Why did you decide to run for school board?
First of all, I love it that Reno High students are interested in decisions that affect you daily, like who is representing you on the school board. Thanks for letting me share my life with you!
There are two main catalysts that caused me to run for the school board, also known as the Board of Trustees. These had to do with mistakes the board was making and my experience with cancer.
1) Mistakes of the Board: As a teacher and single parent of teens in the district, I began following closely what the school board was doing about two years ago when they were reported on in the media with very concerning decisions. These decisions had to do with the last couple of Superintendents for the Washoe County School District. There were contracts that were questionable and Open Meeting Laws that were consistently violated, which greatly affected the perception of the district as being non-transparent with impure intentions. The things that the Board of Trustees deals with ultimately affects students and staff in the trenches, and I could constantly see solutions in how they could improve; I started to come up with ways that I could affect positive change. I was approached, without seeking it, to consider running for the school board. However, the timing wasn't right; I was dealing with my second battle against Colon Cancer and had to concentrate on healing. Plus, my district (District D) was not up for re-election two years ago, so I tabled the idea until this election cycle and pursued it.
2) Cancer and Giving Back to the Community: I had been looking and waiting for a way to give back and serve the community that so generously helped me during my two bouts with cancer and chemo. Two years ago (as mentioned in #1), I was given a temporary leave of absence from my teaching position because my chemo treatments caused me to not be able to fulfill my full-time contract as an English teacher at Rainshadow Community Charter High School. The school did what they could to take care of me, but I lost my income for seven full months. As a single mom with three kids, this would have devastated us, and the real possibility of losing my home became a harsh reality. The community, however, learned of my story and stepped up; they gave my family and me enough money to live on and truly saved my life until I could heal and return to work. Basically, I owed the community in ways that I could not repay with money. So, when the opportunity arose for the position of Board of Trustee for District D, it was a no-brainer: I knew it was the best way to be able to give back to the community that had given so much to me and my children.
What sets you apart from the other candidates?
I believe there are many things that set me apart from other candidates, but the biggest three are:
1) I am a teacher in the trenches, daily. There has never been a current teacher to serve on the Board of Trustees, and my expertise and knowledge of education will offer insights to decisions made that has never been experienced before on the school board. My motives are strictly and purely coming from the best interests of the students and faculty who are in the trenches everyday, and I can make the greatest impact in that area. I dare say even more so than any Trustee member has ever been able to do.
2) I am a real person with real-world experience. Politics has a way of attracting those who come from money, power and privilege. What I have found as I campaign and understand the inner workings of politics in this town, is that very few people who would be considered "real-people" are able to break into the circles that end up controlling and making decisions for average citizens and the youth, who simply want this world a better place. I do not come from money or family connections; I am a person who has been through real struggles and life experiences who wants to serve with the most noble of intentions. It makes me concerned for the future of our district when the same kinds of people, who have never struggled in life nor have had to work hard for what they have, continue to make decisions for people like you and me; I will work with everything I have to make sure that the "establishment", who is generally out of touch with real people, cannot continue to make decisions that impact those of us in the trenches.
3) I am a person who leads by example. I encourage my three teens and my students to do what they can to make this world a better place. I teach real-world education and critical thinking skills to them, because I follow this in my own life. I want to show our future community leaders and contributors (like students!) that becoming involved with politics can and will help make this world a better place. So, I want to lead by example and prove that it can. I am honored to be able to do so.
What's one issue you hope to address if you are elected?
If you haven't heard through media or other adults around you, the biggest issue on the ballot this year is the item that will allow for a sales tax increase, which will go to fund repairs, expansion and construction of schools (like Reno High). Our school district is about 10 years behind in being able to keep up with growth and improvements for older schools. This is the biggest issue facing our district. (If you want to know more, go to www.SOSWashoe.org.) My hope is that it passes, because this must be dealt with NOW.
However, if it does not pass, I believe the blame lies mostly with the Board of Trustees. The issue I intend to address is the distrust of the school board by the voters and taxpayers of this county. So, the one issue that I will continually tackle as Trustee, if I am elected, is to reach out to those I am elected by to build trust and communicate. There is a disconnect between the district and the community, and if we want things to improve (like passing ballot issues for schools and increasing our standing nationally with academic ratings), then the tone-deafness of the Board must go away. As a teacher and professional communicator, I will do whatever I can to empower people with knowledge, which in the end, increases trust of the school board. I live transparently and I intend to address the issue of trust by leading with my example while on the Board of Trustees.
How will your decisions affect the students of Reno High?
Every decision should be based on student needs: Perhaps my biggest asset as a Board member will be my ability to filter every single decision through the lens of students and those who interact with them daily. So, for Reno High, I understand at the deepest level the realities of what students face during the day and when they leave the school to go to whatever kind of world awaits them at home. My decisions will not only help improve those who do well in school, but they will also be decisions that are based on those students who struggle with learning, who struggle with their home life, and those who don't follow the typical track of academic perfection-to-college-to-high-paying-jobs. There has never been a board member like myself, and I can make the greatest impact with my insights and knowledge of the realities that students face, daily. Many leaders claim to want to empower students for their future. Placing a current teacher on the Board of Trustees is the best way to ensure that this happens, and if it doesn't, I do not see how leaders and those in power can get this done in a more effective way. I fully believe that I must sit in that seat on the Board of Trustees if this district and student lives are going to improve.
Is there anything you would like the community to know about you before they vote?
I am Blessed and Thankful: Besides everything I have shared above, I simply want the community to know that I am honored to be a part of this district and county, and in everything I do and decide, I will do it for the good of those who are affected the greatest: those who are in the daily trenches, like the students, teachers, staff and the parents who support them. I am simply thankful I am alive, and each day is a gift to be lived to its fullest. I am blessed to have the opportunity to serve, and in everything I do, I wish to make the greatest positive impact so that when I leave this world, I will leave the best parts of me here. Thank you for caring about education in our district, Reno High students! You are loved and acknowledged by many of us in the community.
Here is my website link: www.EmilyForWCSD.com and my Twitter handle is @EmilyForWCSD. If you want to follow me on Facebook, type in the words "Emily Reese for WCSD Board of Trustees District D", click "like" and share the word with your friends and parents. If you are old enough to vote in November, let me know you support my campaign and I can give you real-world experience with the election process, which could lead you to being able to work on other campaigns in the future! I am an educator and parent at heart, and anything I can do to help you and listen to your concerns, I will do. You can email me at EmilyForWCSD@gmail.com with questions or concerns.
I will close out my interview by signing off with my life's motto:
Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,