The Churchill County School District Board of Trustees met Thursday to discuss the severe teacher shortage, technology updates and impressive field trips.
Dr. Sandra Sheldon, superintendent of schools, and Phyllys Dowd, director of Business Services, discussed a lack of teachers, a state and nationwide issue. Churchill’s sister districts offering higher hiring bonuses isn’t helping.
The district has been working on recruiting trips, educator job websites and offering retired employees a return without damaging their retirements but increasing them. Sheldon said the district will still have high standards, but former teachers will have a less extensive application process.
Sheldon said she talked to a mother at a bus stop who taught first grade for five years, and Sheldon told her the district really needs her to come in. Last school year saw 18 retirements and resignations, and some long-term teaching positions are now being fulfilled by substitutes.
Japanese and biology teacher Karl Marsh and several students talked about their summer trip to Asia including a day in Shanghai, China, and 13 days in Japan including Hiroshima and several homestays that involved attending a Japanese school for four days.
The group rode the Shanghai Maglev Train, the fastest commercial train with a top speed of 270 mph and were also featured in a Japanese newspaper article including a photo of them working with Japanese students.
This was the sixth trip like this for the Japanese Club. It’s made possible using more affordable homestays and school activities as well as through the students fundraising and savings.
“We made a bunch of lifelong friendships, even if we’ll be a thousand miles apart,” said senior Kristen Marsh.
Karl Marsh said he talked to his students about how the Japanese students are just kids like them, and they all agreed.
“If I were to describe the Japanese in one word, it would be ‘kind,’” said sophomore Jay Horning.
He also said he was surprised how the Japanese make extremely narrow, one-lane roads work. It’s magic, he said.
“Given the option again, I would definitely take it in a second,” he added.
Math teacher Aaron Holt recently took his geometry class to the Animal Ark in Reno. The cross-curricular field trip provided a richer learning environment and involved a photo scavenger hunt, videography and volunteer work.
“I’d never been on a math field trip,” said junior Jade Bauman. “We calculated enclosures, determined prices and materials, where we could build the enclosure, what would be better and more effective.”
Junior Kris Trott said he was able to actually see what animals do in their real habitats such as watching a cheetah run up to 75 mph.
“I knew we’d be seeing a cheetah, and let’s be honest, that’s awesome,” said Trott.
Kimi Melendy, director of Educational Services, gave an update on distance learning, which is being called the Churchill Virtual program and lets students take classes online, fitting more classes into their schedules or retaking a class. So far, no students are using it to graduate early. There are 249 students in grades one through 12 enrolled. Melendy is continuing to research the most engaging programs.
Educational Services’ Patty Fleming, who specializes in Nevada’s Northwest Regional Professional Development Program, shared how she shows teachers the free, secure Google Classroom app, which aids communication, grading and more.
Although there had been some wary public and trustee comments, the board passed unanimously to proceed with a community perception survey through the Center for Educational Excellence for $5,000. The questions, though customizable, have been highly vetted over years and proved useful in Sheldon’s last district, informing on where to focus time and improving the culture.
The aim is to start with parent surveys at upcoming conferences or parent nights and consider community and Naval Air Station Fallon engagement as well as offer the survey in print and electronically.
Sheldon emphasized the district’s new Facebook page for the latest updates at http://www.Facebook.com/ChurchillCSD.
The next meeting will be Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Old High School.