School board candidates back vocational ed | NevadaAppeal.com

School board candidates back vocational ed

Five of six candidates for contested Carson City School District board seats turned out Monday night for a debate sponsored by the nonpartisan group Youth Voice.

District 3 candidates Joe Enge and James Hukari, and District 6 candidates Jeff Fontaine and Barbara Howe jointed District 4 candidate Ann Bednarski in the debate aimed at issues important to younger voters.

But in sharp contrast to the Youth Voice gubernatorial debate which drew 600 to the University of Nevada, Reno last week, the high schoolers for whom they sponsored Monday’s debate didn’t show up.

Organization CEO Ryan Costella said they didn’t find out until this weekend that Carson High had scheduled homecoming events, including the bonfire and a lip-synching contest for Monday night. There were only about 20 in the audience – mostly old enough to have high school-age children.

The only candidate absent was incumbent board member Bob Crowell, who was reported to be recovering from surgery.

The candidates generally agreed Carson City should put more emphasis on vocational education programs for students seeking another route to success than college.

Bednarski, Hukari and Fontaine all called for more vocational programs, collaboration with business to get the job done, and even the possibility of a regional school in cooperation with Douglas, Storey and Lyon counties.

The debate was civil and even friendly for most of the event, with the exception of Hukari’s challenge of Enge’s decision to run. He said when Enge taught at Carson High, he had a history of being “continually insubordinate to all your superiors” and showing “absolute contempt for your colleagues.” He questioned how Enge could work with school administrators and teachers if elected.

Enge said those claims were “greatly exaggerated, to say the least.” He said after the meeting there is nothing in his file about insubordination, and that Hukari’s remarks may have violated his separation agreement with the school district by suggesting that.

Some of the tougher questions came from students interviewed by Youth Voice organizers during the past week – including asking what the candidates would cut if tight budgets forced reductions.

All sidestepped the question to varying degrees.

Fontaine said the board would have to look “strategically” at needs and “see what’s working.” Howe, Enge and Hukari said those decisions would have to be made with the input of many people in the school system and the community. Bednarski said she would look to eliminate waste, like textbooks that aren’t actually being used.

Hukari suggested part of the problem is requirements the school districts don’t control.

“Maybe the state could start looking at some of their mandates and allow local school districts to manage their own programs,” he said.

Enge added that some funds are being wasted by “people making money-selling fads” to the school in the form of new programs that may not be needed or effective.

All also agreed the school district needs to pay more attention to gifted and talented students, instead of putting all special-education money into those with disabilities and problems.

And all made it clear they don’t like the federal No Child Left Behind Act, with Hukari describing it as unconstitutional, Enge as an “encroachment upon states rights,” and Fontaine saying the act imposes requirements without providing the funding.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.