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Minden students help North Carolina school after fire, raise money for children’s hospital

Plus: Jara remains as Clark County superintendent for now, and a new community market opens at a North Las Vegas high school.
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

Fans arrive for the Super Bowl LVIII Opening Night event at Allegiant Stadium on Feb. 5, 2024. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

🏈 Nevada teachers union critical of public funding for stadiums — Days ahead of the first Super Bowl to be held in Las Vegas, National Education Association of Southern Nevada President Vicki Kreidel shared her thoughts on using public funding to construct stadiums in an interview with MSNBC. Her union is fighting against the use of $380 million in taxpayer funds to help construct a new baseball stadium to bring the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas, and recently filed a lawsuit to block the public financing. The union has said its goal is to ensure state funding goes to essential services such as schools, “not to a California billionaire.” 

“When we're told there's no more money, when the teachers on the front line are sacrificing to try to hold the schools together with basically tape and a stapler so that we can teach, it's infuriating,” she said in the interview. 

📄 Washoe County schools seeking public input on superintendent search — The Washoe County School District has released an online survey where community members can anonymously share their thoughts on the district’s superintendent search. The Washoe County School Board is looking to select a new superintendent by mid-May and is targeting a start date of July 1, more than a month before the start of the new school year. The survey is open from now through Friday, Feb. 23.

The school board is expected to hear updates on the search at its Feb. 13 meeting. 

🥦 Food pantry opens inside North Las Vegas high school — The Just One Project, a nonprofit mobile food pantry, opened a community market at Mojave High School that will provide fresh produce, grocery items and household goods at no cost to students and their families, as well as to school employees. The market, which opened earlier this month, also offers support services such as homelessness prevention assistance. It’s open by appointment only during school hours from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. This location is the nonprofit's third to open inside of a Clark County School District campus. The organization plans to celebrate the opening of an additional market at J.E. Manch Elementary School in East Las Vegas next month.

School Spotlight

Minden students feeling proud after helping North Carolina school, children’s hospital

Minden Elementary School students selling cotton candy as part of their fundraiser late last year to benefit Renown Children’s Hospital. (Stacia Almeida/Courtesy)

It’s never too early to start helping others. Just ask the kindergarten and first grade students at Minden Elementary School.

Last month, the school’s two kindergarten classes (47 students in total) teamed up to organize a school supply drive after learning about a fire at J.C. Sawyer Elementary School in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on the last day of 2023. Though no structural damage was reported, the school’s kindergarten classrooms suffered from fire, smoke and water damage. 

During a school meeting where kindergartners and their teachers talked about the fire and the students affected, Minden kindergarten teacher Jenny Hemsath said the students wanted to step up and help that school out. 

“It was nice to see immediate empathy,” she said in an interview. “They were able to connect to what others might be feeling and they wanted to help. I think it took a while to wrap their heads around how we could help … but they were very into it.”

The classes collected about 30 pounds of supplies including pencils, markers and glue. 

“No matter how old you are, you can still help,” 6-year-old Mason Freitas said in an interview about what he learned through the experience. 

The drive came about a month after Minden first graders raised about $1,400 for Renown Children’s Hospital by selling $2 handmade friendship bracelets and $1 cotton candy late last year, far exceeding their $500 goal. The school’s two first grade classes of about 100 students were inspired to help the children’s hospital after speaking with first grade teacher Madi Hukkanen’s sister, who works there as a nurse, about her job.

The students made the bracelets and cotton candy with help from parents, volunteers and local high school students. They also made posters and a video to promote their sale. 

“They're pretty impressive, these little friends, and they definitely like to give back,” said first grade teacher Stacia Almeida in an interview.

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 superintendent pick has controversial past

The Douglas County School Board offered the top district job to former Stockton Unified School District Superintendent John Ramirez Jr. last Tuesday despite a long line of public commenters who opposed the appointment citing his past arrest for DUI, and accusations of financial mismanagement of district funds and sexual harassment.   

After delays, lawmakers release $56 million to fund educator raises at 7 districts

An interim legislative committee on Thursday approved about $56 million to fund additional raises for teachers and support staff at seven school districts. 

Clark County School Board wants to negotiate new terms for Jara’s departure

The Clark County School Board voted 5-2 Wednesday to direct its legal counsel to negotiate new terms for the pending termination of Superintendent Jesus Jara’s contract, after a vote to accept his original departure proposal failed. The board also decided to table a discussion on the appointment of a new superintendent. Numerous community members have called for the board to conduct a nationwide search to find the district’s next leader. 

After lawsuit, Clark County schools release Jara social media records

The Clark County School District has released documents related to Superintendent Jesus Jara’s X account after the teachers union filed suit, alleging that he used the account to make disparaging remarks about union leadership. 

Analysis: Lower-performing, higher-need schools in Nevada have less-experienced teachers

An analysis by The Nevada Independent found that statewide, teachers in non-Title I schools had an average of more than 20 percent more experience than those in Title I schools. Additionally, schools that have not met the state’s performance standards — denoted by a “one star” rating by the state — also had significantly lower average teacher experience than higher-performing schools.

Extra Credit

Race-based remark by union leader fuels teacher pay controversy

The head of the teachers union in the Clark County School District said he didn’t support a revised pay scale that would have better recognized veteran teachers’ education and experience because those teachers were likely to be white and in the suburbs, the Las Vegas Sun reported. 

Youth with autism are more likely to be arrested. A Nevada judge wants to remedy that

A Las Vegas-based specialty court program aims to address the behaviors of at-risk juvenile offenders with autism and to prevent them from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system as adults, NPR reported.


🍎 Washoe County School Board meeting — Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2 p.m. 

The agenda includes updates to the ongoing superintendent search and a presentation on the reduction of the district’s current walk zones, which sets the distance students must live from their school before qualifying for busing. That policy will be implemented next Tuesday. 

🍎 Douglas County School Board meeting — Tuesday, Feb. 13, 4 p.m. 

The agenda includes a discussion, and possible approval, of an employment contract for the incoming superintendent. 

Featured social media post

Check out the story on North Las Vegas-based Gilbert Academy of Creative Arts fifth grade student Miguel Garcia’s experience


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