WCSD Superintendent: "Your Child's Safety is First Priority"
Being the superintendent of Washoe County schools is no easy task, especially with the economic challenges our state is facing.
"More than half of our children now either live in poverty, have a disability or use English as a second language," said Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez.
It might seem like there are more problems than dollars for a cash-strapped Washoe County School District these days, but Martinez believes in his plan.
"We're making sure they get the right programs, so kindergarten and preschool programs up to third grade. We're making sure we have intervention programs after school. This year, we're providing interventions to over 8,000 students."
Aside from teaching children, the school district has another increasing concern, their safety.
December 14th's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut claimed 26 lives. It was the second deadliest shooting in U.S. History.
Martinez was reflective about that day.
"I tell you, I held my two and a half year old son tighter than ever. It's a tragedy. It's changed our lives forever."
Prior to the Connecticut school shooting, Martinez said the school board had already put $15 million aside to improve fencing, change lock systems and enhance the overall security systems at Washoe County schools. However, Martinez said $15 million is not nearly enough.
"Some of our buildings are so old, there's multiple buildings within the school, so you can go to many of our buildings and literally, there are different ways for people to get on campus and we're trying to close that off."
I asked Martinez what he thought about giving teachers guns.
"There are high schools in Chicago, where literally, every entrance has a metal detector. There are 20 security guards, including armed police men in the school. It feels more like a jail than a school. I don't want it that way inside our schools in Nevada. I want it to be a warm learning environment."
Martinez said along with needing security improvements, many of the district's schools are aging and in need of repairs.
That's why the district's sponsoring Assembly Bill 46. If approved, it would raise property taxes by one quarter of a percent to pay for those repairs.
I asked him how do you get lawmakers onboard to fund education adequately and if they feel like they are ready to do that this time around?
"I'm more optimistic than ever before, Chris."
To watch the entire interview, tune into Face the State this Saturday at 4:30am and 3:30pm. It also airs Sunday at 6:30am and 3:30pm.