The other morning I logged on to Facebook, expecting to mindlessly flip through pictures and status updates when I saw I’d been tagged in a video. The video was a group of parents from Melton Elementary who were talking about why they were in favor of WC-1 and how they had recently handed out 100 yard signs at Back to School Night and were challenging Westergard Elementary parents to do their own challenge. They called this the SOS (Save Our Schools) Challenge.
Anyone who knows me well knows I’m always up for a challenge and as a parent of a 1st grader at Westergard, one of the most overcrowded elementary schools in the district, I immediately commented that we’d accept their challenge. I spent the rest of the morning contacting SOS to see what task we could do to help with the campaign. Then I began sending emails and texts trying to round up parents to make 500 phone calls on behalf of SOS.
It was easy to find parents to help. Sierra Clark, my good friend who is a mother of 4 boys in Northwest Reno said, “I took the SOS challenge because I want my boys to have an enjoyable and safe learning environment which allows them to learn to the best of their abilities. We value our family time and organized sports. I want to avoid my children having to leave for school as early as 5:30am or not returning home from school until 7:00pm and not be able to participate in their favorite sports. The only thing I can think of that is even worse would be for my boys on opposite ’tracks’ from each other resulting in zero vacation time for our family. Truly, all of our families deserve better.“
Cynthia Kummer said, “As a parent whose kids attend Westergard, it’s important I do my part in promoting SOS for my kids’ future in public schools.” Another mom who helped with the Challenge was Michelle Loux who told me “As a mom of two boys attending Westergard, the overcrowding issue was apparent the first day I walked in the front doors five years ago. I know that NW Reno will not see immediate relief. I understand that passing of WC-1 does not mean next year my son’s school will be able to avoid multi-track. What it does mean is that Washoe County is agreeing there is a problem and as community members we are taking a step in the right direction. Finally.
Traci Dean, who accepted Westergard’s challenge to Billinghurst Middle School said, “I did the SOS challenge because I care about my kids’ education, as well as the rest of Washoe County. With crazy schedules like what’s proposed, how are we going to find teachers who want to teach in our district?”
Many other parents were eager to do something that would make a difference. They realize the passage of this initiative will literally make or break the foundation of our children’s education. If this WC-1 passes we can build new schools and renovate the older ones. If it doesn’t pass, a huge number of elementary schools will go multi-track, and middle schools and high schools will go to double sessions. Families and school communities will be devastated. Imagine having children at different schools and on different schedules. When will families have quality time? Who will provide before and after school care for the non-traditional breaks? What will become of school friendships? What will our amazing teachers do who will have their own children on different schedules? I imagine many teachers chose the profession for the quality of life, having the same schedules as their children (we know they certainly didn’t choose it for the pay.)
Kristie Sheltra, had the idea for the challenge and when I asked her why she started it she said “Taking the SOS challenge is a vehicle reaching farther and wider within our community to get as many parents involved in helping spread awareness about the critical need to pass WC-1. The tasks are designed to reach more and more people by/through signage, phone calls, mail or door knocking we are getting more “boots on the ground” so to speak. Everyone can play a part and feel good about their contribution when they go to the polls and vote on November 8th. Collectively we are taking ownership of this issue & supporting the cause in a hands-on way. Nothing is more important for a child’s future success than an education!”
If you are a parent with a child in the Washoe County School District, or if you simply are a resident of Washoe County and care about our children, their education and truly the future of our county, educate yourself on WC-1. The funds will be managed by an oversight committee, not the School Board (and by the way 4 seats are up for re-election this year). It is .54 percent increase in sales tax. It’s estimated a family of 4 would pay less than $100/per year in additional sales tax. There is no sunset because the needs for our schools are never ending and Washoe County has never had a source of income that is large enough to cover the capital expenditures needed to maintain our growing district. You may not be happy with current administrators or the school board, but don’t punish the children of the county for past mistakes of adults (adults who can be voted out of office or who can quit or leave their job).
What can you do next? Take the Challenge! Even if your school hasn’t been nominated yet, call the SOS office and ask what you can do. Find some friends, make some calls, go door to door, hand out yard signs and then make a video, share it on Facebook and challenge your friends at other schools!
Stephanie Hanna is a mother of three boys and she has 16 years left in the Washoe County School District. She is passionate about ensuring those years are filled with a quality education.