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Lyon County schools exposing students to career opportunities

Plus: Nevada music educators march in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Washoe County’s superintendent announces her resignation.
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

Carson High School Band Director Nick Jacques takes a selfie at the 2023 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023. (Nick Jacques/Courtesy)

🥁 Carson High School band director appears in Thanksgiving parade Last Thursday, Carson High School band director Nick Jacques, who was profiled in a previous edition of the Indy Education newsletter, appeared in the 2023 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City as part of the Saluting America’s Band Directors marching band, which included more than 400 band directors from across the country. The group appeared early in the parade’s procession and followed the Green Giant’s float. 

Jacques wasn’t the only marcher from Nevada in the band. Brian Farias, a Clark County School District band and orchestra director, and Patricia Backer, a horn technician from Henderson affiliated with the Watchmen Drum and Bugle Corps, also represented the Silver State. 

💻 Nevada Department of Education (NDE) revamps website The department recently revamped its website to make it more accessible for users.

“We had been getting feedback for a very long time that it would be helpful if we had updated our website,” said NDE spokeswoman Elizabeth Callahan.

The new website offers information in multiple languages to ensure Nevadans of all backgrounds can access the information they’re looking for in the language they are most comfortable with. The website is also compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and designed with mobile users in mind.

School Spotlight

Lyon County schools allowing students to explore career interests before graduation

Students with Fernley High School’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program pose for a photo with teacher Rebecca Mayer. (Lyon County School District/Courtesy)

Work-based learning opportunities that allow students to experience college and career opportunities before they graduate have taken off in the Lyon County School District, including through Smith Valley School’s Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) program that features a student-run turkey farm

Lyon County schools start introducing students to career options as soon as elementary school, said Nicole Taylor, the district’s work-based education coordinator. At that grade level, opportunities could be something as simple as inviting a fireman or police officer to speak to classes or taking a field trip to a worksite. Older students can participate in internships and simulated work experiences where students can learn job skills at school.

At Silverland Middle School in Fernley, students run a coffee shop where they learn about money management and how to make drinks for the teachers and staff. 

Students running Dayton High School’s coffee shop go one step further and roast the coffee beans for the drinks they make. The high school also offers students a chance to build tiny homes through its construction technology program. Once completed, Taylor said the student-built tiny home is auctioned off and the proceeds are used to purchase the materials needed to build the next structure. 

Smith Valley and Douglas High School’s greenhouse program partner together to supply the city of Gardnerville with pots of flower that line the city’s main street in the spring and summertime, Taylor said.

Students in Fernley High School’s accounting and finance program also have the opportunity to train to become certified IRS tax preparers. These students provide free tax preparation services to community members who are low-income, disabled or older than 60. Taylor said that last year the students filed 72 tax returns — their biggest year since they started in 2021. 

“That year, AARP had pulled out of Fernley so there were no free tax preparation services in the community for any of those individuals,” Taylor said. “So they were able to fill that gap.”

The district also offers a work-based learning opportunity specifically for middle and high school students with disabilities known as the Practical Assessment Exploration System, or PAES lab for short. Through the lab, students receive hands-on job training in fields including business marketing, construction and computer technology. 

The district’s work-based learning opportunities can also help students get ahead in their post-secondary education while they're still in high school. Students in the district’s certified nursing assistant program can earn their license before their graduation. 

Taylor said these opportunities allow students to explore their interests before they commit to a career. 

Taylor recalls a Dayton High School student who was sure she was going to become an emergency medical technician (EMT) until she discovered she didn’t actually like the job during an internship with a local fire department. 

“If she hadn’t known that prior, she would have gone through all the schooling and debt and spent all the time getting those certifications to enter the field to find out that she disliked it,” Taylor 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

How a Reno high schooler’s app is helping address the opioid crisis

Classroom discussions and interactions with loved ones surrounding the opioid crisis inspired 17-year-old Alex Nay, a student in the medical academy at Reno’s Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology, to use his required junior-year service learning project to create an app allowing Reno residents to report and track potentially dangerous batches of drugs and clusters of overdoses.

Lyon County student-run turkey farm serving up lessons on business, agriculture skills

Eighth grader Mackenzie Harper hadn’t realized all the work that goes into producing turkeys for Thanksgiving. But last Monday, she and other students at Smith Valley School got a taste of what it takes to get the birds to the dinner plate. You can also watch a video explaining the process here. 

Washoe schools superintendent submits resignation less than 2 years after hiring

Washoe County School District (WCSD) Superintendent Susan Enfield is leaving the state’s second-largest school district in February to return to Washington state to spend time with her family and pursue other opportunities. 

Clark County schools report slight improvement in graduation rate

The graduation rate in the Clark County School District (CCSD) increased slightly for a second year in a row, to 81.5 percent for students graduating in 2023. 

Extra Credit

Arizona gave families public money for private schools. Then private schools raised tuition.

The Hechinger Report reports that critics of Arizona’s empowerment scholarship accounts, or ESAs, cite the tuition increases as evidence of what they’ve warned about for years: Universal school choice, rather than giving students living in poverty an opportunity to attend higher-quality schools, would largely serve as a subsidy for the affluent.

Nevada charter schools are higher rated than district schools, but …

One-third of charter schools overseen by the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority were rated five-star schools by the state, significantly higher than the overall rate by nearly all traditional school districts. 

But the Nevada Current reports state charter schools still lag in enrollment of low-income students, English language learners and special education students — demographics known to need additional resources to achieve the measures emphasized by the state’s ratings system.


🍎 Washoe County School Board meeting — Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2 p.m. 

The agenda includes the creation of a chief of schools position estimated to cost about $260,000.

🗒️ Parent Leadership Team of Nevada workshop — Tuesday, Nov. 28, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

The group is hosting a free, Spanish-language workshop focused on successful collaboration between parents and teachers on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at Cimarron-Memorial High School in Las Vegas. To learn how to participate, reach out to organizers at 702-379-7381.                                                                                                                                                                                             

🎄 Carson City Christmas tree lighting event — Friday, Dec. 1, 4:30-8 p.m. 

More than 500 fifth grade students from Carson City public and private schools will perform as a unified choir for the annual Silver and Snowflakes Festival of Lights on the Capitol steps in downtown Carson City on Friday, Dec. 1. In addition to the performance, the event will feature free electric sleigh rides, photo opportunities with the Grinch and Santa Claus and remarks from Gov. Joe Lombardo and other dignitaries.  

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