(Jim Clark) – I had the opportunity to break bread with Washoe County School Superintendent Heath Morrison the other day. I write a political commentary column and although school superintendents are, and should be, apolitical (he is a registered independent voter), they have to function in a society where everyone has opinions.
So I was pleasantly surprised to hear Heath (he invites everyone to call him by his first name notwithstanding his prestigious educational and professional attainments) say that he basically agrees with Gov. Sandoval’s plan for education in Nevada except for vouchers. If you log on to www.briansandoval.com you will find that is a heap of agreement.
The current winner of the American Association of School Administrators’ “Superintendent of the Year Award,” Heath approaches his job like the CEO of a large organization that has lots of stockholders (voters) he is anxious to do a good job for. To that end, Washoe County School District has engaged K12 Insight, a Washington, DC company that “transforms school districts into organizations that grow trust capital by engaging the silent majority of their stakeholders through transparency and collaborative decision-making.”
As Heath explains it: “You have to gain political capital to spend political capital.” Here’s where K12 Insight’s expertise—“survey design and deployment in public schools, impact of surveys and community wide communication on public schools”—comes in.
A headline in last week’s Bonanza read: “Incline schools’ signature academy survey extended”. The story went on to explain that all local residents are asked to respond to a survey to express ideas and thoughts on the proposed signature academy for Incline schools. That tells us two things: The signature academy concept is a departure from the old 3 R’s, and the superintendent is seeking input from his “stockholders.” Kudos on the latter, but I had to do some research to find out what a signature academy is.
The background is that Heath’s board, the ones we elected, have approved a plan whereby all students graduate from high school and that they graduate ready for the job market and/or ready to go to college. By entering into mutual agreements with local businesses and higher educational institutes (in our case Sierra Nevada College), students can have an option to receive additional training in specific areas that may be of interest to them at the same time as they complete their high school graduation requirements. Depending on the availability of resources and the wishes of the student, the academy may furnish additional credit academic courses, job market skills, and the like.
Students who opt for signature academy training may be college bound but in need of training for a well-paying part time job in college, or they may opt for the workforce on graduation. In either case, it appears to me that this program is a low (or no) cost adjunct to a high school education. It’s great that the school district bothered to ask us stockholders our opinions. By the way, Gov. Sandoval referred to Washoe County’s signature academy when he announced his new economic recovery plan.
Readers with long memories may recall back to 1996 when the school district sought to pass a school construction bond and Washoe County voters turned it down by a crushing margin. It seems to me that if that school board had bothered to “grow trust capital by engaging the silent majority of their stakeholders through transparency and collaborative decision-making,” there might have been a different result.
Looks like Dr. Morrison really deserved that national award.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates and a member of the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees.)