Mary Alber
Special to the Bonanza

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April 3, 2013
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Education column: In Byron Gehring’s honor

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — On Monday, our community lost a beacon of light — Byron Gehring.

When I saw him in intensive care the day after his bicycle accident last Wednesday, Byron was a man in the prime of his life — in great physical shape, at the helm of a thriving international health management company, nurturing his amazing children, Mitchell and Misha, into their bright futures, and inspiring our community to ever greater education excellence.

Mitchell told me that when he and his father had biked up Fairview that week (on spring break from Brown), he was handily out-paced by his 49 year old father.

Monday morning, while Byron was still in a coma, I felt an overpowering urge to express what I know about him and his passion for education — as though he were asking me to help inspire our education community to carry on the torch he has so faithfully carried.

In the 10 years I’ve known Byron, I’ve witnessed his generous contributions to education with his time, talents, compassion, and treasures.

Byron was gifted at corralling friends (including my husband and me) into sponsoring and attending fun and fruitful events such as costumed poker fundraisers for LTS and outstanding wine and food events for public schools at his stunning home.

None would have happened without his equally generous and talented partner, Jasna, at his side.

As a board member of Incline Schools Academic Excellence Foundation (ISAEF) for many years, Byron brought his business and technology acumen to promote endowment building and closer partnerships with SNC and community members.

As IHS Boosters’ VP for several years, he helped the Crab Feed become a productive celebration of education for the whole community, cofounder of the IB initiative to transform public education, and supporter of the 2020 Vision initiative for education.

Byron’s unbounded compassion for students and adults alike, and his passion for excellence in all he does have made an indelible mark on this community — and I hope continues to do so.

It is through Byron’s magnanimous view of life that I would like to share some key reflections on the recent proposals for Incline public schools presented by WCSD in March. Having discussed education development ideas with Byron, I know he wants to see our schools achieve world-class, Five Star status.

I remember well his perspective shared at a 2020 Vision meeting last November: if we don’t take significant action soon, we won’t have public schools left to support.

Luckily, Superintendent Martinez now agrees — saying last Wednesday that we can no longer “tinker around the edges” of change.

His main proposal is to assign a K-12 leader who can integrate, align, and direct all three schools proactively into the future — including building closer ties with SNC. This is indeed essential — and overdue.

However, this leader needs to have a unique skillset: be experienced in the diverse needs of K-12 and college learning environments, able to negotiate and coordinate more effective dual credit course options for high school students, and leverage SNC’s education department for K-12 teacher training in 21st century learning/teaching methods.

To successfully tap our community’s diverse (and opinionated) advocates who are rich in intellectual capital and other resources to advance student learning, our K-12 leader must be an excellent communicator, with strong vision and integrity, and empowered by the district to do what’s needed to implement a bold strategy quickly.

Realizing Incline Village as an “education destination” that attracts and serve all students well means we can no longer shuffle chairs around on the deck of the Edu-tanic!

To reverse the concerning student performance trends at all three schools will require an agile captain to enable many “speedboats” of learning — where students are in the driver’s seat.

How? Through the second leg of WCSD’s proposal: employ learning and instruction methods and tools that build skills for the 21st century.

I’m thrilled to see that blended learning is finally recognized by our state and district as key to enabling individualized, adaptive, student-directed, hands-on learning experiences with current technologies and occupations of today and tomorrow.

Unfortunately, this inevitable transition to 1:1 blended learning is a “long term” plan due to high costs and budget shortfalls. Yet Pedro is open to community help to expedite implementation in Incline.

Can a K-12 leader be selected who embodies this vision and has the skills to rally our unique community of supporters to make it happen?

Perhaps we can honor Byron’s memory best by realizing his vision for world-class education here in IV.

Mary Alber is an Incline Village resident with two children in local schools and advocate for 21st century learning opportunities. She holds a PhD in Transformative Learning and Change. Comments appreciated at mmeekalber@gmail.com.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Apr 3, 2013 07:30PM Published Apr 3, 2013 02:20PM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.