School board candidates: Budget leads priorities
Declining enrollment coupled with reduced funds from the Legislature are the top concerns for most candidates running for the Carson City School Board this year.
The four candidates running in District 1 joined the four candidates from District 6 in a forum hosted by the Carson City Chamber of Commerce on Monday.
Candidates were asked to list their top three issues facing the school district now and in the coming four years.
The shrinking budget took top billing.
“I think the district has done an excellent job so far with the crisis we’re in,” said Paul Bruggar, who’s running for District 6. “They have some excellent plans, but we need to look at the programs that will matter most to students. That needs to be foremost in any budget discussion.”
He said once those priorities are established, it will be easier to determine which programs must stay and which are more expendable.
District 1 candidate Ron Swirczek swayed from the pack, saying he didn’t consider the budget to be the No. 1 issue.
“If we enhance what we’re doing, we should be increasing enrollment,” he said. “If we increase enrollment, we increase revenue.”
The way to attract students to the school district, he said, is to change the approach to education.
“We need to recognize we’re no longer in a local school district environment,” he said. “We’re moving to a global educational environment. We’re still delivering education based on 1800s standards.”
Other priorities included raising expectations for students in the district.
District 6 incumbent Randy Carlson pointed to the Positive Behavior Support program planned at Carson Middle School as an example. He said the program, based on positive
reinforcement for good behavior, along with school uniforms, will help increase student engagement and allow them to achieve academically.
The focus then, he said, should be on technology.
“We need to introduce our students to more technology than they’re currently exposed to in our schools,” he said. “It’s becoming an information-based economy.”
Deonne Contine, running for District 6, said parents need to be key in decision-making.
Firstly, she said, parents who want to be involved need to feel that they have a voice and are being heard. She said district officials and school administrators should be accountable to parents.
For those parents who are not involved, Contine said, the district needs to reach out to them.
“We need to be looking at different ways to draw people in,” she said. “We need to find ways of getting parents who are not engaged to be more engaged.”
When it comes to finding ways to cut the budget, Tom Keeton, District 1 candidate, said the schools should return to basics.
“In my world, you read, you write, you do math. If you do those things, you can make a lot of progress in this world,” he said. “Anything you do beyond these, I do not feel are as important as these. You may have to reduce to the point where some programs have to be cut, and that’s just it.”
In planning for the future, District 1 candidate Robert Prater said he would like to see increased attention paid to career and technical education, with an emphasis on creating a space for the performing arts.
Not only would it benefit students, he said, but the entire community.
“To bring companies over here, you have to have a workforce,” he said. “My vision would be to see every student who graduates from Carson High School come out of here with an entry-level skill.”
Julie Bushner said expectations need to be raised for students and administrators alike. She said a strategic plan needs to be developed that is in line with the district’s financial goals, and that all students should be expected to succeed.
“I would like to see a goal that 100 percent of the students will graduate,” she said. “The students will be excited to learn. They will be excited to show up at school every day. We need to set the bar higher.”
Barbara Myers, District 6 candidate, said the key to raising student achievement is to address students on the individual level, rather than as schools or districts.
“Right now, we don’t have that model,” she said. “No Child Left Behind is such a misnomer, it never looked at an individual child. I absolutely believe all students can achieve.”
Lynnette Conrad is running unopposed for District 4 as is Stacie Wilke in District 3.
The primary election is June 8.