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Indy Education: Pahrump HS senior reflects on first state education board term

Plus, book protesters confront the Washoe County School Board, and a program for struggling students coming to an Elko County middle school.
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationK-12 Education

Good morning, and welcome to the Indy Education newsletter. I’m Rocio Hernandez, The Nevada Independent’s K-12 education reporter. 

This newsletter provides a recap of the latest education stories and highlights interesting educators, students, programs and other events and resources throughout the state. Click here to subscribe to the newsletter and receive it each week via email.

In case you missed it: We’ve shifted this newsletter’s publication frequency to every other week for the summer break. Hoping all teachers and students enjoy the break, and spending this time recharging. 

I want to hear from you! Send questions, comments or suggestions on what I should be covering to

News briefs

Washoe County School District board meeting on Nov. 22, 2022, in Reno. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

📕 Book protesters disrupt school board meeting Dozens of protesters descended upon the Washoe County School Board’s meeting last Tuesday in opposition to certain school library books they compared to pornography, and pushed to have them removed from the shelves. Among the books were LGBTQ+  titles and those touching on themes of violence, drug abuse and suicide.  

The speakers included South Carolina-based Pastor John Amanchukwu, who’s affiliated with Turning Point USA, a conservative organization founded by right-wing political activist Charlie Kirk that’s backing former President Donald Trump’s presidential bid. Speakers said the books they were protesting, which included American Psycho and Looking for Alaska, were sexualizing kids. The meeting was recessed twice after some speakers read passages that contained vulgar language, which violates the board’s meeting rules. 

LGBTQ+ rights supporters, including two staff members from Silver State Equality, also spoke. The organization said Wednesday that the staffers left the meeting early due to safety concerns after being harassed by some of the protesters. 

🍎 Elko schools receive $1 million for program for struggling middle school students The funds from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation will allow the Elko County School District to implement a project-based learning curriculum targeting disengaged students at Adobe Middle School starting this upcoming school year. The Star Academy program, offered in partnership with New Orleans-based NOLA Education, will cover four core subjects: math, science, English Language Arts and social studies. Students are expected to accelerate as many as two grade levels in one complete school year, improving school attendance and behavior. 

Following the program’s implementation, NOLA Education will assist the Elko County School District for three full academic years.

School Spotlight

Pahrump high school student Michael Keyes speaks at 2024 National Association of Student Council state conference at the Greater Nevada Field ballpark in Reno on April 13, 2024. (Michael Keyes/Courtesy)

Pahrump teen, advocate for student voices earns second term on state education board

Even before he became the student member of the State Board of Education, Pahrump high school student Michael Keyes was passionate about advocating for his peers. 

Keyes said when he was in fourth grade he sent a letter to his principal pushing to add an art class to their school. As a high school student, he lobbied his school district to give credits to students who took high school level courses, such as algebra and geometry, in middle school. 

In 2023, Keyes was appointed to serve as the student member of the State Board of Education by Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo based on a recommendation from the Nevada Association of Student Councils

During his first term on board, Keyes, 17, has taken his student advocacy work to a new level. This year, he supported a proposed regulation on high school start times that Keyes said would have been good for students in school districts such as Clark County where students have to wake up early to make it to their first class at 7 a.m. But it was opposed by superintendents who were concerned about transportation challenges and other unintended consequences. 

“I think what I've learned is everyone is trying to do the right thing for students,” he said. “They just disagree on how.” 

Keyes said he enjoyed his experience on the board so much that he reapplied and was reappointed to serve another term. During a recent meeting, state board President Felicia Ortiz said the reappointment of a student board member is unprecedented, and praised him for his dedication to elevating student voices. 

The senior is focused on efforts to create more opportunities for students across the state to sit on local and state boards and share their perspective with education leaders including the state superintendent of public instruction. Keyes is working with the Nevada Department of Education and 2024 Nevada teacher of the year, Laura Jeanne Penrod, to create a Student Advisory Group for Education that will advise the State Board of Education. The group will be open to students from all Nevada school districts. He’s also pushing for legislation that would create student positions on Nevada school boards that don’t have one. 

“A lot of people don't really understand what's going on in schools,” he said. “I think we can solve that by getting those student voices at the table, and not just having someone advocate for them.” 

Keyes said he’d also like to see more emphasis on raising student engagement through approaches such as competency-based education and personalized learning tailored to each student’s strengths, needs and interests. 

Competency-based learning is at the center of Nevada’s Portrait of a Learner, a guiding document that defines the purpose of education to steer decision-making and policy.

Keyes thinks this approach could address the disinterest in school among students, especially those who are frequently absent. 

“I think once we get to that Portrait of Learner vision where people have control over their education, or people can relate education to their lives, we’re going to see students that are very passionate about what they're doing instead of just people struggling to make it to graduation,” he said. 

Have a student or staffer who we should feature in the next edition of School Spotlight? Share your nominations with me at

Reading Assignments

Judge denies motion to dismiss cybersecurity lawsuit against Clark County schools

The ruling was an unexpected development considering the judge previously said she leaned toward dismissing the case.

By the Numbers: Nevada again near bottom for children’s well-being

Nevada maintained its rank of 47th overall — same as last year — in the annual Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book. 

Carson City summer program helps ease the transition into kindergarten

A summer program at the Carson City School District is supporting incoming kindergarten students who have limited socialization or educational experiences. 

Extra Credit

Mt. Charleston students’ status still in limbo after CCSD board ‘no’ votes

The Clark County School District board took no action Thursday night on a proposal to permanently close the storm-damaged Mount Charleston elementary school, the Las Vegas Sun reported. 

The truth and lies behind one of the most banned books in America

Speaking of book prohibitions, NPR’s Code Switch has launched a monthly series that examines books that are being challenged by far-right, conservative groups such as Moms for Liberty.


🎒School supply giveaway — Tuesday, July 9, 11 a.m. 

The Clark County School District’s police department and the Lerner & Rowe law firm are teaming up to give away backpacks filled with school supplies while supplies last. The free event will take place at Sunrise Acres Elementary School at 211 N. 28th St. in Las Vegas. 

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