School board designates teacher openings as ‘critical’ |

School board designates teacher openings as ‘critical’

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus
Churchill County School District Superintendent Dr. Summer Stephens, right, gives trustees the district’s position on a grievance filed over job duties.
Steve Ranson / LVN

Trustees approved at their first meeting of August to designate current teaching openings as critical positions, meaning the Churchill County School District can hire retirees who wouldn’t have their retirement affected by taking full-time employment.

In a letter to the school board, Kevin Lords, director of Human Resources, said there aren’t enough applicants to fill the district’s open positions. The board, though, approved the hiring of individuals — not retirees — for critical-need positions including high-school English and auto mechanics. Trustees also filled positions for four elementary-school slots, a social studies teacher and school psychologist. At the last meeting, the district still had eight openings including music. Tom Fleming, who retired this summer, has agreed to fill the position for the upcoming year.

Lords added the Nevada Public Employees Retirement System has established criteria that the school district must meet before it can hire a retiree.

In case the school district cannot fill a critical-needs position with a retired educator, Lords said the district has a plan to use long-term substitute teachers for any opening teaching position. He also said the district cannot find a person to apply for one of the high-school counselor openings.

“We have advertised our positions on our website and through various other online websites including,, Handshake, TopSchoolJobs, the Nevada Department of Education and other Nevada school districts,” he wrote.

Lords said the district has contacted and interviewed all prospective candidates.

“It is unfortunate that the majority of Nevada school districts are experiencing a teacher shortage,” he pointed out in his letter. “The Nevada Department of Education has received a designated teacher shortage declaration from the U.S. Department of Education.”

Lords said several teachers who had agreed to teach for Churchill County decided to withdraw their applications and instead accepted positions closer to Reno.

Several reasons exist for a shortage of applicants. With Nevada’s latest boom in population, schools in both Washoe and Clark counties have exploded in enrollment, and university teacher programs are graduating upward to 25 percent fewer educators than a decade ago.

In an interview with the LVN last October, Lords said the school district is always seeking more individuals who may want to teach in the classroom, drive a school bus or work in the cafeteria. He said the lack of substitute teachers and instructional aides, bus drivers and custodians is also occurring in other counties.

Although the school district has fewer than 90 substitute teachers, Lords said not all of them want to teach all grades from kindergarten to high school seniors.

The school board also took action on the following agenda items:

Trustees unanimously denied a grievance brought by the Nevada’s Classified School Employees Association regarding rotating assignments for maintenance technicians to rotate and clean the Maintenance Department’s bathroom every eight weeks.

Mike Osborn, the American Federation of Teachers Local 6181 national representative said in a letter to the district the cleaning of restrooms was not in the maintenance technicians’ job description but within the scope of a custodian’s duties.

Attorney Mike Lanford, who appeared before the board, said the requirement to clean the restroom was a violation of the contract.

Rafe Brown, a maintenance employee, submitted a letter to trustees stating he did not share the same view.

“I have zero issues with having to clean our two bathrooms that we all use every day,” he said.

Brown said it’s “absolutely ridiculous” that “some people have a problem with being asked to clean once every other month.”

Visibly angry trustee Matt Hyde minced no words in addressing the grievance.

“I strongly believe this is a related duty to maintenance,” he said. “I am embarrassed we’re here right now … sound frivolous to say the least.”

Trustees Tricia Strasdin and Amber Getto followed Hyde and both agreed with their fellow board member and denied the grievance.

Although she said cleaning a bathroom is not a duty in the contract, trustee Carmen Schank said in view of recent district budget cuts to personnel and programs, the district must be flexible.

“I think the added duty is appropriate,” Schank said, as she denied the grievance.

Approved to hire a labor law attorney to represent the school district in negotiations, mediation and interest arbitrations with the Nevada Classified School Employees Association, which has declared an impasse in negotiations.