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October 25, 2012
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Election 2012: Washoe County school board District A candidates sound off

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - Roughly 35 people - many of whom are parents or teachers - turned out for a forum last Wednesday for the two candidates vying for the open District No. 1 seat on the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees this November.The candidates - Lisa Ruggerio and Dal Richardson - answered various questions about education issues in the state of Nevada, Washoe County and Incline Village, and some of the larger hurdles facing the school board in 2013 and beyond. Below are their answers to some of the questions.On the biggest issue looming for the school district:Dale Richardson: "No. 1 is the budget. With reduced funds coming in, how do we still continue a quality education with reduced spending? It's why I want to do a district-wide evaluation of all programs and all positions to determine if they are needed or not. We need to be funding from the classroom up, and then decide whether we can afford things after that. The second thing is graduation rates. There is a student population out there that has been neglected in years past, those who benefit from vocational programs, who need to be work-ready after school ... if we don't offer something that engages them, they won't stay at school."Lisa Ruggerio: "It's the fact that we are not graduating kids that can perform in college. (Truckee Meadows Community College) has a 90 percent rate of kids who have to take remedial courses like, I hate to use the term, but bonehead English, bonehead math - these children are not ready to take college courses. It's about economical development and education - we understand our kids' futures are at risk ... we're not preparing them to do well in college and be ready. No. 2 - highly skilled teachers - if you have a subpar teacher in a classroom, a child can lose at least 50 percent of the year. We need a detailed and well-thought-out evaluation process ... we need to look at pay for performance. We cannot reward teachers just because they've been with the district a very long time - instead we reward them because they're doing very well in the classrooms."On if each supports moreautonomy for Incline:Lisa: "I like the management philosophy MPE - Managed Performance Empowerment. It combine two theories of thought - managed instruction and performance empowerment, and there are overarching guidelines when it comes to curriculum. If a school is doing well, and performing well, then there's more autonomy. It gives the principals a little more power to make some decisions. I'm all for principals as leaders. I think autonomy is good. I think we also have to make sure the supports are in place at the schools if they need them. There is a lot of concern up here in Incline that the schools aren't providing the rigor that parents want, that children are not being challenged enough and not a lot of options are offered at the high school level. I'm all for what works, don't have a strong stance on anything. I do like research-based initiatives and not shooting from the hip. If a community is dead set in becoming independent, I say why not?"Dale: "I met with a lot of people up here, they tell me the school district pushes programs without any input from the Incline Village residents, and there is lot of pushback from Incline - 'no we weren't consulted.' I really believe Incline should be given the independence to do what it needs to do to perform, separate from the school district. The funding would still be there from the district. I see no reason to give that up just because there's more autonomy."On WCSD funding challenges if more tax revolt rulings come down in Incline's favor:Lisa: "We're experiencing a lot of challenges, budgetary and funding issues with the schools. Our schools can't afford a lot more cuts. But I always say, whether we have more money or whether we have less money, its not about the money - it's about quality teachers in the classroom. We have to have high expectations of teachers, for school administrators, for superintendents and trustees, and we need to be committed to ensure our children do well."Dale: "The district did set aside a lot of money, but it's still a large amount - we need to find that money. There's no way around it. It's probably going to hurt - but we will find the money."Lisa: "Can I ask my opponent a question? How do you do that?"Dale: "It could be a number of things, delay bus purchases, delay other purchases - but if the court tells us to pay back, then we have to do it, and we may have to lay off some staff to do that."On where cuts can come from:Lisa: "I just don't know. In the end, we need our schools to be safe, warm and dry. We have to focus on maintaining our schools. The No. 2 focus is on the classroom. If those are the two priorities to save - capital projects and the classroom - what does it leave? I don't know. It's going to take more than 7 board members to answer that question - it's going to take the entire community. I'm hopeful I can work very closely with the legislators - but we do, as a community, need to put our heads together. There is no silver bullet."Dale: "This is why I want to propose a complete evaluation of all positions and programs. Here's an example - we have a performance development coach in the district who helps the principals at the elementary, middle and high schools to make the schools better. They're not very receptive, not very productive, we have high school principals who don't listen to them. We evaluate that position, and if that's a position that's not effective, then do we look to eliminate?"On how to make those toughdecisions:Dale: "Look at the total cost of every department - those are things we have to evaluate, where we can we trim some of these positions."Lisa: "Well actually, the person my opponent mentioned (performance coach) ... it actually did work at a (WCSD) middle school. The coach came in, worked closely with the principal, it actually did work. So, are we looking at administrators and looking if we are too heavy? My answer: I just don't know. Until I'm able to get in there and ask some really hard questions of the superintendent, I can't tell you we're high on administrators - I just don't know."Dale: "I do. We are too heavy."On what benchmarks shouldbe used to judge a trustee'sperformance:Dale: "For me, if I'm given a task, that I complete that task. If I'm not successful, then I'm not effective."Lisa: "I think the most important benchmark is the graduation rate. It's whether our children performing, and I hope you do judge me on that. That's my job - to make sure our kids succeed and they're prepared." On how to hold onto and pay quality teachers while faced with budget cut challenges:Lisa: "In my opinion, teacher is the most important job in the world. That's the question of the day. I wish we could pay teachers what they're worth. But these are trying times in our communities - what I can do is advocate for our teachers and ensure they get the support they need, in the form of professional development."Dale: "With teachers, we need to pay them, pay them what they're worth. We pay administrators an exorbitant amount of money - we need to reverse that and pay the teachers what they're worth."What would they commit to as far as being active in Incline:Dale: "I would be here monthly. That would be my commitment."Lisa: "I have a very long history, long track record of community involvement. There is no question you will see me up here - but I'm not going to give you a commitment of just once a month. I will be here when you need me, whenever you need me. I will be here for you."

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Oct 25, 2012 11:38AM Published Oct 25, 2012 11:37AM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.