Bill aimed at combating ‘ineffective’ principals faces pushback
The Clark County Education Association (CCEA) and Assemblywoman Clara Thomas (D-North Las Vegas) briefly faced off during a Tuesday hearing on a bill that would make principals at-will employees, meaning they could be fired at any time for any reason, during their first three years in that position.
Thomas was the target of recent door hangers by CCEA for being the sole lawmaker on the Assembly education committee opposed to a student discipline bill that CCEA supports.
During the hearing for SB292, a bill sponsored by Sen. Julie Pazina (D-Las Vegas) that would implement measures to hold principals accountable to standards similar to teachers, CCEA members, including union President Marie Neisess, shared their experiences with toxic work environments created by “ineffective” principals that have led them and other colleagues to leave their schools.
“I would walk around the building and see some of my colleagues in their classrooms crying,” Neisess said. “Teachers would come to me and say to me, ‘I feel like I'm walking on eggshells.’ So sadly, after 12 years, I, along with the majority of the staff, decided to transfer schools.”
The bill, which was opposed by Clark and Washoe counties school administrator union groups, proposes to make principals at-will employees during their first three years on the job. Principals could return to at-will status if the school rating drops by one or more levels on a five-star scale and 50 percent or more of the school’s teachers request a transfer to another school for two consecutive years. Those provisions are similar to language that passed as part of a 2015 bill, but was later repealed in 2019.
The bill also requires mentoring by an associate superintendent or other district administrator for principals who return to at-will status.
“The bill is not meant to be punitive,” said Francesca Petrucci with CCEA. “The bill is meant to foster good culture and climate. We don't want to see principals removed and so that's what we're actually trying to mitigate here.”
But Thomas questioned why CCEA needed the Legislature to intervene in district matters.
“Why aren’t you, CCEA, asking [the Clark County School District] to do their job to make sure that their principals are doing the job?” Thomas asked.
Thomas also referenced previous testimony from CCEA in which the union said teachers were leaving their jobs because of escalating, and at times violent, student behavior.
CCEA responded that teacher turnover stems from multiple factors, including student behavior and ineffective principals.