Beginning in 2023, students in Southeast Reno will attend JWood Raw Elementary School.
The Washoe County School Board voted 6-1 Tuesday night to name the district’s new school after the former teacher and principal.
Born in Reno and raised in Sparks, Raw worked for the district for 37 years, 23 of them as principal of Dilworth Middle School. Known for handing out teachers’ paychecks while roller-skating through school hallways, Raw retired in 1989. He served as a U.S. Navy airman during World War II and also spent years with the Reno Junior ski program at Sky Tavern. Raw died in 2011 at the age of 85.
Two other names were considered Tuesday as finalists: Sessions S. “Buck” Wheeler and Rio Wrangler.
Wheeler, a published author and teacher at Reno High School from 1936 to 1966, chaired the science department at Reno High and was also the first executive director of the Nevada Fish and Game Commission, now the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
Rio Wrangler, meanwhile, reportedly paid homage to the school’s location – at 10600 Green Pasture Drive, just off Rio Wrangler Parkway.
Administrator Diane Nicolet was the only one to vote dissenting on Tuesday.
The school’s nomination came after a months-long process. In January, the Washoe County School District‘s School Naming Committee opened a survey for community suggestions, receiving 135 responses and 46 unique name suggestions.
Behind the names:14 Finalists for New Elementary School in Southeast Reno
In February, the committee created a list of semi-finalists with 14 names. Among them were Harry Reid Elementary School, Damonte Ranch Elementary School, Desert Diamond Elementary School, and Michael Landsberry Elementary School.
The committee sent the list out to the community for feedback via a survey, feedback, and letters, receiving more than 3,700 responses from students, parents, district staff, and community members.
The survey results show that “Michael Landsberry Elementary School” received the most votes.
Landsberry, a US Marine Corps veteran who fought in Afghanistan, was a math teacher at Sparks Middle School who died in October 2013 while trying to protect students during a school shooting.
His name was not one of the finalists because there was a “social media championship” for that specific school name, according to the district.
A former administrator encouraged his followers to vote for Landsberry and to vote more than once, which may have influenced the results of the survey, WCSD communications and community engagement manager Michele Anderson said Tuesday.
Looking back:Sparks Middle School teacher Michael Landsberry died protecting his students
Nicolet said she was “troubled” that the name that received the most votes was not a finalist because it may appear the district is ignoring the survey, adding that staff are unsure how the “championship” actually happened.
“I hope that if we were to name a school ‘Diane Nicolet’, my family would at least be champions,” she said. “I’m sure a lot has happened. I’m not judging, it’s just human nature.”
Nicolet also said she had read public comment statements that naming a school after a person may not have been prudent. For example, some comments explained how schools across the United States previously named after Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general during the Civil War, were renamed.
“And I’m not saying we should let the political climate decide for us, but I read that quite a bit in the comments,” she said.
Lisa Loader, chair of the school’s naming committee, said the committee received a high number of poll votes but did not hear public comment or receive letters supporting the school’s nomination after Landsberry.
“We envisioned having a strong contribution in all three areas,” Loader said.
Anderson said the district did not influence the committee to vote one way or another, only that she informed the committee that there was a social media campaign asking people to vote more than once. Anderson said the person involved was not related to Landsberry’s family.
She also said they hadn’t seen campaigns from other families asking people to vote more than once.
“Obviously we’re going to figure out how we can make sure someone is voting in a unique way,” she said.
Administrator Jeff Church, who attended the meeting via Zoom, expressed disappointment.
“It almost feels like a popularity contest,” he said. “The man (Landsberry) gave his life. Willingly. … I’m so disappointed in the process.”
He said he supported the school name after Raw and would like to see Landsberry’s name as a finalist for a future school. Administrator Joe Rodriguez echoed Church’s sentiments.
The superintendent’s finalists will be revealed on Friday
Earlier at Tuesday’s meeting, the district announced that the names of the five finalists running for superintendent, which were reviewed by research firm The Bryan Group, will be made public on Friday.
The names of the finalists vying to replace outgoing superintendent Kristen McNeill were originally scheduled to be released in time for discussion at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Related:WCSD delays release of names of superintendent finalists
Emily Ellison, director of human resources, previously told the RGJ that this was delayed because the time between the conclusion of the Bryan Group’s work and the publication of the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting was too tight.
During the meeting, the Board of Directors voted unanimously:
- conduct Zoom interviews with the Superintendent’s finalists on April 8.
- invite the finalists to an in-person meeting, beginning the evening of April 18 and ending on April 20. This will include meals with the finalists, tours of district facilities, answering questions from focus groups and hosting a press conference.
- meet on April 26 to possibly vote to approve a new superintendent.
Bill Bryan, CEO of the search firm, said April 18-20 is the only time all finalists can meet. The trustees were asked to keep these days open and to inform him as soon as possible if they might be unavailable.
“We have a unique opportunity for all applicants to be here…I know it’s not convenient for all of us. We have jobs, we have families,” said board chair Angie. Taylor. “Let’s do everything we can, to move what we can, to make room for it.”
Kristin Oh is the public safety reporter. She reached [email protected] or 775-420-1285. Please help support his work by subscribing.