WCSD Superintendent Gives 'State of Education'

RENO, Nev. Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez gave his first State of Education speech Tuesday.

Speaking to a packed audience at the Academy of Arts, Careers, and Technology, Martinez outlined his priorities for the school district.

"We are achieving great successes in our efforts to reach out to every student, every day, at every one of our schools," he said.

One area the school district has been focusing on is increasing the graduation rate. Last year, about 69% of high school seniors received their diplomas.

The school district currently has 4,300 seniors enrolled in high school. Martinez said in August of 2012, 1,800 of those seniors were not on track to graduate. Thanks to some personal attention, 215 of those seniors will now graduate on time.

"We could stop there," he said. "But we know our job is not finished until every student walks across the stage to receive a diploma on graduation day."

Helping students graduate was one step outlined by Martinez. He also plans to implement Common Core State Standards which will be designed to prepare all students for college and/or highly-skilled careers.

Joining the vast majority of other states in the country, Nevada will have the standards fully implemented by the 2015-2016 school year.
These standards set high-quality academic expectations and will focus on core subjects, like math and English.

Martinez also introduced a new school ranking system. The 5 star system ranks 89 schools in the district. Schools receiving 5 stars rank better than schools with 1 star.

Elementary and middle schools are ranked by the amount of growth the school has made in helping kids advance. About half of the ranking in based on results in reading, math and science

In high schools, about two thirds of the ranking is based on progress students have made towards graduation, including credits and proficiency test results. The remaining third is based on college readiness, track completions and the number of graduates with Advanced Diplomas.

Martinez announced the rankings of the school during his speech. 15 schools were given 2 stars or less.

"It's simply a way to identify which schools need more district support and which schools have the autonomy and flexibility to try innovative new programs on their campuses," Martinez said.

The WCSD budget was also a hot topic. 100 WCSD buildings have long lists of repairs. Many of the district's schools are 30 years or older and are in need of roof repairs and heating upgrades.

The school district estimates making all these repairs will cost about $511 million, but the funding is not there.

Current estimates project a total budget shortfall of $32.1 million dollars.

To raise the needed funds, the school district has proposed Assembly Bill 46. The bill proposes a 1/4 percent raise in Washoe County's sales tax and a property tax increase of $0.05 per $100 of assessed value. A study done by UNR's Center for Regional Studies estimated the proposal would cost the average family about $8 per month.

"Without the resources, we're always going to play catch up," Martinez said. "I know our community cares too much for our children to let that happen."

The 77th session of the Nevada State Legislature will consider this bill during their session which convenes Monday, February 4th.