School District Needs Change

By Eric Mayer (As published in The Union)

We would like to take this opportunity to promote, widely and resoundingly, the slate of candidates that the Nevada Joint Union High School Teachers Association supports. We have three seats on the ballot this election in Areas 1, 2, and 5. The behavior exhibited by the NJUHSD Board Trustees at the October 5th meeting further illustrates why this election is so critically important to our schools.

With no other opportunity for equal time at a public meeting to campaign for the candidates that our unit endorse, our Teachers Association offers enthusiastic endorsements for Olivia Pritchett for Area 1; Wendy Willoughby for Area 2; Ken Johnson for Area 5.

Our philosophy is that our schools need to provide a positive educational experience for all students in our community. Our members voted to endorse these candidates after interviewing all candidates who were interested (Jay Adamson declined an interview due to scheduling conflicts.) We asked a common set of questions to all candidates designed to elicit their vision for how to manage our district in a manner that will address the unique set of situations our district faces, from student culture, to staffing, to funding.

To be clear, this is not to disparage or speak ill of any of the candidates we chose not to endorse; rather, we chose to put our support behind these three because their answers align with teachers’ feelings about the direction we would like to see the board steered.

They each bring a unique set of skills and experiences that, in combination, we wholeheartedly believe will provide a set of perspectives that will lead our district for the clearest benefit of our students.

It is no secret that the culture in our district is in need of change, and that change must happen from the top down. Our teachers voted to endorse this slate of candidates because they have communicated clearly that they will lead the Nevada Joint Union High School District Board of Trustees in a manner that fosters a school environment that is healthiest, safest, and provides the best possible education for our students.

At a listening session hosted by these candidates on Sunday, October 9th at Nevada County Media, students offered their take on the issues facing our schools. They listened as students offered a perspective too often overlooked or dismissed. Students are the stakeholder group most affected by board policy and decisions, yet they get the least say.

As these candidates have ramped up their campaigns, it is clear to us that they will use their Trustee seats to amplify student voice to foster a school culture that best supports all of the students in our community.

Olivia is the parent of our former student trustee, and having attended every board meeting last year, she understands the needs and dynamic of our board and its role in the district. Her work in the arts community means she understands the need to build and reinforce the arts programs in our schools.

Wendy, also from a theater background, manages events with the Fair, so she has unique understanding of the interconnected lives our students lead here. She also runs a nonprofit, with board service that demonstrates the brand of effective communication and collaborative decision making that will only benefit our board.

Both these women are very involved parents of current students who already have a strong record of support for student programs and understand the current needs and issues faced by today’s high schoolers.

Ken is a retired teacher, who also worked as the sole teacher representative on the state School Attendance Review Board. He understands the impacts of student attendance and discipline policies. As a former union president himself, he has lengthy experience in analyzing school budgets, and maximizing public funds to benefit current students.

The qualities that all three share is a deep desire to improve the school experience for every one of today’s high school students in Western Nevada County.

The most important thing in this midterm election is to fill out your ballot. These down-ballot races are what shape our community. As teachers, your students’ learning conditions are our working conditions. We ask you to vote for Olivia Pritchett, Wendy Willoughby, and Ken Johnson, because they will be the NJUHSD School Board Trustees who will create the positive school experience our students deserve.

Eric Mayer is President of the Nevada Joint Union High School Teachers Association

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