Clark County teachers union urges school board to reject Jara’s resignation terms
The Clark County teachers union is calling on the school board to turn down a deal from Superintendent Jesus Jara that would allow him to walk away from the school district with one year's salary and other benefits in hand.
During a Thursday morning press conference, union leaders also raised concerns about the timing of Jara’s resignation letter, which was made public Wednesday afternoon, and the possible appointment of Clark County School District (CCSD) Deputy Superintendent Brenda Larsen-Mitchell as Jara’s replacement at the school board’s Feb. 7 work session. The meeting’s agenda does not specify whether it would be permanent or temporary while the board conducts a search for a new superintendent.
In his letter dated Jan. 30, Jara said his resignation was contingent on the board approving a contract amendment that would grant him a severance package that includes a year’s worth of salary, about $400,000, and other benefits. The letter did not give any insight into the reason behind his resignation.
The amendment also removes language that would prevent Jara from receiving any payment if he resigns amid an investigation into his employment.
“He has brought CCSD in the wrong direction, and if he was a decent person, he would walk away rather than having a handout to be paid out for his failed leadership and his failed policies that he implemented while he was our superintendent,” said the union’s president, Marie Neisess.
The Clark County Education Association has been calling for Jara’s resignation for the past year, criticizing him for the handling of the union’s contract negotiations — which resulted in an impasse after numerous bargaining sessions over the course of nearly a year — as well as low student proficiency in reading and math.
Most recently, the union took the school district to court to obtain public records from the superintendent’s social media account, including a possible burner account they allege Jara or the district’s Communications Director Tod Story may be using under a fake name, after Jara’s official X account appeared to have posted a disparaging comment against Neisess. The superintendent’s account was deactivated soon after.
The school district is expected to turn over those records by Feb. 5, two days before the school board’s work session. Neisess urged the board to wait to make a decision about accepting Jara’s resignation until the release of those records, which she thinks will link the superintendent to the post and the burner account.
“So we believe that through the burner account and the superintendent's account that that would be cause for termination,” she said.
The school district did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday about the union’s concerns or the possible burner account.
During the Thursday press conference, union Executive Director John Vellardita acknowledged that at one point, the union supported Jara and gave him the benefit of the doubt during the pandemic, but ultimately called Jara’s tenure a failure.
The union also voiced opposition to Larsen-Mitchell’s possible appointment as superintendent and said if she’s appointed, it would be a “continuation of Superintendent Jara’s leadership.”
Vellardita called on the governor and legislators to watch the situation closely and possibly convene before the regularly scheduled spring 2025 legislative session to intervene.
“We do not have any confidence that these trustees have the capacity to make the right decision and bring in the right leadership to our school district,” he said. “We would not rule out requesting a special session if things go south and the wrong decisions are made.”
Gov. Joe Lombardo’s office and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In a statement, Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) urged the board to conduct a nationwide search for a new superintendent, similar to one that the Washoe County School District is embarking on, and to consider community input.
“Continuation of the current regime under a different name will do nothing to instill confidence in parents, teachers, students, and community leaders,” he wrote.
A separate Clark County teachers union, the National Education Association of Southern Nevada, and the district’s administrators union, the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-Technical Employees, issued statements advocating for a comprehensive superintendent search that includes input from district staff, students and community members.
“If a school principal must participate in a rigorous selection process with multiple rounds of interviews, why would the vetting process be any less rigorous for the top administrator of the (fifth) largest school district in the country?” stated Jeff Horn, executive director of the administrators union, in a Thursday statement.
But Vellardita said a new superintendent alone wouldn’t fix all of the issues within the school district.
He said the union is looking to push for legislation that would include setting minimum qualifications for Nevada superintendents, adding more instructional time, setting higher standards for educators and granting voting powers to the four appointed Clark County School Board trustees. Those trustees were added to the board last month and were appointed by Clark County and the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas. Their positions were created under a 2023 bill, AB175.
The press conference comes about a week after the school board approved a policy change that stripped the new trustees’ ability to make motions or request reconsiderations of previous board decisions.
“We believe that those pieces of legislation are really part of the solution, not just finding simply the right actor for the job,” he said.
Yeager wrote in his statement that he’s looking forward to discussing legislation that would address structural issues at the school district including governance, accountability, personnel and the relationship between the state and the district.
This story was updated at 4:32 p.m. to include statements from two additional educator union groups.