Reno, NV (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- It was a packed house tonight at Reno High School, where Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez gave the annual state of education address.
In the 2014 State of Education Address, the Washoe County School District (WCSD) Board of Trustees and Superintendent Pedro Martinez updated the community on the achievements of the past year and the challenges that lie ahead for the District.
Speaking to parents, business and community leaders, principals, students, and WCSD leadership at Reno High School, Martinez pointed to the increasing graduation rate and the growing number of students receiving honors and advanced diplomas. He also discussed the narrowing of achievement gaps in graduation rates for specific student populations.
"Our District has accomplished some outstanding goals this year, but we have also confronted some serious challenges," Martinez said. "We are dedicated to helping each of our students graduate from high school ready for college and highly-skilled careers, and after posting our highest graduation rates ever in 2013, we are moving closer to achieving that goal. This is a great opportunity for WCSD to share information with the community, and I look forward to it."
Martinez also addressed the need for facility repairs following the rejection of AB46, a bill that would have raised taxes to pay for school maintenance and capital improvements.
"The failure of our School Capital Needs Initiative was a disappointment, but we continue to engage in conversation with our community to find a sustainable source of funding for our schools," Martinez said. "This is such an important issue, and it's one we will have to resolve in order to ensure that our schools continue to provide a safe and effective learning environment for our children."
Martinez acknowledged and thanked the community for its overwhelming response to the tragic incident at Sparks Middle School in October, 2013.
"We have encountered tragedy in the past year, and we are grateful for the outpouring of support and assistance from our community," Martinez said. "Just as the education of our children is a collaborative effort, so too is the collective dedication to safety in our schools."
Martinez also outlined the year ahead for WCSD, beginning with plans for its youngest students as they begin their educational journeys. Teachers will evaluate the skills of kindergarteners through diagnostics, identifying students in need of support to bring them up to par with their classmates. Parent University and the Home Visit Program bring an increased level of support to students, enabling parents to play a more active role in helping their children learn.
"We have to support all students early in their educational careers so that no students—whatever their needs or challenges—will be left behind," said Martinez. "Identifying these students and the challenges they're facing at the very beginning enables us to provide all of the resources necessary to help them succeed as they move forward in their studies."
One of the District's goals in the coming year is updating the current strategic plan: Envision WCSD 2015— Investing In Our Future. The plan, currently sets forth five goals: provide continuous academic success for every student; recruit and support highly effective personnel; engage families and community partners; value and strengthen a positive, self-renewing culture; and align performance management systems.
Martinez outlined other major goals for 2014, including: increasing graduation rates—with an ultimate goal of reaching 80 percent by 2016; enhancing services for English Language Learners and special education students; and bringing all schools in the District to three-star classifications or above under the WCSD Performance Framework.
"These are exciting times in the Washoe County School District," Martinez said. "Our students are succeeding as never before, and we are committed to continuing that upward trajectory in the coming years in our District. Our dedication to our students is unwavering, and we look forward to more challenges and successes in 2014."
Martinez concluded his speech by introducing a new database for teachers and school officials that would contain information, such as test score and attendance records, on every student enrolled in the Washoe County School District. In addition to the data base, Martinez laid out plans for a separate Website that would allow the public to access the districts expenses, going as far to say that the public could see copies of the checks being written to district employees. Martinez hopes to have both the database and the website up and running by the end of the 2014 school year.