Howard Rosenberg is a university professor who ran for and won a seat on the Board of Regents, which governs the Nevada system of higher education—an idea so novel at the time that there were unsuccessful efforts to keep him from taking his seat. He served his term, was reelected, then stayed out of public life for a couple of years. In 2012 he ran for and won a seat on the Washoe County School Board, where he has served since January.

How is serving on the school board different from serving on the Board of Regents?

The Board of Regents was responsible, and is responsible, for eight institutions statewide. Washoe County has 96 schools, each one of whom has a full complement of teachers, all of whom work in a slightly different way, the way good teachers do. Governing that kind of a situation so far flung, getting to the places you need to get, to understand what’s going on, is far more involving and time consuming than the Board of Regents was.

How do you feel about the fact that you’re serving in a time when most of your job is coping with a lack of money.

That was the same situation on the Board of Regents—lack of money. It’s always the same situation. I am not certain at this point—and I mean no disrespect to anyone—that our problem is a lack of money. I think maybe it might be priorities. And we need to really reexamine where our money is being spent. What I said after A.B. 46 failed [the county commission last month voted not to authorize funding for school district maintenance and capital improvements], I said, “OK, let’s show people that we can indeed do what we said we’re going to do.” The first year’s yield would have been $20 million. We have $20 million in a fund. Nobody wants to spend it because it’s the safety net. By the same token, we maybe need to spend some of it. And I said, take the $20 million, and let’s do what we were going to do with the first year’s money from A.B. 46. Show people that we have a priority; we know how to spend our money; we can complete things that we say we’re going to complete. Let’s put all of the objections to rest and show people that we are good stewards of the public’s money.

As you’ve served here, are there things that you want to get done before your term is ended?

I’d like to talk about education. All I seem to be talking about is contracts and RFPs and RQLs and I don’t know half of that alphabet soup. But it’s the day-to-day governance of the system that seems to be consuming us. I want to talk about curriculum. I want to talk about how we develop good curriculum—not the kind that you go out and buy, because one size doesn’t fit all. That’s what I hope to be able to do. And once we get a balance between superintendent, school board, academics, finances, I think we’ll be able to do that.

Is there anything that has surprised you about the school board?

Yes. They’re bright, intelligent people who try. They really, really try.

You mean Mark Twain was wrong? [Twain: “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”]

I don’t know. Mark and I don’t always get along. But … these are good people. They have the right feel. They want it to be right. The problem is that we come from such a diverse group of people, from diverse backgrounds and diverse experiences, that it’s difficult.

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...