School board candidates grilled on safety in the schools, Common Core, bullying
Five candidates seeking four Churchill County School District School Board seats discussed their plans for the future at Wednesday’s LVN Candidates Night at the Fallon Convention Center.
Matt Hyde is vying for a four-year seat held by incumbents Rich Gent, Clay Hendrix, Nona McFarlane and Carmen Schank.
Common Core concerned each candidate as opposition for the standards continue to receive backlash locally and nationally. Resident Jim Falk attends every school board meeting and informs the trustees about the growing opposition from parents and teachers on Common Core and wanted to know where the candidates stood.
Gent said the federal government established Common Core to unite everyone to the same standards.
“Our hands are tied on Common Core, but we as a school board can look at the curriculum … we do have some control there,” he said. “I rely heavily on our staff; we have master degrees, doctorate degrees in education, so I rely heavily on those individuals as to what may be good to education to move through.”
Hendrix, who is running for his second term, said there are two things needed to give students a quality education, a student who wants to learn and a teacher who wants to teach.
“Our job is to facilitate those two individuals,” he said. “If we don’t have a teacher who wants to teach, it’s hard to teach a kid who wants to learn. And if we have a kid that does not want to learn, it’s hard to have a teacher that wants to teach, teach that kid. I’m for educating students and making better teachers and better students.”
Hyde, who is running for school board for the first time, said he has done his research on Common Core.
“I find some things scary with Common Core and there are some things that I’m not sure about,” he said. “The one thing that scares me is re-teaching the math that has been taught for years. I know at the charter school they have been working with Common Core quite a bit and they have embraced it and they’re doing well with it.”
McFarlane, who was employed with CCSD for 15 years, said funding could be cut if the district opposes Common Core.
“I have a letter from State School Board Superintendent Dale Erquiaga, and whether we like it or not, there are laws that get passed that we don’t even know about and one of them is about finance,” McFarlane said. “Even if the district opposes Common Core, the students will still have to take the required test to graduate high school and funding for the schools could get cut off.”
Schank has studied Common Core to help with her decision.
“I’m for parts of it, but there are parts that I’m not for,” the Fallon native said. “I’m for standards and I’m for rigger. I have a problem with intrusion and overreach and federalization of education. I believe that down the road we will lose local control. We have to teach to the test and if we don’t teach to the test you won’t get funding and it will be controlled by the conglomeration of the federal funding.”
One of the most heavily funded ballot measures in state history is the Education Initiative Tax, which, if passed would assess an additional 2 percent on business profits that are $1 million or more.
The candidates unanimously agreed they are not for the tax since there is no guarantee the money will go toward education.
Another question focused on teachers carrying guns in schools. All the candidates echoed support for gun rights but strongly believe that teachers should not be allowed to carry weapons in schools.
Allowing service dogs in the schools was addressed at the last school board meeting when a committee was updating policies. The current trustees agreed service dogs should be allowed in schools, but proper research needs to be conducted before they allow them. All candidates agreed allowing service dogs in schools is a great way to help the students with disabilities.
Community and parent volunteers are needed in the schools, said one audience member. The candidates then addressed how they believe motivation could be helpful to obtain more volunteers with all agreeing that advertising, word of mouth and having a stronger parent involvement are important.
Hyde had a unique perspective since he has children enrolled both in the school district and the charter school.
“We need to ask for the help,” Hyde said. “I went to back to school night at the charter school and let me tell you about the high level of energy the teachers put off. It’s contagious; the service there is contagious. I think we can model that and improve the morale of the teachers. And we need a strong Parent Teacher Association at every school.”
Bullying is an underlying problem around the nation, and it is present at schools in Churchill County, although not many people know about the Olweus Bullying Prevention program already implemented in the district.
Schank said Olweus addresses the bullying situation.
“The principals just made up a new matrix on consequences and following through with behavior. We are working on the issue,” Schank said. “I do believe that you teach principals and let people govern themselves and I think a part we’re lacking in schools is, even when kids get older they need to get taught character traits.”
Gent said the school district is very active in addressing bullying and every school has an active bullying program, and teachers are being trained how to handle bullying. He said one of the challenges is controlling what the students are doing outside of school.
“When they go home, they have social media and other avenues,” Gent said. “That goes back to community involvement and asking the community to help and look for that. We need help from the community to deal with the bullying problem.”
Hyde said he was shocked that there isn’t a stronger stance on bullying.
“It’s cut and dry, do an investigation and if it happened there should be a zero tolerance for it,” he said. “We can’t put up with that in our schools, the school should be a safe place for students to go and learn.”