By Selwyn Harris
As if his schedule was not busy enough, Nye County School District NCSD Superintendent Dale Norton will also serve as the district’s lobbyist.
The board of trustees gave the nod to Norton during this month’s regular school board meeting.
Board member Tim Sutton was the first to lend his support to the superintendent.
“We were approached by an individual who wanted to provide lobbying services for the district to the tune of $60,000. We had some discussion about it and had not decided either way whether we wanted to accept the proposal or not but we decided to set aside $50,000 for lobbying purposes. After we had that meeting the individual who approached us with the proposal withdrew the proposal so that kind of left us in limbo as far as lobbying services goes. I believe we need some kind of representative from the district to provide lobbying or to just to stay in tune with legislative issues. When we had the discussions earlier, I proposed that it be Mr. Norton and I still think that is a good way to go,” he said.
The individual Sutton was referring to was former Superintendent Dr. Rob Roberts who created a company in order to solicit contracts.
Roberts retired last spring after serving 10 years as the district’s leader.
At the time, Sutton agreed with fellow trustee Pam Lewis about contracting with Roberts, but he expressed concerns about approving funding for the service.
“He has great experience with our district and he’s familiar with the needs of our district. The only thing that I’m concerned about is that I worry that it might be a luxury that we can’t afford. Look at the proposal and if all he is going to do is report back to us what’s going on in the legislature, I think that can be taken care of through other organizations. I know he served in that capacity as superintendent, so I don’t see why Mr. Norton couldn’t step in that role now that he’s superintendent,” he said.
NCSD Chief Financial Officer Ray Ritchie weighed in on how the lobbyist position will be funded.
“We pay all of our consulting fees from the office of the superintendent. That is where we pay a portion of our audits and such. We set aside funds every year for professional services. This year we budgeted $225,000. Some years it’s lower and some years it is higher, but it depends on what’s going on in the district. You can never really have a handle on it,” he said.
Norton, meanwhile, lent his thoughts to the board on the funding issue.
“We did some checking on the $50,000. if you did not hire a consultant and if you directed me to register and be the lobbyist, that $50,000 we have to keep track of anytime I would go specifically to lobby, we have to take that out of the contingency fund designated for that,” he said.
Norton also said that most of the time the planning around his meetings scheduled for Carson City would not be exclusively for lobbying services.
“There would not be a dollar spent just for lobbying. It would be also contingent upon the mass meetings that we also have. Whatever that would be left over from that lobbying $50,000 ticket, then could be carried over to the general fund and at the conclusion of the legislative session we would revise the budget and move that forward into your general fund,” he said.
Following a brief discussion among his board members Trustee Robert Mobley raised the question on whether Norton has even registered as a lobbyist.
Norton was quick to address Mobley’s concerns.
“There is two schools of thought among the superintendents because I have had discussions with other superintendents about this. Some superintendents do not register as lobbyists. They feel that when they are called to testify, they are called to testify as a superintendent which is true. I do think though that you can have that lobbying power and authority to work behind the scenes better by being registered as a lobbyist. As far as all of the information that I’m getting, it’s okay,” Norton said.
In the end, the board voted unanimously for Norton to provide lobbying services for the district.
Board members also took care of some unfinished business regarding Pathways Alternative School from their previous meeting early last month.
The board received information on the amended School Improvement Plan SIP from Department of Student Achievement official Debra Carle.
“We changed goal one on the School Improvement Plan from implement of the plan of study where each student enrolled at Pathways Middle and High School to increase achievement in math and reading, to all teachers will use effective instructional strategies to increase achievement in math and reading. With the recommendations from the Nevada State Education Department, we turned that goal into an action step to provide professional development around individual students plans of study,” she said.
Last spring, test scores revealed a steep decline in testing skills throughout the district.