Turning IHS into a charter school?

North Lake Tahoe Bonanza:  Last week this column was about Nevada’s political history of legislative measures to give parents and students an element of choice in their educational options. Nationally this has been evidenced by the charter school movement, educational vouchers, Internet distance education and any number of other vehicles to deliver educational services through other than the traditional, one-size-fits-all, take-a-bus-to-school public education system.

I touched briefly on how Republicans claim to have championed innovative educational techniques based on free market principles but that in fact, and most demonstrably in the Silver State, the efforts have been refreshingly bipartisan. Nevada was a latecomer to the charter school movement, but when its time finally came the legislative push was championed in the Nevada State Senate jointly by two powerful Republicans and two powerful Democrats (too bad that never happens in Washington, DC). Although the Nevada Education Association (teacher union) still exercises veto power over the more innovative educational choice options, such as vouchers, at least charter schools have a solid foundation in Nevada, serving students who tend to struggle when subjected to the regimentation of traditional public schools, but who thrive in a charter school environment.

So, is there a hidden agenda in this column? Yep. Friends, there is a determined group of your fellow citizens (no names, please … I have to protect my sources) seriously concerned about: (1) the steadily declining trend in the Incline/Crystal Bay student population and (2) the lack of any formal working relationship between local K-12 education and our community’s educational jewel, Sierra Nevada College.

Washoe County School District Superintendent Paul Dugan early on recognized the challenges in our little mountain hamlet. Speaking at different times to both Incline Rotary clubs, Dr. Dugan showed charts of what the student population would look like in five and 10 years if current trends continue. His audience easily put two and two together and concluded that there would be an inevitable reduction of school district resources dedicated to Incline if trends persisted. Programs for high achievers, such as advanced placement courses, would be curtailed and eventually dropped as the student population dwindled.

The concerned citizen group (with me "imbedded," but I’m not giving any names … throw me in jail but I ain’t ratting anybody out) has met with Dr. Dugan in search of solutions, most recently this last week. One objective was to discuss forming a charter school, governed by parents and local citizens, to meet K-12 education needs in our little village. The results of that meeting were somewhat promising. The superintendent downplayed the charter school proposal but agreed to fast track a suggestion to accredit specific Sierra Nevada College courses for dual high school and college credit thereby significantly improving opportunities for high achieving K-12 students. He also agreed to develop a long range plan for Incline/Crystal Bay education, based on projected enrollments and demographics, committing specific resources and staffing for a variety of educational programs. The results will presumably bind future school boards to honor the resulting commitment.

All in all, not a bad day’s work.

So did the Incline/Crystal Bay agitator group walk away from the meeting with confidence that things will now end happily ever after? Maybe . . . maybe not. Should they seek the independent charter educational structure for our community available under existing Nevada law? What do readers think? Send your letters to the editor of the Bonanza.

Meanwhile stay tuned.

Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, a vice chair of the Washoe County GOP and a member of the Nevada GOP Central Committee.