Lightning rod


Howard Rosenberg, a University of Nevada, Reno art professor, will soon retire from a four-year term as an elected member of the Washoe County School Board. He previously served 12 years as an elected member of the Nevada Board of Regents.

Most people thought you had a successful tenure as a regent. They’re more divided on your tenure as a school board member.

True. There’s a major difference between being a member of the Board of Regents with seven or eight institutions as opposed to being a member of a school board with something like 65,000 students and heaven only knows how many schools. But it’s damn close to a hundred.

Did you expect it to be as political as it turned out to be?

No. Absolutely not. I did not. But it’s also, I think—how do I put this? It’s the beast itself. When you’re a member of the board, the only way you can function is as a board. The means individually you have no power. The open meeting law makes it next to impossible to talk together, to understand what the situations are. So everything has to be done and in the open—which is fine. I have no problem with that at all. As you know, I have a big mouth, and I only open it to put my foot in it. But there are times when you need to do something quietly, when you need to discuss something that comes up immediately, and the open meeting law mandates against that because it’s not agendized.

During the disputed suspension of Superintendent Martinez, you asked your board attorney if you were on the legal straight and narrow, and he told you yes. Looking back, was there something you could have done differently?

No, absolutely not. He was correct. We were not breaking the open meeting law because we corrected ourself within 15 minutes of it being done. That was purely political. Catherine Cortez Masto knows better than anybody that it was purely political. She was told by three members of her staff that we had not broken the open meeting law. She chose to find us guilty.

Would you encourage other members of the community to run for school board?

Yes, by all means. I did not have the temperament or the ability, really, to function in that kind of a situation. And these are times when I’m really sort of ashamed of myself that I wasn’t able to do things that I really felt needed to be done. But as one member of a board, it’s very difficult to do that.

Anything you’d like to add?

There were good things that were done—important things. Number one, we appointed a superintendent who was a teacher and a principal, actually knew what the situation was. Business is important. Business practices can be used for very important things but not for running a school district. We’re not stamping out light bulbs. … All houses that are built in Washoe County should have a surcharge on them that is given to the school district in order to be able to provide the education that we need to provide for our kids. This is very important. And it isn’t a question of them giving us land to build a school. That in itself is fine, but that has nothing whatever to do with what the situation really is. Now, with the passage of WC-1, that will help tremendously. But it should not be the only revenue. … The developers should be paying their share.