School board candidates tackle funding, Bush legislation
Candidates for Carson City school board described how they would meet federal achievement standards and improve the quality of education under a limited budget.
District 5 School Board Trustee John McKenna, his challenger Kim Cohen and District 7 challenger Debby Dailey appeared Wednesday before an audience of about 50 people at the Carson City chapter of the League of Women Voters forum at the Carson City Community Center, each answering eight questions put forward by the audience.
District 7 incumbent Joanna Wilson arrived about an hour late, citing confusion in the time the forum began. She missed all but a portion of the last answer session.
Audience members wanted to know how teachers and students are faring under the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, which places stringent attendance and testing requirements on schools.
Cohen, a mother of five, said that while five Carson City schools are on the watch list, the district is doing its best to meet federal standards.
“We are changing,” she said. “Our children are approaching the standard, but parents have to help.”
She said teachers feel as if they’re losing touch with students placed in reading programs geared toward reaching the federal mandates. Because kids can be held back for missing more than seven days of school under the law, attendance is important, she said.
McKenna, a certified public accountant, compared the legislation to the Internal Revenue Service code in its complexity.
“It depends on what part you look at,” he said. “It’s very complicated. We have schools that need improvement. A lot of effort is being made to make sure requirements are met.”
Dailey, a catechism teacher at St. Teresa of Avila Church, called the legislation a “nice slogan,” but said the board needs to be more concerned with curriculum.
“Do we know what they’re being taught?” she asked. “Are they being taught phonetically? We need to know.”
As far as fiscal needs, Cohen and McKenna agreed the district’s maintenance fund is inadequate. Cohen said there is also a need for more school buses.
“There is a need for more maintenance bond money,” McKenna said. “These buildings were built in the ’50s and ’60s.”
“As parents you want to see that carpets aren’t torn and your children are safe,” Cohen said. “How we raise funds is a big question. We have to use budgets wisely. We have to get buses, and build a reserve.”
Dailey said the district should consult the public before deciding what improvements are needed.
“There are some good ideas for solving building and maintenance problems,” she said. “We need to hear from the public. We need to sit down and discuss it.”
Asked whether a registered nurse should be in each school, McKenna and Cohen said licensed practical nurses are adequate medical staff, while Dailey advocates the employment of registered nurses at every school.
“The funds have to come by eliminating something,” Dailey said. “We need to look at the budget.”
The audience wanted to know the candidates’ stand on securing bond money for a second high school. The city’s only high school is attended by more than 2,500 students. A bond measure for a second school was turned down by voters in 1996.
Cohen is in favor of building a second high school to cut down on class size and boost individual attention.
McKenna said it is unlikely but not impossible, and that the district needs to make the best of a large public high school and the programs and unique experience it brings students.
Dailey said a new school is needed, but a new building isn’t necessary.
“We have other buildings that can be used,” she said. “Another bond is not always a solution.”
To reduce crime in upper level grades, Cohen said parents and teachers should encourage students to take pride in themselves and to get more involved in school activities and one-on-one interaction with adults.
McKenna said crime is not a big problem at the high school, but when an offense does occur, it should be dealt with promptly, and the student suspended or expelled.
Dailey said kids need to be taught right from wrong.
Wilson, who is serving as president of the school board, emphasized her commitment to secure more state and federal funds, during her one-minute closing remarks.
“We’re down population, and that means we’re down money,” Wilson said. “I assure you I will spend time at the Legislature to try and bring more money into the school district.”
Contact reporter Robyn Moormeister at email@example.com or 881-1217.