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Afghanistan RPCV Paul Dugan takes over as the Washoe County schoolís interim superintendent.
Afghanistan RPCV Paul Dugan takes over as the Washoe County schoolís interim superintendent.
Former teacher takes over as interim leader
Carla Roccapriore RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL
8/2/2004 12:23 am
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Boosting student achievement, closely managing the districtís resources and getting ahead of the soaring enrollment are among the challenges faced by Paul Dugan, who took over Sunday as the Washoe County schoolís interim superintendent.
A former teacher, counselor and superintendent of elementary education in the district Dugan, 54, replaces Jim Hager, who resigned in late June to become a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Faced with a burgeoning enrollment of English as a second language students and the rigorous demands of federal No Child Left Behind Act policies, Dugan said there was a need for more resources.
ďThe demographics of the Washoe County School District are changing,Ē he said during a recent interview in his office. ďI think we need to look at how we allocate our resources. I donít believe we have enough resources that are going directly for second-language learners.Ē
Heís also concerned that rising student enrollment will cause classroom crowding and the need to open more schools.
ďAll indications are that, because of the popularity of this area, itís all going to continue to grow,Ē Dugan said.
Duganís interim contract ends in June, unless the position is filled sooner. He said he hasnít decided if heíll seek the job permanently.
School board members agreed during a recent meeting to pay Dugan $145,000 per year. Hager made about $153,000.
Dugan earned his bachelorís degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a masterís in education from the University of San Diego. He taught school for two years in Afghanistan with the Peace Corps and two years in Norway before returning to the United States. He has been with the school district more than 20 years.
Lisa Noonan, a former elementary school principal and district literacy coordinator who was working under Dugan, will fill his position.
A brown-bag lunch with interim Washoe County schools superintendent Paul Dugan is scheduled at noon Sept. 8 in the West Conference Room at district headquarters, 425 E. Ninth St. The scheduled topic is about year-round schooling. Dugan asks parents and community members to decide topics for the monthly brown-bag events that take place the first Wednesday of each month during the school year. To suggest a topic, call Lisa Marie Lightfoot at 775-348-0372 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Question: What are some of the immediate challenges facing the school district?
Answer: As always, and Iíve said this before, that our most immediate challenge, which will exist forever, will be student achievement. It has nothing to do with No Child Left Behind. It has everything to do with what our main purpose is. We have a rapidly increasing second-language population, primarily Latino and Hispanic.
We donít have enough resources for a number of things. I think we as a board and as a district need to look at how weíre allocating our resources and realize that we are now approaching 30 percent of our population being second-language learners. I think that is our No. 1 issue.
The other issue we have is housing. Our elementary schools in a number of areas are significantly overcrowded, and Iím very happy the board took the action they took to go forward with two new schools in the Spanish Springs area and one in the Damonte Ranch area.
But those arenít going to open until 2006, and we have students in them now in schools that are overcrowded and thatís going to exist this school year and next school year and who knows for sure whatís going to happen with the growth?
Weíve got the northwest thatís going to grow, and weíve got a high school issue. Both North Valleys and Spanish Springs havenít been open very long and both have reached their capacity. We will be starting here in August a task force that will be looking at the whole elementary school redistricting process. We have three phases that weíre looking at.
The first phase will be to look at our current process and how we do rezoning and what aspects that we consider are important when we do rezoning and see if some needs to be added and some needs to be eliminated. So that first phase will be to look at the whole process.
The second phase will be to do the rezoning for the Spanish Springs and southeastís new school, and weíd hope to have that done by April of next year. Then the third, and obviously the most challenging phase, will be to look at the entire elementary school district and see where we have schools that are significantly under capacity and see if by doing some redistricting that we could perhaps better address our issues of overcrowding. Nobody wants to put a school on multi-track if you donít have to. This is one way to look at that and see if we can even out the distribution of students so we can avoid or delay putting schools on multi-track.
Q: What are some things that outgoing superintendent Jim Hager did that youíll continue and what will you do differently?
A: Certainly, Jim developed extremely strong, positive relationships with the community and I will do all I can to continue that. Iíve lived in this community for over 20 years and this is my home so I donít think Iíll have a problem with that but Jim had a special talent for being able to do that and doing it well so Iíll certainly try to follow up on that. With regards to doing things differently, obviously we have different backgrounds and weíre different people. I have worked in the schools here. I think I will be interested in spending as much time as I can listening and visiting schools and listening to what students, teachers and parents have to say about education. But thatís just a different focus and thatís just because of my experience through Washoe County as a teacher, administrator and counselor.
Q: The Legislature meets in February. How will you deal with lawmakers to get adequate funding for education?
A: Fortunately, the superintendents in Nevada, with the iNVest program, have been very unanimous in their voices together to promote education and I will certainly do the best I can to support what the superintendents have already done with regards to working with the Legislature and communicating with them about importance funding education properly.
Q: What are your thoughts on the No Child Left Behind Act? Has the federal requirement to separate each schoolís standardized test scores by race and income become a civil rights issue for the district?
A: Iíve never looked at it as a civil rights issue. What I have liked about No Child Left Behind is that anybody that hadnít previously had their attention drawn to the fact that we have certain groups not achieving as high as other groups. If this law has forced them to look more closely at that and hopefully do something about it, then thatís a very good thing.
My problem with No Child Left Behind has never been with that. Itís always been, and will continue to be, with regards to the emphasis they seem to have put on, what I consider punitive actions toward schools that arenít meeting the benchmarks. Thatís where I have a problem with No Child Left Behind, and the fact itís taking so much time and effort to address some of the requirements of the law that I really donít believe will help one bit with regards to improving education.
But I think, again, nobody in their right mind is ever going to argue with the fact that we need to have a plan that recognizes that second-language students, minority students and certain minorities are not performing at a level that other students are ó Caucasian students, white students ó and why is that and what weíre going to do differently? And I think Washoe County has developed a plan that hopefully addresses it. I think the real issue is, are we making progress for improving student performance? What happens with No Child Left Behind is that they set this target that may not be realistic in my mind for certain groups to be able to achieve at the timeline they have set. But there is no excuse that we should use for not being able to show significant improvement year to year with those groups.
Q: What are the chances youíll apply for the superintendent opening?
A: Being in a gambling town, Iíd say they were probably 50-50 (laughs). Truly, I really donít want my time in this position to be focused on whether Iím going to apply for it or not. This (Hagerís resignation) happened rather quickly. It happened very quickly and if I believe that I can do the job that needs to be done and maintain a healthy lifestyle, Iíll apply for the job.
Q: What are some things you look forward to most as being interim superintendent?
A: I think when youíre in this position, youíre able to identify or have people point out to you areas that are true legitimate areas that need addressing, areas of concern. I look forward to the challenge of working as a team with the school board and central office and most importantly, with the schools, to see if we can continue to meet those challenges and do a good job. I think thatís something I can look forward to but itís also somewhat frightening because if you donít do a good job then itís called failure. There are issues we have ahead of us that we canít afford to fail on that would draw a lot of peopleís attention. People, rightfully so, would be looking to see how weíre doing.