28 Apr Beth Smith
Washoe School Board Trustee District D
Campaign Contact Phone: 775-240-0309
Please share briefly what inspired you to run for this office and why you feel you’re qualified for the position.
My path to becoming a school board trustee started with 45 little yellow bumblebees. I was standing in front of a large bulletin board in my older son’s kindergarten classroom back in 2016, and I could not believe the 45 little yellow bumblebees in the college. Each of those little yellow bumblebees represented one child in my son’s class, which I was just realizing had 45 kids in it.
That school year was challenging, revealing, and ultimately transformative for me. It inspired me to become involved in our local school district and contribute to solving the issues facing our District and elevating the voices of staff, students, and families. For four years, I served as a leader of a new Zoning Advisory Committee that was dedicated to re-evaluating zoning in our District, and I loved the direct engagement with parents and the community. Then the opportunity to apply for an appointment on the school board presented itself in the summer of 2021. I’m proud to have been chosen and have since dedicated myself to listening to the needs and experiences of students, parents, and teachers and advocating for what they need. I have already met with more than a hundred parents, teachers, and administrators since I was appointed because I believe in accessible representation.
I am qualified to retain my seat because my corporate professional background and personal passion for education equip me with analytical skills to evaluate programs and policies and drive change while also staying focused on the needs of people throughout the process. I genuinely love understanding the needs of others and uplifting voices and experiences to drive systematic change.
How do you propose that more funding be allocated to public education?
I bring attention to the issue of Nevada’s inadequate education funding almost every day. As a Trustee, this is the single most frequent topic in conversations I have because almost all roads lead back to this issue. While the public is generally aware that public education funding is lacking in Nevada compared to the national average, few people understand exactly how the current funding plan under-serves kids at all levels of educational need and that the Washoe County School District (WCSD) is uniquely disadvantaged in the pupil formula compared to every other county in the state.
The state legislature has been making steady improvements in the overall approach to education funding, but we still have a great length to go considering how far behind Nevada is. I also believe we need to address the issue of supplantation, which is a little-known aspect of the state’s budgets and affects many areas, including education. I use my voice as a Trustee to educate and elevate the public’s knowledge on a near daily basis, and I continue that with the relationships I am building with state legislators. One of the concerns heard from legislators about additional state funding is that the antics and unprofessionalism of school boards gives them pause. While I do not think this should be a complete reason to have reservations about reasonable funding, I do agree that the behaviors of some Trustees and school boards harm the overall cause of increased funding. As a Trustee, I have already started conversations with District leadership and Government Affairs regarding the next legislative session and what we can do to make competent, capable, and well-spoken Trustees be more involved with representing WCSD and this cause. As a Trustee, I can be a face and voice for our District who represents parents and WCSD teachers.
Parents are frustrated with the performance of public schools, its apparent nonresponsiveness to the community, and its current poor performance with student outcomes. What are your thoughts on how we can support public education and change this situation?
Public schools in my District are not poor performing, though there are certainly areas for improvement. Even for schools with lower performance, they are still making critical improvements in scoring and supporting students with wraparound services designed to reduce barriers to further academic success. With that said, parental frustration is very real and I understand it because frustration is where my path to being a trustee started.
The first place to start is with listening to people. I have already met with more than a hundred parents, teachers, and administrators since I was appointed to truly hear and understand their experiences and needs. I am honored that they trust me with their stories of what is happening in their classrooms or with their children. I answer a lot of questions, and when I don’t have an answer, I find one for them or connect them with people who can help.
In WCSD, I find that many metrics are not reported accurately or in a reasonable context by groups looking to undermine the successes we do have. This misinformation and altered information further drives parental frustration. To help with this, I think it’s important to increase and deepen our communication with local news partners and parent groups. And this is not just to share what is going well but also to be transparent about what needs to be changed. Parents need to see that school districts are willing to sincerely review their programs and practices and engage the community in choosing new approaches to try and grow with.
In Nevada, though, I cannot emphasize enough that the lack of sufficient funding creates enormous challenges to all aspects of education. We can advocate with our state lawmakers to continue on the positive change started with the Per Pupil Funding Plan and evolve it based on what we’ve learned in the past year with the goal being at least achieving the national average in student funding.
How would you propose changing the current funding formula to make it more equitable for children from poverty, English Language Learners and special education students?
The new Per Pupil Funding Plan is a step in the right direction and should be appreciated as a positive start. However, one of its clear areas of vulnerability is how children in these situations are underserved. First, the funding weighting allocated to these categories of services do not actually cover the cost of their needed support. And if a child qualifies for services in more than one category, school districts do not receive the additional funding. For example, a student who is both an English Language Learner and living in poverty is not funded for those two unique and critical classes of service. The school district only receives one funding weighting, although it must provide services for the child in both categories. This reveals a distinct inequity in how our most vulnerable children are served. This inequity must be addressed immediately and the state must allocate full–not partial–funding to cover not one, but all areas of intensive services a child needs.
There is a rise of bullying and racism in our schools. If elected, what steps would you make to ensure that our children can safely attend school?
All children have a fundamental right to be safe and welcomed at school for all aspects of their identity and dimensions of diversity. Children cannot learn when they feel rejected, ostracized, or in danger.
Increasing awareness of the lived experiences of others is a critical part of evolving our community and country. This increased awareness can be learned through SEL, multicultural education, and thorough education around America’s history. While I appreciate that some say “just teach history”, I believe we must also teach our students about the enduring impacts of these chapters of our history. We also cannot ban books or censor accurate health and science curriculum to accommodate what amounts to discrimination. No child should ever feel bad or be made to feel bad for being born into a race or ethnicity, but there is a misunderstanding around the discomfort that may happen once people learn more about the lived experiences of others. This discomfort is not negative; it’s a sign of learning uncomfortable truths about the lived experiences of others and the growth and change that lies on the other side of that awareness. I also believe that our kids want to be more aware and be an active part of bringing about greater equity in our county. My commitment to this is not just in the role of Trustee, but also as a corporate professional. I am proud to be IGT’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager. In my position I advocate for and implement policy changes, new benefits, and global learning journeys around D&I.
I want to highlight one place where WCSD has taken steps to reduce bullying specifically: the bathrooms. School climate surveys showed that bathrooms were the number one place students felt threatened. The school district took a major positive step in our new building designs to address this with “gender neutral” restrooms (i.e., single, fully-enclosed and locking unisex toilet stalls with open/public sinks outside of them). The district took a lot of heat from some elements of the community for these, but I’m proud to say persevered and built these into our new schools. I believe that, as we continue to fund repairs and renovations to older schools, that we see what we can do to move these designs into all of our buildings.
Comprehensive, age and developmentally appropriate, medically-accurate, inclusive sex education has been proven to improve students’ long-term health outcomes, yet it is not required that students be provided with this information in their sex-ed programs. Do you believe that public school sex-ed programs should be comprehensive, medically accurate, and inclusive?
Absolutely, yes. Further, I believe these programs should be “opt out” instead of “opt in” so that everyone is automatically enrolled in them, with the parents needing to take a proactive step to have their children not be in those classes.
Do you support ending the use of pepper spray on students by the school district police? Yes or No, and why?
I support the use of non-lethal interventions by school police in every single situation where a non-lethal intervention is possible. My issue is not with the use of pepper spray but rather a careful evaluation of when pepper spray is used. Pepper spray is a very serious and traumatic weapon option with demonstrated medical risk and intense pain. However, in situations where it can be used in lieu of a firearm or other weapon, I recognize it may have a role, if used with extreme professional judgment by the officer.
With this said, I do not support the use of pepper spray as a primary-level response by school police. Each use of pepper spray should trigger a full department review exactly the way a use of a firearm is.
Post Covid we have many students who have not been able to catch up in their learning. It is particularly alarming that the younger students, who did not acquire reading skills during remote learning, are very far behind in reading proficiency. At the other end, we have seen a drop in Nevada’s high school graduation rates, with minorities, special ed, and ELLs now suffering a significant graduation gap. How do we address the needs of the Covid generation?
This question is actively being explored right now in our District. I do not have a definitive answer because the data and research is evolving both on a District and national level. However, one proven way to improve student outcomes and proficiency is lower class sizes. More focused time with educators is known to close these gaps.
What is your position on legislation such as Don’t Say Gay, and forcing transgender children to use bathrooms of their birth sex?
I firmly stand against any and all discriminatory legislation that denies children recognition, autonomy, and respect for their gender identity.
What is your position on restorative justice?
I support the foundational principles of restorative justice and its goal to create accountability, repair previous harm, and provide support to protect against future harm.