The Clark County School District is facing more than just one money problem.
As the district sorts through its estimated $60 million shortfall, leaders are still wading through financial requirements of the state-mandated reorganization.
Top of that to-do list: The district needs to transfer responsibility of certain services to the school level, which will meet a requirement that 80 percent of unrestricted funds remain with schools. Unrestricted funds refer to money that’s not earmarked for specific purposes.
As it stands now, the district’s central office manages the budgets for a variety of services, such as guidance and counseling, technical support, special education, and education for gifted and talented students. The plan is to move some of those services to schools’ strategic budgets.
District officials told the Community Implementation Council (CIC) — the group overseeing the reorganization — on Wednesday that they’ve developed a process to transfer the responsibilities. The School Board of Trustees, which ultimately needs to approve the transfer, will likely vote on the matter in early November.
“CCSD has yet to meaningfully transfer the budget and site-based decision-making required by the statute to local schools,” said Michael Vannozzi, who’s part of the consultant team helping the district reorganize. “That being said, they have the tools they need to do so. Now it’s up to the administrators of CCSD and the board of school trustees to take the necessary steps to come into compliance.”
The contract for TSC² Group, the consulting firm hired to help carry out the reorganization, expires at the end of October. The consultants delivered a 44-page draft of their final report to the CIC. The report outlines a number of recommendations, including the creation of a task force that could energize parent participation on school organizational teams in higher-poverty areas.
The reorganization, at its crux, is designed to empower school communities by having parents and staff guide decision-making in the best interests of their students.
CIC member Felicia Ortiz urged the school district to closely monitor whether student achievement actually increases as a result of the reorganization.
“At the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters,” she said.
The council also discussed whether the school district would be better off keeping Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, who announced he will retire in June, or finding an interim superintendent in the meantime.
Leaders from unions representing teachers as well as school administrators and technical-professional employees have called on the trustees to appoint an interim superintendent. They’ve blamed the budget crisis on what they say is Skorkowsky’s fiscal mismanagement.
“The Clark County School District is in crisis,” Stephen Augspurger, executive director of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-Technical Employees, wrote in a letter to trustees Wednesday. “The time for strong, decisive action is now.”
But Glenn Christenson, a former chief financial officer for Station Casinos who chairs the CIC, encouraged trustees to ignore requests to appoint an interim superintendent.
“There’s too much on the line now to change course mid-stream,” he said. “Completing the reorganization effectively, finding necessary budget cuts and removing the internal barriers to success are just a few of the challenges.”
School Trustee Carolyn Edwards, who also sits on the CIC, said appointing an interim leader would be “irresponsible” because buying Skorkowsky out of his contract, which ends in June, and paying someone else to replace him temporarily would cost more money.
But she also reiterated that it’s not up to anyone but the school board.
“I just want to make it clear that we will make this decision,” she said.
The school board meets Thursday evening to consider more budget cuts.