Pershing County School District grapples with securing grant reimbursements

Pershing County School District Superintendent Russel Fecht shared his frustration about the Nevada Department of Education’s grant approval process during the most recent school board meeting. 

“We can’t as a district continue to authorize advance purchase out of grant funding until we have approvals,” he said. “Just in Title I money alone, we haven’t received payment from over a year ago, much less currently. If you add it altogether it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000 that PCSD has not been compensated for services rendered.”

He gave examples of some of the grants waiting for approval from the NDE. One grant was recently turned back to the district because of two extra parentheses in the application.

“That’s holding up our ability to either get reimbursed or purchase items,” he said. “We’re getting to a point where we’re drawing a line and pushing back.” He plans to take the matter to the Nevada Association of School Superintendents (NASS) since other districts face the same problem.

“It’s a nightmare,” he said.

The administrators have already begun their planning for the 2022-2023 school year.

“Enrollment data is a little behind where we’d like to be,” said Fecht. “As we have staff retire we’re anticipating whether or not we’re going to replace them based on enrollment data.”

Also, the continuation of free meals for all K-12 students appears unlikely.

Public schools have been serving all students free meals since the pandemic first hit K-12 education. In March 2022, Congress rejected calls to keep up the federal funding needed to sustain that practice and left that money out of a US $1.5 trillion spending package that President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11, 2022.

Other changes the district faces include the closure of the Lovelock branch of Wells Fargo Bank. 

Effective May 18 at noon, Wells Fargo is closing its Lovelock branch. The closest branch to remain open will be in Fallon. The superintendent said Nevada State Bank reached out to the district to discuss potential services. 

In other news from the school board meeting: 

Leadership students Houston Allen, Riley Burt and Charlie Sestenovich opened the school board meeting last Monday. They led off with the news that there are 36 days left in the school year. The kindergartners are learning their graduation songs.

The board approved out-of-state travel for several teachers. They’ll travel to Houston, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Seattle, Jacksonville, Fla. and Breckenridge, Colorado for various conferences.

“It’s been a while since our board has had staff travel – and not just because of Covid,” said superintendent Russell Fecht. “We may have a conference to two a year. We’re trying to utilize some of our funding. Some of our ARP money can be utilized as long as we’re doing things that tie into a school improvement plan.”

Cindy Plummer observed that the biggest problem is finding substitute teachers.

Principals reports

The leadership club at the high school raised $600 to make Easter baskets for students who might otherwise go without. The Lions Club kicked in an additional $700.The baskets will contain a mixture of practical and fun items. The club is also holding a canned food drive during the first two weeks of April.

Students plan to showcase their creative work at a multimedia exhibit at the high school. It is tentatively scheduled for May 4 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.

Neil Gallagher introduced Margaret (Ann) Widtfeldt. The native Nebraskan will teach computers and math at the Lovelock Correctional Center. There is still one teacher and one instructional aid position open at the prison. There are also multiple positions at Lovelock Elementary School for the 2022-2023 school year.

Gallagher says the inmates are experiencing less Covid-related segregation which increases their access to education.

Six middle school students wrestled in the TahNevah Tournament of Champions on Saturday, Mar. 26. Pershing hosted. They included Landon Anderson-Burt, Jeffery Elerick, Jacob Henderson, Reece Craig, Israel Knight and Shamus Ball.

The middle school will host the Middle School Regional Track Meet on May 5.

Board reports

Cindy Plummer reported that, effective Apr. 30, 2022, Dr. Debb Oliver is resigning as Executive Director of the Nevada Association of School Boards (NASB). NASB is currently deciding if they will conduct a national search. “A lot of people want a local person,” said Plummer.

Mike Mancebo reported that workers are draining the community pool. The recreation board is hopeful it will open in May.

“I’m hoping they will be starting demolition of the pool this week. It will depend on the weather. We still have a Memorial Day weekend opening,” he said.