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Indy Education: NLV Councilman Isaac Barron wraps teaching career, eyes school board

Plus, lawmakers fire back after former district boss Jesus Jara blames ineffective tenure on outside “resistance,” and residency questions swirl around trustee.
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 will be shifting the newsletter to go out every other week. Hoping all teachers and students enjoy the break, and spending this time recharging. 

Last week, I took advantage of the downtime and attended the 2024 Education Writers Association conference held at The Mirage Hotel & Casino, which will be closing next month

Here’s a sample of some interesting things I learned about during the three-day conference: 

I was also a panelist for the conference talking about the 2023 cybersecurity breach at the Clark County School District (CCSD) and saw other familiar names on the agenda, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert and Code Switch: Restorative Justice for Girls of Color, a local youth advocacy group. 

I’m looking forward to using everything I learned at the conference in future stories. 

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 District Superintendent Jesus Jara, during a CCSD board meeting on Nov. 9, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

🍎Jara says political groups stifle educational progress at CCSD Months after leaving CCSD, former Superintendent Jesus Jara says “significant resistance” from various figures including the Clark County Education Association (CCEA), Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) prevented the progress he was hoping to make at the school district. Jara reflected on his time at the district in a Saturday op-ed published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal

Jara was the superintendent of the state’s largest school district for nearly six years until he resigned in February. Over the years, he’s been blamed for issues such as the district’s high rate of teacher vacancies and low proficiency rates

Last year, calls for his resignation grew amid an ongoing contract dispute between the district and CCEA. 

In the op-ed, Jara wrote that CCEA and top legislators prioritized their personal interests over reforms. Nevada continues to be behind in national educational rankings because of its unwillingness to try accountability measures, “empowered parental choice,” early literacy and funding policies adopted in states such as Tennessee, Texas, Massachusetts and Florida, he argued. 

Last year, state lawmakers passed legislation, signed by Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo, that included a historic increase in K-12 education funding, early childhood literacy funding and a new program that set new school performance goals and tracks schools’ progress on reaching those goals. 

Democrats, however, blocked Lombardo’s attempt to expand the Opportunity Scholarship school choice program. 

CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita, Yeager and Cannizzaro have routinely criticized Jara’s tenure as a failure and “unmitigated disaster.” 

“No superintendent has done more to aggravate and antagonize the community he was supposed to serve, including sticking taxpayers with the bill for his golden parachute and giving his handful of loyalists substantial raises on his way out the door,” Yeager said in a Monday statement, referring to the $250,000 buyout Jara received upon his resignation, and the raises for his cabinet that he issued before leaving. 

Cannizzaro said in a Tuesday statement that other than being at the center of teacher contract disputes, Jara was an “unremarkable” superintendent who was “largely absent from any discussion on state education policy.” 

“I don't know of a single person in the state of Nevada who was sorry to see him go,” she said. 

🍎 Clark County School Board selects superintendent search firm — Last Wednesday, the Clark County School Board selected the Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates firm to work on its superintendent search. The Illinois-based firm will negotiate with the district for a contract, which will be brought to the board for approval in June, to conduct a search for a new superintendent.

School Spotlight

Teacher and City Councilman Isaac Barron steps into his classroom at Rancho High School in North Las Vegas on May 20, 2024.

Longtime North Las Vegas teacher bids farewell to classroom, sets sights on school board

The end of the school year was a bittersweet moment for longtime Rancho High School teacher and graduate Isaac Barron. This year, he’s not just bidding farewell to his students — he’s also saying goodbye to the classroom as he retires after about 30 years in Nevada public schools. 

“I'm hoping people thought I was a good colleague, that people thought that I cared about what I did … that perhaps I inspired kids to care a little bit about their community and care about the culture a little bit,” he said, looking over his classroom filled with years of memorabilia.

In one corner, he has a United Farm Workers union flag signed by co-founder Dolores Huerta and Richard Chavez, brother of the organization’s other co-founder, Cesar Chavez. 

Over his whiteboard hang T-shirts of the Chivas and Club América Mexican football teams and rivals. (Barron said he’s a Chivista.) Students left him messages on his whiteboard, wishing him well on his retirement. 

Before becoming a teacher, Barron said his dream job was to be a pilot in the Air Force, but his rheumatoid arthritis, which he’s had since fifth grade, put that goal out of reach. His mother suggested he go into teaching. 

After graduating from UNLV, the North Las Vegas native got his first job at French Ford Middle School in Winnemucca, teaching English as a second language. Back then, Barron said he was one of the few Latinos in Winnemucca with a college degree, so Spanish-speaking parents and community members would rely on him for help. 

After a few years, Barron would return to North Las Vegas to work as a teacher at Rancho High School, where he’s been ever since. Over the years, he’s been a soccer coach and adviser for the school’s Hispanic Student Union club along with teaching Latin American history and psychology, while juggling his role as a North Las Vegas city councilman for the last 10 years of his tenure as teacher.

“​​I think that my biggest contribution is getting young men and women involved with the community,” he said, adding that over the years, his students have volunteered with him at community functions such as back-to-school events, distributing backpacks. “I think it should be one of the main goals of education.”

While he will no longer work as a teacher, he won’t be going far. The North Las Vegas City Council is expected to vote on appointing Barron as the city’s representative on the Clark County School Board during its Thursday meeting. Barron’s appointment was delayed over a potential conflict of interest because of his status as a district employee, but it's still unclear if he can serve on the school board while holding the elected city council position. 

Barron said he’s hoping to use his insight as a recently retired, longtime teacher to inform the board’s decisions, including on the ongoing superintendent search.

“I think our district’s gonna get better,” he said. “We’re in a transitional period right now, but I have a feeling we’ll eventually find a really good person with a unique set of skills to be the top person.”

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

Judge orders Clark County School Board to rescind policy limiting appointed trustees

The recent ruling means the appointed trustees will be allowed to make motions and ask for previous decisions to be reconsidered. 

New Washoe superintendent gets longevity incentives, less money

Joe Ernst  — hired as Washoe County School District’s new superintendent last Tuesday — will make $30,000 less than his predecessor.

Extra Credit

School trustees ask DA to deal with regularly absent colleague

Five Clark County School District trustees have asked the district attorney to request that Trustee Katie Williams relinquish her seat, alleging that she no longer lives in her district as required by state law, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. 

To hold back struggling readers or not: Indiana & Ohio take different paths

As states including Nevada adopt policies that retain struggling readers, Indiana and Ohio take a different approach to address literacy proficiency, The 74 reported. 

Suspended for ‘other’: When states don’t share why kids are being kicked out of school

School discipline experts warn that these categories lack guardrails and can be used to justify suspensions for any behaviors, including minor ones, The Hechinger Report reported.  

Events    

🍎 North Las Vegas City Council meeting — Wednesday, June 5, 4 p.m.    

The council is expected to vote on whether to appoint Barron to the Clark County School Board.  

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