A week before school starts for Mineral County students, new superintendent Walt Hackford openly answered questions from the Independent-News regarding his new position, the students of the district and issues of concern.
The first question posed to Hackford was: “What is your vision for Mineral County School District as you begin your first full year as superintendent?”
“Mineral County School District has been struggling with low staff morale over these past few years. Internal strife has taken a toll on our teachers, administrators and support staff. Ultimately, this sense of unhappiness transfers out to our students – it’s inevitable. It is my goal to reunite our team of teachers and staff and work together with a common goal of offering the highest quality of educational instruction and extracurricular opportunities that is possible. I am determined to support all of my staff throughout the school district with an emphasis upon teamwork and a united focus upon student achievement and success,” Hackford answered.
He went on to say, “Education is more than merely sharing out a lesson plan each day and then going home. Educators and support staff are entrusted to care, to listen, to counsel, to advise, to coach and to be a positive adult role model for our students. My vision this first year is to challenge all our staff to come together as a team and refocus onto these ideals that we all believe in as educators.”
He was then asked, “What is one of your goals as superintendent?”
“My primary goal is to bring all stakeholders together (parents, community, teachers, support staff, administrators and students) and focus our combined energies on the support and success of our children in Mineral County School District, both academically and socially. As they learn and grow academically, our children should be enjoying their school experiences. We have small communities in Mineral County, but our united efforts will ensure student achievement as we all strive to better prepare them for the responsibilities of adult life,” he said.
In Hackford’s interview as superintendent, he discussed the enrollment of children in the district, so the question was posed, “How will you get more kids enrolled into the school district?”
Hackford responded, “It is my hope that each parent who has previously decided to move their child/children into a home-school status or an online virtual academy would please reconsider bringing them back to our schools. If you have specific concerns, please make an appointment to visit with the school principal over the next week and discuss the positive changes that we are implementing in Mineral County School District. We are making a concerted effort to check the student teasing that goes on in our schools as we commit to tightening our Code of Conduct rules in our class and in each school we will also strive to make communication with parents more ongoing and positive as we unite as a school district and community.”
“Before you decide to pull your child/children from Mineral County School District for a homebound, home-school or virtual academy alternative, please contact your school principal for a discussion first. We would like all of our parents who have pulled their child from MCSD in the past to reconsider their children in our schools once again,” he said.
The numbers for the school principals are as follows: Stephanie Keuhey, Hawthorne Elementary School: 775-945-1000; Mike Domagala, Hawthorne Jr. High and Mineral County High School: 775-945-3333 and Walt Hackford, Schurz Elementary School: 775-773-2323.
Hackford noted, “Even if you wish to remain in an online virtual academy, we can offer the same online learning and credits through our GradPoint Distant Education Program. If a student is enrolled in our GradPoint Program (our online virtual academy at MCSD) a student may earn credits towards graduation and will be welcomed to participate in the graduation ceremony with their peers at Mineral County High School. Please see Mike Domagala about our distant education program, if interested.
With funding loss and a teacher/student/parent divide, Hackford was asked about these issues.
“What major issue(s) do you see facing Mineral County School District today?”
“Funding losses has been a major issue for Mineral County School District, as well as all school districts in Nevada. We have experienced some significant cuts in state funding this year. Our per-pupil revenue allotment for each student (known as the DSA) was reduced by $269,000 for each year over the next two years. This is a significant loss of revenue. We have been forced to make painful cuts in operational costs and staffing for the next two years. Consequently, we have been obligated to choose not to fill three and a half vacant positions in our school district for the 2015-16 school year. Most notably has been the loss of our music/band position, K-12 grade. Losing our music/band program has been especially bitter for all in our district. Our students need music in their curriculum. It is my belief that we must seek to incorporate more elective courses, more courses in humanities and we must seek to incorporate more elective courses, more courses in the humanities, and more hands-on course offerings, both for our elementary and secondary students. Yet, as we experience deeper funding cuts, we are forced to reduce our elective course offerings. Please be advised that we are working hard to recover our lost revenue and restore these programs as soon as possible.”
In answer to the question of “How can teachers bridge the gap between students and parents, Hackford went on to say, “Most teachers are very busy with their career. Aside from multiple lesson plans for each subject and for the day, they also analyze assessment data, create learning activities, grade papers, manage behavior in their classrooms, engage in professional development workshops or online courses, and are often assigned numerous duties outside of their classroom, such as: event and recess supervision, club advisory and/or coaching. Indeed, most of our teachers are extremely busy and do much more than most people can comprehend, yet, I would like our teachers and administrators to be more pro-active and continuous with parent communication. A positive phone call or note home will go far in building healthy relations with our parents.
In conclusion, Hackford stated, “It is also important that I, as superintendent, reach out to build a trusting and respectful relationship with all stakeholders throughout the county. It is important that I am visible and present at all school sites, especially during activities or school events. I understand that communication with parents is important. Therefore, I will see to maintain open communications and an open-door policy with all members of our communities.”