(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Five candidates, including one current board member, are seeking the State Board of Education seat in District 3 in Clark County in the June 12 primary.
The top two vote-getters in the nonpartisan race will move on to the general election in November. The board, reconstituted in the 2011 legislative session, has four elected seats. Another three will be appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval and legislative leadership.
The candidates are Dino Davis, an investigative specialist with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department; Ed Klapproth, who teaches at the College of Southern Nevada; Debra “Sam” King, retired from the Clark County School District; Allison Serafin, who works as a special consultant to Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones; and Annie Yvette Wilson, who currently serves on the 10-member elected board and who also works as the homeless liaison for the Las Vegas police.
The board is expected to take on a newly expanded role in Sandoval’s efforts to reform and improve Nevada’s public education system.
Dino Davis says he is independent
Davis, who has a six-year-old daughter in the Clark County School District, said he decided to run because of concerns about the disparity in the schools, some which are only a mile apart. Davis said he is not affiliated with the teachers’ union or any other education interest group.
“I’m truly independent,” he said. “I’m in this strictly for the students of Nevada and to improve their overall achievement in education. I’m passionate about education.”
Davis, who is completing a master’s degree in public administration, said his passion came late in life when his daughter entered school.
“I’ve just come to realize through my studies how important education is, and I think every student deserves that opportunity to have an education,” he said.
Davis said he supports school choice as does Sandoval, with charter schools filling an important need along with home schooling. But if the state can help create high performing schools where students can excel, choice may not be as critical for most parents and students, he said.
Davis said he isn’t sold on a voucher program where students would be able to use state tax dollars to attend private school, but that he is not adamantly opposed either. Sandoval is expected to pursue a voucher program in the 2013 legislative session.
“I’m all for some healthy competition, I agree with that aspect, it does make people step up to the plate and improve,” he said.
Ed Klapproth says he supports Gov. Sandoval’s education reforms
Klapproth said he is a strong supporter of Sandoval’s reform efforts, including a voucher program. He has worked as a teacher both in the U.S. and overseas, giving him a chance to see different education systems first hand, including those in Europe and Asia. He teaches English as a second language and is qualified in political science as well.
Klapproth said a major concern is how many students need remedial courses when they come to college.
“It’s shocking sometimes how much they don’t know,” he said. “We have a broken system and we need to make some radical changes.”
Klapproth said money isn’t the answer to improving the state’s education system. Funding is important but throwing money at the problem and creating an ever-expanding bureaucracy does not work, he said.
Teachers are over-burdened with a bureaucracy that has caused frustration and low morale, Klapproth said.
“And so I’d like to see teachers and the parents have more control over the curriculum,” he said. “I don’t believe in this one-size-fits-all education system that’s handed down from Washington, DC. We have very unique problems in our state, a unique situation, and we have to be responsive to that.”
Klapproth said he would like to see a separate track established for students who want to pursue vocational training as is done in other countries. In Japan, companies provide the money and personnel to set up training programs so they can hire highly skilled workers. Doing this in Nevada by giving corporations a $1 for $1 tax credit to do this would help diversify the economy as well, he said.
Klapproth said he would like to see more school choice, including more charter schools and some type of voucher program. He would also like to see alternative credentialing to bring more qualified teachers into the classroom.
Debra “Sam” King says Nevada needs to “change up” the public education system
King, who retired in 2009 having worked as both a classroom teacher and as the GED administrator and who put two children through the Clark County public school system, said Nevada needs to “change up” the public education system.
“Not necessarily reform, because reform always suggests that we’re doing a lot of bad things,” she said. “I do think that we need to do a change up and maybe look at what we’re doing with education.”
As to Sandoval’s education reform proposals, King said she will continue to support the public education system but that changes and improvements need to be considered, including ending social promotion.
“That’s a given,” she said. “Because we’re not doing the student any favors, or quality of life any favors in the community. The student has to get the material and learn to the best of ability so they become a productive person.”
But King said she does not support a voucher program, which faces legal and constitutional impediments.
“I do support charter schools when they are organized to fill a need,” she said.
The homeschooling program also needs to be continued, King said.
“I’m a strong proponent of both adequate and equitable schools,” she said.
King said regardless of who advances after the primary, what is important is to keep moving forward with improving public education.
“There is no quick fix,” she said.
Allison Serafin says she wants to ensure children get access to a great education
Serafin said she is running because of a belief that the board needs members with both classroom and business experience that can help create policy for schools across the state. She taught for three years at the middle school level before going to work for the superintendent.
Before that Serafin started her educational career in the Teach for America program in 2001 in Houston.
“So, for the past 11 years, my life really has been dedicated to doing everything I can to ensure that all kids get access to a great education,” she said. “And that, ultimately, was grounded in my experience as a teacher and seeing the incredible potential within all of my students.”
As to Sandoval’s proposed reforms, Serafin said it is exciting to know that he wants to “discuss what policies we can put in place to ensure that our kids, No. 1, know whether or not they are proficient and that their families know, and that No. 2, it holds all of us, the adults, accountable to ensuring that we are adequately preparing our kids.”
Whether the answer is vouchers or charters, the objective is ensuring every child has access to a great school, she said.
“I’m open to having discussions around what are other states are doing that is leading to great results,” Serafin said. “And how at the same time can we support our existing public schools in this effort.
“What our state school board needs are leaders who are going to identify problems and most importantly create innovative solutions that are cost neutral,” she said.
The state’s economic prosperity is at stake, Serafin said.
Annie Wilson says underlying issues need to be addressed to help children get a quality of education
Wilson said she wants to continue the work on the board she started after getting elected in November 2010. As a result of the 2011 legislation, Wilson said she has to run again for the District 3 seat to do that.
Wilson said she wants to deal with the problems associated with the state-required proficiency test for a student to graduate from high school. A growth model measuring a student’s progress is one alternative, she said.
“You can base the student on their growth, how much they are learning in the classroom, instead of basing everything on a proficiency test, one test,” Wilson said.
If a student is not going to pass the test, then efforts should be made to prepare for the GED, Wilson said. Parents need to know what is available in the community, including assistance that is offered by the library system, to help their children, she said.
Preparation for the proficiency test should also be offered in summer school at no charge, Wilson said.
Wilson said she does support charter schools, and would consider a voucher program depending on the details. But the voters she has talked to generally don’t support vouchers, Wilson said.
She agrees with the need to provide a foundation for children in the first three grades, but said there are underlying issues that make this a challenge for many parents.
“And the parents have to be engaged also,” Wilson said. “Right now there’s not a lot of parents engaged in education. There are a lot of underlying issues. Right now in the Clark County School District we have almost 5,000 homeless school children in our school district.”
These problems need to be addressed for these parents first, she said.
“My goal is to help the students, parents and the community,” Wilson said.