Nevada NewsMakers

News - December 13, 2019 - by Ray Hagar

Bryan Wachter, a veteran lobbyist at the Nevada Legislature, said on Nevada Newsmakers Friday he will run for election to the Clark County School District board of trustees in 2020.

Wachter, senior vice president of the Retail Association of Nevada, will run for the District B seat currently held by Chris Garvey. A dental hygienist, Garvey was first elected in 2008 and has defended her seat in two elections.

Wachter, who has lived in District B for more than 25 years, said his main focus will be improving student achievement.

"What is really missing from the conversation now is an emphasis on student achievement," he said. "It is almost an afterthought to the other conversations that we keep having, over and over, whether it is school funding, whether it is discipline or any number of issues.

There is certainly room for improvement when looking at CCSD's student-achievement statistics.

The latest 2018-19 CCSD reports show English proficiency levels at 49 percent in elementary school and roughly 47 percent in middle school, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. Math proficiency is about 42 percent in elementary grades and 31 percent in middle school grades.

"The core of it is that government resources are being spent in order to educate students so they are prepared to enter society," he said. "When we don't have half of our eighth graders, or half of our fourth graders proficient in just basic English and math, that is an issue."

Some educators see the district's failings as a funding issue. Wachter, however, said the district should devise solutions using the money it currently receives.

"The education community is convinced that there certainly is a funding issue," he said. "I think anyone who has watched public policy as long as I have are pressed to say there aren't things that more finances could solve.

"But I don't want to suggest that is the only solution to the problem," he said. "Because quite frankly, there are too many hurdles to that solution. The general public does not seem to be convinced that those dollars are necessary. They are not convinced, at this point, that additional taxes are needed. "

Trustees are not fixing the major concern of teachers and parents, Wachter said.

"The big thing the teachers are asking for is a reduction in class sizes," he said. "The biggest thing parents are asking for is a reduction in class sizes. But we have made no concentrated effort in the last several (legislative) sessions to address that issue. To me, those are the issues that are left behind because the trustees are not picking them up.

Wachter is currently a community member on the School Organizational Team at Mohave High School. He sees good things the district is trying to accomplish go virtually unnoticed. It is a symptom of a major communication problem in the CCSD.

"The school district is doing some of the right things," he said. "Just last week, we had a special meeting of the school board and the new CFO, who was doing tremendous work at the district, talked about all the internal controls and the annual audit. But that information does not seem to be translated to the general public, who still believe an audit needs to be done or hasn't been done or there is money, somehow missing. Those are just false and the district needs to do a better job communicating those to the public and to our student representatives."

It is the trustees' job to be leaders in communicating with parents, teachers, taxpayers and other stakeholders. Wachter said."Untimely, I believe it lies with the board," he said about fixing the communication problem. "As a trustee, I believe you are elected to do just that. You are liaison for the education community through the superintendent. You are a liaison to the parents of your community but ultimately to the voters who elected you there who are saying, 'Yes, you can spend our tax dollars based on the priorities you are identifying.'"

Disclaimer: The Retail Association on Nevada is a sponsor of Nevada Newsmakers.