Mya Russell: Putting Students First

By Mya Russell (As published in The Union)

I am a parent of two students in the Nevada Joint Union High School District (NJUHSD) and I endorse Wendy Willoughby (District 2-Grass Valley, Rough & Ready), Olivia Pritchett (District 1-Nevada City, North San Juan, Camptonville) and Ken Johnson (District 5-Alta Sierra, Lake of the Pines) for NJUHSD School Board Trustee in the upcoming November 8 general election. These 3 candidates have the most relevant experience serving the needs of high school students. Wendy Willoughby and Olivia Pritchett are parents of current high school students with extensive experience serving on different boards and have relevant professional experience and Ken Johnson is the only candidate that has served students as a high school teacher and has professional training in school district budgets.

My children, along with hundreds of other students they have gone to school with, have been fortunate enough to reap the benefits of the highly effective, professional and compassionate leadership of Wendy Willoughby and Olivia Pritchett during the Kindergarten-8th grade years and additionally during the preschool years with Wendy Willoughby. Ms. Willoughby and Ms. Pritchett both worked seamlessly with the administration, teachers, parents and students to find out what needs there were, develop a plan of action by collaborating with others and following through admirably and effectively. Please visit their websites to learn more about their impressive qualifications at and This slate of candidates has a proven history of putting students’ needs first.

These candidates recently hosted a Student Listening Session to give students in the district the opportunity to openly share their experiences, concerns and questions. The session was designed for only students to speak, not adult guests and Ms. Willoughby, Ms. Pritchett and Mr. Johnson were extremely welcoming, respectful and encouraging of the students. As a result, the students were empowered to use their voice to passionately and eloquently share deep issues affecting their learning experience. I was moved by the pleading in the students’ voices asking for change. Some common themes the students raised were the lack of physical and emotional safety, repeated and unresolved racially motivated bullying, fear of using the restrooms due to substance abuse and bullying, lack of support from the administration, lack of relevant curriculum and many other distresses.

One particularly distressing comment was made by the current Student Trustee of the NJUSD School Board, Amelia Glaz. She reported that at the October School Board meeting, several of the sitting Trustees used their slated board report time to campaign for two particular candidates; Stephanie Leishman and Jay Adamson, with no mention of any other candidates. Stephanie Leishman is a current appointed Trustee and Jay Adamson is the son of current Board President Pat Seeley. The Student Trustee indicated that the Trustees may have violated the Brown Act and called for an investigation.

I watched the video of the October board meeting and I was blown away by how unprofessional the behavior of those Trustees was. The campaigning for those two candidates was in some cases in lieu of an actual board report on any work they were doing. The most astonishing part is that it follows just after the August meeting in which the school district lawyer had to be brought in to train the sitting Trustees on how to run a school board meeting and follow state laws, and several members of this sitting board blatantly broke the law, which is a poor example to set for our students. Trustee Ganskie was the only Trustee aside from the student Trustee to acknowledge the transgression by his fellow Trustees and when a member of the public questioned the legitimacy of this behavior, Superintendent Dan Frisella cautioned the Trustees not to do any campaigning and was ignored.

How can we expect our students to behave appropriately when their leaders disregard policy and laws governing their work? Our tax dollars should be spent on quality education of the students, not on lawyers holding “how to” sessions for an ill-prepared school board with flagrant disregard for procedure and more interest in their own personal agendas than on students’ needs. I urge you to vote for Wendy Willoughby (District 2-Grass Valley, Rough & Ready), Olivia Pritchett (District 1-Nevada City, North San Juan, Camptonville) and Ken Johnson (District 5-Alta Sierra, Lake of the Pines) for NJUHSD School Board Trustee in the upcoming November 8 general election to truly meet the needs of our high school students. They are our future and they deserve our most qualified and effective leaders.

Mya Russell lives in Grass Valley

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