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Indy Education: Clark County district leader who reformed West Las Vegas school to retire

Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationK-12 Education
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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 week via email.

With the school year winding down, we are shifting this newsletter’s publication frequency to every other week. Hoping all teachers and students enjoy the break, and spending this time recharging. 

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

News briefs

Clark County School Board trustees during a school board meeting on Feb. 22, 2024. (Rocio Hernandez/The Nevada Independent)

🍎Clark County School Board approve contract for superintendent search firm The Clark County School District will pay $79,000 to Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates to conduct its search for a new superintendent. That falls in line with estimated costs for a national search, between $60,000 to $100,000, according to documents attached to the agenda for the board’s Feb. 22 meeting. 

That amount is higher than the $50,000 that the district paid about six years ago during the search that resulted in the hiring of former Superintendent Jesus Jara. Last month, the Washoe County School Board concluded its own superintendent search, in which it allocated up to $100,000 for the search. 

🍎 Las Vegas teacher appointed to state charter school board The State Board of Education voted Wednesday to appoint Courtney Stern, an instructional coach and learning strategist at Cimarron-Memorial High School, to a three-year term on the State Public Charter School Authority’s governing board. Stern has taught at three Clark County School District schools and two Las Vegas private schools, according to her resume. Stern was one of three candidates interviewed by the board. 

School Spotlight

Outgoing district leader says relationships with community, Legislature is key for CCSD’s future

Mike Barton reads to a class in this undated photo. (Clark County School District/Courtesy)

After 26 years in the district, Clark County School District (CCSD) Chief of Staff Mike Barton, who was a superintendent finalist in 2018 and is best known for transforming a troubled West Las Vegas school, is set to retire at the end of the month. 

As he wraps up his time at the district, Barton says he has no interest in reapplying for superintendent and fully supports interim Superintendent Brenda Larsen-Mitchell. 

“I respect Brenda so much that I wouldn’t even go for it because she’s just so well-suited for the job and she’s been around for 30 years,” he said. “But I think from a personal perspective, I've just grown where I don't have a huge desire to serve in that role any longer.”

When Barton moved from his native Pennsylvania to Las Vegas in 1998 to become a first grade teacher, he intended for the district to be a steppingstone in his career.

At the time, Barton said there weren’t as many teaching opportunities out east as there were in Vegas. He initially planned to stay in Southern Nevada for a few years while he got his master’s degree, and move back east, but that changed after meeting his wife during his first job at James Madison Ullom Elementary School in East Las Vegas. 

Barton said he leaned on his wife, Angela, who taught the class next to him and had more teaching experience than he did, for advice. 

“I asked her a lot of questions and never predicted we'd start dating and getting married and having two kids and being married for 24 years now,” he said. “But at the time, she was like my lifeline for how to teach first grade students in a new city for me in a new school as a fresh college graduate.” 

Barton said his favorite position with the district was being the principal at West Preparatory Academy at Charles I. West Hall, or West Prep for short. As the former principal of Morris Behavior Junior/Senior High School, a school for students who have had disciplinary issues, Barton was familiar with leading a challenging school environment. 

West Prep was chaotic when he took over during the 2005-06 school year, he said, as back then West Prep, a K-12 school that today serves predominately Hispanic and Black students, was considered “persistently dangerous” and the worst performing school in the state. 

Former Clark County School Board Trustee and retired CCSD educator Linda Young, who often worked with West Las Vegas schools during her time with the district, she didn’t think Barton had what it took to turn the school around. 

“I didn't see him making it in that environment,” she said. 

But he proved her wrong, with the high school earning a five-star rating during the 2010-2011 school year, according to Barton’s resume.  

Young credits this success to Barton’s emphasis on what she calls the 5 R’s: the ability to form relationships with community leaders, students, parents and staff; his focus on academic rigor; making students’ education relevant to their future career goals; emphasizing students’ responsibility for their own education and parents’ responsibility for being involved in their children’s education; and respect for all. She said this included regular visits to students’ homes and partnering with local pastors. 

“And so when he comes on campus even now … he gets a big applause because he transcended culture and race and ethnicity and got down to what we call the whole child,” she said. 

Last month, the school surprised Barton with a bench at West Prep inscribed with his name and the years he served as the school’s principal. 

As he prepares to leave CCSD, Barton acknowledges that the district has room for improvement, and hopes the next superintendent will recognize that transformational work will require building partnerships in the community and mend the “bad blood” between the district and some state legislators that boiled over during the last legislative session. 

“I think that needs to be a bridge that's rebuilt immediately, because we need to be in partnership with the Legislature, because we've got a lot riding on that relationship, whether it's school funding, student success, etc.,” he said. “So a lot of work to be done, but you can't do it in isolation. You've got to deal with partners on the inside and outside.”

While he’s not ready to publicly announce his next job opportunity in the private sector, Barton said he will remain in Las Vegas. 

“There’s no option to go anywhere else,” he said. “This is where I am rooted. This is my home.”

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

School board races: Beadles-backed candidates lose, most Moms for Liberty picks advance

Candidates backed by Robert Beadles, an election denier and prominent GOP donor, were soundly defeated in the Washoe County School Board primary election, but most candidates backed by a far-right, conservative moms group in Southern Nevada did better. 

Lawmakers allocate funds for raises at rural school districts

State lawmakers on Thursday approved about $1.3 million of funds for educator raises at two rural school districts.

California school district leader chosen as next Douglas County schools superintendent

The Douglas County School Board voted 4-3 Tuesday to appoint Angelo “Frankie” Alvarado, a Northern California school district leader, as its next superintendent. 

Extra Credit

Gerlach's Class of '24 is just one student. The whole town turned out to see her graduate

As the only graduate from Gerlach K-12 School, Makenzie Etcheverry's graduation ceremony featured about 100 residents coming out to support her as she reached this milestone, the Reno Gazette Journal reported. 

Questions remain months after Mt. Charleston school closed by flooding

Mount Charleston residents and supporters are questioning the Clark County School District’s recommendation to close down the community’s elementary school and send students to another school more than an hour away,the Las Vegas Sun reported. The district’s Bond Oversight Committee is scheduled to discuss the school damage at its June 20 meeting

Events    

🍎 Legislature’s Interim Education Committee — Thursday, June 20, 9 a.m. 

The agenda includes presentations on educator pipeline efforts, and career and technical education and work-based learning programs. 

🇺🇸 Nevada Democracy Project — Thursday, June 20, 6-8 p.m. 

Join The Nevada Independent and Vegas PBS for our ongoing community listening sessions taking place at the CSN Henderson campus located at 700 College Dr. in Henderson. The event provides an opportunity for the public to engage with journalists and each other on community issues they care about. The event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. You can RSVP at vegaspbs.org/democracy

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What an adorable way to celebrate the end of the school year ❤️

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