unedited sept. tahoe mt. news story:
By Kathryn Reed
Douglas County School District’s board of education has two contested seats on the November ballot – one in the valley, the other at the Lake.
Lake representative Cindy Trigg, 54, is going after a second term. Greg Felton, 44, wants to unseat her in his first quest for elected office.
Both are Stateline residents. Trigg’s son graduated this year from UNR after having gone through the Lake schools. Felton has three children in Lake schools and a fourth if his Chilean exchange student counts. Both have good things to say about Whittell High School and Principal Sue Shannon. Both support the bond initiative on November’s ballot. Both agree healing needs to continue to smooth over discontent from the last few years over strife caused by consolidation and radon.
The new guy
“I’m running because I think our kids deserve fundamentally sound schools. They deserve the opportunity to find their potential,” Felton said. “I will study the issues carefully. I will consider a wide range of solutions to problems. I believe I am pretty rational. I don’t believe in several aspects the incumbent is satisfying these areas.”
Felton believes he is more of an independent thinker than his opponent. He says being called a one issue candidate is false. Although radon first drew him to attend school board meetings, Felton says his interest in schools and the district go beyond radon.
“I think the really good teachers are not paid enough and I think others are not doing a quality job and they are overpaid,” Felton said. He would like to institute a more merit based pay scale for teachers.
With state budget cuts impacting all schools in Nevada, Felton wants to be more aggressive with seeking alternative funding sources like private foundations.
He wants the district’s side of issues to be told in a clearer manner.
“I’m afraid the perception is funds are not managed well. Some of it may be PR. I don’t think the school district has done a very good job of conveying the fundamentals of where money comes from and where it goes,” Felton said.
It’s his perception that too often decisions are made prior to the meeting and that comments from the public are just “tolerated.”
He is satisfied Zephyr Cove’s radon levels have been reduced, but questions why more is not being done at Whittell and why the valley schools are not being tested.
Felton is not completely satisfied with how Superintendent Carol Lark is running the district. During her evaluation process he offered his assessment. He stopped short of having it incorporated into public record.
“I commented on staff and how she managed them,” Felton said.
When Felton isn’t campaigning, his day job is working for a private company investigating aircraft accidents.
Trigg is running on her record – one she is proud of. She points to student achievement through critical content, common assessments, requiring all students in AP classes to take the AP test, and collaboration between teachers at various grade levels, as goals she and the board have achieved.
“Another accomplishment was the hiring of the new superintendent and the bridge we are building between the valley and the Lake schools,” Trigg said. That bridge is something she wants to reinforce in her next term.
Trigg took a lot of heat in the last year from parents who believed she, the board and staff were ignoring their concerns about radon.
“While I agree we didn’t do everything right, we learned a lot and we accomplished what we needed to. The school opened on time,” Trigg said of radon and Zephyr Cove. “The issue was made more difficult. It was confused with consolidation.”
Declining dollars, Trigg said, will continue to be an issue in the next four years. She said the district is saving money through energy efficiency and has eliminated jobs through attrition.
“I think our students deserve for us to be paying attention to their education needs. If we have to make cuts, we need to pay attention to student achievement,” Trigg said. “I feel I am very ethical, have a lot of integrity and I have been very honest.”
Although the school board in nonpartisan, Trigg is an ardent Democrat who is spending much of her non-DCSD time campaigning for Jill Derby, who is running for Congress.