School Board Election
District D - Edgar Hitti
Edgar "Ed" Hitti
Agrees with BBME's Parental Bill of Rights
BBME: Why did you decide to step up and run for the school board?
HITTI: Education is very important to me, personally through my immigration process. That was my ticket out. It’s not easy for someone to go and fill out a visa application, an immigrant's story rarely is. It has to be a matter of conditions. The safest way to leave was education, to get a higher education. I came here (to the USA) and was blessed to get that opportunity. I went to UNR and I got my Master’s Degree in Engineering. Worked several jobs while going to school. I was quick to find a job, going into the private sector. .
It's important to remember how you started and always be grateful for that. I try to find any opportunity for research funding to bring it back to UNR. My three kids are in the district. We are pro-public education. I have been a part of the PFA for three years now and we trusted the system. I started seeing some disconnect. My wife and I have been an active part of PFA prior to being on the board as well as big supporters of Fund the Arts, the main fundraiser for Jessie Beck Elementary. Noticing why they needed these funds and realizing it was because the district doesn’t provide these schools with some of the essentials that it should, but how long are we going to continue on the same path that is leading us lower? Getting anything done in the district for our schools is just so difficult even when we have the funding.
Another thing is shortsightedness. A perfect example of this is the school bus shortage. Not having adequate transportation for all students is inexcusable, especially when it affects our most vulnerable populations the hardest. The school board knew the bus shortage was going to happen years in advance and still couldn’t stop it. That shows you their lack of long-term planning and their sole focus on programs that don’t affect the bottom line or long term success of our students.
The board just hired a new Superintendent, who is not from Washoe County and is vocal on her very polarizing views of social justice. We have a lot of amazing, talented teachers and principals here that I would hire in a heartbeat that better understand our community. They would be running the first day to fix issues we have in our district. Versus getting someone from the west coast that will need 6-8 months to figure out what is going on and maybe 2 or 4 years to really make progress. So you already lost so much efficiency from that person.
Why not tap into the resources we have here. We have great funding in the community. So many businesses here want to help, but the district pushes that help out. It’s not a political thing, it’s about the kids. Let’s work together to make our schools amazing as a community, to include everyone and not let politics enter the classroom or the school board the way it has over the past 8 or so years. I’m the example of equity, diversity and inclusion. The artificial programs and injections the school board has slowly been putting into our curriculum, you actually end up with exclusion and fewness and the elite. This practice is alienating people. These political buzzwords have been used over and over again to create division, but most importantly a diversion from the failures of the school boards SEL programs, among others. In the past it used to be called TEAMWORK. The best thing we could do is to create the best chance for everyone without labeling and have a high quality of education for every child. When we create smaller class sizes, teachers get a better opportunity with each child. Class sizes continue to grow larger with teacher shortages.
BBME: How do you feel about parent involvement?
HITTI: With Covid hitting and parents seeing their kids sitting in front of the screen, it just opened up a lot of eyes. Like the education they're getting, what they’re doing, the homework, or lack of. There is no stronger bond than with parents, it’s not like a business. The approach from the district was that parents don’t know what they are doing. That mentality created a wave of “why won’t you listen to me? “ I'm the parent, listen at least. Parents come to the board meetings, they have three minutes. There is no follow up. They are not getting the feedback, those few words like “I heard you and I'll look into it”. You get nothing.
Parents are passionate at school board meetings because they feel they aren’t being acknowledged or heard. The board should at least be respectful and attentive. They have gone to the extreme of labeling us as” domestic terrorists”. No parent is a terrorist for loving their child and wanting what is best for them. I am fighting for the rights of all children in the Washoe County School District to get the best quality of education. We must rise from the lowest rankings to the top and we can only do that through change, transparency and accountability on the school board. Not more of the same.
I’m fighting for the teachers, who are the backbone of the school district, yet the least acknowledged and paid. And I’m fighting for the parents who have either taken their kids out of Washoe County Schools or are thinking of taking them out. Elect me and give me time to raise the standards in our schools because every child deserves that. Lastly, I’m fighting for every child currently in our schools because you are worthy of a quality of education.
BBME: Do you feel that you will be a part of the leadership that will listen to parents and honor their right to be involved in their education?
HITTI: Parental involvement is crucial in the way we run our schools and educate our kids. It has to be a team effort. And parental involvement, whether it’s parents, guardians, grandparents, family, caretakers, has been a main part of my campaign from day one. If we don’t listen to the people who are speaking during the school board meetings, if we don’t have active, open and transparent participation with our teachers, faculty and administrators, and if the board doesn’t feel compelled to reply to any requests or concerns of the community, then where is the accountability and to whom are we accountable? It's not enough to just know every child, by name and face, to graduation. There has to be accountability.
BBME: Do you believe that we deserve to have a district that is not in the bottom of the national rankings year after year?
HITTI: I believe you get what you elect. And for far too long we trusted our elected school board officials to be impartial and focus on putting quality of education at the forefront of everything they do. Instead, what we realized during the pandemic, during countless hours of online learning, was that kids weren’t being pushed to try harder or do better. They weren’t being challenged academically, but rather we saw the bar being lowered, kind of an “artificial success” you could say. But to what end? Just to try to boost reading and math proficiency scores that, yet again, are failing? So yes, we do deserve to have a district that is at the top of the national ranking, not at the bottom like it currently is, but only when we put in the hard work of focusing back on the subjects that get you there like Math, Science, Reading, Writing, Technology and History…and I have to throw Engineering in there too because it's what I love do.
BBME: What is your stance on politics and divisive curricula in WCSD?
HITTI: My stance on politics in the curriculum is simple, it should be taught as a subject, without one’s own opinion sprinkled into it. And it should be age appropriate and within a historical context, if applicable. It is a Science of its own, Political Science, and can be taught as such. And when taught properly, can show students how to critically think and master the styles of speech and debate, which seem to be overlooked nowadays. But the need to sprinkle social justice buzzwords or rhetoric in every subject isn’t necessary and seems to take away from the main objective, which is to raise the proficiency rates in important subjects like Math and Reading so that you have graduates that are ready for the real world.
BBME: Do you believe you will be able to set personal opinions/feelings aside and act on behalf of your constituents during tough topics?
HITTI: As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve all seen the school board meetings during the comment portion of the meeting. You have impassioned parents, teachers or community members speaking to a panel of school board trustees that rarely even make eye contact with the speaker. It is disrespectful! And it sends a message that says “I don’t care to listen to what you’re saying or to know who you are”. Trustees are representatives of the people who voted for them, unless they got appointed, and they have a duty to listen to those people. What other way is there to be heard than at a school board meeting? And if you aren’t going to listen to me and my problem or comment, request etc., then how can I get help? It makes people feel helpless and desperate. These are their kids and I understand that. I understand the feeling of helplessness because I’ve dealt with the school district and it's not usually easy or pleasant nor do you leave getting any results. You have to do what is right for the end goal, which is bringing a high quality of education back to the Washoe county school district.
BBME: Should parents have full access to all curricula taught to their children?
HITTI: Parents should always know what is being taught to their children. And why wouldn’t there be transparency in that? What would someone want to hide and why? There is nothing to hide when you set a goal of creating a higher quality of education, and have accountability and transparency go along with that. You can’t say you want to have a goal, but not have any accountability for not meeting those goals. But on the flip side, you could also have rewards for meeting or exceeding the goals set forth.
BBME: How do you feel about the data being collected and distributed on our students? Do you believe their data should be shared and/or distributed without parental permission?
HITTI: I believe data mining is very dangerous and a huge liability that the school district doesn’t need to be involved. There have been data leaks of student info in the past. It is a very complicated subject and one that can lead down many rabbit holes, but none of it is necessary in my opinion. Also, we don’t really get answers from the school district as to what the information is used for and by who, so it's hard to really know. Between all the surveys they send out and the standardized testing the children take, the district has access to a lot of information that seems to go somewhere, but we just don’t know. It definitely shouldn’t be collected without clear parental consent.
BBME: How do you feel about the accessibility to board meetings? Do you believe they have been fair, accessible and transparent?
HITTI: I think the accessibility and transparency of the board can improve greatly. But that isn’t really the biggest problem because you can be accessible and transparent, but not have any follow up or response to comments or concerns. The board has to listen to the needs of the public and has to be held accountable for a response. You can listen all you want, but the proof is in the actions of the board when they hear the concerns or the opinions of the parents and children and vote in the exact opposite way.
BBME: What are your views on teachers using the classroom to promote their personal and political platform ro beliefs?
HITTI: We have amazing teachers in our district. It’s been hard to see many of them resign or retire early. The teacher student relationship is a professional one and should be conducted as such. Although the lines get blurred due to the nature of it all, we need to make sure the number one goal of our teachers is teaching. Teachers need to be respected as the professionals they are, not for what they believe in personally or what they do in their private lives. The reverse is also true. The children need to be respected as what they are, and in this capacity they are students who are expected to be educated to the highest of our ability. What someone’s personal beliefs are does not contribute to the quality of education that student receives. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun too! It's definitely a balance that teachers have been trying to maintain for years, and it's not always easy, but necessary to uphold classroom rules and keep a harmonious learning environment.
He agrees with the BBME Parent Bill of Rights.