Scott Kelley is a public information officer for the Nevada Department of Corrections and the incumbent candidate for Washoe County School Board District A, running against 18-year-old Jack Heinemann. (See “New school,” A&C, Nov. 28. )
District A is not your first. You were District E, too, for years.
I was the representative for District E from 2009 to 2012. And, at that time, the school board was very effective and very efficient. In fact, we won national awards for helping steer the school district through the recession—and avoiding teacher layoffs and school closures, while still seeing increases in our graduation rates and student test scores. … I was not on the school board when the board fired and rehired Pedro Martinez, which really hurt the school board’s relationship with the community. It was partly for that reason that I decided I wanted to run for reelection.
You returned due to the turmoil?
What’s your interest in continuing to serve District A?
Let’s consider school overcrowding. That was a big issue when I took office in 2017. And since then, I’ve pushed for the expansion of Damonte Ranch High School, the 2019 opening of Poulakidas Elementary School and the 2020 opening of Herz Middle School, all of which is relieving and will continue to relieve overcrowding. And I also made sure all of my district schools received revitalization and safety upgrades. However, growth in south Reno is … continuing at a massive rate. I’m seeking reelection because I want to make sure southern Reno receives another elementary school. … Something that’s district-wide is the budget. So, in 2019, the school board passed a structurally balanced budget—the first time that WCSD had done that since the Great Recession in 2008. This years budget—it included a three percent raise for teachers and staff. It increased funding for special education. It covered the operating costs of all of our new schools, and it did not increase classroom sizes. I’m want to run for reelection because I have really extensive budgeting experience that’s conservative and fiscally responsible.
What do you make of having such a young opponent?
Well, you know, I understand his desire to serve the public. I joined the U.S. Army right out of high school, and I served as a paratrooper, a Nevada Guardsman for almost 11 years. And most of my missions were public service. They were humanitarian missions in Haiti, peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo. … When I returned to Reno after my honorable discharge, I started serving on citizen advisory boards for the Regional Transportation Commission, the City of Reno and Washoe County. So, like him, I understand. He loves public service, and I love public service and helping others. … I can’t help the fact that I graduated from high school over two decades ago. … He can’t help the fact that he’s fresh out of high school and has no career or public service or parenting experience. What I can do is visit schools and listen as people share their experiences, and I can use that information to improve WCSD.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Washoe is a great school district. It’s true that Nevada ranks last in a lot of academic metrics, but I want the citizens to know that Washoe places in the top 20 or 25 percentile compared to other similarly sized districts. And our staff works really hard to educate all of our students. Many of our students come from a background of poverty or English as a second language, but our staff finds ways to help them overcome those barriers and get a good education. … I’m also proud of Washoe County’s parents for advocating for their students at board meetings, … at the legislature. I think that’s really important. It takes a community to educate a student. And then, I think, for reelection, it’s important … to talk about some of the things I’d want to do in the future. … I want to make sure that our next superintendent really knows and really understands the challenges facing WCSD. And I want to empower him or her to expand on what’s working and to really look critically at what isn’t working. … I have smaller ideas, too. On November 8th I went to the opening of a student greenhouse at Pine Middle School. I was shocked to learn about all of the red tape that staff and volunteers had to go through to build this greenhouse, which is only the size of a standard storage unit. I’d like to work with WCSD, Washoe County and the Health Department and other agencies to see if we can ease the barriers that make sense so we can have more greenhouses being built at other schools.