ELKO – A panel of educators from Elko and Lander County joined Democratic candidate for governor Chris Giunchigliani during her rural tour of northern Nevada.
As part of Giunchigliani’s “Chris in Your Community Rural Tour,” the candidate arrived at Great Basin College in Elko March 10, making stops in West Wendover, Ely and Battle Mountain.
Joining Giunchigliani on the panel was Brian Zeiszler, GBC program supervisor for secondary education; Javier Martinez, president of the GBC Student Education Association; Betsy Brian, president of the Elko County Support Staff Organization; Colene Paradise, Owyhee Combined Schools; David Marz, president of the Lander County Teacher’s Association in Battle Mountain; and Scott Guthrie, UniServe director in northern Nevada.
Giunchigliani said because of her background and three-decade experience as a special education middle school teacher, she felt discussions about education were lacking in the governor’s race.
“I’m the only education person actually running for governor,” Giunchigliani said. “I made the decision to get in this race as a schoolteacher who is tired of all of the talk about let’s fund education.”
Some of the items addressed by the panel included teacher and substitute teacher shortages, pointing to the Elko County School District’s scrambling to recruit teachers to replace those who are retiring.
Others brought up the “lack of preparedness” of teachers entering the classroom without enough experience in education.
“I came through the alternate route,” Marz said, explaining that he had a background in radio and television when he started teaching, but ultimately decided to return to school and earn a degree in education.
Zeiszler said that in 2020 about 25 teachers would be eligible for retirement, and he wasn’t sure “the state was planning ahead” for the upcoming shortage.
Giunchigliani said she was told that some of the reasons behind retirement were pay and stress, and she wondered if the rules set by the Public Employee Retirement System of Nevada were hindering retired employees from reentering the workforce and offering temporary relief to the shortage.
“We’re losing that experience. We don’t have a program for retired to come back for maybe stipend,” Giunchigliani said. “That might be something to look at.”
Giunchigliani served in the Assembly for 16 years and will be completing her 12th term as a Clark County Commissioner in November.
Attended by nine people, the event was organized by the Nevada State Education Association, which is also endorsing her for governor.
Giunchigliani said the purpose of the forum was to find out what “was working and what was not working” in the schools, outlining her priorities if elected to office.
“My number one goal is to fix the structural deficit in the K-12 funding formula,” she said. “If we don’t fix the foundation, then we’ll have other problems with other layers” including administration, art, music and physical education programs.
“I don’t want to tell you what to do. I want you to tell me what you want to see from your government, what you’re experiencing,” Giunchigliani said.
Mayor Chris Johnson, who is running for Assembly against John Ellison, attended the forum and said he was starting to see “what is needed in Nevada,” but believed that party affiliations must be put to one side to accomplish common goals.
“We need to be able to work together from party to party,” Johnson said.
He said he also observed that education was becoming too “micro-managed.”
“I say, let the educators educate,” Johnson said. “I am hearing that over and over again.”
He also praised Giunchigliani for visiting the “smaller communities” in northern Nevada. “I really think that shows dedication,” he said.
“I think the rurals are important, but they can make a difference,” Johnson added.
Martinez said he was encouraged to attend the forum by Zieszler and saw it as an opportunity to learn more about the education issues in the election.
“As a future educator, how can I at least do something to make a difference?” Martinez said. He is studying for a degree in secondary education with an emphasis in mathematics.
Martinez said that as he learns how to manage a classroom and teach a lesson, there’s so much work involved that most legislators do not realize.
“A candidate needs to be aware what happens in education, not just K-12 but also at the college level,” Martinez said. “What teachers experience and the factors they deal with.”
Martinez also pointed to a statement from Giunchigliani, who said that most legislators were “not educated in education.”
“They make a law that affects students, teachers and everyone in the school, but they don’t have that background, so they don’t know how it will benefit them. They just do it because they think that’s what’s best.”