Andrew Barbano/Sparks Tribune Columnist
History and chaos come together at next Tuesday’s closed meeting of the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees.
In geologic or astrophysical time, it won’t matter much. For the oppressed, it matters a bunch.
After deciding not to vote when they had four of seven votes in favor or re-naming the new Sutro Street technical school for the late, great Dolores Feemster, the board did nothing and sent the issue back to the school naming committee. (Barbwire 11-13-2019) Now, instead of playing to an overflow house, they will decide in an empty room. Bureaucracy means never having to say you’re sorry.
The former Hug High School enveloped Dolores Feemster’s life as much as she was part that of the school’s entire history. Her many children and grandchildren attended and she worked there as a counselor for 37 years. (A new high school, named for late educator Procter Hug, Sr., is being built at the Wildcreek Golf Course.)
Ever after her retirement, school officials sent students with problems down the street to Grandma Dolores’ house for some TLC and kindly advice. As current trustee Rev. Angie Taylor noted, Mrs. Feemster’s little dwelling became a community center.
Dolores and her son, the late Reno City Councilmember Darryl Feemster (1962-2017), sparked the construction of the northeast Reno Duncan-Traner Community Library. Her daughter-in-law, Dr. Debra Feemster, became Traner Middle School principal and was elected to the school board after retirement.
Dolores Monica Mendocino was born in an Italian-American enclave of northeast Reno in 1929, a short walk from where she lived until she died in 2018. Only the Reno-Sparks Convention Center had the capacity to hold her memorial service. (I know, because I surveyed all places of worship in these parts.) Former Hug High and NFL star Jojo Townsell asked all alumni to rise, then led the assembled multitudes in the Hug fight song. The after-service reception was, of course, held at the Hug cafeteria.
Dolores had boxes and boxes of plaques and trophies in her house. Her name is engraved on the University of Nevada wall of distinguished Nevadans and she also ascended to the presidency of the Reno-Sparks NAACP.
Three other names have been before the school board and all deserve high honor, perhaps on one of the new schools in the pipeline. But Dolores’ time is now and the former Hug High is the place. The lion’s share of Nevada school funding comes from sales taxes, the worst form of revenue because the lower your income, the higher percentage you pay.
As I told the school board last November, re-naming their new neighborhood tech school for anyone but Mother Dolores would be adding insult to injury. Northeast Reno has always been the heartland of the local ghetto/barrio. Its residents are largely lower income workers who pay a bigger chunk of their income in sales taxes than other areas of the Truckee Meadows.
I have tried and failed to get a number from the county health district regarding how many people in that area have died from the Coronavirus. (See below.)
WALLPAPER THE SCHOOL BOARD WITH SUPPORT. As noted above, the May 12 meeting WILL NOT be open to the public and comments will only be taken online. (Citizens without computer access will thus be shut out.)
It didn’t have to be that way. The school district gave up its own cable TV channel and will not even provide Zoom/Skype online interaction for public comments.
To e-mail your support for to all seven school board trustees, please do so via both of these addresses: <Samantha.Fredrickson@washoeschools.net> or <email@example.com>. Trust me, volume of e-mails will have an impact in this detached environment.
You may also send in comments via the US Postal Service at P.O. Box 30425, Reno NV 89520. Such communications are scanned and sent to the board and included as part of the comments received by email, according to school district spokesperson Victoria Campbell.
While names may be read into the record, comments will not. So those of you with computers, get to work. Households without, a stamp only costs 55 cents. Please do what you can and watch NevadaLabor.com for continuing updates.
Nevada’s greatest journalist, former Tribunite Dennis Myers, wrote that Dolores “was a forceful presence in (the civil rights) movement – and her house a center of activism. When Feemster was named in 1990 to the Nevada Women’s Hall of Fame, it was said of her, ‘Community, education, and children have been the center of Dolores Feemster’s life,’ “ stated our friend Dennis (1948-2019).
RUSSIAN ROULETTE. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Laurie Garrett has just become a Covid-19 superstar because of Sunday’s New York Times Frank Bruni column.
Garrett’s 1994 bestseller “The Coming Plague,” accurately predicted what we are living thru and dying by today. She has become a modern-day Princess Cassandra and like the Royal family of Troy, our royals let that wooden horse into the city anyway and gutted our public health system in the process.
Noting the Coronavirus death count disparity between blacks and browns and the rest of society, Garrett called America’s skyrocketing death toll predictable, preventable and understandable.
She noted that high blood pressure, which disproportionately affects lower-income people without health care access, is manageable “with a little patch on your arm.” But our public health system lies in shambles and the result has been chaos, she told the PBS Newshour last Monday.
“We may see what collective rage looks like,” she told The Times, adding “my event horizon (until the current crisis diminishes) is 36 months, and that’s my best-case scenario.”
I have been unable to get detailed local statistics about age and ethnic makeup of virus victims, but I am safe in stating that Washoe County deaths mirror national numbers. The county health department website is a wasteland for detailed information and its boss, Kevin Dick, just fired longtime epidemiologist Dr. Randall Todd. Go figger.
The recycled Hug High must become the shining symbol of hope on the hill for those who have paid the most for all the new schools and streets. To name it for anyone but Mother Dolores would stand as a constant reminder that no matter how hard you work, you don’t count for as much because you’re from the ‘hood. Except you’re allowed to pay higher taxes.
Please let Washoe County become a shining star of taking care of its people so that when the children of northeast Reno pass their new tech school at Sutro and N. McCarran, they may be inspired to do great things by looking up at Dolores Feemster’s name.
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Stay safe and take care of each other.
(Andrew Barbano is a 51-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and first vice-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his comments are strictly his own. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.)