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Politics and Policy
KUNR Youth Media is an award-winning program that trains high school students to be radio reporters. Our spring 2022 cohort has created a questionnaire for all of the candidates running for a seat on the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees.

2022 Elections: Washoe County School Board District C candidate surveys by KUNR Youth Media

Illustration with text that says, “KUNR Youth Media 2022 WCSD Board of Trustees District C candidate surveys.” There is an implied surface with a reporter’s notebook, a pencil, a roll of stickers and a ballot box placed on top of it.
Crystal Willis
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KUNR Public Radio

KUNR Youth Media is an award-winning program that trains high school students to be radio reporters. As part of KUNR’s 2022 election coverage, our spring 2022 cohort has created a questionnaire for all of the candidates running for a seat on the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees. This election cycle, there are three candidates running for the school board seat in District C:

Editor’s notes: Candidates have been listed in alphabetical order by last name. We have provided candidates’ responses to our questionnaire and each answer had a limit of 1,000 characters. Responses have not been edited for spelling, punctuation or grammar. Candidates’ answers have been fact-checked and editor’s notes have been provided as needed. Some candidates did not respond to the questionnaire after being reached out to multiple times; however, we will post their responses if they become available. Candidates were also asked to submit a headshot and these photos were included upon availability.


Kurt Baker

KUNR reached out to this candidate by email and voicemail several times; however, we did not receive a response. We will update this web post with the candidate’s questionnaire responses if they become available.


Joe Rodriguez

For one week a month, bus schedules are suspended for one area of the school district, which has caused disruption to learning. Spanish Springs High School student Kesley says at her school, the buses aren’t running during AP testing and finals. What do you plan to do to fix the staff shortages?

A professional headshot of  Joe Rodriguez set against a plain, white background. Rodriguez is wearing a black suit and a printed, purple tie.
Courtesy of Joe Rodriguez
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Joe Rodriguez is a candidate for Washoe County School District Board of Trustees District C.

First, as a parent of three students currently in our district I understand the frustration of the driver shortage. Our staff is actively thinking of multiple creative ways to address this shortage. I make every opportunity to meet with our bus drivers. I ask them how about their day, what are the pros and cons, and ask for their candid feedback. I have come to understand the largest reason why we are losing our bus drivers is the salary above everything else. We are not nearly competitive as other employers. We have lost drivers to other companies and others have left transportation all together for other higher pay. Well, how do we fix the salary? Speaking with our administrative and fascial staff, we can cut vacant positions and readjust their pay, however we lose the ability to fill those positions. Trustees can work with our state legislatures to increase our per pupil funding and put salaries towards recruiting a retention. All options are on the table for me.

Our Youth Media reporters have told us that the chronic usage of substitute teachers is disruptive to their ability to learn. They’re curious what concrete steps you would take to recruit and retain teachers.

Recruiting: We need to advertise near and far and show how amazing our community is. The Washoe County is a beautiful location for anyone. I am open to sign on bonuses and college repayment options. Our students deserve the best and we need to recruit from the best educator pools. I am open to bold and competitive recruiting. Retention: Treat our educators as professionals, empower our teachers, create better working conditions, and obviously increase their salaries. Our student to teacher is extremely high in a lot of our schools. I have been vocal about opening new schools especially a new Cold Springs High School. Our North Valleys High School is terribly overcrowded. A Cold Springs High School is one of my highest priorities. The funding of WC-1 we can be proactive and build schools to dramatically reduce our overcrowded schools.

We’re seeing a mental health crisis in schools, that includes the risk of suicide, as well as violence. Nick at the Academy of Arts, Careers, and Technology (AACT) wonders what new methods of support for students you would advocate for?

One of the first things Trustee Beth Smith talked about and agreed was at risk youth. Shortly after our appointment we explored telehealth and what benefits they can offer our students. This is an outstanding opportunity to bridge telehealth from the school district to the community. Telehealth companies can be a resource not just for physical and dental concerns, but also for mental health. Trustee Smith and I have brought this before the current Board of Trustees and was well respective. This District is actively looking at companies right now to bring before the Board. This would be an asset for our currently medical and mental support staff. Students during moments of crisis or simply have a need to speak with a mental health professional will have that ability in moments with access to telehealth. If further appointment is needed past the ability of the initial visit on telehealth, programs can be used to bridge further into our community.

AACT student Ellie says student meals are low quality, with a lack of fruits, vegetables and proteins. She said the meals are “something adults would never eat.” What steps would you take to increase the amount of healthy food at school?

Trustee Mayberry and I toured our Nutrition Faciality about a month ago. It is an impressive facility. I was under the impression that our meals meet the federal standard for daily meal nutrition. I will have to revisit this and ensure that our meals are only meeting the standard but are desirable enough that our students are consuming them. A healthy meal with strengthen healthy minds and create a positive learning environment.

Editor’s note: WCSD Nutrition Services follow federal nutrition guidelines, which include low and non-fat dairy options, lean protein choices, several fruit and vegetable options and grains with more than 50% whole grain ingredients. Learn more about WCSD Nutrition Services here.

Learn more about Joe Rodriguez at joe4washoe.com.


Melanie Sutton

For one week a month, bus schedules are suspended for one area of the school district, which has caused disruption to learning. Spanish Springs High School student Kesley says at her school, the buses aren’t running during AP testing and finals. What do you plan to do to fix the staff shortages?

Melanie Sutton smiles with hands on hips as she stands against brush outdoors.
Courtesy of Melanie Sutton
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Melanie Sutton is a candidate for Washoe County School District Board of Trustees District C.

We can start by giving bus drivers a living wage. Bus drivers make a little over $15 my son at 18 years old made more than that working at Petco.

Editor’s note: A spokesperson with WCSD says starting salaries for bus drivers range from $16.86 to $18.89 per hour. According to the job site Indeed, WCSD bus drivers make $20.29 per hour on average. According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, they are paid between $14.18 and $25.04 an hour. Average hourly pay for Petco in the U.S. ranges from about $9.80 to $18.36 per hour, according to Indeed.

Our Youth Media reporters have told us that the chronic usage of substitute teachers is disruptive to their ability to learn. They’re curious what concrete steps you would take to recruit and retain teachers.

This is easy. Eliminate 20% of the administrators which would give them the option of going back into the classroom.

We’re seeing a mental health crisis in schools, that includes the risk of suicide, as well as violence. Nick at the Academy of Arts, Careers, and Technology (AACT) wonders what new methods of support for students you would advocate for?

Create a sense of belonging for students, Educate staff, parents, and students on symptoms and help for mental health, encourage good physical health, encourage helping others, ensure access to school-based mental health support, Giving a positive and safe school environment, a crisis response team, provide mental health services, teach and reinforce positive behaviors/decision-making.

AACT student Ellie says student meals are low quality, with a lack of fruits, vegetables and proteins. She said the meals are “something adults would never eat.” What steps would you take to increase the amount of healthy food at school?

We can hire private companies to supply school lunches. Private companies are better with quality and preventing waste. Not only will this save money with the waste but also with not having pay for employees and their benefit plans.

Editor’s note: According to a spokesperson with WCSD, the school district cannot hire a private company to provide school meals because its food offerings are heavily regulated by the federal government.

Learn more about Melanie Sutton at SuttonforWCSD.com.


Click here to view candidate surveys for other Washoe County School District Board of Trustees races.

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