No school board in the country has faced the kinds of issues that all districts will be facing during the upcoming school year. The impacts of COVID-19 have turned the process of education upside down and planning for the future and how to meet the uncertainty was the topic at the recent Humboldt County School Board of Trustee meeting. Members of the board and district superintendent Dr. Dave Jensen discussed what they’d like to accomplish for the 2020-2021 school year.

Some goals remain the same from year to year. For example, fiscal responsibility. “As board of trustees, you have significant fiduciary responsibility for the school district. that needs to be your number one area,” Dr. Jensen reminded the trustees. The fiduciary responsibilities relate to the district’s strategic goals which include, among other things, commitments to academic excellence, staff development, and improving technology.

The district faces a reduction in revenue as a result of the impacts of the pandemic, and the board and superintendent recognize these impacts. Dr. Jensen told the board that the district has recently received financial assistance from the City of Winnemucca’s CARES fund initiative. The district requested and will receive $308,306.04 which will be applied toward improving internet connectivity for students, PPE expenses and 13 mobile cart cleaning systems for janitors to use for deep cleaning schools. 

Dr. Jensen also informed the board that Assistant Superintendent Dawn Hagness has secured grants totaling $754,594.

The board also is tasked with providing the superintendent with direction.  “One of the areas that we have here is to provide direction to your superintendent on key initiatives,” Dr. Jensen said at the Sept. 8 board meeting.  “We’ve got things like personalized learning, technology needs, mentoring needs for our new staff, and staffing is obviously going to be a big conversation as we run numbers and make decisions in upcoming years.”

Additional goals of the board include becoming more involved in Nevada’s state legislative process, especially when it comes to financing education. While the upcoming 2021 legislative session has yet to set its education agendas, the 2019 Legislature passed SB 543 which created an 11-member Commission on School Funding to guide the Nevada Department of Education (NDE) to revamp K-12 education funding formula. Dr. Jensen sits on this commission and reports back to the board the progress the commission makes toward solutions to the contentious plan. 

“I really hope that NASB (National Association of School Boards) takes a very strong position on this issue of optimal and adequate education funding,” Dr. Jensen told the board. “I don’t see that the Pupil-Centered funding plan is viable.” 

SB543 would replace the Nevada Plan, the state’s 52-year-old funding formula, with the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan, shifting the plan to weighted funding in which students with distinct needs receive a higher per-pupil amount. Rural districts including Humboldt County would likely see major changes to their funding under this new plan. The bill contains a hold-harmless clause, in which schools can never receive a lower amount of funding than they received in the current fiscal year.

Other goals the board and superintendent hold in common include summer bond projects. Upcoming summer 2021 projects include replacing the HVAC at Lowry High School’s old gym.