Last Monday, 297 elementary school children, 147 middle-schoolers and 160 high school students began a new school year in Pershing County. To get ready, the Board of Trustees met at the district office on Monday, Aug. 19.
School board meetings are open to the public and last roughly an hour. The five-member board sets district policies. They also hire and employ the superintendent, Russell Fecht, the district’s CEO.
Chairman Walter Brinkerhoff called Monday’s meeting to order. James Evans, Mike Mancebo, Joe Crim, and Cindy Plummer attended. Pershing County voters elect each board member to staggered four-year terms.
Lisa Clark, the finance officer, adds information and insights while Misti Barter acts as secretary.
The most recently elected trustees are Cindy Plummer and Mike Mancebo. Plummer’s history with the district spans nearly 40 years; first as a teacher, and later as a middle school principal. Mancebo is the City of Lovelock’s Chief of Police. Each trustee earns a stipend of 3,000 dollars a year, from which they donate $600 for scholarships to graduating seniors.
The principals of each school also attend the meetings. This year Shea Murphy, Ted Wells and Neil Gallagher greet Jonathan Reynolds. He’ll take the helm at the high school. Murphy heads the middle school. Wells oversees Lovelock and Imlay Elementary Schools. Gallagher coordinates
Coal Canyon High School and the alternative school.
The board opened with a discussion of NIAA eligibility requirements for high school sports. They remain unchanged. Last spring, each athlete had to earn at least a C average to play football, volleyball or soccer this fall. The district also holds three-week eligibility checks to monitor for failing grades.
Next, the superintendent spoke about capital projects. The high school will soon have a new gym floor. Pershing’s maintenance crew installed new carpet in the foyer.
The district continues to upgrade each school building’s safety. They’ve also revamped the sports fields. For example, a new baseball dugout will replace one built by a high school shop class in the 1990s.
Mike Brooks, the athletic director, updated the board on fall sports participation.
“The numbers are pretty low,” he said. “On most of the teams we don’t have a surplus of players, but we’ve got enough.”
In one of his first acts as PCHS principal, Reynolds hired a Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher, Lucy Peters, from Reno. CTE is a federally funded program in education throughout the United States. Students learn specific career skills in a hands-on format. There are 16 different tracks they can take, including health science, business, agriculture and arts.
According to the superintendent, a future possibility involves tying a culinary program to business and industry within the community. He observed there are “lots of mandates coming down the pike,” about computer literacy.
So far, the district hasn’t found a K-12 music teacher. For now, they’ll continue to post the vacancy. They’re also advertising for a second elementary school teacher in Imlay. As always, substitute teachers are in short supply.
Pershing’s substitutes get a pay raise this year – to the tune of 110 dollars a day, up from $100. Long term subs will earn $125 a day. Instructional aid’s salaries rise from $8.25 to $10 an hour. Pershing’s subs had not had a pay raise since 2012, even though the adoption of a four-day school week lengthened the school day. The raises put the district in a more competitive position, said the superintendent.
The Nevada Public Agency Insurance Pool (POOL/PACT) provides coverage to counties, cities and school districts throughout the state. They recently recommended a procedural change to the school district.
PCSD currently requires a pre-employment drug test from every applicant offered a job. Instead, POOL/PACT now recommends drug tests only for safety-sensitive positions, including work with hazardous chemicals, driving a county vehicle or operating heavy equipment.
“Should we continue to have every job offer spend $170 on a drug test if POOL/PACT is telling us it should only be safety-sensitive positions?” asked the superintendent.
He also pointed out an impending change to state law. In Jan. 2020 Nevada becomes the first U.S. state to prohibit employers from not hiring people solely because of positive marijuana screens. The law will not apply to EMTs, firefighters and those who drive vehicles as part of their jobs.
The next regular board meeting is Monday, Sept. 16 in the district office on 1150 Elmhurst Avenue.