Students march to save teachers

Shannon Litz / Nevada Appeal

Shannon Litz / Nevada Appeal

If the teachers who received layoff notices in recent weeks at Dayton High School don't return next year, Cora Jeffreys, 17, fears the school will suffer.

"Them being gone would ruin my senior year," she said. "That's how much these teachers mean to me."

Shouting phrases like "End teacher tenure," a group of about a dozen Dayton High School students gathered at the Capitol on Thursday to protest the "last in, first out" rule.

Under that rule commonly negotiated in most teacher contracts, the teachers newest to the district are the first to go when there are layoffs. Gov. Brian Sandoval proposes eliminating such practices as part of his education reform.

"We really don't think it should be based on how long they've been teaching," said freshman Heath Owen, 15. "We think it should be based on evaluations and how good they are."

One sign read, "Etter is better," referring to Damon Etter, the school's economics and history teacher who also serves as leadership adviser.

He was recognized in November by the Nevada Association of School Boards as the state's Innovative Educator of the Year.

He was one of about a half-dozen teachers who received a layoff notice, based on the time those teachers have been teaching in the district.

"We're angry they're taking the good teachers away from us," Jeffreys said. "These are the teachers that connect with us the most. (Science teacher Sarah) Dyer connects with people no one else notices."

Lyon County School District Superintendent Caroline McIntosh said declining enrollment and cuts from the Legislature combined this year to create a significant budget shortfall.

About 73 positions were cut, with 57 teachers receiving reduction-in-force notices.

"Of course, we very much love and respect all of our teachers," she said. "We're just sick over this."

She said as more notices come in from teachers intending to retire or leave the district, some of the laid-off teachers can be brought back. More can be saved, too, if the budget from the state isn't as bad as anticipated.

If all teachers agree to a salary cut, she said, more positions could be retained as well.

"We're very hopeful at the bargaining table we can reinstate some of those teachers," McIntosh said.

The students are collecting signatures on a petition to save their teachers and organized the demonstration via Facebook during their spring break.

McIntosh said the students are a testament to the quality of teachers in the school district.

"I so admire our kids," she said. "You can tell what good teachers they've had because they understand democracy. Isn't that the heart of everything? Teachers are our silver bullet, especially in Lyon County."䍆


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