WCSD and the SBAC

So, in a fit of masochism I went to Washoe County School District Board Meeting last week. I went because the agenda included a discussion of the SBAC assessment tests, which the school district has adopted. More specifically, I went because I wanted to understand why parents do not have an option to opt their children out of the test. We’ve been going in circles with the principal and the school district.

I’ve never attended a school board meeting, so I didn’t know what to expect. Just prior to the SBAC discussion was a discussion about finding a new superintendent. Naturally, this discussion turned into a vote to place interim superintendent Traci Davis into full-fledged rock ’em sock ’em superintendent. Of course, to keep form, the board rescinded the vote because of concerns over possible probable violation of open meeting laws. More on this later.

boardmeetingAfter spending five hours listening to the board – actually, make that four since one of those hours was a secret, closed-door meeting that the public wasn’t allowed to attend – I started to get a feel for the different personalities in the room. There were multiple trustees with whom I would likely disagree severely on a lot of things, but I felt like they were making an honest attempt to do a good job. There was a least one go-along-get-along personality and one monster. I’m being very careful not to say anything that would reveal who is who because with my luck the monster might eventually stumble on this page. And he/she/it knows who/what he/she/it is. The board member who stood out the most was Nick Smith. He found me wandering around outside and helped me get to the meeting. I don’t know much about him, but I like him.

Although my original plans included attendance only, I ended up making a public comment. As the hours wore on, I made a few notes on my phone. I had a pretty good idea what I was going to say during my three minutes. Most of the people had left following the Traci Davis excitement, so it shouldn’t have been a big deal. Besides the board there were only a few people hanging out in the room. Still, it was a nerve-wracking experience.

Once they called my name, I went up and made my comments. I didn’t use my notes, which was quite foolish. As I recall, I blabbered and bumbled while struggling to make at least one single point. We watched the recording of the SBAC portion of the meeting at home because Emilie wanted to see the presentation given by Ben Hayes and Sandra Aird. I told her how electrifying it was and she had to see it for herself.

Inevitably, she wanted to see the comments following the presentation and board questions. My piece was pretty shaky, but not as bad as my memory had me believe. Here’s the gist: 1) Testing does not help children since results are not returned until the following school year when it’s too late for teacher’s to make use of the information, 2) the information is seemingly only used by the federal government when deciding who gets money and how much and 3) where is all this money going?

For the record, I don’t like getting money from the federal government. Once you take their money, they get to call the shots. This amounts to selling our kids and their future. When you consider the tremendous national debt ($18,159,901,810,448.37 currently), how can you possibly justify saddling these kids – who you say you’re trying to prepare for the future – with additional crushing debt?

Speaking of money, where does this funding go? My children’s school has a playground full of portable classrooms. Some of the kids are forced to meet in the common areas of the school because of lack of classroom space. There doesn’t seem to be an immediate plan to build a new school. When we complained to the principal about having around 30 kids in a kindergarten class with only one teacher and no aide, the principal explained that if we wanted an aide in the classroom we would need to pay for the aide ourselves at a cost of several hundred dollars per child.

So, where does the funding go? Overcrowded schools would suggest to me that there is an increase in people paying taxes. To be honest, I don’t know the numbers, but it seems that tax revenue should be up. And we are supposedly getting millions of dollars from Washington. So, where does the funding go?

While researching the SBAC test and our school district, I unintentionally stumbled on TransparentNevada.com. I was surprised to find that there are 12 pages of WCSD employees that have total compensation over $100,000. And thats’s with 50 employees per page. I’m not very good with Common Core math, but I think that puts the number at around 600 employees. I’m not going to beat a dead horse. I understand that running the district is a huge job. Having to budget for school buses, supplies, fleet vehicles and so on. Managing school police and groundskeepers, etc. I get it – it’s a big job. But, c’mon. What happened to public service? We’re being a bit generous with sacred taxpayer funds.

Which leads to what you can only hope will be my final point. While discussing the matter of finding a new superintendent at this board meeting, multiple plans were proposed, which ranged from a fairly small-scale exploratory campaign costing around $15,000 to a full-scale national candidate search costing around $50,000. The matter came to a vote because several board members just couldn’t justify wasting $15,000 when a good candidate sat right in front of them.

I’m against needless waste as much as anyone, but seriously? We’re getting money from the state and federal government, it seems that compensation is competitive and we’re not spending money on building schools. It seems like there should be plenty of money in the bank account and we’re going to quibble over $15,000? After the Pedro Martinez fiasco, the school district should not be opposed to doing their homework.

If any parents actually read this: Please do your homework about Common Core. We’re selling our kids; we just aren’t sure who’s buying. You should not be willing to trade the education of your child for a few extra bucks.

If anyone from Washoe County School District actually reads this: You need to let parents choose what’s best for their children. If a test will not help the child then they shouldn’t be forced to take it. We should be able to agree on that. But to take it a step further, you need to embrace school choice. WCSD admits they aren’t very successful as schooling kids; that’s the reason they embraced Common Core so whole-heartedly. As parents, we need vouchers. We need competition. The only reason you should oppose this is because you feel you can’t compete. If you truly care about kids, stop treating them as a statistic to be used to get funding.