Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Rancho HS teacher Michelle Van Buren to be spotlighted by national CrossFit organization

Representatives of the national CrossFit organization will visit Rancho High School P.E. teacher Michelle Van Buren on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015 to highlight her CrossFit class, which she has been teaching for four years. CrossFit is a national program that emphasizes physical strength and conditioning. The organization will do a video interview with Van Buren, which will be followed the same day by "Friday Night Lights," a fundraiser for Rancho's CrossFit program. Up to 300 students and adults are expected to take part in the fundraiser, to be held from 4 to 9 p.m. on the football field or, in case of rain, in the Rancho gymnasium. For additional information email ranchocrossfit@gmail.com or visit www.ranchorams.org.

Category: employees

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Ensuring every dollar counts

In a time when budgets are tight, the Clark County School District (CCSD) will be ensuring every last dollar is used wisely and maximized. To be as efficient as possible, the district has teamed up with several community and business leaders of Las Vegas to track the value of the district’s programs and departments to ensure that they maximize the most gains in terms of student success.

The public-private partnership, known as the  Superintendent’s Executive Advisory Committee, is the first of its kind nationwide between a school district and community leaders to implement best financial practices. It includes leaders from the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance and Nevada Succeeds! The committee will work with CCSD to analyze the district’s $2.3 billion budget.

“This initiative means that we are keeping a close eye on tax dollars being spent in the classroom,” said Deputy Superintendent Kim Wooden. “That way, we can better enhance our students’ education.”

The committee created three subcommittees to better focus its efforts: the Department Evaluation Subcommittee, the Program Evaluation Subcommittee and the School Comparison Report Subcommittee.

The Department Evaluation Subcommittee will develop a framework to measure impact and performance standards of various district departments. The Program Evaluation Subcommittee will develop a framework to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of academic programs the district purchases to increase student achievement. Last but not least, the School Comparison Report Subcommittee will compare school performance with school expenditures.

By comparing schools that are similar in demographics, the district can look at how many and which schools perform better than expected with the same amount of funds. These schools can provide useful clues to practices that can be implemented in other schools.

The preliminary reports are available on ccsd.net/dollarscount. The studies are in peer review with local and national education and school finance experts. Feedback is also being collected from local stakeholders through interviews, focus groups and surveys. The school district’s goal is to provide those frameworks to the public later this year.

“This is not just a Clark County School District initiative,” said Wooden. “We are thankful for our community for coming together and giving their time and knowledge to ensure we are maximizing resources for our students.”

Category: employees

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Excellence in Education Hall of Famer Bob Proffitt teaches more than just history lessons

Bob Proffitt describes his classroom at Kenny C. Guinn Middle School as “loud but fun.” However, that only begins to tell the story of this outstanding American History teacher who was named to the Excellence in Education Hall of Fame last fall.

A native of Livingston, Mont., Proffitt has been teaching in the Clark County School District (CCSD) for 15 years. Before that, he spent three years as a teacher in San Francisco. Aside from teaching seventh grade history and eighth grade geography he also teaches “life” because as he says “I tell my students I’ve been there, done that.”

Proffitt often spends 12-hour days at Guinn being more than a teacher who brings history alive but who also shows them genuine care and compassion. “I have a very good rapport with my students,” he said. “They feel like they can tell me anything, ask me anything, and they know they will get an honest answer out of me.” Many students end up congregating in his classroom after the school day ends, but Proffitt eventually has to send them home.

“Many students at Guinn come from low-income and unstable situations, but that only allows Proffitt to find more in common with his students. “I tell them when I was their age, I wasn’t homeless, but I lived in a tent and know what it’s like to be poor and have holes in my shoes.”

Proffitt’s animated approach to teaching is well known throughout the school. “My teaching style is loud. When students give me an off-the-wall answer to a question you can hear me all over the campus.” He also refuses to teach from his desk. “I’m all over the classroom, and I ask a lot of questions. I won’t take an ‘I don’t know’ for an answer.”

The Army veteran says he is a history expert partly because, at the age of 71, he has lived through much of it. “I go back to World War II, but my students think I served in the Revolutionary War.” Rather than having his students focus on the memorization of dates, Proffitt helps his students understand the relevance of history to the world we live in today.

While many teachers dig through their own wallets to buy classroom supplies, Proffitt took that to an extreme when he replaced his standard classroom seating with new, upholstered chairs that are more comfortable to cure what he jokingly calls “TB - Tired Butt Syndrome.”

Proffitt said he was humbled by the Excellence in Education recognition, but also a bit embarrassed, explaining, “I’m not in this for me, or for the glory. I only want to help the students.” For Proffitt even greater than the recognition is when former students pay a visit and thank him for helping them succeed. “I’ve had students come back and tell me how grateful they are that I kept them on track. They tell me, ‘You made sure I did the work, and now I’m in college and have a bright future.’ I love to see the success of my students after they have moved on.”

So what are Proffitt’s future plans? “I’ve been thinking about retirement. My wife told me, ‘They will carry you out of that school in a coffin.’ But I don’t know. Even if I come to school tired, it doesn’t last because I feed off the energy of my students.”

Category: employees

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Are businesses allowed to sell alcohol near schools?

Each week, the Clark County School District (CCSD) responds to some of the emails it receives from members of the community, parents and district employees. This week, the district addresses the topic of businesses selling alcohol near schools.

A member of the community asked, “A developer is currently in the process of building a small convention center right across the street from one of your schools and they plan to sell alcohol. Is there a distance requirement between schools and where alcohol is allowed to be served?”

The Clark County Business License Department has indicated that 1,500 feet is the distance requirement between a school and a business where alcohol is being served. However, when a freeway at least 100 feet wide separates the proposed business no minimum separation is required provided there is no exterior signage visible from such uses.

Category: employees

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Teachers invited to apply for Digital Innovators Program

Vegas PBS announced the third annual PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators Program for K-12 teachers. According to the View newspaper, “PBS LearningMedia is a free media on-demand service of Vegas PBS that offers more than 87,000 digital resources for educators. The program recognizes the nation’s top 100 applicants who are incorporating digital media in classrooms and serving as leaders in educational technology.” Educators can apply to the program by visiting pbslearningmedia.org/digitalinnovators. The deadline for applications is Feb. 11, 2015.

Category: employees

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
CCSD Has Strong Legislative Agenda

When the Nevada Legislature convenes its next session Feb. 2, education issues are expected to be front and center. Leading the charge for the Clark County School District (CCSD) will be Associate Superintendent of Community and Government Relations Joyce Haldeman. Her department has the task of presenting the education platform set forth by the CCSD Board of Trustees and Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky.

The Trustees have identified five major issues as legislative priorities:

Revise the Nevada Plan Funding Formula: Implementation of a weighted funding model that addresses the needs of specific student populations including English Language Learners, special education and children living in poverty. The Nevada Plan has been in existence since 1967. Haldeman said, “The funding formula that worked then doesn’t work now.”

School Construction: Address the capital infrastructure needs of school districts to promote a safe, optimum learning environment for students. Haldeman said, “Every county in the state is in need of facilities and if we are given legislative authorities to roll over the existing tax rate we can start building new schools right away to address our overcrowding.”

Zoom Schools: Expansion of the program created in 2013 to additional schools. Zoom Schools have large numbers of English Language Learners who receive preschool, full-day kindergarten at a 21:1 ratio, reading centers, and an extended school year.

Full-Day Kindergarten: Expansion of the current program to provide state-funded full-day kindergarten to all schools. Haldeman said, “In Clark County we are down to 15 percent of the schools that don’t have full-day kindergarten. All students deserve the same amount of instructional time for kindergarten.”

Education Stabilization Fund: Create a “rainy day” fund to ensure consistent allocations to school districts in economic downturns.

CCSD is also allowed to submit two bill draft requests for consideration by the legislature, and the Board of Trustees approved the submittal of BDRs 472 and 473.

BDR 472 (now Senate Bill 75) will ensure all students have the same amount of instruction before taking high-stakes assessments required by law. BDR 473 (now Assembly Bill 55) proposes changes to the law to allow newly hired teachers a six-month window to complete testing that is necessary to obtain Nevada licensure. Haldeman said, “The availability of a temporary permit for new teachers who relocate to Nevada will be of great help to school districts in recruiting teachers.”

Haldeman added, “I don’t think that there is a person in Carson City who doesn’t care about education and doesn’t want to do the right thing for our students. We look forward to working with them and hope to get them to agree with our position on issues.”

To read more about proposals related to education that Governor Sandoval made in his State of the State speech, please read this week’s Pat, Personally blog here.
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Category: employees

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Talented Dr. Cushinery is a GRAMMY finalist again

Earning a nomination from the GRAMMY Foundation is an honor, but earning a second nod is a testament to one’s dedication and work. Charles Cushinery’s recent second nomination for the GRAMMY Music Educator Award proves that the Ed W. Clark High School teacher has been an integral part in the high school’s pledge to achieve greater student success.

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wis., Cushinery’s foray into music started at the age of eight in his elementary school’s recorder program. After a year with the recorder, Cushinery switched to the violin at his father’s suggestion and has never turned back since. He spent 25 years in Milwaukee as a professional musician specializing in swing violin and jazz before moving to Las Vegas to continue his career. Cushinery picked up teaching music as a bridge to stay connected with his interests and eventually decided to do it full-time.

“I fell in love with teaching,” said Cushinery. “It became very apparent that in order to do it well, you have to devote to it 100 percent. It would have been a disservice to my students if I did not put in 100 percent.”

The seasoned musician is one of 10 finalists out of more than 7,000 candidates in the running for the grand prize of a $10,000 honorarium. The other nine finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium and the schools of all 10 finalists will also receive matching grants.

Clark High School’s upper strings coach, Lisa Ratigan, nominated Cushinery for the award. “His philosophy is all about the journey,” said Ratigan. “Everyone is on a different musical journey. Some are farther along their path than others, but everyone can take this journey and go as far as they want to take it, and he makes it fun.”

Cushinery used last year’s finalist prize money to augment Clark High School’s music program by purchasing equipment and software for the high school’s new electronic dance music program. The program marries music and technology and falls in line with Clark High School’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) initiative.

“That’s our contribution to integrating tech with the arts,” said Cushinery. “The program’s goal is to get the other segment of student population that is not being served by the traditional music structure that we offer.”

Cushinery plans to invest this year’s reward into the electronic dance music program by purchasing more equipment and software.

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Category: employees

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
The requirements concerning recess and instruction times

Each week, the Clark County School District (CCSD) responds to some of the emails it receives from parents and district employees. This week, the district addresses the topic of recess requirements.

A parent stated, “I have noticed some differences in school structure from when I attended elementary school and I am concerned about the lack of recess and opportunities for children to be active. I believe a balance of activity and classroom time will promote better learning, so what are the requirements concerning recess time versus instruction time?”

As outlined by the Board of Trustees Regulation 5157 pertaining to Student Wellness:

  • All elementary schools will serve lunch after the midday recess period.
  • All schools will designate at least 15 minutes for students to consume the breakfast meal.
  • All schools will designate at least 20 minutes for students to consume the lunch meal.
  • All schools will designate at least 30 minutes of time daily for physical activity.

These are the minimum requirements for recess, breakfast and lunch breaks, each school must meet these requirements but can then modify or add to the breaks as they see fit. For specific activity times and length, parents should check with their child’s school.

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Category: employees

Thursday, January 15, 2015
UNLV touts Troops to Teachers program

As reported by KLAS-TV, “Veterans with a Bachelor's degree that are interested in becoming an educator have an opportunity to get on the fast track to becoming a teacher in Clark County.” A spokeswoman for UNLV said veterans are good teaching candidates because they have discipline, skills and other valuable attributes.

Category: employees

Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Making a decision on year-round schedules in overcrowded schools

Each week, the Clark County School District (CCSD) responds to some of the emails it receives from parents and district employees. This week, the district addresses the Watch List topic.

A parent inquired, “I was informed that my child’s elementary school has been placed on a Watch List for overcrowded schools. How is the decision made on which schools will change to year-round schedules and when will these decisions be made? I also have a child in middle school and do not want to have them on different schedules, so what options do I have if my elementary school is placed on a year-round schedule?”

While the district recently placed 61 elementary schools on its Watch List, we know that it will not be necessary to convert all of them to a year-round schedule for the 2015-16 school year. CCSD is currently in the process of studying growth patterns in attendance zones for these schools. Once the data has been analyzed, Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky will make a decision by February, so students, parents and staff at the impacted schools can be notified and adjust accordingly.

Since there are no middle or high schools that are on – or are being considered for year-round status, parents that have a child that is in a year-round elementary school and also have a middle and/or high school student, will be faced with different schedules. Parents in this situation can request a Track 5 placement for their elementary school child as that schedule most closely aligns with the traditional nine-month schedule for middle and high schools. Parents who want to remain on a nine-month schedule with their elementary school child can consider requesting a zone variance to have their child attend a different school. However, parents who choose this option need to know that transportation will not be provided.

Parents who would like to provide input on this topic can send their comments to pskorkowsky@interact.ccsd.net or by attending the monthly Attendance Zone Advisory Commission (AZAC) meetings. The members of AZAC are currently discussing rezoning options for a number of schools and for information on those meetings, visit azac.ccsd.net.

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Category: employees