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Back To School In Carson City

We're talking to school district superintendents in Nevada to get a sense of what's going on in their communities, and what they're looking forward to this year. 

Richard Stokes is superintendent of public schools in Carson City, the state capital.


On student population:

"We're expecting a little bump [in student population]," he said. "We're seeing a busy community. There seems to be a lot of construction companies going here and there."

Stokes said the economy is improving and they're expecting a jump of between 25 and 30 students this fall. That doesn't sound like much, but with a student population of 7,600, it shows.

On the condition of the schools:

"When we passed our last school bond election, we promised that we would try our very best to try to get rid of portable buildings and build brick and mortar structures that are more efficient, easier to maintain, easier to keep comfortable, and so we're in the process of doing that," he explained.

Stokes said they're working to add classrooms to two elementary schools and to the district's alternative high school. 

On graduation rates:

"During the last five or six years, we've been focusing on shifting our stance from more of a teacher-centered delivery model to more of what do we need to do for every student," he said.

The superintendent said the change in focus has improved graduation rates at both the alternative and traditional high schools.

On the governor's school safety task force:

"Some of those points were numbers one, two and three on our list, and Governor Sandoval was very receptive," he said.

Stokes was part of the effort to create a list of recommendations to improve school safety that was turned over to the governor.

He said the Carson City School District already had resource officers at several of its schools. He would like more, but that takes more money.

On the social workers in schools program:

"Our principals, our counselors, or our teachers are finding that the work of the social workers is helping to take pressure off some of those other places in school where a student's state of mind might show up, like poor behavior in the classroom, or greater number of students that are failing," he said. "We're not seeing that to the same extent."

Stokes said the social workers are the first line of defense for students who are struggling. He said social workers find help not only for the student but often times for the family, who might need some more support.

On arming teachers:

"I am not in favor it" he said. "I think that there are too many things that can go wrong." 

He said teachers should be focused on supporting and loving students. He said he thinks the job of protecting students and the school with armed weapons be the job of people who are trained.

On school funding:

"I am in favor of seeing maybe some additional work done to study and revise the current system of funding in this state," he said.

Stokes pointed out that the Distributive School Account and the funding formula used to distribute that money is still based on what was decided in the 1960s.

On marijuana taxes being used for education funding:

"I'm not certain how that money is finding its way to education in this state, quite honestly," Stokes said.

He said it is something lawmakers need to look at in the next legislative session. But he does believe more money is needed in the state's school system because "there is such a variety of expenses that schools are required to cover."

On challenges facing his district and the state:

"I think schools now are more rigorous than they've ever been," he said. "Consequently, students are learning more at a faster rate and so we are being more agile as we address those student needs."

He said his district has a responsibility to be responsive to students and families because they have different needs and goals.

But Stokes is optimistic about the future because of the dedicated people who work in his district.


Richard Stokes, superintendent, Carson City School District

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)