Check Out Our Sports Photo Galleries Contact Us
Morrison & Maurins: M&Ms hard to swallow
by Andrew Barbano
May 20, 2012 | 1291 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dumbness counts. Rather than run away from his lack of Washington experience, former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter embraced it and made it the centerpiece of his successful presidential campaign. Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan knew a good idea when he saw one and stole it four years later, using Carter’s own strategy against him.

The public relations brilliance of the ex-presidents has not been lost on outgoing Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison. Last Sunday, the Charlotte Observer published three major articles on their new school boss. The only public criticisms came from the Barbwire and Reno-Sparks NAACP President Lonnie Feemster. We both await feedback from the school district.

Feemster wants to review basic data used to produce Dr. Morrison’s miraculous graduation rates. I requested information on programs designed to allow students to make up lost ground. Perhaps I already have my answer.

Charlotte Observer education reporter Ann Helms, who spent a week in Nevada researching the Morrison record, wrote that “Morrison introduced a door-to-door campaign to locate the hundreds of students a year who were listed as ‘vanished,’ along with those who had officially dropped out, and get them into school. If dropouts who are 18 or older enroll in the Washoe Adult High School, they are switched into the ‘transfer out’ category, which means they’re removed from the calculation entirely, counting neither as graduates or dropouts. Morrison says it’s better to have those young adults working on their education than sitting at home, but he acknowledges it’s too early to say whether they’ll be successful.”

I have been contacted by longtime local educators who share a very different perspective.

One says door-knocking basically ceases in late September after enrollment numbers have been hyped to obtain maximum funding from the state. Another says door-knocking is a prelude to permanently wipe students off the books as though they never existed, thus artificially inflating the graduation rate, a Carter-Reagan spin from Morrison.

“Yes, in fact Reno’s grad rate is too good to be true,” an anonymous commenter wrote in response to Helms’ blog.

“Charlotte will soon follow because ... principals are putting students through APEX classes by the dozens, a computer program where students sit, answer questions and then are given full course credit,” the reader stated.

A local teacher with more than 30 years’ experience criticized similar Washoe programs where students work online for far less time than they would spend in class. Testing is also done online.

M&M Part Deux

In this column last week and subsequently online, I have been working to keep the community libraries in Verdi and northeast Reno from being wiped out. Just who can act to save them becomes a circular firing squad.

“The Board of County Commissioners sets your budget,” I wrote to Washoe County Library Director Arnold Maurins last week, “but, as you stated at the Library Board’s May 17 meeting, the commission has no say on how that budget is allocated, including whether or not to keep Duncan/Traner and Verdi open for the few extra hours they now allow the public after school. If the partnership agreement between the county and library system is dissolved, how much will the two small libraries lose in resources like books and computers?

“I am informed that fully two-thirds of the resources at Duncan/Traner are Library System property, although overhead costs are covered by the school district.

“It appears that county commissioners and administrators could utilize the resource data as they take into consideration passing a final annual budget at their Monday, May 21,  meeting, which in turn will drive your decision and that of the library board as to the survival of the two libraries,” I concluded.

Commissioners and the county manager say they don’t want to lose the facilities and that the impetus for gutting them is coming from Maurins, who can cover his ass by saying that he’s acting on recommendations from a now-defunct citizens advisory committee, a member of which told me last week that they only made up a list of options.

All this ignores that Duncan-Traner is located in the most underprivileged part of town.

Maybe gutting libraries will eventually improve the overall high school graduation rate if many of these kids never enroll in the first place. A longtime teacher recently informed me that nobody tracks eighth-graders who never make it to high school.

I am again reminded of the timeless observation of former Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas: “A library is a poor man’s university.”

Important Dates Dept.

May 27: Memorial service for former Teamsters Local 533 business agent Don Bouma (1945-2011) in Sacramento, Calif. For info, contact Dawn Bouma Eimer at

June 16 : Reno-Sparks NAACP Annual Freedom Fund Awards Banquet, Mandalay Ballroom, Circus Circus-Reno, 6 p.m. For sponsorship and ticket info, go to, call Patricia Gallimore at 746-9453 or email

Support the Nevada Citizen TV Project

To re-establish a people’s television channel hereabouts, you can contribute online via or call 882-TALK. Help give the gift of non-corporate TV to your community.

Keep up the good work and the good fight.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 43-year Nevadan, editor of and first vice-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. Email
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
Featured Businesses