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Washoe School Board President Is The Only Incumbent Running

Alexa Ard

Out of the 20 candidates running for Washoe County School Board, only one is an incumbent. Board President Angie Taylor is running against two challengers to keep her seat for District E which covers north Reno above I-80. Our News Director Michelle Billman has more.

At a forum last night hosted by the Reno Gazette-Journal, Taylor stood out as the only candidate for two districts who supports the controversial contract for superintendent Traci Davis. That contract includes a base salary of $238,000 along with back-pay, a car allowance, and other benefits.

"I would submit this: the superintendent of our schools, the one who is responsible for the safety, security, and education of the most precious commodity that we have, and that's 64,000 young kids, young minds, should be paid fairly," Taylor says. "That's not the position that you want to undercut and say, 'Hey, can we get somebody for $75,000 a year?' Maybe we can, but is that the person that we want?"

One of Taylor's challengers is Carlos Ledon, a manager for a company called Ferguson Waterworks.

After repeatedly drawing negative attention for breaking open meeting laws and other missteps, the current board is turning things around according to Ledon, but he says heavy criticism remains due to a lack of communication with families and other community members.

That's something he would like to change if elected.

"The district is trying to do a good job of having an open-book policy, an open-check policy. It's very difficult when all the public sees are the decision-making that make headlines," Ledon explains. "They don't know all of the good that's getting done, and I think that if there's a better job of the district communicating all the good, that it balances those times when we do as a board--we are going to mess up."

The other challenger is Paula Ward, an accountant and chief auditor for the school district. She says her financial background is needed to solve problems. And right now there's a pretty big one--you may have heard of it--regarding school overcrowding.

A ballot initiative in November would raise sales tax to pay for school infrastructure, but many say it'll be tough to pass. If it doesn't, Ward is one of the few candidates with some concrete ideas.

"We need to look at maybe expanding the footprint of current schools, that maybe we have enough land around them that maybe we could add onto that," Ward says. "And, also, we have another initiative coming up in November with recreational marijuana, and if that does pass, maybe we look at getting a percentage of that excise tax."

Ward also suggests the possibility of redistricting.

These three candidates will face off during Tuesday's primary, with the top two candidates heading to the general election.

Thursday's forum also included candidates from District G, which is an at-large seat covering the entire western half of the county. Candidates for District G include:

David DeSilva

Katy Simon Holland

Bill Horn

Greg Hudson

Helm Lehmann

Mike Mieras

Michael J. Millerick

John "Jack" Milon

Note: Both Helm Lehmann and Mike Mieras declined to participate in Thursday's forum.

At the event, all of the candidates were asked several questions in a lightning round that required a simple "yes" or "no." Those questions covered a broad range of topics, including: the approval of Superintendent Traci Davis’s contract,the number of school administrators working in the district and whether sex education should be broadened to include LGBT definitions.

Check out their answers, which were compiled by the Reno Gazette-Journal. The newspaper also hosted a forum Wednesday with candidates for Districts A and D. You can learn more here and here.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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