Board of Regents races pit neighbor against neighbor, educator against educator

By: - October 5, 2022 5:52 am

An aerial view of Truckee Meadows Community College, one of the institutions within the Nevada System of Higher Education. (Photo by Manny Becerra on Unsplash)

The Nevada Board of Regents is a 13-member nonpartisan board that approves budgets and policies for the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), which consists of four community colleges, two universities, one research institute and one state college. This November there are five open seats — three districts (6, 7 and 13) in Southern Nevada and two districts (8 and 11) that embody parts of northern and rural Nevada and a sliver of Southern Nevada.

Here we will focus on the candidates for Districts 8 and 11.

District 8: Shelly Crawford vs. John Patrick Rice

Currently held by Cathy McAdoo, a former nonprofit direct who won the seat by default in 2016 when she was the only candidate to file, District 8 consists of Elko, Esmeralda, Eureka, Lincoln, Nye, and White Pine counties, as well as two slivers of Clark County.

McAdoo did not seek reelection.

Michelee “Shelly” Crawford and John Patrick Rice collected the most votes out of the six candidates in the June primary. Both candidates are educators.

Crawford, a principal at the Title-1 C.C. Ronnow Elementary in the Clark County School District and a member of the national guard in Northern Nevada, said her motivation to run stems from the struggles she saw in educational paraprofessionals trying to get licensed.

Crawford, a former foster child, was the first in her family to finish high school and pursue higher education. She received an associate’s degree in psychology from the College of Southern Nevada, a bachelor’s degree in teaching English as a second language from Sierra Nevada College, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UNLV and currently is pursuing a doctorate in leadership and education administration from Taft University.

“Both of my parents didn’t graduate from high school,” she said. “The hardest thing for me being first generation that I’ve noticed from my experience compared to my colleagues who had parents who went to college is that I didn’t really know where to start.” 

She believes she would be the first Latina elected to the board.

She said her main policy focuses if elected would be to create more pathways in education for paraprofessionals to get the requirements they need to advance their careers in the classrooms and help expand access to trades (her husband is a 5th generation union ironworker) and to help high school students work towards college credits similar to the program she benefited from at CSN.

According to campaign finance reports filed with the state, Crawford raised $13,150 for her campaign, as of June 30. 

Her opponent, Rice, raised $25,990. Rice is a professor of fine arts at Great Basin College and served three terms on the Elko City Council.

He received a bachelor’s in theater arts from Viterbo University, a master’s of fine arts in theater-acting from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and a doctorate in philosophy in education from Capella University.

“The needs of higher education are unique and we need to have more professionals leading the Board of Regents so we’re able to guide the institutions we represent in the most effective way,” Rice said. “I’ve dedicated most of my professional life to higher education in Nevada and feel like this is a great way for me to use those skills.” 

If elected Rice said he would focus on improving the funding formula to support some of the smaller institutions in the NSHE, improve cross-collaboration between different colleges and universities in the state, improve salaries for higher education professionals and improve the relationship between the Board of Regents and the state legislature.

“There is a lot of concern about how the Nevada System of Education is governed by legislators and we need to work to rebuild their trust,” said Rice. 

District 11: Jeffrey Downs vs. Steve Laden

Currently held by Jason Geddes, who can’t run after reaching his term limit, District 11 includes Sparks, northern Reno, and Humboldt, Pershing and northern Washoe counties.

Neighbors Jeffrey Downs and Steve Laden are competing for Geddes’ board seat.

“I have nothing negative to say about Steve, ” Downs said. “He lives around the block from me. What I’ll say is we approach it from a different perspective. He has a financial background and he sees the world through that lens, and I see the world through the lens of higher education.”

For the last 18 years, Downs has taught math at Western Nevada College, where he served as interim vice president of student success and support for over two years. He previously was a guest lecturer at the University of Reno and taught at the high school level.

He believes that it’s important to have a faculty voice on the Board of Regents when the policies directly impact people like him.

Downs focus as a regent would be to improve the relationship between the Board of Regents and the Legislature, including hiring a permanent chancellor that works well with legislators, NSHE and businesses in Nevada, improving access to education by expanding dual enrollment, and developing curriculum that helps train people for industry jobs like welding and auto maintenance.

While the national Republican Chamber of Commerce endorsed Downs, he said he is always willing to listen to others’ views. 

“I’m a math guy, and I have that perspective,” Downs said. “If elected I want to hear their voices and address their concerns. If there is something that isn’t working for them, please bring it to me.” 

Downs raised $416 for his campaign. His opponent, Laden, raised $13,981 for his campaign and brings his expertise as a businessman and educational advocate to the table.

“For me, it’s very personal about academic achievement, student access to campus and the college experience and affordability,” Laden said. “My wife, who grew up impoverished in rural Appalachia, her parents finished fifth grade and eighth grade… no one knew anything about college or universities, she got on a bus with $10 in her pocket and went to college in West Virginia. It changed, not just her life, but our family’s life.”

Laden’s policy initiatives as a regent would be to ensure higher education is affordable, accessible and relevant to students by finding other ways to fund the costs of NSHE without raising the costs exclusively for students and improving communication on scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities to students on campus.

 Laden said he wants to work with Nevadans to build a myriad of higher educational opportunities.  

“Our community colleges play a hugely vital role in developing our workforce, giving our students an opportunity to pursue careers outside of the traditional four-year university environment,” he said. “These are great careers, they’re in many cases very well paying and they contribute mightily to our community and our economy.”

While Laden’s professional background is in finance, he does have experience on education boards. He served on the Education Alliance of Washoe County/Education Collaborative for 11 years and the State of Nevada Council to Establish Academic Excellence for eight years.

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Camalot Todd
Camalot Todd

An award-winning, investigative and enterprise reporter, Camalot Todd has over seven years experience in print, digital, radio and TV journalism. She covered mental and behavioral health in New York for Spectrum News 1 Buffalo through the national service program, Report For America, where she won the Mental Health Advocates of WNY Advocacy Award in 2020 for her coverage on mental health stigma. She also served as an inaugural member of the Report For America Corps Advisory Board Member, 2021-2022. Previously, she reported on community issues in Las Vegas, including a long-term project on underage sex trafficking, for the Las Vegas Sun and its sister publication, Las Vegas Weekly. For the Sun, she wrote a pathbreaking investigative piece called, “Children on the Cusp: The transition from foster care to adulthood is leaving some behind.” The piece won the Nevada Press Association best investigative story of the year and named Camalot the Best Community Reporter of 2017. She also worked as a reporter for KUNV radio and is a graduate of University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Camalot was selected for National Press Foundation Opioid and Addiction Fellow 2021 and led the Syracuse Press Club's Journalism Lab as an educator from 2021-2022.

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