The Clark County School District’s top brass made a renewed vow Monday morning to move forward with the state-mandated reorganization despite a tension-filled several months.
Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky and four school trustees — Deanna Wright, Linda Young, Kevin Child and Lola Brooks — said the district won’t pursue any litigation for the time being. Instead, they will work with state lawmakers to address changes they desire regarding the reorganization, which dramatically transforms how the nation’s fifth-largest school district operates.
“We will not only continue the work we are doing but continue to move it forward so that full implementation is happening in the fall,” Skorkowsky said, placing an emphasis on the student-success factor. “That has to be the priority — the students in the classrooms and the achievement they will make through this process.”
The conciliatory tone of their comments comes after another tense week between some trustees and outside officials leading the reorganization, which gives individual schools more autonomy.
Assembly Bill 394, passed in 2015, paved the way for the reorganization by creating an interim legislative committee tasked with developing a plan. The State Board of Education approved the reorganization regulations in September, setting in motion the implementation process.
But it has been a rocky road since then. School trustees filed lawsuits against the state board and Nevada Department of Education over the reorganization, arguing their concerns weren’t taken into account. Lawmakers and state education officials, meanwhile, accused the school district of trying to halt the reorganization.
That led to a bipartisan effort to codify the reorganization regulations and perhaps quash the school district’s litigation through Assembly Bill 469 — sponsored by the four legislative leaders. The Legislature approved that bill last week, and Gov. Brian Sandoval is expected to sign it into law soon.
Days after the AB469’s passage, reorganization leaders accused two school trustees — Chris Garvey and Keven Child — of stirring the pot once more. The uproar stemmed from controversial board agenda items proposed by Garvey that they perceived as an attempt to fire Skorkowsky and his executive staff.
Garvey abruptly pulled the agenda items at the beginning of Thursday’s board meeting, arguing that her intent was merely to start a policy discussion about employment contracts.
The superintendent and four trustees tried to smooth over the situation during the Monday news conference.
“I want the community to know that we are behind the full implementation of AB394 and the new legislation, AB469,” said Wright, who serves as the board’s president. “What we know is that communities, families and schools working together helps drive student achievement.”
While school officials didn’t rule out resurrecting the lawsuit, they emphasized that their priority is working closely with lawmakers to address reorganization changes through a trailer bill to AB469.
“At this point, there is no plan to have any more litigation,” Wright said.
Chief among their concerns are securing money for a new human resources management system and a weighted funding formula — a concept that would allot more per-pupil state dollars to students with extra needs.
School officials have said the district’s aging computer system, which manages employee-related information, hampers the reorganization effort. The catch: Upgrading to a new system could cost the district up to $45 million over a decade, hence its request for state money.
“It would be much easier for the (reorganization) implementation if we have this system,” Skorkowsky said. “Right now, we have some procedures that are actually being done by hand for over 1,200 employees.”
Wright also urged people to refrain from reading too much into board agenda items and instead wait for the public discussion. The superintendent and others blasted Garvey on Thursday for not communicating her intent with the agenda items ahead of time.
Garvey did not attend the news conference. But Wright reiterated that Garvey simply wanted a policy discussion and did not intend to terminate employees.
“That is exactly what we as trustees do,” Wright said. “We make policy decisions and then we ask the superintendent to implement those policies.”
Patting Skorkowsky on the back, Wright said the trustees “100 percent support” him.
Feature photo: Clark County School District school buses line up to pick up special needs students at Variety School, 2800 E. Stewart Ave. on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2017. Photo by Jeff Scheid.