About Beth Smith
One cold, snowy evening five years ago I was asked an uncomfortable—but poignant—question: “Do you want to help your child, or do you want to help all children?” I remember sitting in that quiet coffee shop very well — this was the first politician I had ever talked to in person, which made me nervous ahead of time. In that space, though, she was just a mom, like me, asking me to help her solve problems to improve our schools.
That question came about because of my kids. I’m a mom to two boys who are 11 and 5 now. When my older son started kindergarten in 2016, I remember walking into his kindergarten assessment and seeing all the names on a big, decorated corkboard. 45 names. There were 45 kids in my son’s kindergarten class, all in one pretty normal-sized room.
This set up—two full classes in one room with two teachers—made for a challenging year. The teachers did the best they could, but that’s just too many little people for one indoor space like that, with all the cubbies and supplies and everything else. I got involved in finding out why that was necessary, and worked with our trustee at the time (Malena Raymond) to eventually help solve the problem—more on that soon. Afterwards, Malena and I met again, and I asked her, “How can I help going forward?” And that’s when she responded with, “Do you want to help your child, or do you want to help all children?” This led to me joining the Zoning Advisory Committee.
Our community had just voted overwhelmingly to build and repair more schools. Yes! Remember when we got together and made that happen? New schools got built, and older schools were updated and expanded. This meant we could have reasonably sized classes instead of 45 kindergarteners in the same room. To make this happen, we needed to redraw the school boundaries.
Changing which neighborhoods go to which schools can be…hard. Emotional. Contentious. Those old redistricting meetings were full of sad or angry or confused parents who didn’t understand what was being done or why, or felt like they hadn’t been given an opportunity to weigh in and now their children were suddenly being taken out of the school they knew. At least, that’s how it often was when the district used to do this.
This time around, they created a citizen group called the Zoning Advisory Committee. I served on it for four years (as Vice Chair the first year and Chair the next three). The Committee and the school district took the process out to the people and areas it would affect, and did it with transparency, engagement, and understanding. Notice that I did not say agreement, and that is important. It’s impossible to have universal agreement when dealing with the topic of changing school boundaries, but I’m proud to say we achieved a successful understanding with the community. Some families may not have preferred a final recommendation, but they understood why we adopted what we did. This understanding created a foundation of trust between the Zoning Committee and parents, teachers, and the community.
This is, I believe, how we should approach the big decisions we face as a community that cares about schools.
I’m committed to listening to the needs and experiences of students, parents, and teachers and advocating for what they need. I have already met with more than a hundred parents, teachers, and administrators since I was appointed because I believe in accessible representation. I want people to know who I am and how to reach me. That’s why my direct contact information is what I put out there on my cards, website, all that.
Beyond listening to and engaging the community in the decisions, I also bring some important perspectives. As a parent of elementary school kids, my family is living the decisions being made by the Board and will be for years to come. And I often see the potential impacts of certain topics differently than my colleagues, the majority of whom have no students currently in school.
In addition to being a Trustee, I work full time, too, and know what both businesses and working parents face. I most recently was IGT’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Manager, and a big part of my job is making sure our team members here and across the globe are treated fairly and respectfully.
My husband and the boys and I like to enjoy all that our wonderful home here in the Truckee Meadows has to offer. We play in the lake, on the mountains, at the Discovery… this is a wonderful place. While I am committed to helping us improve, I think it’s important to recognize that we have great teachers and school staff, and that we only get better by working with each other, which is what I am focused on doing.