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City of Las Vegas addressing child care shortage with mobile pre-K program

Plus: Washoe County School Board kicks off national search for a new superintendent, and Clark County School Board supports new teacher contract.
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationK-12 Education

Good morning, and welcome to the Indy Education newsletter. I’m Rocio Hernandez, The Nevada Independent’s K-12 education reporter. 

This newsletter provides a recap of the latest education stories and highlights interesting educators, students, programs and other events and resources throughout the state. Click here to subscribe to the newsletter and receive it each Tuesday via email.

I want to hear from you! Send questions, comments or suggestions on what I should be covering to [email protected]

The Washoe County School District’s administrative building in Reno on Nov. 22, 2022. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

🔍 Washoe County School Board hires superintendent search firm — The Washoe County School Board selected a national firm to help it search for a new superintendent during a special meeting last Tuesday. 

Superintendent Susan Enfield announced last November she would be leaving the district less than two years after she was hired. Earlier this month, the district announced Enfield would be on sick leave through her last day, Feb. 9. Former Superintendent Kristen McNeill was brought on to serve in the interim. 

The school board is looking to hire a new superintendent before the start of the next school year. Trustees Jeff Church and Diane Nicolet opposed the hiring of the McPherson & Jacobson search firm. The local search firm the board used to find Enfield, Bryan Group, had a clause in its contract to do another search, charging only for expenses, if the new superintendent quit within two years for any reason other than illness or death. But other trustees said they wanted a different experience this time around, praising McPherson & Jacobson for its track record on superintendents, who have stayed on the job for at least five years. 

According to board documents, the last superintendent search cost the district about $50,000. The board is looking to spend no more than $100,000 for the new search. 

📄 Clark County School Board approves teachers union contract, board policy   The Clark County School Board greenlit the district’s new contract with its teachers union at its Thursday meeting. The contract, which was settled last December as part of an arbitrator’s decision, includes 20 percent raises for teachers for the next two years. 

During the meeting, many teachers praised the raises, which some said would allow them to drop or cut back on second jobs. But some veteran teachers criticized the contract, which includes a new salary scale that could result in new teachers making about the same or more than their veteran counterparts. 

The board also approved a policy change that will strip nonvoting trustees’ power to make motions or request for a prior decision to be reconsidered. The sponsors of the bill that created the nonvoting seats on the school board, and the four municipalities that appointed the new trustees, all opposed the policy change. They argued that it goes against the intention of AB175, which states that with the exception of voting and serving as an officer of the board, all trustees have the same rights and responsibilities regardless of whether they are appointed or elected.

Marced Russum holds a toy while attending Strong Start Go Mobile Pre-K Academy in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Mobile pre-K program setting up young students for success

Three-year-old Marced Russum has only been in school for less than a month, but his father said he's already seen a tremendous change in his youngest child’s academic and social and emotional development since joining the City of Las Vegas’ Strong Start Go Mobile Pre-K Academy.

“He was learning a little bit from cartoons and stuff, but now he's on top of it,” said Marced’s father, Cedric Russum. 

The city launched the program in 2018 as a way to address child care needs, said Angela Rose, the city’s youth development and social initiatives manager. 

Every Nevada county is considered a child care desert and about three-fourths of children ages 0-5 don’t have access to licensed child care, according to a 2023 report by the Governor’s Workforce Development Board’s child care working group. 

Today, the program offers free, half-day pre-K from Mondays through Thursdays to children ages 3-5 from August to June in its four mobile classrooms, each of which stops at a fixed location. Rose said the city opted for a classroom in a bus instead of meeting in a building so the program could move to different locations to accommodate community needs as demand changes.

Each location offers daily morning and afternoon sessions with capacity for up to 15 students per session or 120 students in total. 

The program typically prioritizes families who live in the 89106, 89107 and 89101 ZIP codes, but Rose said the city is currently accepting applications on a first-come, first-served basis as enrollment is only at a third of its total capacity. 

The classes are offered out of buses that were converted into classroom spaces and equipped with small tables, building blocks, kitchen play sets, costumes and other items commonly found at a preschool. The buses are driven to their respective locations each morning and return to a city property in the evening where they get gas and other daily maintenance needs. 

Rose said the program is setting up students for academic success before they enter the K-12 education system by teaching them soft skills such as how to get along with others and how to regulate their emotions while they learn about reading, math and science through fun activities. The majority of the students the program serves haven’t attended a pre-K program prior to Strong Start. 

Mayela Valenzuela said her 5-year-old son, Yonathan Merino Valenzuela, has been enjoying the program, which she learned about from a family friend. She said he was eager to start kindergarten, but has to wait until next year because his birthday is in September and Nevada requires children to be 5 on or before Aug. 1 to enroll in public school.

“He’s learning so much about the alphabet … he’s just a smart kid,” she said in a Spanish interview.

Father Cedric Russum said he was interested in having Marced participate in the program to get a head start in school. He said Marced is now interested in exercising and eating healthy. 

“It’s hard to feed him now because he keeps saying he wants to eat healthy,” Cedric Russum said. 

He said he’s looking forward to seeing his son grow more through the program. 

Have a student or staffer who we should feature in the next edition of School Spotlight? Share your nominations with me at [email protected].

Reading Assignments

Election 2024: Tracking Nevada local government and education candidate announcements

In case you missed it earlier this month, The Indy launched a tracker for candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring for the city, county and statewide school board seats. Last week, we added three new candidates running in the Clark and Washoe County school board races. 

Superintendent Jara’s annual speech canceled amid death in family

The Clark County School District’s annual State of the Schools address scheduled for last Friday was canceled to allow Superintendent Jesus Jara to be with his family after his mother died, the district told staff in an email Tuesday.

Extra Credit

CCSD’s new pay scales leave veteran teachers feeling undervalued

The Las Vegas Sun reported on expected pay disparities between veteran Clark County teachers and new hires under the latest contract between the school district and the Clark County Education Association. 

CCSD spent nearly $46K on legal counsel for Durango High lawsuit

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the Clark County School District spent nearly $46,000 so far in a legal fight over access to body camera footage and other public records related to a February 2023 altercation between school police and students near Durango High School. 


🎓 CCSD UndocuGrad information meeting — Tuesday, Jan. 30, 5:30.-7:30 p.m. 

The Clark County School District is hosting an informational meeting at its Family Support Center, located at 1720 S. Maryland Parkway in Las Vegas, for undocumented parents and students who want to learn more about how to navigate the district and graduation. More information can be found on the CCSD UNIFY Facebook page

💵 Public Education Foundation (PEF) scholarships deadline – Wednesday, Jan. 31, by 11:59 p.m.

Students have until the end of day Wednesday to submit applications for scholarships totaling $6.25 million from the PEF. The scholarships are available for high school seniors and college students, as well as undocumented students across the state. The eligibility for each scholarship varies. Some are based on students’ grades, financial need, race or ethnicities, what schools they have attended, where they live or what colleges they plan to attend. 

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