INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — With a plan set to begin as early as next school year, Incline public school students will be challenged with a personalized, college-oriented curriculum while also exploring their interests and talents that could lead to a career.
On March 28, Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez, accompanied by Area Superintendent JoEtta Gonzales, presented a proposal that Martinez said could make Incline’s public school the flagship of Washoe County. About 80 attended the presentation, held in the Incline High School theater.
“This is a direct result of years of community dialogue,” said Incline High School principal Stacey Cooper.
Martinez said he chose to bring his proposal to fruition at Incline Village because of the proximity of Incline high, middle and elementary schools, which boast a combined enrollment of around 1,000 students.
“Incline has such a strong community, talented teachers, and the schools are within biking distance,” Martinez said. “The valley schools are large and are split up. Here, we have one small, cohesive system.”
Gonzales introduced the proposal, saying that students working with school staff and parents will develop personalized plans from sixth grade on, according to a student’s needs and abilities.
Another key element is for schools to work together as an interrelated campus, and teachers will travel among schools to teach their subjects to different grade levels.
‘We have to have intervention’
Martinez also sees the possibility of groups of high school students taking courses designed by Sierra Nevada College, where they will be encouraged to explore their interests and talents through internships and clubs, combined with real-life experiences and problem solving.
A goal of the plan is to groom students toward Advanced Placement courses, Martinez said, challenging students from kindergarten on.
“We’re now introducing geometry concepts in kindergarten,” said Martinez, who hopes to initiate a pre-AP preparation program called Springboard, for grades 6-8.
“Our K-12 vision is, we want to make sure we’re not holding any of our students back,” Martinez added. “We have to have intervention for those kids below level.”
Martinez foresees homework assistance and tutoring to help bring students up to speed. And he would like to bring all students to a pre-college level by graduation regardless of what career or trade they may be considering.
“It’s about children having options — whether it is college, junior college, the military or a trade, we’re making sure they are prepared so they can have that option,” Martinez said.
Mary Alber and Wendy Cox are Incline parents and friends who both have two children who graduated from the private K-8 Lake Tahoe School and are now enrolled in Incline High School.
Both were skeptical of the plan, adding that they were not sure if they will keep their children in Incline schools.
Alber said a lot of children are not well-served by being forced into college classes.
“AP learning is a prescribed content that doesn’t come alive for the student. It is rote learning,” she said.
Cox added, “It’s (AP) like cramming for a test. What about kids who want to become chefs?”
Since the plan was just unveiled, it can be tough to cast immediate judgement, although “it all sounds very positive to me,” said Sharon Kennedy, assistant principal and site administrator at IMS said.
“Providing opportunities for all students is a great thing,” she said. “We do have a small area where all three schools do work together.”
‘One person has to be the driver’
Gonzales said the administrative structure will include a site administrator at each of the three schools. The role of each site administrator will be unique to the needs of that school’s students. The program will also likely include a dean at the high school level.
Overseeing the three schools will be one K-12 principal who will coordinate programs among schools.
“I’m a big believer in alignment,” Martinez said. “One thousand children across three schools — one person has to be the driver.”
The K-12 principal has not yet been chosen.
“Any qualified candidates who are interested in applying for the K-12 principal position at Incline will be considered,” Gonzales said in a follow-up interview. “This would include current principals Stacey Cooper and Kathleen Watty, and could also include site administrator Sharon Kennedy. However, at this time, I do not know if any of them are definitively interested.”
Martinez said the proposal wouldn’t be more of a burden on the district’s budget than what is already spent on Incline schools.
“It’s not so much our resources,” he said, “but how we use the resources.”
“Budget discussions for the 2013-14 school year are currently taking place,” Gonzales added. “However, we have been tasked to remain as cost-neutral as possible on expenses related to personnel. This proposal does just that.”
She said that many details related to the proposal will be determined under the supervision of the K-12 principal, and the principal will work with the staff and community members to determine timelines for implementation.
“While I don’t anticipate any major roadblocks to the plan, prioritization of the items for implementation may put some ideas on the back burner,” Gonzales said.
While Gonzales doesn’t see another formal opportunity for people to give feedback, the www.inclineschools.org website has question that were posed at the initial community input meeting. Further, she said she welcomes community members to email her with feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frank Fisher is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.