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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have not yet made the decision of whether I will apply. When I do decide, please know it will be in the best interest of my family, our district and myself. In my role as Interim Superintendent, I am here to provide continuity of the day-to-day operations of our District. I will work hard every day for our students, employees, families and our community during this interim period.