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Washoe schools leader on career, leadership through pandemic, retirement

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Dr. Kristen McNeill
Washoe County School District

Dr. Kristen McNeill

Washoe County School District Superintendent Kristen McNeill is a native Nevadan who has worked for the district for 26 years.

These last few during the pandemic might have been the toughest.

After starting her career teaching in elementary school, she moved to administration and became interim superintendent in 2019. In 2020, she was named full-time superintendent.

On June 30, she will retire. She called her retirement bittersweet.

Since she started as a teacher, she said she maintained a focus on students in poverty, homelessness and early childhood education.

“It's just something in my fiber that I believe very strongly about as far as our children in transition and the challenges that our kids face,” McNeill said. “And then obviously, early childhood education is so exceptionally important that we get our kids off to a great start.”

McNeill can name all her teachers from kindergarten, noting education was a foundation of her family. Her mother is a retired school psychologist, father is a retired middle school principal, one sister is a retired teacher and the other teaches special education.

“One of our jobs as educators is to always understand the impact that one person can make in a child's life. It's just absolutely incredible,” she said.

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She took the top job in April 2020, right as schools transitioned online due to COVID-19. Their schools were on spring break. They mobilized as quickly as they could, sending home thousands of packets, meals, lesson plans.

“Our community stood up and helped when we needed it,” she said. “That will be something that that remains with me for a very, very long time.”

The pandemic wasn’t a factor in her decision to retire, she said, as it came from a discussion with her family.

Washoe County School District gets the lowest per pupil funding in Nevada, and she said they’re very transparent about their need. “Public education is tremendously important to this state, and we need to invest in it.”

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Kristen McNeill, superintendent, Washoe County School District

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