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The Nevada Independent

Vegas elementary students bringing Christmas gift ideas to life with 3D printer

Plus: Washoe County School Board considering hiring former superintendent during interim, and a Douglas County School Board trustee is resigning.
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]

From right, Washoe County School Board President Beth Smith, Trustee Colleen Westlake and other dignitaries pose for a photo in front of a food truck donated to Reed High School by the software company Intuit at a press conference in Sparks on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. (Washoe County School District/Courtesy)

👨‍🍳 Company launching food truck program at a Sparks high school — Software company Intuit has donated a food truck equipped with a complete with a commercial-grade kitchen to support Reed High School’s culinary program. The food truck provides students with a space to practice their culinary skills in addition to learning the financial and entrepreneurial skills needed to run a business.

The food truck has a ‌renewable energy battery system that can power the truck for up to 12 hours a day while significantly reducing carbon emissions. Intuit has also provided food trucks to school districts in California and Texas. 

✉️ Douglas County School Board trustee resigning — Douglas County School Board Trustee Tony Magnotta is resigning from his role citing tensions with other board members and health reasons. 

In his resignation letter dated Dec. 7, Magnotta said since January and the installation of the new trustees, which includes Board President Susan Jansen, Board Clerk David Burns and Trustee Katherine Dickerson, he has felt his vote and his voice aren’t “seriously concerned.” He also claimed he’s been “met with harassment and veiled threats” to get on the board majority’s side to present a united front to the public. 

During a Monday phone call, Magnotta said he felt he should step away from the board in part due to health reasons. 

Jansen said in a Dec. 9 statement that no one on the board harassed or intimated Magnotta, though Magnotta said “she’s a freaking liar.” 

Under state law, a vacancy on the school board must be filled by appointment by the remaining members. 

💰State to invest $15 million in scholarships for teachers   The Nevada Department of Education (NDE) announced last week the state is investing $15 million in three scholarship opportunities for educators as part of an effort improve teacher recruitment and retention. The scholarship opportunities are:

  • The Teach Nevada Scholarships, which are available for aspiring Nevada teachers to help pay for initial teaching licensure programs through state-approved universities, colleges or alternative routes to licensure providers. This scholarship opportunity provides up to the cost of tuition and fees to complete the initial licensure program per eligible recipient. The State Board of Education (SBE) approved $6.1 million, which will support nearly 1,400 aspiring educators as they work to attain their licenses.
  •  The Incentivizing Pathways to Teaching Grant Program, which provides tuition assistance for aspiring teachers in their final year of an educator preparation program. It also provides stipends during their student teaching clinical field experience. The SBE approved $7.9 million, which will support more than 1,300 aspiring educators.
  • The Nevada Teacher Advancement Scholarship, which provides the cost of tuition, registration and mandatory fees for existing Nevada educators who wish to pursue a master’s degree in education or a related field. The SBE approved $1.5 million, which will allow nearly 280 educators to obtain an advanced degree.

NDE has partnered with the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation to secure an additional $1.1 million in funding to support the number of requests received for the Incentivizing Pathways to Teaching Program. This is pending approval by the Interim Finance Committee and the Board of Examiners. 

More information on the scholarships and how to apply can be found on NDE’s website

School Spotlight

Jessica Vazquez, a computer technician and club adviser at Dennis Ortwein Elementary School in Las Vegas, gives students advice as they work on their 3D model designs. (Rocio Hernandez/The Nevada Independent)

Students using technology, creativity to help their school community

When Jessica Vazquez, who uses the pronoun they, decided to start a technology club at Dennis Ortwein Elementary School in Las Vegas, they wanted it to be about more than science, math, engineering and technology. They were also looking to impart students lessons on collaboration, respect, perseverance, tenacity, integrity, inspiration and altruism. 

Those guiding principles are at the center of everything that the Ortwein Innovators’ club members work on.

“I was looking for students who wanted to do things out of their heart; they want to make something for someone on staff,” Vazquez said. “These kids love their staff.”

The fourth and fifth grade club members practice their design skills by coming up with ideas for problems submitted by school staff. One of the first products the students designed was a watering can for their principal, Traci Halloway. Vazquez chose a piece by fifth grader Tyler Baker as the winning design. 

Fifth grade student Tyler Baker, right, presents his 3D-printed watering can to Dennis Orwein Elementary School Principal Traci Halloway. (Jessica Vazquez/Courtesy)

Vazquez set up the club like a workplace. All students start off as junior graphic designers, but more advanced students can be promoted to graphic designers if they feel they are ready for additional responsibility and prove their proficiency and leadership skills in an interview with the club’s advisers.

So far, only three of the 22 students in the club have applied and been successfully promoted to the graphic designer level. 

“I think it’s because this provides them with an opportunity for self-reflection, when you’re like, ‘Hey, I’m not ready for this yet, but I think I will be soon,’” Vazquez said. 

This month, the students were tasked with coming up with design ideas for gifts and ornaments to give to their families. 

Fifth grader and graphic designer Kairi Dionio decided to make a toy for her younger brother, and an eight-pointed star ornament that represents each member of her family. 

“I love the whole process and I love to see a smile at the end once you give (the item) away,” she said. 

Vazquez said they hope to expand the club in the future by opening it up to third graders who will work as interns. Eventually, Vazquez said they want the club to be completely led by students. 

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

Legality of public employee strike ban set for court hearing

A district court judge will hear arguments Jan. 10 on whether the state should maintain its public employee anti-strike law.

Washoe schools may hire former superintendent during interim

Retired Washoe County Superintendent Kristen McNeill may return to lead the district once again — on an interim basis, according to the agenda for the Washoe County School Board’s meeting scheduled for later today. 

North Las Vegas City Council appoints union staffer as temporary trustee

After voting to appoint Clark County teacher and Councilman Isaac Barron as its nonvoting representative on the Clark County School Board, the North Las Vegas City Council revisited the decision Wednesday — this time voting to temporarily appoint a teacher union staff member to the role to give Barron time to finish his career as an educator. 

Extra Credit

Colorado foster kids are less likely to graduate than homeless children. A new program is trying to fix that. 

The Colorado Sun reports on an after-school program that’s helping foster kids regulate their brains and focus on school. 

What’s in a name? Students at NYC’s largest school for newcomer immigrants push for change

Chalkbeat New York reports on a push by migrant students to change their school’s name in an effort to avoid being targeted by people who are against migration. 


🍎 Washoe County School Board meeting — Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2 p.m. 

The agenda includes a discussion and possible vote to hire former Superintendent Kristen McNeill to serve as interim superintendent.                

🍎 Douglas County School Board meeting — Tuesday, Dec. 12, 4 p.m.

The agenda includes a resignation letter from Trustee Tony Magnotta.  

🍎 Clark County School Board meeting — Thursday, Dec. 14, 5 p.m. 

The agenda for the meeting, which will be held in Boulder City, includes presentations on student discipline and the district’s use of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds. 

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Congrats, Eleanor Lemarie Junior High School students in Battle Mountain!


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