• Below are some of the most common questions that I have been asked.

    If you have questions please feel free to email me at kmcneill@washoeschools.net

  • What are the rules about school speed zones and why don’t the speed zones match the walk zones?

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    School zones are determined by the City of Reno, City of Sparks, or Washoe County and walk zones are determined by WCSD. Our school police work with the local government agencies to determine speed zones when new schools are built or to extend speed zones as neighborhoods change. We want to make sure students are able to get to and from school safely.

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  • Why do some schools require uniforms and others don’t?

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    Requiring school uniforms is a site-based decision, but it is not made lightly. When schools are considering requiring uniforms they undergo an in-depth process to involve students, families, and staff in the decision. This includes public meetings at the school and an opportunity for all families to vote on the decision. If your school requires uniforms and the costs are prohibitive, you are urged to reach out to your teacher, counselor, or principal and the school will work with you to make sure your child has a uniform.

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  • What are the requirements around vaccinations and what is WCSD doing to prevent outbreaks?

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    State law requires that to be enrolled in public school, students must be vaccinated, unless they are excused because of religious belief or a medical condition. A list of immunization requirements can be accessed here. When cases of contagious diseases, such as pertussis, become known, the District works with the Washoe County Health Department to ensure students and staff are safe. Students and staff diagnosed with a contagious disease that can be prevented with a vaccine are required to stay home. If an outbreak occurs, all students and staff who have not been vaccinated are required to stay home until the outbreak has lifted. When one of these contagious diseases is known, the District works to communicate this to families in English and Spanish. More information about immunizations can be accessed here

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  • What are schools doing to ensure students have nutritious meals and CDC recommended exercise?

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    We have physical education teachers in middle and high school, but unfortunately our budget does not allow for physical education teachers at the elementary level. Individual schools and teachers often integrate exercise into the curriculum and use volunteers to help provide this as well. Additionally, the Ed Alliance holds the Run for Education every year, which raises funds for physical education at schools. WCSD follows all federal requirements around nutrition in school meals and our Nutrition Services Department strives to provide healthy and balanced meals for our students.

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  • What do you have in place to provide a meal plan for low income students?

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    We understand that in order for children to learn, they need to have their basic needs met. Nearly 50% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch. We communicate with our families to make sure they know they qualify and their children can have meals provided to them at little or no cost. We also provide free breakfast and lunch for all students at 40 of our lower income schools, with no application needed. Additionally, we partner with the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

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  • What is the difference between federal designation of Title I, State Designation of Title I?

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    Title 1, Part A funding is distributed to local education agencies (known as LEAs) based on the census counts of children from low-income families. There is no separate federal or state Title 1 funding. When WCSD receives Title 1 funding, we determine which schools are eligible to receive funds by utilizing the the rank and serve process that determines eligible schools based upon the district’s average poverty rate.  Federal law requires that any school with 75% free and reduced lunch receive Title 1 funding, but WCSD actually provides funding to schools that have 58.84% free and reduced lunch students. In 19-20, 44 schools received Title 1 funding.

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  • What is the District’s position on bullying? Is there a district-wide policy?

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    Board Policy 5700, Safe and Respectful Learning Environments, provides that WCSD is committed to an environment free from bullying and harassment. We do take issues of bullying seriously and have a variety of options and ways for students to report bullying, including contacting the Counseling Department, the Civil Rights Compliance Department, or by reporting to Safe Voice, an anonymous statewide reporting system for bullying. More resources can be accessed here.

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  • What are the changes that we are making to our schools to prevent school shootings?

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    WCSD has been proactive about making sure our buildings are safe and our staff and students are trained on how to respond to emergencies, such as school shootings. Building improvements we have made include an updated electronic visitor management system, installing single point of entry at all elementary and middle schools, and updating classroom locks. We also received a grant from the state recently to hire more school police officers and social workers to help with student safety.

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  • Why does it seem like there is a very limited help for Spanish speaking families?

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    We strive to constantly improve our communications with families, and this includes our Spanish-speaking families. We do provide interpreters for parent meetings with teachers and principals if you request one through your school. Many schools also have at least one bilingual staff member. We also have interpreters at Board Meetings, many committee meetings, and public forums. Additionally, if we send out emergency communication to our families, we always send in both English and Spanish, and we translate the majority of our documents that are provided to families.

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  • What age group are you teaching the topic of "understanding and identifying with your gender"?

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    Sexuality, Health, and Responsibility Education (SHARE) begins in fourth grade and continues through middle and high school. Curriculum is approved by the SHARE Advisory Committee and then by the Board of Trustees. The SHARE Advisory Committee and the Board of Trustees recently adopted updated lessons for the high school curriculum for the 19-20 school year. This curriculum includes a lesson on gender identity and sexual orientation.

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  • What are you doing about the teacher shortage?

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    A teaching shortage is a nationwide problem, however WCSD is conducting strategic outreach to attract more teachers. Some of these strategies include Alternative Routes to Licensure for working professionals who would like to transition into teaching, partnerships with colleges and universities to conduct outreach, dual college credit for high school students interested in pursuing a teaching career, and a grow your own scholarship program for current education support professional employees who are interested in becoming teachers.

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  • How is the determination made to provide after-care at elementary schools?

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    Determinations about after school care are made at each individual school and many schools do provide such care. Schools often partner with organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, the City of Reno, the City of Sparks, and Washoe County, to provide quality care for our students. Many sixth graders are able to utilize these programs at partner agencies. If your school does not provide after school care, it’s best to talk with your principal about the possibility of bringing in after school care.

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  • When will we receive our 3 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)?

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    WCSD is in the midst of collective bargaining with all five of our bargaining unit associations, and we hope to come to successful agreements at the end of this bargaining process.

    We are focused on concluding negotiations as soon as possible while also taking the time necessary to fully explore items brought to the table for consideration. We are thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with association representatives and look forward to finalizing agreements that are reflective of the evolving needs of our employees and the District.

    While the FY20 budget does include funding for a 3% COLA for the biennium as well as step increases each year of the biennium, it does have to be collectively bargained pursuant to NRS 288.150 (2) (a).

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  • How will you work to improve employee morale?

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    I know employee morale is low for a variety of reasons, and improving morale is one of our biggest challenges as a District. I think better and open communication can be a tremendous help as we work toward solutions to this challenge, and I’ve created a variety of opportunities for all of us to meet, talk, and exchange ideas and concerns.

    I’m holding quarterly meetings with association leadership teams, monthly meetings with individual associations, and have launched a weekly email update to all 8,000-plus District employees. In this email, I’ve addressed some important topics for employees, such as enhancing my relationships with the association leadership and published a video on that topic. I also have discussed how employees can reach out to Labor Relations and/or Human Resources if they have an issue they don’t feel comfortable discussing with a supervisor. We also have a Whistleblower hotline in which employees can confidentially report abuse, fraud, or concerns in their department/schools. 

    In addition, I have scheduled a series of five conversational meetings with staff—along with five more Community Conversations with members of the public—to ensure we are keeping the lines of communication open.

    In addition, I encourage our community to email me or communicate anonymously here if they would like to express their thoughts to me directly.

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  • How will you improve special education support and services to schools?

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    The Washoe County School District is dedicated to providing services and supports that help all of our students succeed in school. As part of our reorganization of the Office of School Leadership, I have eliminated the Office of Student Services, and created a new area superintendent position dedicated to overseeing Special Education; Ms. Jen Van Tress is in this role.  This will help to streamline our services for students with special needs and supports for our dedicated staff serving our students with special needs.

    As part of our ongoing commitment to improving communication with our families, students, staff, and the community, I attend meetings of the Special Education Task Force comprised of principals and the Office of School Leadership. I have attended a meeting of the Special Education Advisory Panel (SEAP), a group of parents, staff members, and members of the community. Along with Ms. Van Tress, I am reviewing the WestEd report that made recommendations for improving our Special Education programs, and will review areas in which we may provide professional development for schools to further provide meaningful support for our students.

    I am eager to hear from more families, special education students, and staff about ways in which we can continue to improve.

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  • Why are “sick” absences no longer excused?

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    WCSD received guidance from the state, which adopted a federal definition of absences in 2016. This state and federal definition doesn’t differentiate between unexcused absences and excused ones, such as when a student is sick. However, families need to call the school whenever their child is out ill. If a student is absent for more than five days due to an illness, families are encouraged to contact the school to determine a plan so the student won’t become chronically absent.

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  • What am I supposed to do if I can’t bring my child to school?

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    We want to help your family. The District has an Intervention Department, which helps students who are facing challenges coming to school. They work with individual families to identify barriers and provide resources to help students be in school. Families are encouraged to speak with their school first, or they can contact the Intervention Department at 775-337-9911.

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  • How do class sizes work?

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    We have an allocation model based on the number of students projected and enrolled. That has to be balanced within budgetary means so that we are not hiring more teachers than we have funding for throughout the entire district. We are in the midst of reviewing projections and actual student enrollment for this school year in order to evaluate our school-by-school allocations.

    Determining allocations is a very complex process. We did our best to explain this challenging issue in this video. I hope you will take a look to learn about the process.

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  • When it comes to technology, there are some inequities in our schools, how can WCSD remedy this.

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    Equitable access to technology continues to be a concern across the district; some schools have one to one devices, some have a slightly higher ratio, some schools have computer labs, and some schools need to have computers refreshed because they are outdated. The development of a comprehensive Technology Strategic Plan is greatly needed in our district. We need to be sure we have a sustainable funding source as well for computer re-fresh across all of our schools. Additionally, I think we need to study a bit more as to how our current one to one schools are doing before we invest on a larger scale. We need to see how students, teachers, families, and administrators use technology in a one to one environment. We owe it to our students to be sure they are able to use technology as they leave our educational system and go into their careers, post-secondary education, or the military.

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  • Is student data secure?

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    We have many safeguards in place to be sure our students’ data is secure. Recently, we were notified that one of our contractors—Pearson Clinical Assessment—suffered a data security incident in an older version of their AIMSweb system. The information that was exposed was old and outdated—in about half of the cases, students’ dates of birth were revealed, as well as staff members’ outdated email addresses. No other information was revealed or compromised.

    It’s important to note that this was not a breach of WCSD’s computer systems. The District takes seriously the security of all student, family, and staff data. WCSD diligently employs every available method of protecting confidential information. Contracts with outside contractors are closely vetted to ensure the best protections are being taken at all times with all data.

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  • What is the District doing to address social media and other threats to schools?

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    We train our staff and students to recognize and report safety concerns and do our best to inform our families as quickly as possible via email, telephone, or text message. Unfortunately, rumors spread on social media often make it more difficult for our police officers and educators to effectively solve an issue or complaint, taking valuable resources away from other schools.

    Instead of sharing social media posts, we urge our students and their families to report any rumors of dangerous activity to school police at (775) 348-0285 during school hours, or call 911 after hours. Spreading rumors on social media only delays the process and causes panic in our community.

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