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Back To School In Eureka County


We continue our look at school districts across Nevada by heading to Eureka County.

The district spends more money per pupil than any other in the state, and boasts a 100 percent graduation rate.

What can other districts in Nevada learn from superintendent Dan Wold and his staff?


On student population:

"We're up from maybe 260," Wold told State of Nevada. "We're experiencing huge growth."

Wold credited the growth with an increase in mining jobs. He also credits the district's 100 percent graduation rate for luring in parents.

On recruiting teachers:

"We have a very small turnover but when we do, we recruit through normal channels," he said

Wold said the district pays better than average and hasn't struggled to fill positions like other districts have. In fact, he said Eureka County School District was the only district last year to start the school year fully staffed.

He did admit that it is tough to recruit younger teachers. He said they are able to recruit teachers that are in the middle of their careers, or later.

On the governor's school safety task force:

"I think they were spot on, and to their credit, they did that with input from all stakeholders," he said.

Wold applauded the task force for reaching out to principals, students, parents, and teachers about improving safety.

He said his county has already started on improving infrastructure, with better door locks and single-point-of-entry when available.

On mental health in schools:

"We need more people […] in that mental health realm to help identify these students that are troubled and help them before it gets to the tragedy stage," he said

On arming teachers:

Wold explained he is a reserve police officer and he has been through training for shooter situations.

"Trained police officers hit their target 18 percent of the time in a firefight, and to put firearms in the hands of a staff member and say, 'I want you hit the bad guy -- and not any students or staff members and not become a target yourself when law enforcement does show up -- is asking a lot of our people that went into our profession because they care about people," he said

He also said the district passed a policy a few years ago against arming teachers.

On how funding for Eureka County school is different:

"Proceeds of minerals come in at the local counties where they are taxed -- rather than going into a pot and getting divided out across the state per-pupil like other types of taxes, they go directly to the county," he explained. "Because Eureka has several fairly large mines, we get more from that."

Wold explained local taxes pay for schools first and then the state adds funds to bring it up to a minimum level, but funding from mining has been over that minimum level for several years, so the state hasn't needed to kick in any money.

The system works for Eureka County schools when the price of minerals is high, but when it is low like it has been for the last few years, school funding has been even.

On reforming Nevada's public education funding:

"It's not that we're shorting education at the expense of something else that's going on in our state," he said. "The issue is our tax base in Nevada is the lowest. We lead the nation in untaxed revenues because of the way our structure is.

Wold pointed out education funding in Nevada is the same percentage of the state budget as other states, but because the state doesn't have the same amount coming in, there is not enough in the pie to adequately spread around.

He said you can't say education needs more funding than the elderly, or people in living in poverty, or infrastructure. He believes the better solution is to restructure the way businesses and properties are taxed in Nevada.

On marijuana taxes:

"Because we get to keep our gold money, other districts should get to keep their marijuana money," he said. "Fair is fair. You leave ours alone. We'll leave yours alone."

Wold believes the debate over how to distribute taxes gathered from marijuana sales will end with some kind of a compromise. Some people believe the money generated by the sale of marijuana should stay in the county where pot is sold. Others believe it should be spread evenly among counties, whether they allow pot sales or not.

Wold says it will probably be worked out where every county gets a minimum amount and the rest is distributed as a percentage to the counties that allow marijuana sales.

On what other districts can learn from Eureka County to get 100 percent graduation rate:

"I think that is accomplished for a couple of reasons and they are hard for other districts to duplicate."

He said one reason is the experienced staff members. Wold said teachers are paid a higher salary, get paid professional development, handle smaller class sizes and have very few discipline problems, which means they can retain an experienced staff.

He also said there is a community culture that contributes to the perfect graduation rate. It has been 12 years since someone didn't graduate in Eureka County and no one wants to be the first kid.

He said the lessons to be learned from his county is that money does make a difference and quality teachers are really the key to the best education.

On increasing rates of proficiency, which are currently aligned with state averages:

"Like every district, we're trying to raise those. Those are our two goals, of course, to increase student achievement in mathematics and achievement in language arts."

Wold said one of the things his district works on is the developing the whole child. He pointed out that most students in his schools are in extracurricular actives including sports and Future Farmers of America.

He said he doesn't want to turn his back on test scores but that is not all the district looks at when they look at a student's success.

On the state of public education:

"Nevada kind of gets misrepresented a little bit in that they say we're last in this and that and first in teen tobacco use, and first in teen pregnancy and all of these things. Well, those things all kind of correlate."

He said you can graph those types of issues and they'll match up with student achievement.

Wold said he has been in education for 40 years and education is a lot better now at assessing what works and what doesn't and how a student is succeeding and whether that student's individual needs are being met.

He said the governor's office and the state department of education have the state pointed in the right direction.

Dan Wold, superintendent, Eureka County School District

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)