Washoe school district tables discussion to censure Church; working towards compromise

Miranda Jacobson

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees tabled discussion of censoring board member Jeffrey Church and will work towards a compromise as the meeting on Monday lasted into the early hours Tuesday morning.

Jeffrey Church

The discussion began with presentations from Board President Dr. Angela Taylor and Church, who got 20 minutes each to present their sides of the ongoing discussion that began in April of this year.

Following the presentations, there was a lengthy public comment response with all supporting Church, who was elected to the board about nine months ago. He represents District A, which is comprised of south and southeast Reno, Washoe Valley and Incline Village.

After listening to public comment and attempting to read emails offering up an opposing side to Church’s actions, many board members, including Trustee Diane Nicolet, said there needs to be a greater conversation about how the board can compromise on issues.

“[My intention] truly was to have a little deeper conversation with everybody else, and I think we’re having that right now,” Nicolet said about her motion, which read as follows:

“To continue this agenda item to allow the board to come up with a compromise so that we can better focus on how to work together.”

The motion passed with four trustees agreeing a greater conversation needs to be had, but left many of the Washoe residents unsure about the road that lies ahead. Trustees did not set a date where they would revisit the issue.

Trustee Ellen Minetto voiced the opinion of both board members and Washoe residents when asked her opinion on the motion.

“People want to see a product tonight,” Minetto said.

And while Church agreed with Minetto, he also agreed that no matter what, the board has to find a way to move forward.

“I just cannot pass up an opportunity for success with a compromise,” Church said.

Church was to possibly be censored for allegedly violating a number of board policies and not acting as a steward of the board.

“All elected officials owe a Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty, and Fiduciary Duty to the entity they are elected to represent,” wrote WCSD President Angela Taylor in an official notice to censure ahead of the meeting. “The above exhibits also evidence violations of those duties. I regret that we have reached this point, and it is my hope that we can all agree to follow the Board Governance Model to be a more collegial and effective Board of Trustees.”

Within the letter, there were several allegations against Church, ranging from positioning himself adversely against the district, making disparaging remarks against the board, and advocating for his own solutions and special interests outside of the board.

Church believes that the entire issue is about freedom of speech.

“It’s about whether or not I have the authority to criticize the district,” Church told the Tribune before the meeting. “They sent me about 200 pages, much of which was copies of board policy, but it essentially says ‘Thou shalt not criticize the board and the board present or the board decisions,’ and free speech in case law says that’s my obligation. It’s not just my option, it’s my obligation to represent my district.”

Church said that he feels the quality of education for students in the district is less than ideal and his opinions aren’t being heard through censoring him.

“We’re failing as a district,” said Church. “We’re dysfunctional.”

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