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OPINON: With My Reforms, We Can Turn WCSD Around

Parental involvement and student/parent empowerment is needed at all levels

By Oscar Dey Williams, May 24, 2024 6:21 pm

Hello. I am Oscar Williams, running for Washoe School Board District E. I’m a thirty-year resident of Reno and a super dad.

My son attended Westergard and Billinghurst in District E as a special needs student due to his dyslexia. To the parents of children with dyslexia, there is hope—lots of hope! For example, where I was told by school officials that my son would likely not be proficient in reading by the time he graduated high school, he is now in the college of his choice and last semester, made the Dean’s List! 

Dyslexia is not a negative, but the WCSD treats it as such. That must change. Herein, I propose my solutions.

A child’s success cannot be predetermined, and “success” is subjective. The problems in Washoe County School District, and in many districts these days, is that kids are profiled and their lives are predetermined. Just as WCSD board president Beth Smith said in an interview on February 14, 2024: “We want to provide funding and programs that match what their futures look like for them.”

What their futures look like for them? Wait a minute. Is she saying the school picks and chooses winners and losers? Because that sounds exactly like what is happening and has happened, my experience included.

I want to empower students and parents to create a track trajectory and choose elective areas of study by redesigning the Individualized Education Program so it can be accessed by all students. For example, if a McQueen High sophomore wants to learn culinary skills at the new Debbie Smith Academy and then return to McQueen for core studies or sports, they will be able to do that because the WCSD will make it happen. Call it a City Campus by design.

The revised IEP will change focus from accommodating failure to providing specialized and targeted services for the plethora of needs of our diverse student base and expecting positive results. Parents will choose what special services the school will provide their student with respect to learning barriers such as dyslexia. 

To better overcome learning barriers the new IEP will be supplemented by a robust after-school program, involving tutors and teacher’s assistants-for-hire; services and individuals approved by the school board. I will ask Washoe County to extend grants to families of a special need student, and those with language barriers, to pay for these extended services.

Me and my son, who is now 22. (Photo provided by Oscar Williams)

Why does this work?

Giving students and parents license to craft their future empowers them and anchors them to the program they have devised. When it is their plan, students are most likely to attend, engage, and ultimately learn.

Standardized testing is required, yet the ACT cannot predict a student’s future. With regard to a vocational tract, such as culinary arts, the ACT does not test such skills which truly underrates that student who may become the next Auguste Escoffier (1836-1935) – possibly the finest chef to ever walk the face of the Earth. Okay, some kid got high marks on the ACT, but can they can make a souffle?

Testing is a concern and for which I propose government equivalency diploma testing at each high school grade level. This a) gets students comfortable with testing, and b) shows them a minimal goal that they must attain to work in the real world.

I look forward to working with trade unions and particularly with regard to the new Debbie Smith Academy projected to open in 2025 in District E.

I intend to solicit the Nevada Department of Education and the Committee on Education to give more control to local school boards and to refine Washoe County’s school budget and funding mechanism. We need a long-term plan that addresses the concerns of the teachers’ union and ultimately puts more teachers into classrooms.

I seek an ideal ratio of students to teachers.

I believe in pay increases for education professionals based on performance.

I will work with my peers on the board to reach out to students and families to inform them of new happenings and to better engage them, emphasis on home-schooled students. For example, a home study pupil has access to school sports, but many don’t know that.

Our students can do better with reading, writing, and how to petition or debate others in support of their desires and concerns. Such basic skills will take them far. True fluency in English takes time though. I’m not expecting Shakespeare, but do want a minimum of acumen to write a letter of importance. 

I believe that Sex Ed should be open to inspection by parents who may choose to opt-out their child from that teaching. 

The school board has a hand in determining a student’s mental health which, as currently run, I am opposed to. This is intrinsic to the profiling of students. The school board allows outside groups to interact with students to provide counseling for mental health issues and by so doing has created an opaque system controlled by third-party organizations that target children they deem to be “struggling,” or “trouble” or “dangerous to themselves or others.” I don’t want anyone getting into my child’s head at that young and impressionable age. I don’t want anyone that I don’t know talking to my child about their emotional and mental health.

Parental involvement is needed at all levels. 

With my reforms, we can turn our district around. The bad statistics will become good statistics and companies will flock to Washoe County for our education system. The resulting economic boom will usher in a bright new era for our community.

I ask for your vote in the June 11 primary election. 


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