Dr. Steve Gray was a little surprised as Monday’s Nevada school board meeting got started.
On hand were three women, who wanted to make a presentation during the public comments time — Jean Kresse, executive director of United Way of Story County; Kim Hanna, executive director of Raising Readers; and Malai Amfahr, Story County Reads coordinator.
Amfahr read a prepared statement. (To hear the entire presentation, go to the Nevada Journal’s Facebook page for a video.) The statement shared how Gray has been superintendent in Nevada since 2013, has consistently demonstrated his devotion to the education of every student and who believes the schools cannot work in isolation to meet challenges many of the students and their families face each day.
“Steve is a champion of our partnership in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading,” Amfahr read. “When Steve first came to Nevada as a new administrator, he learned about our efforts to provide a summer meal program for students in the social hall at St. Patrick’s church, just two blocks from Central Elementary School. He invited us to explore moving the program to the school and provide not just lunch, but breakfast to students as well. The district helped grow the ‘Food For Thought’ program in Nevada by giving us space in the school, serving as the sponsor and vendor of the summer food program and adding an academic piece in literacy for second- and third-grade students.
“Each spring, Steve hosts a meeting to coordinate all of the components of the summer program in his office. At that meeting, we have the transportation director, food service director, elementary principal and assistant principal, facilities director and community partners, all focused on how to make the program operate efficiently with the end goal in mind — impacting summer learning loss.”
Other things that Amfahr noted about Gray included his help in piloting the Iowa Reading Corps program, replicated after the Minnesota Reading Corps. “Nevada continues to be a partner by hosting an AmeriCorps member and dedicating an internal coach to the effort.”
She also talked about Gray’s willingness to allow United Way of Story County’s Women United program to have space to hold its financial education program during the summer program. “This partnership has allowed women and their children to participate in the summer food program as well. He even allowed participants of the program to ride the buses transporting students for the enrichment program.”
Gray is invited to attend a special meeting for Grade-Level Reading Week, July 23-27, in Philadelphia, where he’ll be honored as a Reading Champion.
Gray said the Nevada School District appreciates all that United Way does for the district, and he said any recognition being given to him is representative of a lot of people who work on behalf of kids in Nevada.
Also taking place at Monday’s school board meeting was a look at the district’s new website design, which is set to be up and running by early July.
Technology Director Joe Wakeman presented to the board about the website, which had its first major design in the fall of 2013 when he started with the district. “Before that, it was a bit of a free-for-all,” in terms of the types of things being posted on a website, he said.
Now, at five years old, the first major design of the website has been totally revamped, and many of the changes are based on public feedback.
“The current site has a lot of information, but it’s not telling our story,” Wakeman said. He hopes the new website will be a way to showcase the fantastic things that Nevada is doing for kids.
One big thing about the new website is that it will be totally ADA-compliant, meaning every picture has a description that a sight-impaired person can hear; videos will have closed captions and so forth. “As a public-facing agency, we are required to be ADA-compliant,” Wakeman said, and he believes it’s important in their online endeavors just as much as with their facilities.
Wakeman went through the website with school board members, showing some of the different drop-down menus and areas that the website will include. Some of the most important things with the website are a newer, easier-to-use staff directory; a more powerful search tool; a “Welcome to the Community” page, which shows off other things in the community in addition to the schools; and the ability, through Google Translates, to see the website in several different languages. “We have families where the kids speak English, but the parents don’t,” he said.
Wakeman said the new site is 95 percent ready to go. By putting it up in early July, it will be ready to be introduced in time for school registration.