Guest Column: How Incline public schools could become the ‘flagship’
May 1, 2013
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — On Thursday, March 28, Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez and Area Superintendent Dr. JoEtta Gonzales came to Incline High School (IHS) to share the district's vision for making Incline schools the "flagship" schools in the district. Mr. Martinez informed us Incline schools will have a K-12 principal. Most would agree: the person chosen for this position is critical.
On April 3 the Bonanza published this article to summarize the meeting:
This article will introduce some issues the Bonanza article did not cover and my thoughts on the new K-12 position.
WCSD has ranked all the schools in the district. IHS and IMS received four out of five stars. Incline Elementary School received three stars; neither Pedro nor JoEtta mentioned this low ranking of our primary school: http://washoecountyschools.org/misc/pdf/SPF/Incline%20ES.pdf
On November 6, 2012, long before the elementary schools rankings were released, I was at a WCSD Board of Trustees work session where the board members discussed Kate Smith Elementary (KSE) and the great job principal Richard Swanberg is doing. What I took away from that discussion was that Mr. Swanberg turned KSE around with empathy for the students tied with higher expectations for everyone. Here's the audio: http://www.washoe.k12.nv.us/community/events-calendar/11-06-2012/board-of-trustees-work-session
Four months later, March 2013, all the elementary school rankings were published in the first of three Reno Gazette Journal articles. All three articles can be found here: http://www.rgj.com/section/news79
From the first article titled, "13 schools that need our help":
IES is 16th from the bottom; IES was close to being one of schools that "need help."
85 percent of the KSE students live in poverty and over 50% are ELL's, yet KSE ranks 8th out of 62 elementary schools.
Incline Elementary School has 42% ELL's, and ranked 47th out of 62.
In the second article, "No Excuses: District turns to data, accountability to help Washoe's 13 bottom schools," Superintendent Martinez calls Kate Smith a "remove the excuses school." If our schools in Incline are going to reach "flagship" status, we need a K-12 principal who will not make excuses, but instead will, as the article states, "use the data to track and influence instruction."
We have been hearing excuses like this for years in Incline: "We just make (miss) Adequate Yearly Progress because we have so many ELL's." Kate Smith has more ELL's than Incline Elementary and most of their students live in poverty. Despite the fact that demographically KSE is similar to the lowest performing schools, they found a way to become one of the best elementary schools in the district.
The third RGJ article explores what is being done to help the struggling schools. The new K-12 principal must be part of the discussion in order to move IES out of the bottom quarter of elementary schools, and have a clear plan to improve our middle and high school to five star status.
If Incline schools are going to be the flagship schools in WCSD, we need a K-12 leader who is strong and respected, a good communicator, someone who will show empathy for the students and will not allow language to be an excuse for poor in-school performance. We need someone who will take responsibility for their decisions.
We need a leader who will listen to the teachers and allow them to take chances, and use the data to recognize what is working and make changes/improvements where necessary.
Our leader should be a visionary, someone who can think outside the box with the goal of higher expectations for all students and teachers. A K-12 principal with these traits should be given support and autonomy from the district as long as he/she is making improvements and doing what is best for all students.
John Eppolito is an Incline Village resident.