Washoe County Schools Begin Diversity Program

Washoe County School District
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One of two black principals in the Washoe County School District is filling the district's new position of director of equity and diversity.

Ex-Hug High principal Debra Feemster will direct the district's hiring of minority teachers, counselors and administrators. She also will oversee improvements in scholastic achievement for minority and special education students that are mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Feemster, a school principal for the past 15 years, said she requested the transfer and will remain at her $83,000 annual salary but considers the new job a promotion.

"I'm at the top of the (pay) scale already, and this (is) definitely a promotion since I will be a senior director instead of a site director," said Feemster, who also was principal at Lincoln Park Elementary School and Traner Middle School.

"I'll have some influence. You have the authority to make changes and affect decisions," she told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Gil Folk, who retired last spring as the district's senior director of operations, will be interim principal at Hug High until the district completes a national search for a permanent principal, officials said.

Increasing the number of minority employees in the school district will be one of Feemster's main priorities in her new job, said Debbie Cylke, the superintendent of secondary education and Feemster's immediate supervisor.

Washoe County school trustees say they want to increase the number of Hispanic teachers and counselors from 3.2 percent of the work force to 5 percent in three years.

Trustees also want to increase the percentage of black teachers and counselors from its current level of 0.6 percent to 1 percent in three years.

"We would like our work force of teachers, classified personnel, clerical and administrators to truly reflect our county's population and right now, we don't have that," Cylke said.

Smithridge Elementary Principal Shirley Woods will be the district's only black principal with Feemster's transfer effective this week.