The Washoe County School District has been awarded the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence for 2012.
The Nevada school system, which serves Reno and surrounding communities, was recognized for its school board’s resolve to improve student academic performance, engage parents and the community, and ensure that all students leave high school ready for college and careers.
“It’s a great honor, and a confirmation of the hard work of principals, teachers, and staff members,” said Washoe County Superintendent Pedro Martinez. “This award shows what is possible when board members work in partnership with the leadership team to implement reforms that change the lives of children every day.”
“We are honored to receive this recognition on behalf of the staff, parents, and students of the … school district,” said Ken Grein, president of the board of trustees. “Our board has joined with the district to listen to members of our community, learn about their concerns, and build upon their support to help more of our students succeed in school.”
The award was presented this past weekend during a luncheon at the CUBE Conference in Atlanta.
Maryland’s Baltimore City Public Schools and Prince George’s County Public Schools also were finalists for this year’s top honor.
Washoe County is a 63,000-student school system that, only a few years ago, outperformed others in its state but was receiving negative reviews from county residents. In 2009, the school board told the community it would make changes and began an exhaustive review, with community input, of the school system’s performance.
That effort led to the development of a five-point reform initiative, Envision WCSD 2015, Investing In Our Future, that aimed to institute performance management systems; engage parents and the community; develop effective teachers and instructional leaders; instill a caring and positive school climate; and ensure all students leave ready for college and careers.
This initiative helped the school system make noticeable progress. Graduation rates rose from 56 percent in 2008 to 70 percent in 2011; the achievement gap closed as third-grade math and reading scores for African-American and Hispanic students jumped double digits. District officials now use a variety of communications tools to market their schools and foster two-way communications with parents and community members.
“Washoe County has made tremendous gains in increasing its graduation rate, increasing the achievement of low-income and minority students, and placing highly qualified teachers in its schools with the greatest needs,” said Joseph S. Villani, NSBA’s Interim Executive Director. “Working closely with its superintendent, the school board set high expectations for all students and staff and engaged its community as partners.”
“Washoe County is an example of excellence for our state and for urban school districts across the country,” added Dotty Merrill, executive director of the Nevada Association of School Boards. “The school board, working with the superintendent, has done an exceptional job at developing a strategic plan with community involvement, and has focused on implementing that plan and continuously improving student achievement.”
The Washoe County school system was selected for the CUBE award by an independent judging panel based on materials submitted by the school district, independent follow-up research, and information provided by the district’s state school boards association.
The judges selected the winner based on the following four criteria: Excellence in school board governance; building civic capacity; closing the achievement gap-equity in education; and demonstrated success of academic excellence.
CUBE represents a total of more than 100 urban school districts in 35 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The districts that comprise CUBE educate nearly 7.5 million students in over 12,000 schools, with a collective budget of approximately $99 billion. CUBE helps urban school boards find solutions to challenges at the local level and helps them to strengthen their policy making effectiveness.