School district, teachers’ union reach tentative agreement; battle over superintendent’s future looms in background
After months of negotiations, the Clark County School District has reached a tentative contract agreement with the Clark County Education Association, including an arrangement with the beleaguered Teachers Health Trust that would address a backlog of medical claims, ensure health coverage and promote transparency between the trust and beneficiaries.
The contract development, however, was overshadowed by more tensions among and between trustees and the superintendent that were surfacing Friday afternoon. A pair of agenda items for the Oct. 28 Clark County School Board meeting brings the possibility of Superintendent Jesus Jara’s contract being terminated and Trustee Linda Cavazos being yanked from her position as board president.
But as those conflicts played out in the background, school district officials announced the tentative agreement with the teachers’ union and a separate one with the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-Technical Employees during a news conference Friday afternoon. The agreements must go before the Clark County School Board for approval and also be ratified by each bargaining unit.
Fikisha Miller, the district’s chief negotiator and assistant general counsel, said the agreement with CCEA addresses transparency concerns about the Teachers Health Trust that, ultimately, will provide licensed educators and beneficiaries with more information.
“It was very, very important to CCSD that we shine a light, and let them have that information,” she said.
The agreement also sets aside $5 million to help teachers involved “through no fault of their own” in litigation related to unpaid medical claims. It also ensures that employees going through the collection process have ongoing insurance coverage.
The Teachers Health Trust has been in financial turmoil on and off for years and, most recently, was unable to pay medical claims filed prior to July.
“We can't fix everything in one agreement and perfection often ruins the intent of the good,” Miller said. “On top of that I think there are very strong guidelines and transparency, so we don't end up here again.”
The agreement between the school district and CCEA aims to create health plans that “try to manage care rather than enable an ongoing cost of care,” the union’s executive director, John Vellardita, said.
“The agreement is going to provide the type of guardrails as well as revenue to address the backlog of claims that have to be settled upon,” Vellardita said at the press conference. “Strategically, this is really about a road to recovery — a nonprofit, self-funded plan. Having enough of a plan to address the population that we have, with safeguards where there's transparency, financial accountability, etc. So it's a sustainable plan, and I think this agreement reaches that.”
The tentative contract agreements came the same day another controversy was brewing behind the scenes involving the superintendent and Clark County Board of Trustees.
Three trustees — Linda Cavazos, Lisa Guzman and Danielle Ford — have requested a board agenda item for the Oct. 28 meeting to discuss and possibly terminate Superintendent Jesus Jara’s employment contract. The Las Vegas Review-Journal first reported the action.
Cavazos, who serves as board president, told The Nevada Independent that Ford requested the agenda item, and then she and Guzman concurred with the request. She said via text message that it has to do with school climate and culture being at its worst point in years.
By Friday afternoon, an addendum to the Oct. 28 board agenda had been posted. It’s a separate request by three other trustees to remove Cavazos as the board president. Board members Lola Brooks, Evelyn Garcia Morales and Katie Williams made that request, Brooks told The Nevada Independent.
When asked what prompted the board agenda items, Brooks said there has been “some tension over redistricting,” referring to the process by which new trustee districts are drawn. Brooks also said she recently requested a meeting with Cavazos to discuss her leadership as board president. The day after that meeting request was made, though, Ford, Cavazos and Guzman asked for the board agenda item to discuss terminating Jara’s contract, Brooks said.
The dueling agenda items set the stage for another heated showdown among trustees at the Oct. 28 board meeting. Trustee Irene Cepeda, who was not involved in either agenda item request, likely will be the swing vote.
The situation is not unprecedented. The board has long been divided about Jara’s leadership as superintendent. In July 2020, Cavazos and Ford were among three trustees who called a special meeting to discuss possibly firing Jara. The third trustee was Linda Young, who has since been termed out of office. That meeting ended in fireworks before the termination discussion even began.
Reporter Jackie Valley contributed to this story.