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Indy Education: Nevada school counselor transforms passion for helping others into career

Plus: Updates on superintendent searches in Clark and Washoe counties, and more crossing guards coming to Clark County schools.
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationK-12 Education

Good morning, and welcome to the Indy Education newsletter. I’m Rocio Hernandez, The Nevada Independent’s K-12 education reporter. 

This newsletter provides a recap of the latest education stories and highlights interesting educators, students, programs and other events and resources throughout the state. Click here to subscribe to the newsletter and receive it each Tuesday via email.

I want to hear from you! Send questions, comments or suggestions on what I should be covering to [email protected]

News briefs

Reed High School Raiders Air Rifle Team from left to right: Raine Creger, Kaitlyn Bowers, coach Patrick Prell, Grace Johnson and Shianne Price. (Washoe County School District/Courtesy)

🎖️Reno high school rifle team places 11th at national championship — The Reed High School Raiders Air Rifle Team placed 11th out of 43 air rifle teams nationwide at a recent competition in Alabama. Reed students Raine Creger, Kaitlyn Bowers, Grace Johnson and Shianne Price were invited to attend the national competition after ranking ninth out of 465 Navy Junior ROTC air rifle teams in the nation earlier this year in preliminary qualifications. Team members are judged on the accuracy of their marksmanship while standing, kneeling and in a prone position.

Johnson finished sixth out of 134 individual nationwide competitors and has been invited to compete in the Air Rifle All-Service Junior ROTC National Competition later this month in Ohio.

🔎 Washoe County School Board sets dates on superintendent search timeline — McPherson and Jacobson, the firm working on the Washoe County School District’s superintendent search, expects to present the school board with a list of finalists around mid-April. After the announcement is made, the finalists will be invited to Reno for an opportunity to interact with community members before they are interviewed by the board in a special meeting scheduled for Friday, April 26. The board is expected to make a final selection during its May 14 meeting. 

✋ Clark County Commission boosts crossing guard coverage for older students — The Clark County Commission recently voted to add crossing guard services to middle schools in unincorporated areas within the county. This is in addition to the 100 elementary schools in unincorporated Clark County that already have crossing guard coverage as part of the county’s contract with All City Management Service. The commission renewed the firm’s contract through June 2025 at its Feb. 20 meeting. 

The company is looking to hire middle school crossing guards for what’s left of the spring semester and for the school year beginning in August 2024. The job pays about $16 an hour. Crossing guards work an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Successful applicants must be 18 years old, pass an agility and balance assessment and complete fingerprinting. To learn more, visit All City Management’s website or call 702-675-3135.

School Spotlight

Howard Heckethorn Elementary School counselor Judy Pelto. (Judy Pelto/Courtesy)

School counselor helping elementary school students cope with death of parents, social anxiety

People always gravitated toward Judy Pelto for help, even when she was very young. 

About 25 years ago, she got her first job as an elementary school counselor at the Clark County School District. She continues that work today as a counselor at Howard Heckethorn Elementary School in Las Vegas. 

Last month, she was recognized as the 2024 Nevada School Counselor of the Year at a National School Counselor of the Year event in Washington, D.C. 

Pelto said her job involves helping students at the elementary school level with their social and emotional needs in one-on-one or group settings. She does frequent lessons on conflict resolution, friendship and coping skills that teach students how to calm themselves down when they are frustrated, as opposed to acting out. 

Since the pandemic, Pelto said she’s seeing higher levels of anxiety among the students she works with, including about things Pelto said she would’ve previously viewed as small issues, such as face-to-face communication.

“They're quick with the little emoji faces, but they're terrified to talk to somebody one-on-one about things,” she said. 

Pelto said that for the rest of the school year she will be going to classrooms to speak with students about potential career pathways, and preparing fifth graders for their transition to middle school. 

Pelto said she’s also working with a group of students who have had a parent die this school year. It started off with a group of students within the same classroom, but the students recently decided they wanted to open it up to any student in the school with a similar experience, and volunteered to be in charge of the sessions and act as Pelto’s assistants. 

“They are future counselors in the making,” she said. 

Have a student or staffer who we should feature in the next edition of School Spotlight? Share your nominations with me at [email protected].

Reading Assignments

From a split hiring vote onward, Jara struggled to unite district during 6-year tenure

From the moment he was hired in May 2018, it was evident that Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara didn’t have broad support. 

Survey of Nevada LGBTQ+ teens: 40 percent don’t feel secure in school

A recent survey from Silver State Equality, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the civil rights of the LGBTQ+ community, found that about 40 percent of the Nevada youth who responded say they don’t feel secure at school. 

‘Disturbing:’ Leaders question Nevada K-12 budget expansion after critical audit

A sweeping state review of existing K-12 school district audits released Wednesday raised the prospect that more than half of third graders could be held back in coming years.

Extra Credit

Clark County School District asks not to make up missed day

The Clark County School District said days lost to a teacher strike last fall might not be made up because it would be too difficult to have only eight schools open when all the others are closed, the Las Vegas Sun reports. 

An unexpected way to fight chronic absenteeism

School districts are having some success with using telemedicine and teletherapy to ensure more kids stay in school, The Hechinger Report reports. 


🍎 Clark County School Board work session — Wednesday, March 6, 4 p.m. 

The agenda includes a discussion, and possible action, on the next steps in selecting a new superintendent.

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