Statement from Dr. Kristen McNeill
For Immediate Release
Contact: WCSD Office of Communications and Community Engagement
Dr. Kristen McNeill gave the following statement was given to the Board of Trustees during the July 1 meeting just before her appointment as Interim Superintendent.
Good afternoon President Simon Holland members of the Board,
For the record, Kristen McNeill, Acting Superintendent/Deputy Superintendent, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you all today in regards to my qualifications, character and ability to fulfill the role of Interim Superintendent for the Washoe County School District.
My track record in WCSD spans over two decades and is one of rising through the ranks based on my work ethic and abilities. I was a teacher at both Libby Booth ES and Smithridge ES. I have been a principal at Lois Allen and Marvin Moss elementary schools. I was director of State and Federal Programs overseeing the largest influx of federal grants in the history of the district. I was promoted to chief strategies officer and then became the district’s first chief of staff. I became Deputy Superintendent in 2015 and have served ethically and with integrity in that role for four years. As Deputy Superintendent, I oversee the day to day operations of the schools through the office of school leadership, the office of academics, the office of chief ombudsman, and special education compliance. Per the organizational structure of the district, I am the second in command of the district under the superintendent.
On a personal note, my family moved to Reno in 1996 and I have been an active and contributing member of this community since that time. My administration certification and my doctorate are both from UNR. I serve on the boards of several community based non-profits. Both of my children, have been enrolled from their kindergarten years in the WCSD
I want to be clear with all of you -- our staff, students and community-- that there is a critical and important difference from being second in command and working close with the CEO, and being involved in and knowing about unethical and hurtful wrong doings in the district. What has occurred is deeply upsetting on a very personal level as I worked closely with these individuals and who according to now public documents, had ill intentions for myself and other leadership staff and staff of this district. These types of behaviors cut to the core of who I am as a person and who my family, friends, and colleagues know of me as a person and they unfairly cause harm to the years I have devoted toward improving this district.
I also want the board and the community to understand that as Acting Superintendent, I took immediate action to protect our district from further harm and to protect individuals in our district from further intimidation. I stand by those decisions today. I also took immediate action to re-distribute reporting structures to make sure continuity of operations of this school district continue. I also want to put on the record, that upon being named as Acting Superintendent I notified both our Leadership Team and the Board that I set up reporting structures in the Office of Business and Finance through the CFO and Chief Academic Officer to ensure I am in full compliance with Board Policy 4505 Standards of Professional Conduct and Administrative Regulation 4111.1 Regulation on Nepotism and Nevada Revised Statutes in regards to my relationship with Mike Schroeder, Budget Director and my fiancé. (June 21 Memo sent to Board of Trustees on reporting structure)
I want you the Board, our staff, and our community to understand that I fully comprehend with every fiber of being how much what has occurred has affected our community. The trust is broken on many levels within our organization and outside of our organization. And that hurts us, it hurts our teachers, it hurts our principals, it hurts our support staff, it hurts our students and it hurts our Leadership Team.
I want to state that this district’s Leadership Team has been unfairly targeted in this matter, except for certain individuals, and is comprised of deeply committed people who have risen through the ranks to provide consistent and impactful leadership; they are former teachers, principals, engineers, accountants, grant evaluators, psychologists, attorneys, and police officers and they show their dedication to their individual roles on a daily and often nightly basis for the students, staff and families of this district.
It is going to take time to repair this trust at very deep levels and across many organizations and agencies and this will be our main charge and challenge going forward. This is going to have to happen starting today, tomorrow and over the next months and years. We must be honest this work is not going to happen overnight; it will be hard but it must be done. That will require one to one conversations with our employee associations, and meeting with business and community members. It will require meetings with our students and our parents and a deep look at all of our procedures to ensure that we are being as transparent as possible with the community and the media, while still following state and federal laws.
My work ethic is important to me. I work 6 to 7 days a week putting in 12 to 15 hours days because that is my job. Work ethic is not something to have eyes rolled at…it is important and it speaks to the rest of the employees in an organization. One must be willing to put in the time, and I have over my career and will continue to do for this district.
I have served the role of Interim Superintendent before. I understand the role of an interim is critical at this time in our district. We must continue to keep our focus on our day to day operations and get our schools ready to open on August 12th. We have three new schools finishing up construction and in a few short weeks will begin to have principals, teachers and support staff go in and get ready for opening day.
As an interim superintendent, I can tell you my day to day routine will most likely look boring to many of you. This however will mean that this is not business as usual, it will mean it will be business as it should have been. I will not be traveling or serving on national boards during this time. I will be out in our schools and working alongside our Board and Leadership Team to maintain the functions of this district. I will be tasked with many important responsibilities and decisions that require someone with knowledge on several fronts including budgetary for day to day operations, implementation of new legislation, personnel matters, school safety and security, and maintaining critical partnerships with community organizations and agencies. I have that breadth of knowledge and will maintain the functioning of this district and take this responsibility with all the care and seriousness it deserves.
A former district area superintendent of our district, recently sent me a quote from Simon Sinek, “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” As the interim superintendent, I fully intend to take that responsibility to heart.
I thank you for the time and will take any questions you may have.