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Candidates vie for Pahrump area school board seat

The race for the Nye County School Board’s Area III trustee seat is packed full in the 2018 election cycle.

Four candidates are vying for the seat in the nonpartisan race as the incumbent Mike Floyd, the board’s current vice president, is unable to pursue the seat due to term limits.

Those in the running include Don Rust, John Norvell, Mark Owens and Ray Grant, according to the Nye County Clerk’s office.

Candidates have platforms calling for an array of topics—from school safety and arming teachers to length of school days to finding ways to improve student test scores. The field of candidates also comes from a wide variety of backgrounds, including education to technical fields and other industries.

Floyd sat in the seat for three, four-year terms since 2006 as the Area III trustee and ran unopposed in the last two election cycles in 2014 and 2010. Area III contains Manse Elementary, Pahrump Valley High School and Rosemary Clarke Middle School within its boundaries.

Ray Grant

Ray Grant, a retired welder and longtime pastor, brings several ideas to the table for the Nye County School Board Area III seat he is seeking. Grant was previously contacted by the Pahrump Valley Times, but the publication was unable to reach him via the contact information provided by Nye County.

Grant said he wants to make school fun again.

“We have to make it fun again because it’s not fun—especially out here because there’s not a lot for children to do,” Grant said.

Though Nevada statistically ranks at the bottom in education in the country, Grant thinks the state can succeed in higher attainment in the classroom.

“We have to look at the waste,” Grant said. “We have to start at the top. There’s no reason that this school district can’t be the top school district, not only in this state but in the nation.”

Grant continued by saying “we have the tools. We have the right people. We have to give them the tools. We have to give teachers our tools. We have to give the parents the tools to help raise the children.”

Grant, who is in his 60s, said he is getting older and the upcoming generations are important to the nation’s future.

“We have too many jails,” he said. “We have too many kids in jail—too many with drug problems, here locally. If we don’t step up to it, change the system, change the temperature, in four more years we’re going to sit right back down here talking again. That’s why I’m running.”

Grant said he is interested in connecting with teachers in the classroom to better find ways to help them succeed, along with bringing on after-school programs.

“We have to get the kids involved, so my thing is we have to get some after-school programs,” Grant said.

Grant suggested that there could even be room for programs on the weekend.

Grant is also interested in looking for solutions on oversized classrooms among other important topics.

One of those topics is his interest in introducing varied curriculum for students who individually might not be on the same educational or career track.

Grant explained that some students might be on a college track and others could be more on the road to a technical or trade school. Using a curriculum that centers on a particular student’s future educational or career track will better prepare students for success after high school, Grant explained.

“Within the classroom setting, we have to set the children in the right classroom,” Grant said.

The Area III candidate is the owner of Grant Global Media Group LLC, an online radio and TV company.

Grant, who said he is a Vietnam War veteran, is also big on school safety.

One of his ideas is to have a closed campus for students and having entry restrictions.

“One way in, one way out,” he said. “You put up a metal detector.”

“If we do that, it may take a little bit more time to get them in and out, but everybody’s safe,” he said. “We don’t have to worry about someone with a gun—whether they passed a background check, went to Front Sight or not.”

Don Rust

Don Rust, a retired substitute teacher and Pahrump resident for over two decades, is calling for closer interaction between the board and trustees and is hoping to keep firearms out of local K-12 schools.

Rust is also calling for an increase in the length of the school day that had been shortened after the board moved to enact the use of Professional Learning Communities (PLC). This entails 45-minute daily meetings with teachers and paraprofessionals collaborating on how to better deliver educational material to students and a later start time for students.

But Rust thinks the reduced instruction time for students should be restored. “The day’s shorter; the classes are still too big for many teachers, and how do you expect higher scores when you’ve got short days, big classes?” he said.

The Davenport, Iowa native came to Pahrump in 1995 after moving from Kuwait, where he worked as a project manager in computer/communications for the Kuwait Air Force/Air Defense and Kuwait Ministry of Defense.

Rust spent well over a decade with the Nye County School District, from the early 2000s to 2017. He worked as a substitute, special education classroom aide and worked in other various roles during that period. Rust sat on the Pahrump Town Board for two years from 2006 to 2007 and the Pahrump Arts Council Board as secretary and treasurer for five years. He has also served on several other boards in a leadership role in his past. This is his first run for a seat on the school board.

Rust said he was compelled to run after calls to arm teachers were starting to be voiced, following the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. “After the Florida shootings, I really got tired of hearing people propose arming teachers,” he said. “I don’t want any kind of weapon in schools, period, because that’s not going to make them safer.”

The trustee candidate is also looking to have the board better connect with teachers at the schools—something Rust said doesn’t often happen. “You can’t know what’s going on if you never visit,” he said.

Rust is also looking to connect with the Nevada Legislature on things such as increasing teacher pay.

Mark Owens

Mark Owens, who is retiring from four decades of work as a senior engineering associate for a national lab at the Nevada National Security Site, has also entered the field of candidates looking to be a trustee on the school board in the Pahrump area.

The 26-year Pahrump resident said securing schools and improving the state’s ranking in educational performance are important targets for him.

Owens noted the state’s ranking of 51st in education behind 50 states and the District of Columbia. That ranking was confirmed through Education Week magazine’s most recent Quality Counts report. “I’m getting ready to retire,” Owens said. “I want to be able to contribute, so I thought this would be an opportunity to get a second look—another perspective from a person outside of the educational community.”

Owens came to the valley in 1992 and had two boys graduate from the Nye County School District. Owens’ wife is a Pahrump native.

Owens said he’s concerned with all the recent security issues in the Pahrump area. Several threats were made by students on area schools during the 2017-18 school year, according to information from the school district and the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.

Owens is proposing the board get behind paying for a security assessment to better figure out what course of action should be taken to secure area schools. “There are a lot of things you can do to enhance security,” he said.

He described his approach more thoroughly. “There are different ways to secure things—not close the whole school, but you can open certain doors when everybody comes in, and then have access in certain areas during the day… ,” he said.

John Norvell

Pahrump resident John Norvell is also vying for the trustee position in Pahrump’s Area III.

Norvell is looking to increase relations with the teacher’s union, along with improve on the area’s educational performance. Norvell, as had Owens, pointed to the state’s low ranking in education.

Norvell said there’s room for improvement.

Norvell said he thinks we can treat our teachers better as well. “I lean more toward working with the union,” he said. “I think of them as a partner, not an enemy.”

Norvell said he was encouraged to run for the seat by persons connected to the school district. “I know a few people that work for the school district, and they didn’t feel they were treated quite fairly with negotiations,” he said.

Norvell studied education at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, though he didn’t finish his undergraduate degree. He did, however, complete his associate’s.

Norvell said he was working for Caterpillar making twice the money he would have as a teacher while attending St. Ambrose. Norvell has also worked as a cage supervisor and manager in Primm, Nevada before retiring.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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