Pat, Personally

Monday, March 20, 2017

FACES increases parent engagement

One of the most important ideas behind the reorganization of our district is the engagement of our parents and community members in our schools. We have several partners who are helping to increase parent engagement by bringing parents into the schools to find ways to get involved.

The Family and Community Engagement Services Department, or FACES, as we like to call them, has been in place for the past two years. Their purpose is to go into schools and communities to teach parents how to get engaged in their child’s education. They also teach parents how to become advocates for their child and all children in their school.

FACES has a small but mighty staff that focuses on school-based Family Engagement Centers that “establish and nurture relationships with one common goal—student achievement, through academic support, classes and workshops in a variety of topics, and access to community resources.” Visit their site at

They also work closely with school principals to go out into their community to engage parents in their home schools. This work is essential when recruiting parents to be members of parent organizations and the School Organizational Teams.

Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) began in 1897 and have been an integral part of schools ever since. Nevada has a strong PTA presence in our schools. This is not the PTA we remember from our youth; they still support schools with fundraisers, but are now advocacy groups to help the school and the district with the goal of increasing parent participation in their child’s education.

The Nevada State PTA has been busy this year, providing public service announcements for our Vegas PBS station, giving more than $40,000 to the clothing closets in our schools and are assisting our schools in so many ways. PTA is a valuable partner in the work we do and we could not ask for a better partner. Visit their site at

Family engagement in a child’s learning is an extremely high indicator of student success in schools. We must all come together to make a difference for Every Student in Every Classroom, Without Exceptions, Without Excuses.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Schools aren't immune to spring fever

It is officially March madness! I’m not referring to the NCAA Basketball Championship, although I will be watching as many games as I can. I am talking about the spring quickly approaching.

With the time change and the temperatures rising, we see an increase in nervous energy. Students long to be outside in the beautiful weather while staff members think about how much more material they must get students to master before we begin our standardized assessments. School Organizational Teams met regularly to get their strategic budgets and Plan of Operation completed by the February deadlines.

Schools are focused on making sure every student is proficient by the end of the year or that every student is on track to graduate. This involves extra tutoring, extra classes, extra homework and most of all, extra time to make sure every student is ready for the next step.

Our programs that provide additional support to students who have an Individualized Education Plan, who are English Language Learners or who have Free-and-Reduced Lunch are essential to the success of all students. We identify additional supports to these students but each one of these students must master the same standards as every other student at their grade level.

The challenge is to provide the additional support to all students who are identified: How do we utilize the categorical dollars from the last legislative session to continue to support the students in our ZOOM and Victory School programs, while also providing the support needed in other schools with their challenged population?

This week, the Senate Committee on Education will hold the first hearing of the weighted funding formula. We must all be involved to ensure that the additional dollars are making it to the classrooms where these challenged students are located, and to ensure that the accountability is strong enough to hold schools responsible for their academic success. It is no small task, but making sure that each student receives the additional dollars necessary to be successful has to be the priority!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Legislature discusses education issues

We are in the fifth week of the 2017 Nevada Legislative Session and already numerous education bills have been introduced and discussed in committees. This session is quickly developing a focus on education, much like the last session in 2015.

The Assembly Committee on Education meets every Monday and Wednesday at 3:15 p.m. The chair of the committee is Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson and the vice chair is Assemblywoman Amber Joiner.  You can monitor the committee here  or even view the meetings (livestream or archives) by clicking here.

The Senate Committee on Education meets every Tuesday and Thursday at 3:30 p.m.  The chair of the committee is Senator Mo Denis and the vice chair is Senator Joyce Woodhouse.  You can monitor the committee here or even view the meetings (livestream or archives) here.

Each year for the past 12 years, the Nevada Association of School Superintendents has met to establish a legislative platform that encompasses the needs of all school districts across Nevada.  The name of the plan is iNVest. The 2017 plan focuses on the following issues:  providing adequate basic support, complete conversion to the weighted funding formula, preserving current funding sources, establishing a rainy day fund, improving and expanding school facilities, increasing the teacher pipeline, and support for professional development.  

While each of the school districts in Nevada is very different, we all have the same basic needs as outlined in iNVest. Please review the document here. We will present iNVest 2017 to the Senate Committee on Education on March 7, 2017, and to the Assembly Committee on Education on March 8, 2017.

The CCSD Board of Trustees has developed a legislative platform to give direction for our lobbying team during the session. You can review the platform here.

As we move through the legislative session, we provide weekly updates through the CCSD Session Spotlight newsletter.  You can access previous issues of the CCSD Session Spotlight here, or if you would like to receive them by email, you can sign up here.

Here are a few ways you can let legislators know how you feel:

1. Send an email or hard copy mail. Go here and here to get contact information for legislators. Email addresses, office addresses, phone numbers (sometimes even personal cell phone numbers!) are listed.

2. If you don’t know who your legislators, click here. Type in your address and you’ll get a list of the senate, assembly, congressional and board of regents district you’re in, as well as a link to the elected officials in those offices.

3. Use the “share your opinion” option on the Nevada Legislature website. On this website you can identify the bill number, indicate whether you are for or against it, and type in comments.

This legislative session is extremely important for education in Nevada.  Please stay informed and involved!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Celebrating Nevada Reading Week

Did you know that reading can help to enhance your memory? Or that it can increase your ability to empathize with others, helps to boost your analytical thinking skills and your vocabulary? People who read are also more likely to get ahead in their careers. More importantly, reading is fun!

This week schools throughout the Clark County School District and the state are celebrating Nevada Reading Week with fun activities that promote reading.

During Nevada Reading Week, people from our community volunteer to read at our schools making reading time extra special.

This week I am excited to be visiting a few schools to read some of my favorite books to students.

Our Board of School Trustees will also be making their rounds to read some real page-turners.

And although we are putting a special emphasis on reading this week, it’s important that we read all year long.

Here are a few tips to make reading fun:

  • Take turns reading with your student and sounding out the words and paragraphs.

  • Take your child to the library or bookstore to pick out books.

  • Keep a book log with what books have been read and what lessons were taught.

  • Take a guess as to what happens after the story or have fun coming up with alternative endings.

  • Make it a habit to read every day at home.

Enjoy your books this week and let us know what books you’ve read by using the #NVReadingWeek on social media.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

On target

A few days ago, more than 620 students from 19 of our schools participated in the National Archery in the Schools Program at the Southpoint Hotel and Casino. Students in all grades from schools in all parts of the valley put their hours of practice to the test as they tried to hit a bullseye for the win.

Regardless of where their arrows hit, all students hit the mark because in order to be there they had to have good grades, demonstrate commitment and learn focus.

I highlight this because it’s a unique program, one of many that most people aren’t even aware of.

The students at the competition said they look forward to this program. They say it has helped them learn to concentrate in class, and overall, they seem to have a lot of fun.

It’s great to see school become a place where our students learn new skills and develop new interests like archery.

I encourage all our families to get to know of other fun clubs or activities in school. If there isn’t anything of interest, then see about starting something new.

For more on the event, check out our video here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Our diverse student body

Did you know we have more than 70 different languages spoken in the Clark County School District?

One of the aspects about CCSD that makes me proud is how diverse our student body is. Our CCSD families come from all corners of the world, from Latin America, Africa, Europe and it’s from those families that we get to learn about unique customs, different cultures and we are more globally diverse because of it.

I don’t know the immigration status of those students or their families. In fact, some of our undocumented students only speak English. It would be irresponsible to assume the immigration status of our students based on what languages they speak at home, or even if they speak another language because we can’t know.

What I do know is that school is a place to learn, a place for our students to make friends and to build the skillsets needed for them to conquer the world as adults. CCSD is not a place to feel afraid, to feel discriminated against and not a place to judge others.

I want to assure our students that we are not sharing their personal information, that we are not singling any students out and that we are not going through your records.

Federal law prohibits us from sharing that personal information, and on January 24th, our Board of School Trustees passed a resolution to commit to protecting the privacy of our students.

I recognize that there is a lot of political tension in news headlines and there is a lot of information – accurate and inaccurate that has people on edge. However, adult problems should never become kid problems.

Students, I want you to know that I care about all of you, that your teachers and principals care about you and we want you to feel happy and safe when you come to school.

We want you all to do your best and we want to help you get there.

Monday, February 6, 2017

CCSD celebrates CTE Month

Did you know that last year we had 1,904 seniors that graduated with 2,184 Skill of Attainment certificates?

That means that upon receiving their high school diploma, several of our students also had certificates to work as professionals in cosmetology, information technology, certified nursing assistants and even pilots among other professions.

This is just at the high school level – all across the district our students are benefiting from Career & Technical Education programs such as coding in elementary and even making robots in middle school.

As we celebrate Career & Technical Education Month, it’s important to note that our schools are a big part of creating the talented and trained workforce of Southern Nevada.

That is why we have partnered with the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance for our FutuReady program to invite employers to learn about the skills our students have.

Learn more about Career & Technical Education and what we offer not just at the Career & Technical Academies but at all 44 of our comprehensive high schools.

These students also have a 13 percent higher graduation rate as they get the opportunity to stay engaged.

I am proud that we are able to provide choices to our students and prepare them for success beyond high school.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Looking forward

The future of CCSD is about transformation.

As part of my 2017 State of the Schools address, I highlighted some of the great work already happening in our schools to transform the achievements, climate, culture and trajectories of our students.

Some schools worked with their parent and staff teams to make decisions with their budgets to increase math scores and provide more individualized help to students. This is some of the great work we expect to see from our School Organizational Teams as they roll out their priorities and implement their plans.

As we go forward with the reorganization of the school district, we will ensure that our schools not only have autonomy in the classroom, but also ensure the success of every student in every classroom.

It is with the entire community coming together that we can equip our students with what they need to be successful.

I also highlighted some of the great accomplishments happening within the district to help achieve our goals – you can read more on that in the latest issue of CCSD Achieves, which supplements the information we presented in the State of the Schools. Please take the time to read it and let’s share great information on our schools and learn how you can help us achieve our goals!

Monday, January 23, 2017

CCSD offers many educational options

As people around the country celebrate National School Choice Week, many Clark County School District families are also enjoying the variety of options offered to them.

Several years ago we made it our objective to promote school choice through Magnet Schools, Career & Technical Schools, International Baccalaureate programs and most recently, Select Schools, all which can be found on our School Choice website,

Not only do we have high-quality Magnet Schools, but last year 25 of our Magnet Schools received national recognition at the Magnet Schools of America conference.

Close to 25,000 of our students, ranging from elementary to high school, are enrolled in Magnet programs, taking advantage of more than 140 unique programs where students learn everything from medical skills, photography and fashion to architecture.

The programs are so successful that 1,900 Class of 2016 students graduated with skill of attainment certificates allowing them to jump right into a career.

Last year we added four new Magnet programs and added 810 new seats and next year we will kick off the first Robert Marzano Academy in the country adding an additional 800 more Magnet seats.
Aside from Magnet Schools, we also offer Select Schools, which have Career and Technical programs at several high schools, we have an Open Enrollment period where students can apply to unassigned schools that have extra seats and we offer online options through our Nevada Learning Academy.

More importantly, our programs are located all throughout the valley so that all students have access no matter where they live.

These programs do so much for our students and it is our hope that we can continue to add seats and opportunities for all our students.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Reaching our goals

Last week, I had the opportunity to engage in three events that were seemingly unrelated, but when you look at them as a whole, they are all directly tied together. It had me thinking all weekend about how far we have come in certain areas and how far we still have to go.

On Wednesday, I visited Western High School, home of the Warriors. I spent almost two hours walking the building with Principal Monica Cortez. We spent time talking about the students, their challenges, and how the faculty and staff were shifting the culture.

As I walked through classrooms, in hallways and during their nutrition break, I realized how wonderful the students were in their interactions with me. They had no idea who I was, but all treated me with politeness and respect. The students truly appreciated their school and realized that getting a high school diploma was important.

It was a great experience to see the various programs like band, guitar, orchestra, JAG, etc., and I truly appreciated the teachers in content areas who were finding creative ways to get students ready for finals this week.

I was pleased to hear that through the efforts of the staff, that Western High School’s graduation rate is up by more than two percent and the number of students in its JAG program has nearly doubled from last year. The school has also seen an increase of 163 students participating in its various music programs compared to last year.

On Friday, I went to the Clark County Juvenile Justice Center to visit The Harbor and attend a conference on Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline. This was held in conjunction with Clark County Juvenile Justice Services and several community leaders. The day consisted of speakers and panels of experts providing information and data and engaging in conversations about how to provide the greatest educational opportunity for students who demonstrate the greatest need.

On Saturday, I attended the Mentoring Matters Summit hosted by the College of Southern Nevada. The summit was designed to not only celebrate National and Nevada Mentoring Month, but it also focused on having strategic conversations about the resources, support and opportunities in our community.

While these were three independent events, I realized that they are interrelated.  All have the goal of getting every student to graduate. All have the goal of ensuring that students are given assistance to stay on the right path. All have the goal of making our school system better. All have the goal of ensuring the success of every student in every classroom.