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Clark County School Board approves Jara’s resignation, $250K buyout

The 5-2 vote cements terms for superintendent’s departure that are lower than his contract and a previous offer specified.
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationK-12 Education

The Clark County School Board on Thursday approved Superintendent Jesus Jara’s new resignation terms, which include a one-time lump sum payment of $250,000, half the amount he had initially asked for when he announced his intention to leave his post after more than five years as the leader of the state’s largest school district. 

Jara’s last day is Friday, Feb. 23. Jara was not present at the meeting.

Board President Evelyn Garcia Morales, Vice President Irene Bustamante Adams, Clerk Lisa Guzman and Trustees Lola Brooks and Katie Williams voted in favor of the motion to accept Jara’s latest resignation terms. Trustees Linda Cavazos and Brenda Zamora voted against the motion.  

The board also selected Deputy Superintendent Brenda Larsen-Mitchell to serve as interim superintendent while it looks to conduct a search for a permanent replacement for Jara.

Thursday’s vote came about two weeks after the school board narrowly voted down Jara’s initial resignation terms, which included a $500,000 lump sum payout, amid a public outcry and accusations that the payment amounted to a golden parachute for the embattled superintendent, who was hired in 2018. 

The school board instead voted to terminate Jara for convenience, meaning trustees won’t need to cite particular reasons for the action, and directed its attorney, Nicole Malich, to negotiate the terms for Jara’s termination. 

Under the terms of his contract, if Jara was terminated for convenience, he would’ve received his full salary and benefits through the end of his contract in June 2026, which could amount to about $1 million. 

Malich said Jara presented a counteroffer, a conditional resignation as well as a lump sum of $250,000. Malich said she couldn’t reveal more details about what took place during the negotiation discussion. 

Some community members who spoke in public comment urged the board to reject any pay amount for Jara. 

“Awarding the superintendent a quarter of a million dollars communicates to the families, to the community and to our teachers that Dr. Jara has worked hard,” said Sunrise Acres Elementary School teacher Douglas Hamilton. “His determination has been impressive, because it takes a single-minded focus and extraordinary effort to inflict so much damage on such a resilient community in such a small amount of time.”

Hamilton also expressed concerns about the message the buyout would send, saying it could attract the wrong type of superintendent candidates looking to come to district only to “fatten their wallets.”

Jara previously served as a deputy superintendent at a Florida school district. 

He announced his intention to resign in late January. During their Feb. 7, Garcia Morales, the board president, stated she and other board members became concerned late last year about the “ongoing vitriol and disrespect” Jara faced from some community members. She said she spoke with Jara earlier this year and asked him to consider a mutual agreement that would allow him to step aside and allow the district to focus on moving forward. 

Jara’s tenure as superintendent has been tumultuous — most recently via the monthslong battle between the school district and the Clark County Education Association over a new contract for teachers. 

During the 2023 legislative session, he was berated by lawmakers over the school district’s low proficiency rates, and later faced calls to resign from the teachers union as well as top Democratic lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas). 

In 2021, Jara was fired in a split vote by the Clark County School Board, only to be rehired by the board a few weeks later.

Jara also oversaw the closure of Clark County schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, and didn’t completely reopen schools for in-person learning until the 2021-22 school year. 

Interim superintendent and next steps

Larsen-Mitchell’s appointment was confirmed in a 5-2 vote. Bustamante Adams and Cavazos voted against Larsen-Mitchell’s appointment. The description of the agenda item states that the appointment would not preclude Larsen-Mitchell from being eligible for consideration as the district’s next superintendent. 

In a Feb. 6 memo, Jara recommended Larsen-Mitchell and the district’s Chief Finance Officer Jason Goudie as his successors in the event of an emergency. 

Larsen-Mitchell said she was willing to serve as the interim superintendent and promised to listen, be solution-oriented and focus on the district’s students. 

”I display a relentless sense of urgency on behalf of our children,” she said during the meeting. “Our children are depending on us to provide stability in these trying times.” 

Prior to considering Larsen-Mitchell, the board voted 4-3 against appointing Goudie to the interim role. 

Before the vote, Goudie said while he was willing to “what was necessary,” he didn’t think he was the best option for interim superintendent, citing concerns on the toll it would take on his regular duties as chief financial officer, and threw his support behind Larsen-Mitchell. 

Several community members have previously spoken against Larsen-Mitchell’s appointment, and repeated their opposition at the Feb. 22 meeting. The Clark County Education Association (CCEA) has said Larsen-Mitchell’s appointment would be a continuation of Jara’s leadership. 

The board also considered superintendent search options it could choose from as it seeks a replacement for Jara. According to documents attached to the agenda, a national search could cost the district $60,000 to $100,000 and take between three to six months. The board would work with a firm, which would vet potential candidates and could present three to five finalists to the school board. 

A search limited to local candidates or candidates within the state could cost between $1,000 to $20,000 and could take one to two months. In that arrangement, the board would vet potential candidates and all submitted applications would be shared with the public. 

CCEA is calling for an immediate national superintendent search in hopes of having a new superintendent in place before the next school year, which will start in about six months. 

“This search should be national and transparent in nature and start by seeking input from front line educators and the community,” the union said in a Thursday statement. 

The presentation on the search option was a discussion item, meaning the board did not select which route it will take. Garcia-Morales said the school board will continue discussing how it will conduct the search at a March work session. 

This story was updated on 2/22/24 at 9:23 p.m. to add more details from the meeting and information on the board’s selected interim superintendent. 


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