*Candidate responses were not modified or altered.

General Election

Candidate Responses

Q1. The resurgence of Black Lives Matter has shined a spotlight on the failure of police departments throughout the country to truly ensure public safety. What would you do to address school police and discriminatory punishment procedures in regards to black and immigrant students?

Q2. In addition to school police, how would you address racial injustice in education?

Q3. COVID-19 has devastated local budgets. What would you do to address budget shortfalls in the school district?

Matthew Montognese

Campaign Website

A1. I back the woman and men on the front lines of law enforcement, serving to protect our schools and communities. People who break the law, whether officers or citizens must pay the appropriate price and ALL be held accountable. It is not just to criminalize and penalize all officers due to the unfortunate decisions made by some. I do not support any abuse of power by those who protect and preserve order. I know our children and community rely on the protection from our officers and need their good example and protection from criminals. I love all people irregardless of their diversity group, I look at something different, I look deeper, for their character not skin color; this is what Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed in his “I have a dream” speech. There is so much depth in every ethnicity and much to learn and appreciate. I will always remind people to give others dignity, honor, and respect and veer from shallow or hollow judgement. We all continue Lady Liberties journey of freedom together. Despite the past and present failures of some under her care we regard freedom as THE common purpose and gift. We must push to complete the work of our constitution for freedom and allow none to infringe upon another. We expect every American to fulfill their responsibility to act in accordance to the law and in good will; to protect the rights and freedoms of others and to denounce any injustice peacefully and let freedom ring!

A2. I will see that we teach Martin Luther King Jr. philosophies to each child. I will look to start role play exercises eg. a day in the life of an abused student/teacher/“xxx” to promote compassion, empathy, awareness and understanding. Also outlined on my website.

A3. Properly organize and prioritize that which makes the biggest impact for the best of our students, teachers and community. I will push for the innovation and school reform we need to deliver to the whole of the child, emotionally, intrinsically and for their future after school. Showing tangible results and deliverables puts money into our school budget Federally. Look at my website where outlined: matthew4schools.net

Angela Taylor, PhD (Incumbent)

Campaign Website

A1. Shortly after the elevation of Black Lives Matter and the issue of social justice to a mainstream issue, I requested that the Washoe County School District Police Department give a report to the Board of Trustees regarding the use of force policies and training for the department. This not only brought current practices and policies to the forefront but also sent the message that the vice president of the Board of Trustees is interested and paying attention. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised that the department faired favorably when considering the 8 Can’t Wait Police Reform recommendations. Seven of the reforms were either in policy or in practice (soon to become policy) and the eighth was relegated to an “only if every other means of protection were exhausted.” I questioned using the choke hold, even under those circumstances, suggesting the use of the carotid restraint (also known as the sleeper hold) instead. The chief spoke of the greater expense involved in providing that training and was asked to return to the Board at budget time with those amounts. Since that meeting, the State Legislature has banned the use of chokeholds so that has been completed. The next step to ensure equitable treatment for Black and Brown members of the WCSD community is to track and review data as it pertains to stops, disciplinary actions and other punishments. This will allow for an analysis of things such as restorative justice and inequitable treatment for similar infractions.

A2. The examination of equitable treatment must extend to the classroom, school discipline, suspensions, and other actions. The WCSD has a very active team currently examining the data that reports this. I have fully supported this work and have interjected myself and my influence to ensure that it continues. The preliminary data indicated that there is much work to do. The committee has the assignment to continue to track the data AND to involve the Equity and Diversity Department to develop and deliver training to work on dismantling the systematic racism and biases that allow the inequitable treatment to occur. I believe that what gets measured gets done. Bringing this to the forefront and examining the data on a regular and public basis makes these inequities known and sends the message that this is important to the Board of Trustees. I am also looking forward to beginning the work to write a new strategic plan which should include strong support for this and other important equity work.

A3. I’m proud of our work to balance the budget after over a decade of running a deficit. That work required cutting $51million dollars over the past four years. There is no fat left. In fact, there is barely enough flesh; even before COVID. This crisis has exacerbated the situation. The answer cannot be to cut more. The answer has to lie in the hands of the governor and legislature. This is where I and other Board members come in. Personal relationships matter. The first thing is to maximize all of my influence with local and statewide legislators. It is also imperative that the Board continues to work on our credibility and trust with the community. This has been a priority and was improving until the COVID crisis. Opening schools is very emotional and there is no great answer to this impossible situation. Additionally, miscues of disgraced Board members and mistakes made by a new District administration reflect negatively on the Board. We have recently developed new strategies to help with this but it is a work in progress. In the meantime, we must stay laser focused on being transparent and accountable with the almost billion dollars that are already entrusted to us. However, if further cuts are necessary, the priority must be to keep them as far away from the classroom as possible.

Primary Election

Candidate Responses

Q1. What are your top 2 priorities for the Washoe County School District?

Q2. How would you increase the resources needed for our students and teachers to be successful?

Q3. How would you ensure that all of our students and teachers learn and work in a safe school environment?

Q4. How would you ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment for marginalized communities, such as people of color and religious minorities, in our schools?

Matthew Montognese

No responses submitted

Angela Taylor, PhD (Incumbent)

A1. 1. Hiring the best leader to fill the role of our next superintendent. 2. Increased funding as that allows the District to increase teacher pay, decrease class sizes, expand wrap around service, fully provide counselors, social workers and therapists and continue to secure our schools.

A2. I believe there are three keys to increasing our funding. The funding formula is outdated and in drastic need of improvement. We currently work with the Governor’s office and our State legislators to complete the work that has begun to update it ASAP. The second key is to continue to ensure that the District is transparent and responsible in how taxpayer dollars are spent and accounted for. The third key is to stay laser focused on increasing the trust and credibility of the Board of Trustees with increased communication, honesty and integrity.

A3. There is nothing more important than the safety of our students and educators. I am proud of the work that has been done in this area and that needs to continue. All elementary schools have single point of entry which is critical. As of August 2021, this will be completed at the majority of the remaining schools . But safety goes beyond entrance to the campus. We must also improve safety within the school. The work on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is an essential effort that should be continued and even expanded. SEL helps students learn to manage themselves, control their emotions and make better responsible decisions. Research shows that this can reduce suspensions, increase attendance and improve academic performance, especially with marginalized populations.

A4. This begins with the commitment of the Board of Trustees. I am proud of the fact that time and time and time again, we have passed resolutions to demonstrate our bold support of students and staff when national events led to questions regarding safety. But this has to go beyond words.

During my first elected term on the Board, while working to eliminate a $40 million dollar budget deficit, we approved funding to expand the Equity and Diversity Office three-fold.. The Board mandated cultural competency training for EVERY employee and that is being conducted almost daily. And yes, the Board has participated in this training. This work is having an impact on the culture but progress has not been as rapid as I would like. I am hopeful that as the funding formula is updated, more resources will be available to accelerate this critical work.

In the Washoe County School District, our goal is to provide ALL students with the world-class education they need to be successful in college, careers or military service. Each year, schools conduct an anonymous climate study to learn how each group feels about their environment. And annually, we learn more about what can be done. We work to improve this every year, but honestly, we still have work to do.

ACTIONN is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan organization. We do not endorse any candidate or party.