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School board discusses technology, economy

Aly Lawson
alawson@lahontanvalleynews.com
Numa Elementary fifth-graders Brody Allyn, left, and Abigail Kammerer led the Churchill County School District Board of Trustees in the Pledge of Allegiance Thursday night, also giving prepared comments about the “Character Counts Bi-Monthly Word: Trustworthiness.”
ALY LAWSON / LVN |

The Churchill County School District Board of Trustees met Thursday to discuss continuing Google Chromebooks training, how the Board can aid Fallon organizations and to see Infinite Campus’ portals demonstrated.

Amy Word, principal of Churchill County Middle School, and Nate Waite, district technology integration coach, said it was like Christmas on Chromebook rollout day and with the presentation of the next steps.

“I was stunned at what the kids are doing already,” Waite said.

Waite will host “Tech Tuesdays” every Tuesday after school, offering coaching for families and free popcorn. He said teachers are grasping Chromebook instruction and reaching out when needed or if they have an idea. He also aims to always paint the bigger picture of technology and learning as well as promoting staff to help each other.

“Now that the students have the Chromebooks, we kind of refocus and are making sure we’re going in the right directions,” Waite said, adding they want to give teachers the right skills and methods to get the most out of the devices. “We want to make sure we support the teachers; we don’t want them to feel lost or anything.”

Waite and Word presented how it has been proven that for every 49 hours of professional development, teachers’ instruction is about 20 percent more effective. The Chromebooks grant recommends 45-60 hours, and the school is getting close to that goal.

Word said professional development days will continue to focus on technology-related concepts and trainers, and it’s not a “mission-accomplished” project but a continual effort to benefit students.

Dr. Sandra Sheldon, superintendent of schools, said the high school teachers are currently going through their Chromebooks training.

The Board heard from community representatives from the Churchill Economic Development Authority (CEDA), including the Fallon Convention & Tourism Authority, and Naval Air Station Fallon.

“How can we help you guys do a better job?” posed trustee Richard Gent.

Rachel Dahl, executive director of CEDA, talked about target industries and large institutions in Fallon as well as rail expansion, building a small technology hub and continuing to boost business. Jane Moon, executive director at the Fallon Convention & Tourism Authority, said each of her departments has an internship.

Zip Upham, public affairs officer at NAS Fallon, said the base isn’t getting smaller and definitely isn’t going away. Their workforce is growing over the next several years to include more housing, aircraft operations and a reserve training center being relocated from north of Reno.

He also said many people receive orders to Fallon, Google state education and become worried. Reaching people before they arrive is a huge challenge, he said, and it’s needed to put out information that Churchill County competes against national averages.

Phyllys Dowd, district director of Business Services, followed with a budget update.

“Our budget balance is growing, and we’re in a nice position,” she said.

Lisa Bliss, district data and assessment coordinator, took the Board on a virtual tour of Infinite Campus’ various portals for parents, students and teachers. Aspects covered included multi-student calendars for parents, attendance and missing assignments, graduation progress and emergency contacts, a multi-fee payment portal, gradebooks, messaging, alerts and the app version.

“It was a big project, and there were days we didn’t know how it was going to go,” Bliss said. “But in the end, we’re running.” She added that the app is very user-friendly.

Derild Parsons, district director of Special Services, reported on recent changes to the program, from adjusting playgrounds and new staff to how their case load is in good shape with 14.7 students per case manager.

The Board approved to hire a parent community engagement coordinator to assist with public relations, social media and community outreach.

The next meeting will be Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. in The Old High School.