Lyon County school leader’s passion for education may yield top state post
After a career in business and real estate, Caroline McIntosh was in her 40s when she turned her focus toward education.
“It’s a passion for me,” McIntosh said. “I think working with the students and education is the most noble profession one can be in. You really make a difference.”
Now, McIntosh, 58, superintendent of the Lyon County School District, is one of three finalists for the job of Nevada state superintendent of education.
The finalists were narrowed last week from a pool of five by the Nevada State Board of Education and will interview with Gov. Brian Sandoval, who will make the final determination. She is competing against Rene Cantu Jr. and James Guthrie.
Cantu is the executive director of the Latin Chamber of Commerce Community Foundation in Las Vegas and former vice president of multicultural affairs at Nevada State College. Guthrie is a senior fellow and director of education policy studies at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas and a former member of the board of directors of the Berkeley Unified School District in California.
McIntosh meets with Sandoval on Monday for her interview.
“This is an amazing honor to be included as a finalist for the state superintendent position,” McIntosh said. “It is also a wonderful validation of the innovative work being done by all staff members in Lyon County School District.”
The governor will likely make his choice later this month before state Superintendent Keith Rheault retires in April.
McIntosh became a special-education aide in Ely in 1992 and went on to become a teacher, vice principal and principal before working as assistant superintendent of the White Pine County School District from 2004-2008.
She left her hometown with her husband, Mike, a corrections officer at Warm Springs Correctional Center, four years ago to take over as Lyon County’s superintendent.
“It was a great opportunity,” she said. “We love it here. Dayton is wonderful and Lyon County has really been great.”
She took over just as Lyon County was shifting from one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties to one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn.
“It just dropped like a rock,” she said, pointing out that Silver Springs has lost 26 percent of its enrollment in that time.
To compensate, she said, the school district has strengthened its community partnerships, relying on organizations such as the Healthy Community Coalition, Boys & Girls Club and Western Nevada College for outside services.
In return, schools are opened up as food distribution centers and as satellite locations for distance learning. Pre-kindergarten programs have been put in place at many elementary schools, filling the early-childhood education gap.
The district secured a Broadband Technology Opportunity Program grant, establishing six community computing centers throughout the county.
“It becomes a community center and a job center,” she said. “We can’t do it alone, but together we have made wonderful things happen.”
She hopes to take the same community spirit – focusing on education from early childhood through higher education and into the workforce – to the state level.
And she says she’s prepared for her meeting with the governor.
“I have a specific list of things we need to start on,” she said. “We need to improve our graduation rates. That’s job No. 1.”
She said the state needs to have unified goals with a consistent way of measuring them.
“We all say that students need to be college and career ready by the time they graduate,” she said. “But what does that mean?”
She knows there are some unique challenges in Nevada – with disparate districts like Eureka, which has about 350 students, and Clark, which has close to 310,000.
“We owe educational equity to all of our kids no matter where they are,” she said.
If she’s not selected, she said, she will be content to remain in her current position.
“It’s an exciting time in Lyon County,” she said. “We are just at the tipping point, destined for greatness.”