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Indy Education: Award-winning Sparks teacher on helping students learn from each other

Plus: Clark County School District to pay $36K in legal fees related to public records battle, and free meals for Washoe County students on spring break.
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationK-12 Education

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

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

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

News briefs

American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada Executive Director Athar Haseebullah speaking at a press conference in the organization's office in Las Vegas on Jan. 19, 2023. (Rocio Hernandez/The Nevada Independent)

💰Clark County School District (CCSD) to pay legal costs in public records case — A Clark County judge is ordering the school district pay the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada $36,000 in legal fees and costs over a public records lawsuit filed against CCSD to obtain records related to an altercation between school police and students outside of Durango High School last February. The district released some records related to the incident in January. Last Tuesday, the judge ruled that other records related to the investigation into the incident are confidential. The ACLU of Nevada is determining whether it will appeal the ruling over the unreleased records, and whether to pursue civil litigation over the altercation. 

🏀 New state school sports director — Clark County School District Director of Athletics Timothy Jackson was selected Thursday as the next executive director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA). 

Jackson is replacing Executive Director Donnie Nelson, who’s retiring in June after serving in the role for about three years. The NIAA is the governing body of high school athletics and activities in the Silver State. The nonprofit organization is responsible for sanctioning activities, conducting post-season tournaments, regulating officials and providing a host of services to its member schools.

Jackson has been the district’s athletic director since 2019. Prior to that, he was the athletic administrator at Durango High School in Las Vegas. He currently serves on the NIAA’s realignment committee, and the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association’s certification committee. 

🎖️Food Bank of Northern Nevada offering meals during spring break — With Washoe County School District students on spring break through April 7, the Food Bank of Northern Nevada is offering free meals to students in need at six locations in Reno and Sparks. The meals are free for all children from the ages of 2 to 18. The locations include the Evelyn Mount Northeast Community Center in Reno and Ardmore Park in Sparks. The meals must be eaten on site. More information can be found on the food bank’s website

How an award-winning Sparks teacher gets kindergarteners to learn from each other

Sparks kindergarten teacher Yamilet Lopez at an assembly where she was announced as a Milken Award recipient on March 14, 2024. (Milken Family Foundation/Courtesy)

Growing up, Yamilet Lopez’s Mexican immigrant parents emphasized the importance of going to school. 

“My parents were always like, ‘Oh, you have to get good grades, you have to go to school so you don't end up having to work two or three jobs like we do,’” Lopez said. 

That advice and her “amazing” teachers helped turn her dedication for school into a career in education. 

Today, she’s a kindergarten teacher at Alice Maxwell Elementary School in Sparks. She said she enjoys seeing her students’ growth throughout the school year and the excitement they feel when they learn something new. 

“Seeing them excited gets me super excited to just come into work,” said Lopez, who has been a teacher in the Washoe County School District for 11 years. 

Lopez engages her students by allowing them to submit ideas on what they would like to learn about in class. She also encourages her students to learn from each other, and said this has helped them understand concepts faster and know more about each other's backgrounds. 

“Our students come with such diverse backgrounds in terms of … where they're from, but also knowledge,” she said. “Some kids might know what a picnic is, and some might not know what a picnic is, so just filling in those gaps and giving them those experiences … makes learning a lot more meaningful.” 

Earlier this month, Lopez was recognized for her work with young students when she was named as a 2024 recipient of a Milken Educator Award, which has been called the “Oscars of teaching.” Lopez said the award was a huge surprise to her. It recognizes teachers for their effective instructional practices, student learning results and having an engaging and inspiring presence. It’s given by an education-focused family foundation. 

“I'm just excited to get to know more educators who have gotten that award and kind of learn from them and network with them to see what else I can learn and see how I could keep advancing in my career,” she said. 

Along with the award, Lopez received a $25,000 unrestricted cash prize. Lopez said she plans to use part of the money to pursue a master’s degree in literacy education and save the rest for her 6-month-old daughter’s college fund.  

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

Reading Assignments

Douglas County School Board resuming superintendent search

After trustees botched a recent appointment to the district’s vacant superintendent position and their decision was reversed due to an open meeting law violation, the board outlined its next steps in its ongoing search during its meeting last Thursday. 

Cities challenge policy limiting nonvoting school trustees

The cities of North Las Vegas and Henderson filed a petition in court this week to get the Clark County School Board to repeal a policy that limits nonvoting trustees’ powers. 

Extra Credit

Nevada State University rolls out new program to combat school psychologist shortage

The program is meant to help address the shortage of school psychologists across the state, KLAS reported. 

CCSD police officers to receive big raise under new agreement

The average salaries of Clark County School District Police Department personnel as well as health insurance contributions will rise under a two-year agreement unanimously approved last Thursday by the district’s board, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. 


🍎 State Board of Education meeting — Wednesday, March 27, 2 p.m. 

The agenda includes an update of the board’s proposed high school start time policy, and the creation of a Read by Grade 3 subcommittee that will discuss what score on an assessment should trigger an intervention plan and guidelines for how to retain students.

🍎 Clark County School Board meeting — Thursday, March 28, 5 p.m. 

The agenda includes a presentation on student discipline data. 

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Find the listing for a house built by Churchill County High School students, which is on sale for about $370,000, here


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