"Come back and share the 'golden nuggets.'" That's what former middle school principal Cindy Plummer used to ask teachers she sent to conferences.
To Plummer, golden nuggets are those “Eureka!” moments. They represent the most salient points of the conference, which differ from person to person, even at the same event.
At Monday’s board meeting Plummer, Mike Mancebo, superintendent Russell Fecht and James Evans spoke about the National School Board Association’s 2022 annual conference. They attended the event in San Diego April 2-4.
On Monday, PCSD was a few days into spring break. Outside the district office, the wind kicked up and jinxed baseball pitchers all over northern Nevada. Workers labored on the community pool.
Understandably, attendance at the board meeting was thin, minus teachers, student reps and most administrators. In Pershing County, few, if any, members of the public attend the hour-long meetings.
There are exceptions. In May 2019, the grads-to-be asked permission to personalize their caps and gowns for the commencement ceremony. People spilled from the meeting room into the hallway, standing room only.
In May 2021, over 30 parents packed the room, with many standing in the back after the seats filled up. They wanted face masks to be optional for the last two weeks of school. A parent in Onalaska, Wisconsin, participated via Zoom.
That's mild compared to elsewhere. School board meetings around the country erupted with red hot tension over the past couple of years. Disputes over face masks, transgender students, and how to teach about racism boiled over into arrests. Mancebo and Fecht both said they're glad to live in Pershing County.
The conference addressed widespread confusion over the function of school boards.
"We are policymakers," said Plummer. "We don't micromanage." The presenters emphasized that school boards hire and supervise only one employee – the superintendent. If someone approaches them about a teacher, they Thank, Acknowledge and Redirect (TAR) the person to the appropriate channel.
Fecht wants Pershing County School District to present nationally. “With SEL (social-emotional learning) and MTSS (multitiered system of supports), we have the best in the country and should present,” he said.
In 2015 the federal government awarded a five-year grant to Humboldt, Lander and Pershing counties to address the mental health of their students. After the funding ran out, PCSD found ways to sustain and grow the program.
The superintendent and trustees thanked board secretary Jordan McKinney for making the arrangements for the out-of-state trip.
Other district news
Neil Gallagher has reached out to the Frontier Community Coalition and Economic Development Authority. They are working together to encourage people to earn a high School equivalency diploma through the learning center. He will also approach the FCAA (Frontier Community Action Agency).
Fecht reported that the NIAA, the governing board for high school sports, hired a new director – Donnie Nelson. He’s been an interim director for over twenty years.
The superintendent is completing negotiations with teachers. He will soon begin negotiations with support staff.
Debb Oliver resigns from the Nevada Association of school boards, effective Apr. 30. Business manager Tom Ciesynski will serve as interim director. The NASB has hired a search committee to find a new director. They hope to fill the position by Aug. 1.
Mike Mancebo reported on the community pool. “It will be open this summer,” he said. Hopefully, the wind dies down by then.