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Clark County School Board of Trustee member Linda Young, left, congratulates new member Irene Cepeda while members-elect Danielle Ford and Linda Cavazos look on during an oath of office ceremony on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. (Jeff Scheid-Nevada Independent)

School board elections often fall into the category of down-ballot races that receive scant attention, little campaign spending and meager voter turnout.

Take the 2018 primary election for two Clark County School Board of Trustee seats, for instance: Only 12 percent of active registered voters participated in the District D race featuring four candidates, while the District F contest with nine candidates drew 15 percent of active registered voters via the polls or mail-in ballots.

Those voters, however, whittled the field in both races before the general election.

Now, 30 people are vying for four school board seats up for grabs in Clark County, a situation that will dramatically change the makeup of the seven-member governing body that oversees the nation’s fifth-largest school district. Only one of the races — in District E, which covers parts of Summerlin and the northwest valley — features an incumbent: Board President Lola Brooks. The trustees in Districts A, B and C are termed out, meaning at least three new faces will be joining the board come January.

The mostly mail primary election on June 9 will decide who advances to the general election in November. If a candidate receives a majority of votes, he or she will be declared the outright winner. These are nonpartisan elections.

The crowded field for the Clark County school board races in the primary election comes as COVID-19 has added new wrinkles to education across Nevada. Schools statewide have been shut down since mid-March and how learning will be delivered during the 2020-2021 academic year has not been determined. And, perhaps most importantly, the pandemic has stymied tax revenue statewide, making budget cuts inevitable. The Clark County School Board of Trustees approved a final budget earlier this week that predicts a $38 million drop in revenue. 

But will those mounting problems draw greater interest in the school board races this year?

Jana Wilcox Lavin, executive director of Opportunity 180, hopes so. The nonprofit, which supports efforts to improve public education and helps recruit public charter schools to Nevada, developed for the first time this year a 130-page election resource guide that includes unedited responses from the candidates.

“I think this moment in time requires us to care a little more,” she said. “This group of trustees is going to lead us through the most uncertain time in public education that we’ve ever faced.”

It’s not the only education-focused group that has taken an interest in the upcoming primary election. CCSD Parents, a Facebook group with more than 8,100 members, has been doing video interviews with the school board candidates.

Rebecca Garcia, an administrator for the group, said it’s their effort to drum up more interest in the election. Too many people complain about the governing body, she said, without actually participating in the elections.

“Whether you have a kid or not, education makes an impact on your life,” she said.

So, without further ado, here’s a look at each of the four Clark County school board races from a campaign finance perspective. 

District A (See map of district here.)

Trustee Deanna Wright currently represents District A, which includes portions of Henderson and the southern valley. Eight candidates have tossed their hats in the ring to succeed Wright as the District A trustee.

The candidates are Andrew Cartwright, Kari Deike, Lisa Guzman, Amanda Kennedy, Liberty Leavitt, Jshauntae “Jai” Marshall, Anand K. Nair and Mike Rowe.

Leavitt, a former teacher and school district administrator who now serves as outreach manager for CORE, a nonprofit that works with under-resourced students, is leading the pack in terms of fundraising. The wife of former state lawmaker Michael Roberson, she amassed $3,625 during the first quarter of the year, according to campaign finance records. 

Nair, a wealth management advisor, followed with $2,501 raised during that period. Guzman, an education advocate, reported campaign donations totaling $1,100. And Kennedy, a former chief communications officer for the school district who’s now director of a nonprofit called Appreciation Ambassadors, which does beautification projects at public schools, raised $750.

District B (See map of district here.)

Eight candidates are running to replace Trustee Chris Garvey, who’s termed out at the end of this year, in District B. That district covers swaths of the upper valley, including North Las Vegas. 

The candidates who filed in that race are Kasina Boone, Cortland Hill, Jeffrey Proffitt, Chris Shank, Ebony Sherman, Jack Stanley, Bryan Wachter and Katie Williams.

Two of those candidates — Proffitt, a business manager for the Sheet Metal Workers Local 88, and Wachter, senior vice president of the Retail Association of Nevada — have a commanding lead when it comes to campaign cash. Proffitt raised $10,918 during the first quarter of the year, according to campaign finance reports. Wachter socked away $5,624 during that period, but he also reported raising $13,000 last year.

Williams, a former Ms. Nevada who alleges she was stripped of her title and disqualified from the pageant for espousing her conservative views on social media, raised $1,966. 

District C (See map of district here.)

Trustee Linda Young is also bidding goodbye to the school board at the end of this year because of term limits. Seven people are running to succeed her in representing District C, which covers a large chunk of the northwest valley and West Las Vegas. 

The candidates are Antonio Bowen, Barbara A. Dreyer, Carol Ferranti, Evelyn Garcia Morales, Tameka Henry, Walter Jones III and Noel Searles.

Dreyer, a former Clark County School District teacher who’s now a health and wellness instructor, has banked the most campaign cash. She reported raising $4,300 during the first quarter this year, although most of it was self-funded. 

Garcia Morales, executive director of the Fulfillment Fund Las Vegas, which helps predominantly low-income students access higher education, raised $238. Henry, who has served on a variety of community boards and is a parent member of the school organizational team at Jim Bridger Middle School, reported $85 in donations.

District E (See map of district here.)

Board President Lola Brooks has six challengers as she tries to retain her seat representing District E in the western valley. Brooks was first elected to the school board in 2016.

The other candidates are Elysa Arroyo, Christopher Craig, Tiger Helgelien, Tracey Lewis, Christina Robertson and Alexis Salt.

Although Brooks may have name recognition as the incumbent — a variable that can be good or bad depending on the situation — she hasn’t raked in the most campaign cash. Brooks reported raising $30 during the first quarter of the year. That puts her well behind Helgelien, a real-estate agent, who banked $1,332 during that period on top of nearly $3,500 he raised last year. 

Salt, a Clark County School District teacher, reported receiving $845 in donations during the first quarter this year, while Lewis raised $25.

The vignettes below are unedited responses from the candidates based on a questionnaire sent by The Nevada Independent. The following candidates did not respond to the questionnaire and, therefore, are not included: Andrew Cartwright, Lisa Guzman, Liberty Leavitt, Kasina Boone, Cortland Hill, Ebony Sherman, Antonio Bowen, Tameka Henry, Walter Jones III, Elysa Arroyo, Christopher Craig, Tracey Lewis and Christina Robertson.


Kari Deike, Clark County school trustee candidate for District A

Age:  53

Occupation:  Retired CCSD educator, National Board Certified Teacher, taught in elementary, middle, and high schools

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?  During my three decades as an educator in CCSD, I watched the steady decline in the quality of the education be provided to students.  As a Trustee, I would strive to improve curricular rigor and student accountability in order to graduate students who are college/career ready.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?  The first item I would address is to request a thorough audit of the district’s financial records.  The public has may questions about how the money is being spent, and they deserve answers. 

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?  As I listen to board meetings, it seems that the members have forgotten that they share the same goal as the superintendent and parents–providing quality education to our children.  The meetings seem to always have an adversarial feel to them, and this does no one any good.  As a Trustee, I would work to create more collegial bonds with my fellow Trustees and other stakeholders so that personal pettiness does not impede our success.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?  With the creation of School Organizational Teams, the power for decision-making was given to each school site.  The board must rely on the input from these groups in order to determine the best way forward.  There is no one size fits all approach; each school’s demographic is unique.  What we must focus on, though, is making sure that each child has the opportunity to gain the education they need now in order to have the life they want later.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.  Any cuts I proposed would be as far from the classroom as possible.  Instead, the board needs to look at cutting from the top down.  Do we really need two buildings (Flamingo and Sahara)?  How are we handling items such as CCSD vehicles, mileage, etc.  Are there qualified educators being utilized in positions outside of the classroom–could we move them back to work with students (which would also help solve our teacher shortage)?

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?  I would most likely give him an average to below average grade.  Sadly, no matter how hard I have tried, I have not gotten a full picture of who he really is or what he stands for. 


Amanda Kennedy, Clark County school trustee candidate for District A

Age: 40 

Occupation:

Director at no nprofit Appreciation Ambassadors (non profit that does construction and beautification projects in public school campuses)

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat? 

I am a mom, a highly-skilled college educated professional and a homeowner in Henderson. I have a deep interest in doing all I can to support the best education system possible. I am a first generation college graduate and product of public schools. I feel a strong calling to give back to my community by representing students on a Board too often controlled by adult interests. I’m also running to provide my disaster response expertise to CCSD.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

I am laser-focused on curriculum preparedness and lack thereof. I will immediately call for a task force to address curriculum preparedness for emergencies. I have a saying: “Never let a crisis go to waste” and it sounds harsh; however, it has a very practical meaning: when you go into recovery phase of a disaster response, it’s time to be vulnerable and instead of covering up what went wrong, it’s time to look factually at where the holes are and work to fund, plan, prevent and then be ready to respond again (better) should you need to. I have years of experience managing high level disaster response and will do this without blame or shame but to make things better for kids, teachers and parents in the future. 

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

I understand the art of bringing people together from my years in high level government service. I believe in giving my fellow trustees a safe space to disagree then finding win-win solutions. I will be an example of this to help develop a more credible, united board with influence. This is a skill that comes with emotional and professional maturity.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

I’m a fan of local control and support the decision making process at the school level – we are too large to attempt to apply a one size fits all solution to our district. I believe in holding our principals and professionals capable and accountable – and backing them up with the resources they need to get results closing achievement gaps. Tackling the “digital divide” is important and will be part of our task force on disaster curricula planning. COVID ripped the bandaid off and showed us exactly where our students are that lack data plans; it’s one of the data points we must act on. 

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

COVID has caused deep harm to our state economy and cuts are going to be necessary. As your Trustee, I would direct the district to review all administrative contracts for costs savings. Next, I would recommend a review of facilities master plan with our operations managers to determine  what scheduled maintenance or modifications could be put on hold or paid for by our foundations and community partners in order to prevent devastating cuts to the classroom.  I run one of these non-profits and know they finally, as a last resort, would call for an in-depth review of supplemental programs to determine their effectiveness when it comes to improving academic performance. Before any changes to programs are made, I would direct the district to solicit community feedback and call for multiple rounds of parent engagement before the Board makes any decisions. I’ll also call upon my fellow board members to keep an open mind while reviewing the recommendations the CFO and Superintendent will make as they know the spending plan best. Together, we’ll find solutions that have the least impact to the classroom. 

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

I give him a C. Average. I base this on my experience as a parent during the districts COVID response. I think Mr. Jara has great credentials and I like that he came from another town highly dependent on tourism for its economy. I think he is key in finding solutions long-term on better state funding and getting our fair share of federal funds and as a former CCSD administrator, I like that he is well respected by his team. However, he’s at the top so responsibility for complete lack of curriculum planning in this disaster response is his and I look forward to bringing my experience to help fix that moving forward. 


Liberty Leavitt, Clark County school trustee candidate for District A

Age: 43

Occupation: Outreach Manager at CORE 

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I have spent my entire career in education, serving as a teacher, magnet theme coordinator and recruiter, administrator at central office, and now I work at a two-generation education nonprofit. I have deliberately chosen my career path to experience and understand the different entities that comprise CCSD. For the last 10 years, my positions have revolved around community outreach and development, and this has allowed me to build relationships with community and business leaders across the state. Through my experience, I have witnessed firsthand the disconnect that exists throughout the district and between the district and our community. I want to bring insight and cohesiveness to the board and help bridge those gaps so that we can focus on what is most important, student achievement. 

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

I think that it is incredibly important to be realistic and prudent when first taking office. When the new board of trustees takes office in January, they will be faced with looming budget cuts across the state and the daunting task of getting the district back on track with the complications of COVID-19. In order to realistically enact new policies and serve the role of a trustee, I believe that you must fully understand the budget. Considering this, before proposing any policy changes, I would hone in on my first action step to listen, learn and master the annual budget. I plan on meeting with Jason Goudie, CCSD’s CFO, and his entire team, Superintendent Jara, and others who can walk me through where the money is being spent. I would also like to meet with various principals to understand their annual budgets. Similarly, I want to understand their funding, how it is distributed and the discrepancies that exist amongst schools, especially those that exist through AB 469, the reorganization of the school district. Going forward and throughout the 2021 legislative session, I plan on continually working directly with Jason Goudie and his team and seek guidance and advice from financial experts in the the business community and government to help make sound and appropriate decisions regarding the annual budget. I will act in full transparency with the community and our elected officials. This will allow me to more effectively see where we are missing the mark with the budget, to realistically see what policies should or need to be changed, and help advocate for more funding for education. 

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

I believe that I will bring credible leadership to the Board of Trustees and build community trust and confidence in the school district and its leadership. First, in order for the board to be effective, it must work as a cohesive unit. It is imperative that as a board we all understand and adhere to the role of the board. The board engages in Balanced Governance, in which the board practices informed oversight. Specifically, the board establishes a vision and goals of the district, as well as creates policies and direction to define performance measurements to ensure accountability for both the board and superintendent. The board does not micromanage the superintendent, but entrusts him to manage the district. Once that has been established, the board must then set the precedent that everything that the board engages in must be centered around student achievement, including the agenda items at all of the board meetings. The board should continually center its actions around “How does this impact student achievement?” Once we have established the role of the trustees and agreed to focus on student achievement, I believe that diplomacy and decorum should be at the forefront of the board. I believe that every trustee provides unique experiences and insight to the board, and that we should collectively build on our different perspectives to establish rapport. This will in turn create trust and produce better, collaborative decisions. I sit on and chair various committees and boards, in which we value our differences and compromise to make best decisions. The school board should act no differently. Rapport is also essential for consistent messaging to the community and our state and local leaders. Quite simply, we have to improve communication across the district and in the community. In order to effectively gain community support and advocate for increased funding for education, we have to collectively share the same stance and messaging. I pride myself on my bipartisan relationships, and I will work diligently with the other trustees to earn the respect of the community and state and local leaders through open lines of communication and transparency. 

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

Every student deserves the opportunity to succeed, and it is no secret that the inequities that exist within the district are simply alarming. Nowhere is this more evident than the daunting digital divide during COVID-19. As mentioned previously, I believe that student achievement should be at the forefront of every action taken by the district and the board. We also know that equity directly impacts student achievement; thus, achieving equity should be the district’s immediate focus. In order to do so, I believe that we have to continually remain accountable and vigilant as to where the district dollars are being spent and do a full analysis of the annual budget and AB 469. The purpose of the SOTs, or school organization teams, was not only to provide a voice for all of the stakeholders at each school, but also to ensure that dollars were being utilized to provide the best resources necessary at each school in order for every student to succeed. I believe that the district should be working directly with the SOTs in order to understand where the inequities lie and how best to support each school. We also need to do a full analysis of the discrepancies that exist between the SOTs at each school to ensure full accountability as well. After accruing and analyzing the data from AB 469 and the budget, we need to then incorporate the outcomes from various reports pinpointing the barriers associated with inequity, like the one produced by the Student Equity and Access Commission, and work collaboratively to create a concrete data-driven action plan. The plan should take immediate action to fully support and redirect funds to alleviate the inequities at our low-performing and under-resourced schools. The plan should also include more equitable access to magnet schools and CTAs, gifted and talented education, and diversified instruction like the incorporation of apprenticeships at our schools.

Lastly, we also have to move towards implementing the whole child approach in our schools. I proudly work for a two-generation nonprofit, CORE, that focuses directly on equity through the whole child. We serve students and their families from West Prep, and seek to understand and provide the resources our students and their families need in order to be successful. However, I am also acutely aware that in order to equip our educators and staff with more resources to concentrate on the whole child, we need to increase funding to education. Yet, another reason to continually advocate for more funding. 

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

First and foremost, I will work with my fellow trustees and Superintendent Jara, as well as local community and business leaders to vehemently oppose any cuts to education. Quite simply, education cannot take another hit. Our families and educators are already working with the bare minimum. Having said that, if this is not realistically feasible, I will continually fight for cuts to remain outside of our schools and away from our educators. At this point, until I have fully mastered the annual budget and asked the tough financial questions, I do not believe that I am properly equipped to answer this question. However, I will make two points regarding cuts. If cuts at the school level prove to be inevitable (again, something I strongly oppose), I believe that the SOTs at each school should be making those decisions. Those cuts should not be coming down as a directive from central office, but made by the stakeholders at each school. Also, I worked in central office and I have seen and experienced firsthand some of the waste that exists there. I often questioned the efficiency and funding of many programs and believe that we must do an assessment there as well. 

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

Since we are in unprecedented times and I do not know what goes on behind the scenes, I do not feel equipped to assign Superintendent Jara a grade. I do, however, have thoughts on Jara’s performance thus far. To begin with, I believe that the role of CCSD Superintendent is by far the toughest job in the state. I respect Superintendent Jara, and I think that he was brought on during a very contentious time, and he and his team have proven that they are willing and ready to take on the battles and wounds (many self-inflicted) of CCSD. I believe that he has surrounded himself with a well-qualified and loyal team. Although we have seen a number of his original team leave, he has made it a point to replace them with strong and qualified leaders. I also appreciate that the new team members he does bring on often come from the business community and not within the district. 

I admire Superintendent Jara’s willingness to take the bull by the horns and enact change. I like that he is bringing new ideas to the table, and I appreciate his dedication to combatting our blatant equity problem in the district. I am also incredibly appreciative of his determination to bring trades back to our schools. I proudly serve as Chair for the Early Apprenticeship Working Group, which is part of Workforce Connection’s and CCSD’s ongoing program to create an apprenticeship pipeline. Lastly, Superintendent Jara continues to be a tremendous advocate for increased funding to education, as evidenced during the 2019 legislative session throughout today. 

Where I see Superintendent Jara and his team needing improvement is on their messaging, their willingness to seek and listen to input before making a decision, and working more closely with community and business leaders. The perfect example of messaging and input would be the proposal to eliminate the deans. In my opinion, based upon the law of the reorganization, that decision should have been a site-based decision. However, at the very least, he should have sought input from administrators and the administrator’s union, amongst others, or they should have at least received a proper heads-up. Instead, they were blindsided and the message seemed unilateral and dictatorial and the entire idea then imploded. Input and optics are everything. I also think that Superintendent Jara should reconsider his actions, or attempts, to roll-back the reorganization of the district. This includes working with business and community leaders who are willing to volunteer their time to work with schools and principals in order to improve education in Clark County and Nevada. 


Jshauntae “Jai” Marshall, Clark County school trustee candidate in District A

Age: 38 years old

Occupation: Current – Leadership and Professional Development with a strong background in Healthcare Administration and Finance

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I am running for Clark County School Board to restore the value of a parent’s voice in matters which impact our community and students. In all my years as parent, I have never seen a need greater need for parental involvement as this. While important financial decisions are at the helm of every business, and should be taken very seriously, these decisions must coincide with mindfulness and ethical standards which reflect what is good for ALL who could be impacted by the decisions we make as servant leaders, regardless of socioeconomic background.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

Teacher recruitment and retention

Student Safety

Student Access

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

By becoming an expert at Balanced Governance and operating within it. In doing so we will effectively navigate the murky waters towards change. Together I am confident that we will reshape the culture of CCSD and make school a safe place to learn, where learning is fun, health and wellness is promoted, where students will no-longer have to battle being

targeted for not belonging nor endure hate or bias motivated behavior, where educators will no-longer have to struggle with work, life, balance, and uncomplimentary pay, substitutes can become documented peers with equal benefits, where there will be  increased school based resources to families of students with disabilities, and  support staff will feel supported and appreciated.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

Begin with adequately staffing the Equity and Diversity Department whois responsible for the oversight of such in many ways. There is no way a district of our size can run in a equitable manner when there is a lack of oversight due to a department losing its funding and being staffed with 3 people. Let’s address that first, then we can move forward with strategies to bridge the gaps.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

I would not consider cutting funding in any areas until an financial audit of current and historical spending has been done. My goal would be to reallocate funds rather than cut them, from an already financially exhausted district. Finding creative ways to do more with less would be my focus. Adequate funding for education is not negotiable for me, it’s a must.

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

Dr. Jara is passing with a C. While he is professionally qualified and willing, he merely isn’t capable. Dr. Jara has demonstrated a repeated lack of accountability for the decisions that must be made timely in the district. He is a great spokesman for what should be, however his leadership style has proven ineffective and lacking accountability for a district our size.


Anand K. Nair, Clark County school trustee candidate for District A

Age: 37

Occupation: Wealth Management Advisor

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat? 

I have been in Henderson for 24 years.  I went to Brown Jr High and graduated from Basic.  My wife went to CT Sewell, Brown, and Basic.  We still live 1.5 miles from Basic.  This is our community; we are products of this school district.  After High School I spent time with the Marines, deployed to Iraq in 2003 and came back to my career. 

I think ultimately my 20-year background in banking and investments is something that makes me uniquely suited to help this Board overcome one of its major deficits, the proper distribution of capital in the 5th largest school district in the nation. 

Most importantly I want to help the kids understand that this educational system can be the foundation of something great for them.  Then, they can take that greatness and hopefully find ways to bring that back to Henderson, Boulder City, Laughlin, and Clark County. 

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

I would look to establish policies around the educational targets for our kids.  I would look to focus the district to strive to be more than average, to strive for the excellence of our children

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

I have served as an appointee for the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority for the City of Henderson by Mayor Hafen.  Currently, I serve on the NV Corporate Investment Trust a Board appointment from Governor Sandoval. As well as the Dignity Health Foundation Board.  

The way those Boards ran were effective because of the level of communication and confidence in each Trustee.  We respected what diverse values and knowledge we each brought to the table, listened with respect, and learned to act as a cohesive Board. 

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

I believe there is a way to close the achievement gaps between student groups, but that has to be done with more community involvement.  There are a multitude of business and community groups that provide mentorship and resources to our community.  My fraternity has a program called, “Go to high school, go to college” which mentors young African-American boys through high school and sets foundation for college.  We need to engage the district to find more mentors to our kids that will help with accountability and growth.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

Areas are too narrow of a topic to define budget cuts unfortunately.  The distribution of assets through CCSD are done through specific funds (General fund, special funds, debt servicing fund) and there is limited flexibility within those funds.  As a Board I believe the best strategy would be to review the distributions of those assets over the last 5 years in each fund and find the flexibility that is allowed and appropriate within the fund allocation.

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

I make this statement because I do not feel that as a Board there has been a clear model under which to rate our superintendent, until December 2019.  I would give Dr. Jara a “C” with the understanding that, without clear expectations, there can be no clear accountability.  I was part of the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority when we went through the process of removing our Executive Director.  It was not until we as a Board was able to establish the correct expectations, give him an opportunity to course correct, and then identified his deficiencies on the basis of those expectaions, that we were able to remove him from his position.


Mike Rowe, Clark County school trustee candidate for District A

Age: 47 

Occupation: Sales 

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat? 

I decided to run for the school board to end the system corruption that had plagued the CCSD for many years, 

What’s the first policy change you would propose? 

Well, I have already argued that AB 255 is unconstitutional. In my opinion this piece of legislation has been holding the CCSD back. Now we need to start implementing the correct laws. 

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

It’s very simple the School Board has been plagued with candidates that represent various lobbies. They either get elected because of the CCSD, CCEA, NSEA or administrators union backs candidates. It’s a conflict of interest for these people to sit on the Board without having the taxpayers interests met first. I’m not accepting political endorsements for special interests. 

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

It’s become apparent that the ultra rich of this town decided to pass laws to harm education. Afterwards, they blamed and persuaded the public that a duplicate system is needed. The main goal of this conspiracy was to privatize the public school system. We can’t as public stand by and let people intentionally break the school system, so that they can then critique it.  They wanted it to fail because they don’t believe tax dollars should be unitized to educate the masses. If you have a uneducated population it’s easier to control that population. Plus it’s very profitable to able to open up your own private school system with taxpayer money. 

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

1) administrators 

2) extra curricular 

3) I think negotiating pay cuts for a year might with the different labor unions might be wise to retain as many staff as possible. We can’t have teachers working with 60 students in a class. They are not going to be very effective anyways. Of course this would have to agreed upon and I would have to all of these projected cuts are accurate. Unless I see it with my own two eyes I don’t believe anything. Therefore, all of these things are hypothetical at the moment and very fluid. 

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

C+

I go back and forth with Mr. Jesus Jara. Of course, I’m on the outside looking in. I feel he has been acting in a neutral capacity up until the recent ethics complaint by Ms. Ford. I think eliminating the Dean’s positions and non renewing a bunch of dishonest employees was the right thing to do. I worked in the CCSD for many years. I’m fully aware of how the system works. I would have no trouble finding a replacement if needed. I also believe the Superintendent position is extremely over paid.   Of course we have to let “due process” play its course. My grade has fallen based on this accusation.


Jeffrey Proffitt, Clark County school trustee candidate for District B

Age: 46

Occupation: Business Manager at Sheet Metal Local 88, Las Vegas

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I have been in education for most of my professional career and have seen firsthand the changes that it can make in a person’s life. For close to 20 years, I have been working with CCSD in various capacities to better student outcomes and provide a pathway for students to college and careers that offer great wages and benefits. I am running because I know that CCSD can provide better education by modernizing the entire system and allowing parents to be more active in their children’s education.

I am the Business Manager of Sheet Metal Local 88. I am also part of the larger Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) International. I understand and have done extensive work with large organizations and budgets. Through our local trust funds, and 401k, of just over one billion dollars, and international trust funds, and 401k, in excess of eight billion dollars, I understand the details that go hand-in-hand with large organizations.

My expertise is in the construction industry, and particularly in construction education. I know there are ways to better spend taxpayer dollars to get more out of construction and maintenance expenditures. There is no one running in District B with more budgetary experience, and health and pension background, matched with classroom and educational administration than myself.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

It would not be considered a policy change as much as a culture change, but my focus is going to be for students to be college, and career, ready. The overwhelming majority of students do not go directly to college and there are so many other options open to them that provide graduates with a rewarding career. I have known this through the construction apprenticeships, but it doesn’t need to end there. There are so many careers that CCSD could be partnering with that our students will benefit from. For close to twenty years I have work to achieve this in CCSD, and I am currently working with CCSD through Workforce Connections to expand these types of programs.

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

I think the current board has done well during this COVID 19 situation in responding to an unprecedented situation. There will be time to reflect and make corrections and future plans when this is all over. The issue that I have is in their communication and public presence. I understand personality conflicts, but to have public, and sometimes very personal, attacks on one another is not acceptable of public figures that people are looking for leadership from.

I would like to see the next Board of Trustees be bolder and not be afraid to take actions that have never been taken before. I will use the experience that I have sitting on numerous boards including healthcare, pensions, 401K, apprenticeship and others. The boards I sit on are made up of both Labor and Management, two parties that traditionally are adversarial. I have made it a point in my career to respect the opposite side and work as a team to achieve our goals. This is what I will bring to the CCSD Trustee Board.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

This is a very complicated subject that is going to require CCSD, and all school districts, to have a constant and consistent approach. Weather it’s low income, racial, special needs, or other demographics, I think it begins with hiring and training administrators that understand the needs and have empathy for those needs. Next under the administrators is to have the teachers prepared to teach in these situations.

I don’t mean to try a simplify such a complex issue, but the answer to this and so many of CCSD’s issues is to have good administrators that allow their teachers to be a part of the process, and then give them the tools they need to do the job they have been trained to do.    

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

OUCH!!! One thing that I would correct with this question (respectfully) is that we are not headed into an era of budget cuts. Decade after decade Nevada is constantly in budget cutting mode when it comes to education. I guess my honest answer is to fight tooth and nail to not have any budget cuts at all. However, I do know reality.

As Trustee the one budget cut that I can control is the Central office. This is about 15% of the total budget. I don’t think that there will be 36 million there to cut, but this is the first place that needs to be cut even if this includes Trustee compensation. The remaining 85% of the budget will be carried out by the SOT’s at each school.

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

(C+) Dr. Jara took on a very daunting task. CCSD is close to dead last in a number of metrics, including funding. I think that he has done a good job of evaluating certain aspects of the district and has taken action that isn’t popular. I believe it is going to take more time to see if his decisions are going to be effective. I can say that from the outside looking in that Dr. Jara’s team is very loyal to him and they respect him. There is something positive to be said about that kind of loyalty.

An aspect that can be better is his interaction with the political community, unions, diversity groups and the community as a whole. I think that communication needs to be better across the board.


Chris Shank, Clark County school trustee candidate for District B

Age: 58 years old

Occupation: Small Business Owner

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I decided to run because I saw a need for real, common sense leadership on the board. A need for someone who is willing to publically state what the problems are the plan to get them solved. For me it’s all about results.

I want to be a catalyst for change on the board, and a voice for the constituents I represent, and an advocate for every student, parent and employee in CCSD.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

My first policy concern would be to address exactly what the district is doing to combat teacher attrition. How many teacher vacancies do we have? What are we doing to fill those vacancies? What are we doing to find out why teachers are leaving the individual school, the district, and the profession. As a school district, insuring we have licensed, creative and motivated people in every classroom has to be first.

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

I think the board can be more effective is we do a few simple things. First, the board member must be engaged with the community they represent. Listen to what the constituents are telling you, give them a voice in the process. Regular community engagement meeting must be a priority. The public meeting must be conducted in a way that shows a common goal and consensus among the board members. These meetings must be a place the public can get answers. All the public infighting, and power grabs among board members needs to end.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

The best way to close those achievement gaps is to insure there are qualified licensed teachers in “every” classroom. I like the incentives the district is using to motivate teachers to work in Title 1 schools, and those schools that have historically been difficult to keep fully staffed. Teachers are the solution.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

It is difficult to pinpoint areas I would consider cutting at this point. My goal would be to look at areas that areas as far from the classroom as possible. The reality is that with the level of cuts on the horizon, every area will be impacted.

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

I would give Dr. Jara a B-, His strategic plan is a good one, and it is showing real progress. He does however tend to act independently of the board too often. The superintendent and the board must work more collaboratively moving forward.


Jack Stanley, Clark County school trustee candidate for District B

Age: 55

Occupation: Minister in the United Methodist Church, USAF Retired, and Senior

Aerospace Science Instructor (SASI) at Shadow Ridge High School, Las Vegas

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat? 

To continue to the public community. I believe I have no right to exercise my privilege to criticize without at least first exercising my obligation to contribute. Having PCS’d to Nellis from England, and going through the struggle to place my daughter in her then third high school I learned much that needs improved in our district. Then after that my AP English Licensed Teacher wife went through the process to become a substitute teacher and learned more about what needs repaired in our district. Then after that, 2 years after retiring from the USAF I began the process to become a SASI in the district. This required me, appropriately, to go through not just the hiring process but also the licensure process. Here I continued to learn why Nevada is tied for 49th at the bottom of ACT scores. When looking for a logical explanation, I could find none. I brings gifts, education, and experience in problem solving and process improvement (6 Sigma and the Disney Excellence in Leadership Course). With my doctorate in conflict management, and in-depth knowledge of the Programming, Planning, Budgeting and Execution Cycle (PPBE) I can lead a turn-around in the opportunity CCSD provides its students to exceed and excel.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

This is slightly a loaded question in that the first change I would propose is not necessarily changing a particular policy although it would very much effect the execution of all policies. In addition to implementing an across the board PPBE cycle, that toggled literally every tax penny to a learning objective I would propose a equitability process that constantly assessed the success of those pennies to achieve those learning objectives in S.M.A.R.T. goals. We must do the work required to insure that ALL students have proven equal opportunity to achieve their best, regardless of where they live, color, creed, religion, intelligence, physical capability, and culture.

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body? 

To me, unless the School Board stop operating like a city council or county commission and focus singularly upon student achievement, they have lost their way. So much of what they current “tackle” should be for the city councils, county, and congressional delegations. Much that distracts them from the primary objective of SA should be delegated to those branches to answer, solve, and fund those problems. We must get away from the requirement to make all meetings open and to let any person who wishes speak to anything they want. That is for the other offices to deal with and then advise the board accordingly. We must improve our processes to solve the singular problem of the consistent lack of student achievement, then we must “trickle down” this expectation to the district administration, expecting them to do the same.

For example (what good is a point without one) take the COVID-19 dilemma that has swallowed the attention of most organization the past 2 months. I would delegate those matters to the various public boards to decide the way forward, so that the board could be focusing on implementing those decisions rather than deciding themselves the actions to take. For example within this example, the decision of what PPE is required among students and staff, why aren’t the public health boards deciding AND managing the execution thereof? Get back to student achievement, advise these boards on what will limit of advance said achievements, and stick to our lane.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

Equitability is my number one platform and would on every agenda item when it comes to providing equal opportunity for student achievement. Instead of spending our time focusing on closing gaps we should be focusing on equal opportunity. This will solve and close the gaps.

The result will among some perhaps create an uproar, but if we can sell the commitment that we are dedicated unilaterally to solving the equitability issues in equal opportunity, eventually most will get on board and champion our efforts.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

This is an area that for the most part should be pushed to our tax assessors and all others involved in the management of budgeting. The school board should lead the process of developing a budget. Period. The management of the budget should be left to others, ours is but to police it for equitability of opportunity for student achievement. We are currently handling the budget process backwards.

No highly effective corporation decides its mission or methods based on budget. It bases it budget on its mission and methods. Simply put, lack of funding money is not the cause of our educational brokenness, nor will its increase be the answer. As long as we believe that, we are chasing a headless horseman. We can accomplish across the board improvement with student achievement with whatever budget we have to work with. I’ve learned from working for the federal government for a career, that we can find a way to achieve excellence with any budget We’ve got to get back to community service and selfless service, and remove the mentality of “what’s in it for me.” We should spend our citizens’ money singularly on what fosters student achievement.

BL I would not consider cutting any area based on how much money they are spending, but on how much money they need to achieve their role in student achievement.

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

My first response to this question is that it is innately unfair. That being said, I would give the superintendent a B+. Considering the challenges he faces to serve as intermediary between the district and the public, he has far too many audiences he must make happy. The superintendent’s power is too limited. If we expect the superintendent to serve as the chief executive officer, we must free him to be and do so. As a board our primary job is to resource, empower, and direct the superintendent to execute ALL operations of the school district. Rather than envisioning its role to supervise the superintendent, if should readjust to envision its role of enabling the superintendent. Who is on the superintendent’s side? If criticism and critique is needed, then the board should not hesitate in this role, but that role should be in private, while publicly serving as the superintendent’s primary champion and cheerleader. The board should know its lane and stop micromanaging. Legislators and legislation should be and do the same. The county and cities, the same. I believe, for example, far too much responsibility was put upon the superintendent to solve problems, distracting him and all employees from the primary objective: an equitable student achievement.


Bryan Wachter, Clark County school trustee candidate for District B

Age: 34

Occupation: Senior Vice President of the Retail Association of Nevada

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I’m running for Clark County School Board because I believe we can do more for our children.

My wife is a CCSD teacher and we’re raising our sons in District B, the same district where I attended school. I have spent my career building consensus between government and business, and I see firsthand the central role that education plays in every facet of society.

Our system is clearly broken for the vast majority of our students; more than half of our fourth graders and more than half of our eight graders are not proficient in basic math and reading. That has a lifetime impact on each of those students. I can’t sit by and watch us fail these students when I know with stronger leadership on the School Board, we make things better. As a trustee I can make an impact for my kids, and all students and improve the reputation of Clark County’s education system in the community.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

My first priority as a CCSD Trustee is to improve communication between the district and school leadership, School Organizational Teams, parents and community stakeholders. As a parent, I decided that the only way to truly understand what is going on in the Clark County School District was to get involved. I have attended board meetings for years, as well as served on boards including my high school’s SOT. What I see over and over is a lack of communication, especially to parents and to the SOTs that are making decisions that impact effect the lives of students. Both parents and SOTs should be fully armed with the knowledge they need to make smart decisions. Increasing communication is critical to making sure our students have the support they need for academic achievement.

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

I have had the privilege of serving on many different community and government boards, and I know how to get work done. I chair a State Board on workers compensation, I was a member of the CCSD Budget Advisory Committee, I serve on the Superintendent’s Parent and Community Council as the representative of District B, and I have served for a number of years on Mojave

High School’s School Organizational Team. In every instance, effective board members do three things; they do their homework, they understand their role, and they ask good questions. I have learned that when those things happen, good decisions are made. I have a track record of helping to craft good policy at both the state and local levels, and I plan to use that experience as a trustee to help improve our children’s education.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

Budgets and appropriations are the most powerful tool in government; how we spend our money says more about what part of children’s education is a community priority than any other action, and that means you make it a priority and you provide information to the SOTs about why those priorities are important.

To be successful and effective, the district needs buy-in from students, parents, teachers, and administrators on a local level anyway, but with the reorganization, buy-in is a critical requirement. This is done through the leadership of the School Board and the Superintendent, and it is our job as leaders to include the stakeholders and community in as valued partners; moving forward, leadership has to look different than the top-down approach we have seen in the past.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

When the Nevada Legislature passed AB469 in 2017, they mandated that approx. 85% of education spending take place at the school level through their individual School Organizational Teams, so our SOTs have to be the ones to make the cuts. Even if the Trustees zeroed their approx. 15% of the budget not designated for the individual schools, by current budget projections, that will not be enough to cover the deficit.

With nearly 88% of the district’s budget being personnel, our SOTs have some hard decisions ahead, and my top priority will be to ensure our SOTs know they have my full support in whatever they decide is best for their school. I will work with Superintendent Jara and his staff to make sure our SOTs receive clear communication and the information they need to make the best decisions for their school. The guidance I would give to the SOTs is to prioritize student achievement and focus their budget accordingly.

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

I would grade Superintendent Jara with a “C”. In general I believe CCSD is missing opportunities to help improve our students’ academic achievement, and I see CCSD failing to rise to the level of leadership I expect for our community. I do acknowledge that Dr. Jara has worked hard for CCSD, and I believe that with a commitment to refocus on supporting our district, Dr. Jara and the Trustees can improve that grade.


Katie Williams, Clark County school trustee candidate for District B

Age: 30

Occupation: Military

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I want to serve as a Trustee because my daughter will be entering school in District B this year. With everything I have seen, I want to take a more direct approach to being involved in her education by finding ways to change the way the district operates for the better. This is the first time I have run for office, but I don’t see this as a political position—I see it as a place where I have the opportunity to represent the area I live in, in a way that directly affects myself and my family. I am not a career politician, and I have never run for another office. I’m not focusing on any kind of political career, Ijust want to be. Servant leader to the people of District B.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

My first step will be to hold meetings for teachers, parents, students, and administrators in my district, respectively. I want to sit down with each of them to get a wholistic understanding of what is needed. From there, if supplies are an issue, I want to privately source those things right away as much as possible to meet the need and provide a quality education for our students. Additionally, form day one forward I will be donating the $9,000/year salary of a board member back to the district, with the stipulation that it be used directly for education in District B—not administrative overhead for the thousands of administrators in the district.

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

I think the thing that would make the School Board most effective would be breaking up the Clark County School District. The geographic area is too large and the demographics too different for any one body or entity to provide an effective education to the hundreds of thousands of students in Clark County. Until that happens, I intend to advocate for the schools of the District I plan to represent.

 Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

One of the reasons equity issues still exist is because of the size of the district. The same body making decisions for Joseph L Bowler Elementary in Bunkerville is making decisions for Antonello Lee Elementary in North Las Vegas. District B alone has one of the most diverse populations, stretching between rural and urban, and encompassing Nellis Air Force Base. A decision made for one school in the District is not always a good one for the others. When you factor the sheer volume of schools we are dealing with, it’s a wonder the equity problems are not worse than they are right now. By localizing education decisions, we would be able to cut down on the discrepancies that occur in such a large organization, and allow districts to better serve the areas they encompass.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

The top three areas I would consider taking cost-saving measures would be: 1. Determining the unnecessary overhead expenditures and how many of the thousands of administrators we have are fully necessary. 2. Finding ways to integrate technology for blended school models, to cut down on district transportation/energy needs and costs. 3. Working on creating a leaner, more productive teacher workforce, and stretching our dollar to provide incentive for teachers to take on additional duties as they are able to, allowing for the existing employment dollars in the budget to go farther.

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

As I said on a previous forum, Dr. Jara in the middle of this pandemic is doing the best he can. No one was prepared for this and this exposed many weaknesses in many organizations. That being said, I would like to see Dr. Jara really focus more on communication with parents and administrators. Many times in meetings he directs questions to others and rarely answers them himself. No one in a position of power is perfect and there are things we may not see behind closed doors. He is the face of the district and for us to be the 5th largest district but ranked 46th in the nation, we should be doing better and unfortunately that falls on him and the board.


Barbara A. Dreyer, Clark County school trustee for District C

Age: 42

Occupation: Former Clark County School District High School Science Teacher, Current Health and Wellness Instructor, and Mentor/Tutor.

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

 I am running for the Clark County School District Board of Trustees in order to bring my education, my experience as a former Clark County School District High School Science Teacher, and my life-long passion for the profession of education to the Board of Trustees. A member of the Board of Trustees must understand that the essential mission of the Clark County School District is to effectively educate the children of Clark County. Based on my experience working with students of Clark County for over 20 years. I am the only candidate running in Trustee District C who has been a Clark County School District Professional Educator, and knows exactly how those policies are translated into the classroom which can improve or detract from the education of our children. Therefore, I am the best candidate for this position in Trustee District C.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

 I would like to address the issue of retaining and moving ineffective and poor performing principals to a different school. The practice disrupts the new school and is only shifting the potentially problematic principal. I would propose that the Clark County School District remove the ineffective and poor performing principal from education leadership until the principal is either re-trained/re-evaluated or removed from education leadership entirely. This would bring more stability to our community schools.

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

There is clearly a perception from the residents of Clark County as well as other elected officials that the Clark County School District Board of Trustees is not as effective as it could be. This is due in part to a failure to understand the role, duties, and scope of responsibilities of the Board of Trustees, antiquated thinking, a lack of clear communication and engagement with stakeholders, and  a perception of individuality as opposed to building consensus. No one individual Trustee can perform their duties without collegiality/team work. I believe that it is important for those seeking the office of Trustee to understand their duties and responsibilities, the science of education, and how it is executed on both the macro and micro levels. It is also important for Trustees to openly and honestly engage with all levels of government as well as other stakeholders in order to promote the best interest of the Clark County School District. Trustees are policy makers who must work as a collective team focused on effective oversight and governance of the Clark County School District. It is important for me if I am elected, to be a consensus builder and an effective fellow teammate.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

By focusing on class size reduction, teachers and education support professionals can more effectively utilize differentiated instruction. This will also allow for educational professionals to formatively assess their students on a daily basis, more one-on-one engagement per pupil, and not solely depend on summative assessments. I might also add that we need educational material that is more culturally representative of our diverse student population and community. During this COVID-19 crisis, we have seen that there are clearly inequities that must be immediately addressed.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

Our public schools are already underfunded, and have sustained budget cuts for far too long. We are among the states that spend the least on our children. This is unacceptable! Classes are overcrowded and conditions are potentially unsafe. This is an area where Trustees must stand strong in opposition to cuts. Trustees must actively and endlessly advocate for direct and increased federal funding to the Clark County School District in order to avoid cuts. If stimulus funds can be provided to corporations, the federal government can most certainly make a way to increase funding for public education. I would also support reducing the number of tests taken by Clark County School District students, and end the outsourcing to private companies/consultants of educational data collection, analysis, and reporting. Lots of money can be saved by being more efficient and utilizing the experience and expertise within the Clark County School District to perform these tasks.

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

In all fairness and to ensure impartiality should I be elected as Trustee, I want to have the best working relationship that is possible with the Superintendent. Since a candidate for Trustee lacks the access to privileged information relating to Superintendent Jara’s work performance, I cannot yet provide my full opinion on Superintendent Jara. There are many concerns and perceptions in my community about the role of the Superintendent and the Superintendent’s relationship with the Trustees and other elected officials. I feel that when elected, I must address this immediately as well.


Carol Ferranti, Clark County school trustee candidate for District C

Age: 54

Occupation: Retired Law Enforcement Professional and a Volunteer FEMA Incident Command Instructor

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

My son Peter is why I am running for Clark County School District C Trustee.

Peter has experienced significant neurological, medical, and intellectual adversities since he was age 10 in the 5th grade. Currently he is a Las Vegas native and 18-year-old senior set to graduate as one of 42 in the graduating class for his high school’s first academy 4-year program.

At 10 years of age he was diagnosed with a pituitary adenoma tumor that he has had to have an annual MRI with and without contrast together with a battery of blood tests of 7 vials each year. This was while he was in his first Magnet school because of being the only 3rd grader to achieve perfect CRT scores.  A few years later he was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome with physical motor tics at age 13 at UNLV’s The Practice. In 2016 at age 14 he was diagnosed as a child on the autism spectrum.

In 2018 he was diagnosed with a complicated endocrine disease known as Graves’ disease at age 16. He antibodies attacking his endocrine system together with extremely high levels of hormones that caused heart issues. At 16 these diagnoses gave him unbearable symptoms. He had to get a Radioactive iodine uptake, thyroid ultrasound, and tons of blood tests. His medical diagnoses are complex to say the least. The side effects exacerbate his Tourette physical tics which cause physical unintentional movement and distractions from common everyday aspects that most of us take for granted.

Currently because of all his neurological, medical, and intellectual challenges he has not been able to keep up with his Honors and AP courses. He has been denied an IEP several times even though we have advised his school as he was diagnosed with these medical complexities.

His 504 educational plan has not met his neurological, medical, and intellectual adversities as appropriate educational accommodations even though he is in ALL AP and honors courses.

While he continues to struggle both medically and educationally, he has lost all chances of being accepted to a college, qualify for scholarships that his peers are applying for, and is not be able to obtain any letters of recommendations from my teachers.  We have fought for his educational rights and recently had completed an Individual Educational Evaluation (IEE).

The IEE was paid for by Clark County School District because they denied him as qualifying for an IEP.  During one of the IEP meeting(s) the school’s Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) stated to us when they denied us that “we’re not equipped to handle a student like him”. This is referring to his high-level of intelligence because their typical students are of a much lower functioning level.

In essence, CCSD has failed my son who is an exceptional student with multiple and complex neurological, medical, and intellectual differences.  How many more children have they failed to help because of their neurological, medical, or intellectual differences?

I want to help be part of the solution around changing the landscape and outcomes within the Clark County School District for every child regardless of their different abilities. My son has encouraged me to be his voice and the voice for all children, of all abilities.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

I would review legal approaches in creatively developing funding streams for our district.  My actions together with our entire Board of Trustees would include meeting with local, state and federal decision and policy makers in an effort to discover solutions through our taxation system. Our strengths and differences as a diverse Board of Trustees are our assets, as we move forward in securing the foundational building blocks needed to reframe our stance as a conscientious board. Our actions in achieving this would be unlike any other attempts before to include the unsuccessful tourism and medical marijuana tax promises regarding education and would be a first of its kind for our state.  I would direct my efforts to simultaneously advocate for both local and state educational taxes to be created and dedicated to building our overall infrastructure of human capital and efforts to begin restorative education applications.

Our focus is to support our ‘boots on the ground’, our amazing Teachers, substitutes, and staff! This idea goes hand in hand with a more comprehensive way to recruit, hire and retain quality teachers as well as adding pay and benefits for our substitute teachers.  I would also consider top-down consolidation of admin. staff.

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

Working side by side with the other trustees and expressing my experiences, passion, and focus through open door communications. I would make a genuine effort in speaking with each of them to learn more about their passion to serve. In instances like these we can mostly see commonalities to better understand and address a vast amount of district items we must unilaterally vote on as a more cohesive board.  I am not saying we all have to vote the same, but these types of communication afford a true understanding of each other’s stands on any given item. It is about respect and agreeing to sometimes disagree.

Additionally, in order to earn the community’s trust, we must create meaningful connections to appropriately support the participation of community members. We as a Board of Trustees are compelled to achieved true community engagement through restructured organizational methods to ensure inclusive, accessible, and supportive approaches in being a voice for the community. This would be best achieved by developing better ways to connect, communicate, and engage with our community members.  I would collaborate with the CCSD Community Engagement Unit and FACES whom I have worked with since its inception. My overview is that Audience Engagement is NOT Community Engagement.  Our community wants and attempts to and overall has the right to have a voice about the education of our students. By building and retaining community trust through partnership opportunities our district would most assuredly succeed.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

I would first ask, what are the common factors between student achievement and accessibility to services, programs, and school structural supports?  These are some of the topics that I would investigate.

Our district must also increase quality and continuity of IDEA special education rights for all students with all abilities. Increase training for all staff on neurodiversity, develop research and collective alliances with existing resources and research entities.

These actions would be together with completing a cost comparison of each school’s budget to include external grant funding, policies, and revenue streams vs. student attendance, achievement, and specialized programs. A “big picture” comprehensive review as a gaps breakdown of sorts needs to be conducted with our higher education partners at NSHE. This same data should also be compared with similar jurisdictional districts such as Miami-Dade or Hillsborough County School Districts as they have large diverse populations and are tourist revenue destination based.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

I would effectively consolidate from the top down beginning with combing administrative sections on the organizational chart. If you look at other large and successful governmental agencies, you will see a more effective and efficient flow of services within administrative staffed sections. In order to cut spending while gaining the employee and public’s trust a top down approach is necessary and feasible. This will take a bite out of how the district conducts business. After all our students and their families are our stockholders, our teachers, and staff employees.  With that said our employees are also our superintendent and assist-superintendents as well as directors are all employees of the Clark County School District.

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

My grade would be a D-.  My belief is that he has been brought into a new district that has been left behind when it comes to funding infrastructure, having a convoluted turn over of former superintendents, and strained relationships with staff because of self-stainability reactions.  I feel as if he is not understanding the word, transparency when it comes to historical issues and our community mistrust and how that relates to community engagement.

The times we are in as a district are emotional, passionate, and confusing. There is too many unknowns and no true collaborative efforts. We have much work to be done but we all must be on the same page for our students’ sake. Dr. Jara has an obligation to fulfill as the superintendent of the 5th largest school district in the United States. This in itself is a lofty task but can be done. Published author Bill Hogan stated it best, “How Do You Eat an Elephant? One Bite at a Time.” Let’s get to work!


Evelyn Garcia Morales, Clark County school trustee candidate for District C

Age: 36

Occupation: Executive Director, Fulfillment Fund Las Vegas 

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

The first person I spoke to about my candidacy for CCSD School Board Trustee was my mom. I thanked her for always encouraging me to do well in school, which has led me to where I am today.

Growing up, we struggled with money and we depended on community programs and resources to get by. My mom worked hard and did the best that she could for me and my siblings. While we struggled financially, my mom always used her voice to motivate me.

As a first-generation college graduate, I know first-hand the power of quality education. This is why I’ve spent my career supporting students and families. Today, I help high school and college students achieve their educational dreams as the Executive Director of the Fulfillment Fund Las Vegas. My office is on a high school campus and I see students and families every day.

As a CCSD Trustee, I use my voice to advocate for all students and our community, as my mom did for me.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

Now more than ever, we need elected officials to lead courageously through uncertainty. I am choosing to lead through this challenging time because our students need us now more than ever.

As a Trustee, I will focus on the district’s ability to respond to situations like the one that we are facing now, in a way that prioritizes and ensures that it is prepared for student learning. Ultimately, I will work with my colleagues to find long term solutions to our district’s most pressing challenges that benefit the success of our students.

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

CCSD’s board of trustees is responsible for developing District-wide policy, approving the budget, hiring and evaluating the superintendent, and developing a thread between the district and the community.  As a member of the school board, I will work diligently to build trust and collaborative relationships with my fellow Trustee’s, Superintendent, and families, business, elected officials, and the community-at-large. I will use my strengths to create unity and a shared vision that will make students the center of our work.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

We must have a candid conversation about the educational achievement gaps in our district and what it is going to take to address it.  The equity gaps in our district are magnified in District C. We have a responsibility to close the gaps through ongoing discussion, regular reporting, and monitoring. This effort must be intentional, consistent, and include long-term planning in order to create sustainable solutions.

We must move with urgency because our young people are watching us. I know the potential of our community and its ability to rally behind issues that matter to us. In my role leading programs and organizations for youth, I’ve watched first-hand students rise to expectations from adults when they are consistent. Success will start with us. It will take time, tools, support, and practice to move the needle. What I know for sure, I am committed to seeing it through.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

CCSD is currently facing a budget shortfall of $37.8 million. Given the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, I will advocate for a path forward that includes equity for all students. This includes avoiding cuts that further exacerbate the challenges that our students experience. I am committed to enacting budget practices that support academic achievement for students and ensure long-term fiscal stability. This will be difficult, but worth it.

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

Since joining CCSD in 2018, Dr. Jara has lifted the veil on the gaps in educational achievement in our district. In 2020, the Achieving Equity and Access committee revealed gaps in educational opportunities. The board has the responsibility to create policies that support and advocate for populations that were not included in the report, which will benefit the success of our district.

As a Trustee, I will work with my colleagues to evaluate the superintendent on an annual basis. Accountability starts at the top and includes measuring the effectiveness of ourselves and our superintendent. I look forward to holding myself, the other Trustees, and our leader accountable to ensure that all our students graduate from high school and are college and/or career ready.


Noel Searles, Clark County school trustee candidate for District C

Age: 37

Occupation: Information Technology

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I am running for CCSD Trustee because I want to bring about 21st Century solutions to an 18th Century system. Working in I.T. has given me a unique view that needs to be brought to the board to work with the Superintendent and staff to ensure all technical needs are met.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

We need School Choice, Full Stop. Our education system is currently the worst in the nation. We need to implement market solutions and choices for parents. No one size fits all solutions exist which is why we need school choice.

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

Having one school board for the entire county seems odd, Las Vegas is a big place and every part of it has unique challenges. Frankly, we should move towards splitting up CCSD. 

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

The best way to close the achievement gap is to ensure that all students have access to the technological resources needed in class and away from class.  This has been a big issue with the current crisis and puts some students further behind than others.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

The administration is top-heavy, you can look up online how much the bureaucrats make in CCSD, compared to the teachers this is a travesty. This is the first thing I would cut. The second is textbooks, the textbook industry is exorbitantly expensive because of the monopolies they tend to have, we should take advantage of the technology available that has significantly reduced the costs of the information within textbooks, third is the custodial staff: Newt Gingrich brought this up when he ran for president in 2012, instead of overpaying for custodians we can offer a first job for students where they can earn an income and important work skills that will help them for the rest of the lives. 

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

(Did not answer this question.)


Lola Brooks, Clark County school trustee candidate for District E (incumbent0

Age: 43

Occupation: Student Data Analyst

Why did you decide to run for the school board seat again?

I feel it’s important to have an experienced and knowledgable board during the next legislative session, especially since we will also be dealing with the academic, economic, and social-emotional impacts from COVID-19.

What’s the first policy change you would propose?

There are a number of policies I’m currently working on. The one that I feel will be most beneficial for the community is related to defining meaningful parent engagement and embedding the duties of School Organizational Teams within District policies.

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?

There are a number of strategies the board implemented in recent years in an effort to become more effective and student-centered. We’ve restructured our agenda request process to be more intentional with our focus, as well as adopted a formal monitoring calendar for the District’s strategic plan. In addition, the Board has begun to utilize technology to ensure requests for information are met in a more organized, timely manner. The board is currently in the process of reviewing and revising their own governing policies to ensure we are better prepared for next year. At least three new board members will be sworn in. It’s imperative to give them an opportunity to focus on adapting to their new roles. The existing board will be developing an onboarding process to better support incoming members.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

No one really knows what schools will look like next year. We must recognize the disadvantages some students will have as we reimagine how schools function. Realistically, a single solution will most likely not meet the needs of all students; we need to consider as many options as possible but ensure as much consistency as feasible.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.

The board set a precedent of allowing school organizational teams to determine cuts; this seems to be the community’s preferred choice. Central services should continue focusing on identifying efficiencies but we should all recognize that essential operational components, like IT, accounting, and transportation are already running with far fewer staff than they need to adequately perform their duties. Classrooms should be our core focus but schools cannot function without infrastructure.  

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to assign Superintendent Jara a grade for his performance while campaigning, since I am required to evaluate him through a formal, publicly noticed process.

His last evaluation was completed in December 2019. You can review the evaluation here: http://go.boarddocs.com/nv/ccsdlv/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=BGRRNR6E93CD.

His next formative evaluation will be in June 2020. You can listen to our work session where we worked out the details here: http://go.boarddocs.com/nv/ccsdlv/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=BNR5AC0F47F5.


Tiger Helgelien, Clark County school trustee candidate for District E

Age:  37

Occupation: REALTOR®

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat? 

Having served for 4 years on the school organizational team for our children’s high school, I was asked to consider taking on the challenge of becoming a school board trustee for my district and my wife, Elizabeth, and I have always known improving education is one of the most important issues of Southern Nevada.  As a parent of 3 children in CCSD, it’s frustrating because for nearly 20 years I have heard how CCSD isn’t providing a quality education for our students and things don’t seem to be improving.  Our children deserve a quality education and I also believe that the bad stigma that goes with our education system holds Southern Nevada back economically.   I’m a small business owner and it’s time we put someone on the board of trustees with a different mindset.  In business, we face challenges all the time and we learn to adjust, adapt, and overcome. 

What’s the first policy change you would propose? 

I would focus on less standardized testing and let teachers do what they do best, teach students how to think.  

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body?  

There is a belief among many people right now that the current board of trustees are just a rubber stamp for the Superintendent.  The way it is supposed to work is that we have a board of trustees who understand that they work for the people and the Superintendent works for them.  Trustees are representatives of the people who reside in Clark County, they are stewards of the peoples money and they are supposed to listen to the will of the people when running the nations 5th largest school district, serving over 300,000 students.  I would actually listen to teachers, parents, and students, something I don’t believe is happening with our current board of trustees.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?  

Reducing classroom sizes is the most impactful thing we can do to give students the proper attention they need.  Our teachers are amazing and it is an unfair expectation for a teacher to properly teach a classroom with 35+ students.  Providing a manageable size classroom will improve morale which will result in retaining and attracting more amazing teachers.

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting.  

We are still trying to figure out the impact of Covid-19 as it relates to the budget, obviously the revenue has been reduced so we will need to be extra careful with the resources that we do have.  The first budget priority needs to be keeping classroom sizes as small as possible and giving the teachers the resources they need to educate our students.  Education in Nevada isn’t doing so well when compared to other states, when Clark County improves, Nevada will improve, and that will be a good thing for our entire state, economically.  I’d like the state to direct more education dollars to Southern Nevada – the population is here.  There is concerted effort to raise our taxes again and I believe that we need a forensic outside audit of CCSD prior to even having that conversation.  The people want to know that their hard earned tax dollars are being spent wisely and they want results.  In 2015 we were told that passing the commerce tax in the state legislature would fundamentally transform education in Nevada, where are the results?  When legalizing marijuana was sold to the people we were told it would go to education, where is the money and where are the results?  

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why? 

C – I wish Superintendent Jara and the board of trustees would have taken the initiative, rather than passing the buck to the Governor, when school closures were imintent due to Covid-19, which would have given teachers more time to prepare for distance learning.  However, once elected, I look forward to collaborating with Dr. Jara and working with him to improve our district for the common good.  It’s time we fix this issue.


Alexis Salt, Clark County school trustee candidate for District E

Age: 40

Occupation: 14 year CCSD teacher

Undergrad: University of Michigan at Dearborn

Post-Grad: Sierra Nevada College

Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I have been a teacher in CCSD for the past 14 years, and I’ve been attending board meetings for the past 5 as an observer and activist. I’ve watched as our district’s obsession with testing and canned curriculum has sucked the joy and excitement from learning. I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with how teachers are being boxed out of the important conversations taking place that impact our students and our schools. I found that as a teacher I wasn’t be treated as the expert in the classroom, because we have adopted a top down culture in our district, and as a result I decided the only way that teachers were going to have a seat at the table was if one of us was brave enough to bring our own chair.  

As a current classroom teacher I will have to leave my job if elected. This was not a decision that I came to easily.  Teaching, and students, are my heart and soul, but I know that I can do a lot more good for all of our kids on the board where I will need a much needed current classroom perspective to the dais.  

What’s the first policy change you would propose? 

My first agenda item request would be to create a more transparent way of including classroom teachers from all backgrounds in major committees. I would like to ensure a minimum number of both teachers and support professionals on these important committees. People have also reached out telling me that this is an issue with parental participation as well.  We need a way for any stakeholder who wants the chance to participate on a committee to have a way to do so. I feel like we are never going to get anywhere if we keep listening to the same people time after time.

How do you envision making the school board a more effective governing body? 

The job of the board is to provide informed oversight, and I think to do that we have to be thoroughly trained in Robert’s Rules of Order and in whatever governance model we choose to adopt as a group. I would like to have the board adopt a true balanced governance model, and not give so much power to the position of the Superintendent.  The board should also work together to adopt time limits for questions and comments during the meetings themselves to keep time down.

Equity issues remain a top concern in the school district. What’s the best way for the district to close achievement gaps between student groups?

As a classroom teacher, I have worked in all the various school types we have within CCSD, rural, suburban, and 9 years at a Title 1 urban school. What I have found across the board is that we need a culture shift within our school district. When we look at places where schools work well, what they have in common is consistency. We need to look to create school communities where people, from admin to support professionals, stay.  Right now, we focus too much on the upward mobility of our staff,  instead of creating the environments that we KNOW foster student engagement, growth, and learning. Sadly, the most inconsistent school communities also tend to be the poorest.  I would love to meet with teachers who have spent their careers In Title One schools to really pick their brains about what we do well, what we can do better, and most importantly how we can get folks to stay in those schools.  

One thing I think would help tremendously is to ensure that schools are adequately staffed with enough school counselors, social workers, and school psychologists. Having those folks on staff can really help take the burden off classroom teachers allowing them to focus more on academics.  

As we head into an era of budget cuts, tell me the top three areas you would consider cutting. 

I think that the cuts will come as a per pupil cut and those cuts will be made at the school level by the SOTs.  

That said, if it were up to me, I’d be open to cutting many of our redundancies within the district, such as having a Curriculum and Professional Development department while simultaneously purchasing most of our curriculum and professional development from outside vendors. I also think that this is an excellent time to reevaluate many of the canned curriculum programs that we spent large amounts of money on as a district. Programs such as Study Sync and My Perspectives are costly consumable programs (workbooks) that are insanely expensive and rarely used by classroom teachers because they aren’t engaging. I’d also like to have the conversation about which upper admin and central office positions are absolutely essential and which positions could be combined or just eliminated altogether. 

What grade would you assign Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara for his performance so far? And why?

C- There are many areas in which Dr. Jara has made bad decisions and doubled down on them when pressed. I was not happy with the unilateral Dean decision, nor with his decisions regarding testing, specifically MAPS. I do think that he has done a very good job working with food service to make sure our kids are fed during this difficult time, the implementation of digital learning during the shutdown has not been done well at all. While I don’t see his tenure as a complete failure, I’d like to think that for a salary higher than Governor Sisolak, the kids of CCSD deserve better than C- leadership.

This story was updated on 5/24/2020 to include a candidate questionnaire response from Liberty Leavitt.

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