative to Churchill County. If the formula works on the problem of the cost to educate all students, this will work as a positive. If it becomes a situation where money is just moved around and given a different category, things from a budget standpoint won’t change. It will be important once we go through the first year with the new formula, that we extensively go through and review how it effects Churchill County. This is where the give and take must begin and if changes need to be made to the formula it should be done at that time.

The school district has outsourced food services. Would you be in favor or not in favor if the school board wanted to extend outsourcing for janitorial services and transportation?

 No, I would not want to outsource janitorial services or transportation. With regards to janitorial service, I want to know who has the keys to our classrooms and I want our school district to hire the people who will be working with our students and teachers. When you hire local people there becomes a sense of pride because they are invested in the community. We already have the ability to work on our buses and fleet of vans and cars. I just don’t see the saving to outsource.

If and when the coronavirus pandemic has disappeared, should the school district retain both online and in-person instruction?

 I would keep an open mind to returning to online education. I would want to see how effective both online and in-person instruction has been. I do feel some in-person instruction is essential. With that being said, if it can be shown from budget and student standpoints to be beneficial to use online education as a supplement I would certainly be in favor of considering it.

Would you favor the continuation of the partnership between the school district and Western Nevada College by expanding more programs for high-school level classes?

 I would be in favor of the continuation of the partnership between the school district and Western Nevada College by expanding more programs for high school level classes if there was a need for a class or classes that our school district did not offer or could not afford to offer because of class size.

School districts across the state have experienced problems in hiring staff and then keeping them in the rural setting. As a trustee, what would you do to help Human Resources attract more educators and keep them in Churchill County?

 I would have the district office set up a recruiting team made up of an Administrator, human resource director, a good young teacher, and a more experienced teacher who has been in the district. I would go beyond only job fairs by also encouraging contacting colleges that have strong education programs. If the budget warrants, I would give signing bonuses to incoming teachers. I taught for 32 years in this district and I would be more than happy to help recruit teachers to our school district.

What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of our current school system?

 I believe our biggest strength is our staff, teachers, administration, and support workers. For the size of our school district we offer a wide variety of classes on our secondary level. We do a good job of staying up with technology as all of our students in the third grade and above have chrome books. Our primary grades offer a well-rounded education that strengthen importance of reading, writing and math. I feel the biggest weakness of our school system is our graduation rate. It is too low and we need to strengthen our attendance policy that will hold students more accountable.

What is the one biggest change, issue, improvement you would like to see occur or would you advocate for during your term on the school board?

 I want to see our district continue to expand educational opportunities for students that are not planning on attending college, by learning a skill or trade whereby they can be employable after graduation or go to a trade/tech school.

What is your opinion about communication between the board and the staff, visiting schools, and how much opportunity would you have to spend observing and talking to staff at school sites?

 I feel strongly about the communication between the board and staff. As a current board member, I want to know how our staff is doing and their concerns. It is important to know that board members should not micro-manage but act as a liaison. I have no problem with visiting schools and since I am retired would have the time to observe and talk to the staff.

How would you proceed if your opinion is different from the rest of the board – would you be willing to stand your ground, build a coalition, or go with the flow?

 As an acting board member, there have been situations after discussion with board members in an open meeting setting where I have had strong feelings on situations that may not have been the same as other board members. There have been situations after discussion where I worked to build a coalition on a topic. I also have been in discussions and after listening have changed my mind and chose to vote with the majority. I feel it is of the upmost importance to keep an open mind and listen to all sides of the story while staying true to my beliefs and do what is best for the students and the school district.

What would your support level be for maintaining or improving the Career and Technical Education programs at the high school and middle school?

 Since only 33% of high school graduates go on to college, I feel we should at the very least, maintain our level of Career and Technical Education programs. We must always be pursuing ways to improve the education opportunities for these students.

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TRICIA STRASDIN

Please give a background of yourself and why you are running for school board.

I am a life-long Fallon resident and a product of the Churchill County School District. I currently teach in Lyon County because the law prohibits me from teaching and being on the school board for the same district.

My passion for education is evidenced by the fact that while working fulltime and raising a very busy family, I earned my bachelor’s degree in education. I spent many evenings in a lecture, countless nights up past 1a.m. and multiple weekends in a gym surrounded by books and my laptop. And while my passion for education is obvious, it’s not what makes me the most qualified candidate for school board.

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My strongest qualification for this position is my 30 years of experience working in the private sector. My years in private business educated me in the areas of full-charge bookkeeping, negotiating contracts with insurance companies, billing insurance, customer billing, customer service, human resources and endless administrative duties. My combined experience working for private businesses and now my work in education, provides me a balanced perspective that is unmatched by any of my running mates – and that type of balance is critical for this position.

In addition, I have also earned my Certified Public Officer certification through the State of Nevada. This certification is designed for elected officials and focuses on the areas of Public Finance, Governance, Community Engagement, and Employment Relations just to name a few. I have served on our School Board for over 4 years, I have an excellent attendance record, and I am committed to facing the upcoming challenges that are sure to affect Churchill County with the energy and discernment that Fallon deserves.

I won’t mislead you, I’m open minded, and I’m fiscally conservative. I am terribly concerned about the upcoming effects to our budget. I am also concerned about the effects that school closures have had on the academic and social growth of our children. I strive to pay close attention to State-wide directives that might be appropriate for Clark County and Washoe County but seem to be out of touch with the rural communities.

In addition to being a teacher, parent, and active citizen I am the only candidate with 30 years private sector working experience, currently teaching in a classroom, and have children attending Churchill County School District. I am seeking re-election because prior to the pandemic, the school board had begun an in-depth look at education in Churchill County and pinpointing the areas in which our students would benefit most.

My decision to seek re-election was not taken lightly. I chose to possibly continue my commute and serve with passion and dignity to continue this work in Churchill County. It is no secret that Nevada falls behind in education, but that doesn’t have to be the reality for Churchill County.

The state is in the middle of changing the funding formula for Nevada’s schools. Will this change be more beneficial for Churchill County Schools or should the state have more give and take when dealing with individual school districts?

This is a needed change considering the previous formula has been in use since 1967 (the oldest school funding formula in the nation). The revision has been in the works for over 5 years and it is difficult to overhaul something so massive. The new changes streamline the formulations, and address the need for more equitable funding when it comes to educating students with more complex needs like English Language Learners and At-Risk students.

Although the new funding formula addresses more equitable funding, it in no way addresses adequate funding! Churchill County fiscal staff has participated in the process since its inception. It appears that little will change as far as the total amount of funding for our district. That being said, over 50% of Nevada’s educational funding comes from hospitality and gaming taxes.

When a state like Nevada is shut down, it can be crippling to a district budget. I am extremely concerned about the upcoming budget process. I am confident that my 20+ years in accounting, 4+ years in school budget and audit, and Public Finance training coupled with my commitment to doing what is best for students and our community, we will pull through what is sure to be difficult financial times.

The school district has outsourced food services. Would you be in favor or not in favor if the school board wanted to extend outsourcing for janitorial services and transportation?

This is a hazardous question for an acting school board trustee, simply because there is no way to properly address it without it sounding like avoidance. First let me be perfectly clear that I recognize when questions such as these are asked, what we are really talking about are Churchill County School District employees and citizens. We are talking about people’s lives! I value the District’s employees and the services they provide our children.

I witness, daily, the invaluable work our Classified employees perform and the heavy responsibility they are charged with. At the exact same time, this topic has never been brought to the Board. I have not been given any information about any such action, and it would be premature and irresponsible to discuss issues that involve contracted employees, whom we collectively bargain with and an issue that could potentially be agendized for public meeting.

If and when the coronavirus pandemic has disappeared, should the school district retain both online and in-person instruction?

When the Coronavirus is no longer a factor in education the school district should retain both online and in-person instruction because the school district has always had both online and in-person instruction.

I will elaborate and say that I do not believe online instruction is for everyone. I would support an application process where educators would determine if online learning would be beneficial to the student and an agreement with caregivers so that they understand the necessary partnership when it comes to accountability for the learner. I have witnessed successful online learning and I have witnessed online failures for students.

We live in the Information Age. To entertain the idea that a school district should abandon online learning is out of touch with reality. As a mother and teacher, I would not make that educational choice for my child simply because my children benefitted tremendously from the social growth that happens at a school. Both my sons have learned so much from numerous people at school that actually had little to do with curriculum.

Children need to learn how to navigate diverse personalities, different ages, different expectations, diverse beliefs, etc. I believe school is a safe place to learn such things.

Would you favor the continuation of the partnership between the school district and Western Nevada College by expanding more programs for high-school level classes?

I am glad this question was asked because the answer is not simple. I would favor the continuation of the partnership between the school district and Western Nevada College because it offers an amazing opportunity for students who are ready to obtain college credit at the same time they are earning high school credit. This makes sense from a financial standpoint because it is cheaper for families looking at college expenses and it can provide a better learning opportunity when both the district and the college are supporting the costs.

Furthermore, school districts have been directed to adhere to the College and Career Ready (CCR) Diploma requirements, this is a directive from the state of Nevada, the dual credit partnerships help meet the CCR endorsement. At the same time, I do not believe every high school student is ready to take a class that meets the expectation of college rigor. High school and college are very separate in my mind.

Personally, I have been in college classrooms where students who are not ready, do nothing but struggle. As a board member, I am not of the mind to transform high school beyond recognition, nor am I satisfied with our graduation rate or our current student achievement numbers.

School districts across the state have experienced problems in hiring staff and then keeping them in the rural setting. As a trustee, what would you do to help Human Resources attract more educators and keep them in Churchill County?

There are times when teacher shortage is so severe that districts are faced with some pretty bleak solutions. However, Churchill County has done an excellent job in more recent years when it comes to teacher recruitment and retention. With the exception of this past year, when the pandemic put numerous restraints on recruitment, Churchill County has implemented plans for attending teacher work fairs, where district employees do a great job conveying the strengths of our district.

The district has also focused on well-placed and well-timed advertising and signing bonuses. Churchill County also offers some excellent benefits that are extremely competitive, if not superior, to other districts. And make no mistake, Fallon is a beautiful place to live and raise a family. Although we do have some positions filled with retired teachers, currently there is only one unfilled teaching position.

What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of our current school system?

Every school district is faced with weaknesses. Without question, I would say the funding of education has to be our biggest weakness. Currently, Nevada falls near the very bottom of educational funding. This reality forces the district to seek multiple grant dollars which aren’t reliable funding sources from year to year. Education does take adequate funding and Nevada simply isn’t there, yet.

The biggest strength of Churchill County School District is the community. Just looking at the patience and flexibility that has been extended during this pandemic is astounding. When push comes to shove, the community of Fallon steps up to support its youth. I have been to numerous meetings where other districts comment on the support they see on social media for our students. Many outside the area often comment on the talent that seems to be condensed in our community – and they’re right! I believe that our young people are surrounded by local support that reaches far beyond the doors of school and that is our districts greatest strength.

 What is the one biggest change, issue, improvement you would like to see occur or would you advocate for during your term on the school board?

The biggest change I would advocate for is the strengthening of relationship between the unions and the district. I believe the nation has begun to see the renewed importance of school employees, which will result in higher levels of mutual respect. I believe we can improve the culture of respect throughout the district, as well.

I have begun to see small improvements in recent times, perhaps due to the pandemic, but we have much farther to go. All levels (unions, central office, every department, every employee) claim to prioritize students. Yet no matter what the issue is, it seems that the district and the unions are somehow at odds. I truly want to diminish the “us against them” mentality and start to come together for the greatest good of students.

I believe a focus on positive culture throughout the district would ultimately result in a higher level of trust. And a higher level of trust and respect will begin to dissolve the “us against them” mentality. Trust and respect take time and effort, it is an endeavor well worth the investment.

What is your opinion about communication between the board and the staff, visiting schools, and how much opportunity would you have to spend observing and talking to staff at school sites?

Communication: I pride myself on always being willing to listen, which is evidenced by the numerous conversations I have had with all levels of staff and public.

I have never had a person tell me they had a hard time getting in touch with me. That being said, the board cannot be the first place people go to address concerns. It is critical that the public allow principals and the superintendent the opportunity to rectify any problem, and employees allow their supervisors an opportunity to understand the issues and make adjustments that work for everyone involved. Visiting schools is also important.

Due to the pandemic, proximity has been a concern, causing board members to be extra cautious. During this time I have reached out through email and phone. When the restrictions are loosened I will attend planned events and schedule times to be in schools, just like I have always done. The public may not be aware, but board members are assigned schools on a rotating schedule.

My time on the board has taught me that personal relationships result in more honest conversations than an observation of a good moment in a classroom or a bad moment in a classroom.

How would you proceed if your opinion is different from the rest of the board – would you be willing to stand your ground, build a coalition, or go with the flow?

This is an interesting question but the bottom line is – it depends on the issue. I have absolutely had an opinion that differed from the majority and I have voted differently.

I have also gone into a meeting thinking one way, and then once information was presented and discussion had taken place, I thought a different way. I have also moved to table decisions that I believe the public needs more time to respond to or that board members need more information about. I suppose that is the entire purpose of public meetings and robust discussions. I also believe there are appropriate times to unite as a board. Boards cannot make decisions unilaterally, there must be a majority. Once a decision is made by the majority, even if I am not part of that majority, I am obligated to back that decision.

 What would your support level be for maintaining or improving the Career and Technical Education programs at the high school and middle school?

My support level for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at the high school and middle school are extremely high. Maintaining and strengthening the program at the high school is always a focus. The district has been working to develop more work-based learning opportunities to sync with programs students take to ensure they are more life ready.

Currently, students can take CTE courses that lead to OSHA 10 certification, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).

Growing the program at the middle school is certainly another priority for me. I am completely behind middle school students developing technical skills and gaining an understanding of career opportunities. Establishing and growing a CTE program at the middle school will only serve to strengthen the CTE program at the high school. The district has been working closely with the state to meet the current needs of industry and business in Nevada.

I am in contact with multiple stakeholders that have a strong understanding of CTE, the critical need the program meets, and creative ways the program can thrive. The district relies on the state and federal allocated dollars, but has also sought to secure competitive grant dollars that have totaled over $120,000.

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LEE TISDALE

Please give a background of yourself and why you are running for school board.

Friends called me Lucky Lee an students called me Mr. T.

The first 10 years of my adult life, I served six years in the Army National Guard, taught math at Stephen, Minn., owned and operated Lee’s Clothing in the new Argyle, Minn., mall and raised and broke horses on the edge of town. I was one busy guy.

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1976 — I sold my store at a nice profit and invested in a 400-acre farm on the shores of the Lake of the Woods. My registered polled Hereford herd gained lots of state and national recognition. I raised foundation seed wheat for the University of Minnesota. I was president of Bethany Lutheran Church and served over 20 years on the Lake of the Woods county fair board and seven years on North Star Electric Cooperative. Both the fair and electric co-op were in financial trouble when I got on the board. With my idea of putting up all new steel buildings and renting them out in the winter for boat storage and the co-op to get a Direct TV franchise, both the fair and co-op are in great financial shape and profitable.

1980 — I was named outstanding young farmer for the state of Minnesota and in 1995, my wife and I were named Farmer and Homemaker for the state of Minnesota.

All my years in Minnesota I did free math tutoring in the winter.

1999 — I left my profitable, beautiful farm, cattle and lifelong friends behind and came to Nevada to be closer to my son and daughter and six grandchildren.

2002 — I was encouraged to teach again at age 56. I took the challenge and retired after 14 years teaching math in Churchill County School District. These were 14 of the best years of my life. I love this community, its churches, its value, wonderful families and your wonderful children. One day I was explaining to a class some of my wise financial decisions. A hand went up and the student said you must be really rich. I responded, “Yes, I am, but not in money because I am quick to help family or anyone in need. I am rich in family and friends like you.”

I have a lot of experience in business and education, but I think my biggest assets are my math skills, my dedication to preparation and planning, and I try very hard to be a good listener both in the classroom and public.

I have been blessed and I want to show my gratitude as a school board trustee. I love the Greenwave. I bleed green. I believe I could have a positive influence on this school district.

The state is in the middle of changing the funding formula for Nevada’s schools. Will this change be more beneficial for Churchill County Schools or should the state have more give and take when dealing with individual school districts?

I am very concerned school districts and states are going to face serious financial problems due to the pandemic. At this time, I need to learn more about this. I feel it is going to take team work with local officials and state officials in the coming months. There is not enough information now to be able to comment on.

The school district has outsourced food services. Would you be in favor or not in favor if the school board wanted to extend outsourcing for janitorial services and transportation?

I always would first consider the effect on students and employees. I would have to research this carefully to see how it might affect out local economy and employees. I would put our local people first.

If and when the coronavirus pandemic has disappeared, should the school district retain both online and in-person instruction?

I would like to see mostly in-person learning. You can be an intellectual giant, but if you have no social skills you will probably fail in life. Character is so important.

Would you favor the continuation of the partnership between the school district and Western Nevada College by expanding more programs for high-school level classes?

I believe we have great facilities that should be utilized. Any partnership with Western Nevada College should be a great benefit to our students and not affect our enrollment.

School districts across the state have experienced problems in hiring staff and then keeping them in the rural setting. As a trustee, what would you do to help Human Resources attract more educators and keep them in Churchill County?

I did not think that was a problem in Fallon, but I would be open to all ideas.

What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of our current school system?

I think we have great facilities, many great dedicated personnel at all level, great community support and good support of the press. Our greatest weakness is learning to compete in harmony with competition from charter schools and colleges.

What is the one biggest change, issue, improvement you would like to see occur or would you advocate for during your term on the school board?

I would like to see education at the high school level to be more relevant to the work force. I would like to see competition make us better at what we do. Competition should make us all perform better. We have many positive things happening in the district outside of sports. I would like to see a weekly report to the newspaper reporting positives in our schools. It might be a dedicated bus driver, a dedicated janitor, a dedicated teacher who will never be recognized our student achievement. The negatives are easy to see. Let’s dwell on positives. This is how you compete.

What is your opinion about communication between the board and the staff, visiting schools, and how much opportunity would you have to spend observing and talking to staff at school sites?

I am already working on setting a schedule for a monthly contact with each group of employees and observing each school and facilities.

How would you proceed if your opinion is different from the rest of the board – would you be willing to stand your ground, build a coalition, or go with the flow?

I believe in being well informed. I am more than one vote. I believe I can influence others. I always stand my ground unless you can show me I’m wrong. I believe in representing the voters’ view.

What would your support level be for maintaining or improving the Career and Technical Education programs at the high school and middle school?

I am a big believer in career and technical training. College is not for everyone.

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KATHRYN WHITAKER

Please give a background of yourself and why you are running for school board.

I was raised in a family where community service was considered an honor and a duty. My grandparents and parents lived their lives offering service because they wanted to contribute to the success of their communities and its members. Their heritage of service has been my guiding force as I have volunteered in my children’s schools and served on the Churchill County School Board. 

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I was raised on ranches in Utah and Idaho where hard work was expected as was serving others. Beyond community service, education was also a priority in my family. I succeeded as a student and eventually earned my degree from Brigham Young University shortly before marrying my husband, who is a Fallon native. Upon completion of his degree, my husband and I returned to his beloved hometown where we have raised our two children in a place that I am proud to call home.

This year, my youngest was the last of the third generation of our family to graduate from Churchill County High School.

Professionally, I have worked as a freelance copywriter and as a part-time English instructor at Western Nevada College for 20 years. My time at WNC gave me the opportunity to meet many wonderful people where I witnessed the transformation of timid, unsure students who began to recognize their abilities to write and succeed. As these students grew in confidence, their worlds opened up to the possibilities that could be theirs as they made the effort and did the hard work.

My original decision to run for school board five years ago was a culmination of my desire to serve my community. I also wanted to support a system that could help all students recognize their potential and the possibilities available to them to succeed. I recognized there was a need for better governance and a clearer plan to move forward.

My service began near the end of the Great Recession and the creation of a charter school. These two events negatively affected the school district long after the economy began to recover. Hard decisions had to be made in order to keep the district financially solvent. Those decisions eventually lead to a stronger budget which has allowed the district, under the direction of the school board, to develop a strategic plan and new budget model that focuses on student achievement. 

I feel a responsibility to continue supporting the vital work that the school board has begun. My experience as a board member who helped lay the groundwork for the strategic plan and new budget policy would serve the community well as the district continues to pursue and meet its goals. My experience is especially important considering the current pandemic’s negative effects on school schedules and budgets.

The state is in the middle of changing the funding formula for Nevada’s schools. Will this change be more beneficial for Churchill County Schools or should the state have more give and take when dealing with individual school districts?

 Right now, the Committee on School Funding that is reviewing the new funding formula (SB543) indicates that Churchill County School District will have neither a loss or a gain in funding. The district continues to closely monitor the efforts of the Committee on School Funding so it will be prepared for the final outcome. The formula seeks to provide more funds for students with greater needs in every district, and the hope is that in the end, the new formula will help students in Churchill County.

 However, maintenance of effort costs and transportation needs for rural districts look very different than what they look like for urban districts and must be addressed. In the end, the larger and ongoing concern is not how the pie is divided but rather how small the pie is. Nevada does not effectively fund education, and Churchill County School District constantly grapples with effectively funding what really is needed to reach optimum student achievement.

The school district has outsourced food services. Would you be in favor or not in favor if the school board wanted to extend outsourcing for janitorial services and transportation?

 A school district’s focus must be student achievement. Outsourcing services so the district can focus on providing more resources and time toward student success should be considered. Some considerations that should be made when reviewing outsourcing possibilities include employee transferability, resource savings, sustainability, and reliability. 

If and when the coronavirus pandemic has disappeared, should the school district retain both online and in-person instruction?

 The Churchill County School District Strategic Plan Objective 3 references multiple pathways to learning for students. Online instruction grades 6-12 has been an option for several years. Continued online instruction at the K-5 grade levels should be considered if positive student outcomes can be achieved.

Would you favor the continuation of the partnership between the school district and Western Nevada College by expanding more programs for high-school level classes?

 The school district should continue their partnership with Western Nevada College and explore any options with WNC that benefit students. The district hopes to provide multiple pathways for students to learn in the ways that are most effective for each one, and thus far, the partnership with WNC has been positive and beneficial to students.

School districts across the state have experienced problems in hiring staff and then keeping them in the rural setting. As a trustee, what would you do to help Human Resources attract more educators and keep them in Churchill County?

 The board has approved hiring bonuses for the past several years that has helped CCSD hire staff. Most of the staff hired with these incentives have stayed in the district. Attending career fairs, especially those that target specialized teaching areas (namely career and technical education and performing arts) is crucial. The district must also develop good working relationships with several colleges and universities that have quality education programs. 

What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of our current school system?

 The greatest strength of the school system is its educators — from administrators to teachers to support staff, student achievement never happens without them. Public educators diligently carry on the work that needs to be done with little recognition, vocally and monetarily, for the work that is expected of them by their communities.

 Unfortunately, school systems are expected to do more with less every year. The frayed structure of the solid family unit has placed more responsibilities on educators to care for their students beyond just their academic needs. As federal and state mandates, especially unfunded ones, continue to place more burdens on the school system, it is difficult for a school system to be all things to all people while maintaining a quality and equitable education for its students.

What is the one biggest change, issue, improvement you would like to see occur or would you advocate for during your term on the school board?

 I expect to see continued diligence and progress in meeting the goals of the Strategic Plan, including providing multiple learning pathways, effective curriculum continuums, improved student engagement and attendance and improved communication for all stakeholders. This progress should lead to progress in student achievement. I also expect to see a budget process that makes decisions based on improved student growth.

What is your opinion about communication between the board and the staff, visiting schools, and how much opportunity would you have to spend observing and talking to staff at school sites?

 Improved communication is Goal 3 of the district’s strategic plan. I recognize there are challenges and the district is working on improved communication. One component of good communication is to use the chain of command when there are concerns. As a board member, however, my goal has been to visit every school during the school year in order to witness the challenges and successes of every school.

 Some of my visits have been to performances, activities and events. Many of my visits have been to observe teachers in their classrooms. I have also attended professional development days and participated in tours of schools with community leaders.

How would you proceed if your opinion is different from the rest of the board – would you be willing to stand your ground, build a coalition, or go with the flow?

 I have no qualms sharing my opinion at board meetings. Open meeting law, however, prevents board members from talking to more than two board members outside of a scheduled meeting. If I were to talk to two board members about an issue, those board members, by law, cannot speak to any other board members about the same issue until the public meeting.

 Therefore, a coalition of no more than three board members can be formed. In the past, following Nevada’s open meeting laws, I have spoken to the limited number of board members to whom I can speak if it is an issue that is important to me and I feel needs to be discussed before the meeting. Good governance dictates that if my vote is in the minority, once the issue has been voted on, I support the majority vote of the board.

What would your support level be for maintaining or improving the Career and Technical Education programs at the high school and middle school?

 Though my college degree is in English, my high school experience was enriched and worthwhile because of my four years in FFA. I learned invaluable skills through my active participation in the program. I developed skills that are difficult to learn in just a classroom setting, so my affinity for good career and technical education programs runs deep. 

The district’s strategic plan emphasizes the need for multiple pathways of learning in order to reach all students and help them achieve. These multiple pathways must include career and technical education. Nevada’s economy and particularly our local economy relies on many employees who are trained in career-ready and technical jobs.

Last year Churchill County School District completed the Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment that identified what employers in the area needed and what jobs did not have enough qualified employees. This assessment will direct the district in providing necessary programs and curriculum in CTE that will benefit not only students but the community as well.