Three contend for school board seat |

Three contend for school board seat

Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal

Three candidates vying for seat 6 of the Carson City School Board hold different opinions about how to best improve education.

And one of them believes it’s through food – but not just through food, she would say.

Barbara Howe, 43, a registered dietitian, says schools should continue progress toward providing healthy food for children, going beyond even recent regulations restricting fat and sugar.

“When I think about kids across America and the obesity epidemic, it makes intuitive sense to me to put better fuels in the kids to get better scores,” she said.

Howe has been a health program specialist with the state health division for the past year-and-a-half, and is running on a theme called “For the health of it.”

In her job, she helps students with specific nutritional needs or metabolic disorders – like students with diabetes who needs to monitor their carbohydrate intake. Howe says a well-fed body is like a high-performance car that runs efficiently.

“I think once the schools adjust for the financial impact (of such a change), they’re going to see a behavioral difference in students,” she said.

She would support change in food policy – or other areas – only with board support.

As for two of the areas the district is failing No Child Left Behind, she believes changing proficiency standards for special-education children and teaching Spanish-speaking children in their first tongue could be solutions.

“In Merced County (Calif.) they take the kids and teach them in their native language, ” she said. “So if I’m a Spanish speaker, until my English is good enough, I learn in Spanish so I don’t fall behind in subject matter.”

Howe said she helped changed the menus at the University of Michigan, where she once worked as a dietitian and is also fluent in Spanish.

Roger Kirkland, 58, a health and life insurance agent in Carson City, would like a more honest assessment of achievement under No Child Left Behind. Forget student performance on standardized tests – he’d like to see improvement gauged on student progress over a year’s period, something called value-added assessment.

“I think it’s only fair to acknowledge that we are getting transfers into the district that may or may not be operating at the level they should be,” he said. “Should the district be held accountable for (previous) years of bad teaching? I think not.”

He supports changes in the No Child Left Behind law at the federal or state levels or both. He also wants to see fewer Carson City graduates taking remedial college classes.

“Whether (graduates) pursue a post-secondary education or just want to get out into life, they still need to be able to read and write and do basic math,” he said. “I see that as a tremendous improvement for the their quality of life.”

He’d like the district, which is seeking a $25 million bond, to become financially well off.

“We can’t be coming to the electorate every four or five years with a bond issue,” he said.

He wants to provide teacher incentives for excellence and this year started a program in honor of his former English teacher offering $350 for best creative writing and $150 to the student’s mentor or teacher.

“My feeling is we should put our money where our mouth is,” he said. “If we value something in society, we should award it with cash.”

Fontaine, 51, the incumbent and director of the Nevada Department of Transportation for nearly the past three years, also wants to see Carson City graduates well-prepared for the future. Like Kirkland, Fontaine wants to minimize the number of high school graduates who take remedial college classes.

“I think there’s more to being successful in life than just passing standardized tests,” he said.

He believes the district could offer better teacher-to-pupil ratios and focus on vocational training that can be best accomplished through collaboration with community businesses.

“Not every high school student is going to end up in college,” he said. “There are certainly those students who are interested in vocational education and getting into the trades and I think we should do what we can to address that.”

He says the board must determine the best solutions for the areas its schools are failing No Child Left Behind.

“I think it’s the school board’s responsibility to ask the tough questions and after you get the answers and conclude what’s going on to make some decision about how to best address the situation,” he said.

Fontaine and Kirkland both volunteered to fill seat 6 earlier this year when Sheila Ward vacated it because she moved out of bounds. The board unanimously voted for Fontaine.

• Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at or 881-1219.