Reno High senior gets attention of WCSD board after calling them out on a past promise
Natalie Mastick stood out when it was her turn at the podium at a recent Washoe County School District board meeting.
She stood out because she's 17 and a senior at Reno High School.
That night, she was the youngest public commenter — and among the youngest over the last year of long, contentious meetings, many stretching past midnight.
She sat among a dozen regulars waiting her turn to speak, through a meeting that lasted more than seven hours on Oct. 12.
Many of those regulars were outraged that children must wear masks at school, and that they as adults were required to wear them at board meetings.
"The only reason why I’m wearing one now is so I can freaking have my First Amendment rights so I can speak my mind," said one woman, a frequent speaker who home schools her children.
Then it was Natalie's turn to speak.
"I know there has been a lot of talk today about COVID in general," Natalie said. "For the record, as a student, I am pro mask, I am pro vaccine. I think it is very important that we protect each other as students, and we protect our teachers. "
But that wasn't all that made Natalie stand out.
Her sneakers are wet -- they have been for four years of high school -- and she wants to know why.
She said she watches the sprinklers at Reno High go on throughout the year. She walks through the fields, often through puddles, mud and dying grass caused by overwatering.
"The board made a promise to reduce water use as we are in a massive drought," she told trustees, reminding them of a promise to cut water use made before she was even in high school.
Natalie, who is considering a career in environmental science, said she looked online and couldn't find much about what the district is doing to save the planet.
"I would like to see a recommitment to that promise and a recommitment to helping reduce the school district's impact on climate change," she told the board.
Days after the meeting, standing in one of the wet fields after school, Natalie wondered at the apparent lack of action.
"I haven't heard any of them talk about keeping this promise," she said. "Why aren't we talking more about it?"
Student comments are valued
School Board President Angie Taylor said all public comments, including those that are critical of the district, are important.
But hearing from students is something special, she said.
"To be honest, don’t tell anyone, but it probably means just a little bit more," Taylor said. "You perk up a little bit. You lean in a little bit more."
The school district has made strides in energy and water conservation, but Taylor said more can always be done.
Superintendent Kristen McNeill said the district is planning to provide Natalie with information after her comments at the meeting.
According to Jason Geddes, energy and sustainability manager for the district, improvements have been made in recent years. He said the district underwent $33 million in improvements directly tied to saving energy and water since 2018.
Geddes said since those improvements were made at more than 100 district facilities, energy consumption is down 14 percent and water consumption is down nearly 19 percent.
At Reno High, improvements made over the last few years save more than 11 million gallons of water and 529,000 kilowatts of energy per year. It's the equivalent of taking 80 cars off the road,, according to documents Geddes emailed the RGJ
But the reason Natalie’s shoes are wet is a work in progress, Geddes said.
The district installed new environmental monitoring systems districtwide. The district tracked water usage over the summer and into fall.
"There are still water issues at some schools, but we are hoping with the data we collected this summer that we will have everything fixed by the next irrigation season," Geddes said.
“Next year, it will be very much different.”
If you are or know of an interesting senior from the Class of 2022, please email Reporter Siobhan McAndrew at smcandrew@RGJ.com
Siobhan McAndrew tells stories about the people of Northern Nevada and covers education in Washoe County. Read her journalism right here. Consider supporting her work by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal.