Tuesday, February 6, 2018
On Feb. 3, at the University of Nevada, Reno, I had the privilege of judging the Nevada state competition of “We the People.” During this competition, teams of seniors prepare for simulated congressional hearing on questions related to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and all Amendments to the Constitution. The overall purpose is to engage students in both the history of our country as well as its future.
Teams from Canyon Springs High School, Clark High School, West Career and Technical Academy, Southwest Career and Technical Academy, and College of Southern Nevada – East competed against Reno High School, Incline Village High School and Bishop Manogue High School from Northern Nevada. Reno High School won the state competition and will advance to the national competition in Washington, D.C. The Canyon Springs High school team, under the coaching of Dr. Lou Grillo, came in third place.
Each year, almost 100 judges, lawyers, legislators and community individuals volunteer to judge on a Saturday in December for the district level competition, and again in February for the state level competition. While the competition is tough and students are focused on winning, the biggest winner is our state. Each year, this program reaches hundreds of students from Nevada who not only study the Constitution and Amendments, but also thousands of court cases and rulings. These students learn, firsthand, the ideals our country was founded on and how our democratic system works and thrives.
I have watched students take a six-month journey through our country’s history and be able to not only formulate a convincing argument, but also defend their viewpoints during a rigorous cross examination period. I have seen students apply court rulings and interpretations of ideals based on the We the People program. I have seen students who have changed career paths based on participation. I have seen students bring alive documents that contain the foundation and basis of our entire way of life, and that most adults have never read or choose to ignore. I have seen students grow from a state of apathy to a state of activism. I have seen students become actively engaged adults through this program.
While politics in the state of Nevada and our country may seem in turmoil at times, I can assure you that I have seen the future. The future of our democratic system is in good hands if we trust our We the People students to be the next leaders!
Monday, January 22, 2018
There is a misconception in Nevada that our schools rank last in the nation. This largely comes from the yearly Quality Counts report put out by Education Week.
Monday, January 8, 2018
CCSD is continuing to provide better customer service and transparency to our schools as part of the Clark County Schools Achieve Reorganization Effort. One major step we recommend comes as a result of collaboration with a group led by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to create a proposal for the development of service level agreements (SLAs) that will help schools understand the cost and scope of central services they receive and give them more autonomy over how resources are spent at their schools.
On Jan. 11, 2018, an item is included on the agenda of the Regular Meeting of the Board of Trustees that recommends the transfer of responsibilities as required by Assembly Bill 469, Section 16, through service level agreements.
A vote in favor of this item would accomplish several objectives required by AB 469 and also could advance the board’s desire to increase customer service and transparency:
This item will transfer the authority to schools for carrying out the responsibilities of some direct services to schools, including: Assessment, Athletics, Student Activities, Fine Arts, Orchestra, Summer School, Staff Development Services, Education Services Division, Attendance Enforcement, Safe & Drug Free Schools, Legislatively Mandated Defibrillator and EpiPen Services, Credit Recovery, Graduation Services, Alternative Student Programs, Gifted and Talented Education, Moapa Valley Farm, English Language Learner School Services, English Language Learner Testing, Prime 6 field trips, Transportation, Vehicle Maintenance, Landscaping, Utilities, Technology Support, School Site Administration - Human Resources Allocation, Trash Disposal, Human Resources Extended Day Staffing, Police Services, Partnership Office Field Trips, and University of Family Learning Services and Staff.
This item would also provide funding for these direct services to schools into school strategic budgets, and schools will continue to purchase the services listed above from district Central Services using that allocation for the 2018-19 school year.
Finally, approval of this item would also allow the Clark County School District to be in compliance with Assembly Bill 469, Section 18, which requires that 85 percent of the district’s unrestricted funds be allocated to schools.
Here's how the SLA process will work:
SLAs will be drafted between January and June 2018, to memorialize the actual services being provided to schools and the cost of those services. Comprehensive SLAs will be developed for the services provided to ensure that both schools and central services meet required standards.
All funds for direct services to schools that are currently provided by central services will be placed into the strategic budgets of each school precinct.
All direct services to schools will continue to be provided by Central Services in the 2018-19 school year in order to provide stability in the first full year of implementation of SLAs and these transfers of responsibility. This will also give Central Services the opportunity to continue to focus on our level of service and demonstrate to schools that we provide the most reliable, highest-quality direct services to schools.
A feedback mechanism will be established as part of the SLA process to ensure schools receive excellent customer service in the direct services that central provides to schools. Feedback will be obtained during the 2018-19 school year to include: measures of performance, cost of services to individual schools, and the school’s overall satisfaction with the service. The information provided in SLAs and the process for gathering feedback from school communities will inform discussions regarding services that principals may opt to obtain from alternate providers in future years, pending Board approval, as provided in AB 469. School plans that may lead to requests for proposals will be brought back to the board for consideration pursuant to Nevada Revised Statute 332.
The Board of Trustees previously approved the transfer of two responsibilities to schools, including Ensuring a Clean, Well-Maintained Learning Environment and School Technology Support and Compliance. The responsibilities listed in the item for the January 11 meeting are in addition to these items.
SLAs are an important step in complying with AB 469 and to advance the board’s strategic imperatives of increasing academic excellence, engagement, school support, and clarity and focus.
Monday, December 18, 2017
The start of the Winter Break is upon us, and that means it’s time to give thanks and enjoy the holiday season with friends and family.
As you wrap up this week, I would like to thank all of you for your ongoing efforts. I encourage you to enjoy the time off and come back safe and recharged for the New Year when classes resume on January 8, 2018.
I would also like to encourage you to watch this holiday video in which members of the Board of School Trustees and I celebrate the success we have seen so far this school year, and also say Happy Holidays to our CCSD family.
Best wishes to you and yours during this holiday season.
Monday, December 11, 2017
It is the holiday season and people are excited about the flurry of activities and upcoming time with family. I want to tell you about something else that I am really excited about.
One of our partners in education, the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) just announced details about the Nevada Promise Scholarship that was created during the 2017 Nevada Legislative session.
By now, you may be asking “What is the Promise Scholarship?”
An abundance of information about the program is available at csn.edu/promise-mentor. The scholarship provides coverage of tuition and other mandatory fees not met by federal or state aid for up to three years. There are no income or high school GPA requirements, and it is open to all Nevada high school seniors graduating in 2018 who will begin classes at CSN in the fall of 2018.
This program is designed to increase the number of students who attend college. This scholarship incorporates service learning and assigns a mentor to recent Nevada high school graduates entering a community college in the semester after graduation.
As CSN begins to implement this program, they are issuing a call to the community for 1,500 volunteers to serve as mentors to these students. Think about it… this is an opportunity for each of you to give back to the community by continuing to help our young adults with just a few hours of your time.
As the superintendent of the Clark County School District, I have the opportunity to see our children in kindergarten through high school learn and grow as they prepare to become the future leaders of our community. Through this program, I look forward to having the opportunity to mentor one of these outstanding young adults and help them prepare for a bright future beyond their K-12 education.
I have volunteered and would like you to consider becoming a volunteer as well. The success of our community depends on our emerging leaders, whether they are attending CCSD or CSN.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) held its Third Annual Education Summit on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. There were many individuals from UNLV present, as well as community leaders, business leaders, teachers, administrators, and others who are committed to improving public education in the K-12 arena.
The tone of the day was one of hope and determination. Each presentation, speaker and panel talked about the challenges facing public education and the potential solutions. I hope that through these types of conversations, a new coalition can be formed that ensures that everyone is on the same page and moving toward the same goals.
This week I also met with business leaders in the community at the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance Council of Chambers meeting to discuss CCSD’s budget. Many in attendance asked about the budget shortfall. Along with Chief Financial Officer Jason Goudie, we laid out the actions taken to balance the budget, but most importantly, I see the willingness from our business community to want to be partners with CCSD as they understand the circumstances behind the school district’s budget.
Students are facing more difficult challenges every day. As adults, we have to put our minds and influence together to ensure that everyone in this city and state is focused on the students, our students. The success of our community depends on our success with our students.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
On Thanksgiving, I always reflect on how thankful I am for every Clark County School District (CCSD) staff member who works so hard on behalf of our students.
So it works out well that this week is American Education Week, a week that honors the teachers who spend innumerable hours working with our children, and also the staff who keep our students safe, transport our students, prepare their food, keep their school clean – and so much more.
CCSD hosted several events this week aimed at highlighting the hard work and accomplishments of our students and staff:
We recognized our 62 National Merit Scholar semifinalists with a reception at Green Valley High School, presenting certificates to students who are among the less than one percent of high school seniors nationwide to be chosen for this prestigious honor.
Spread the Word Nevada presented free books to all students and their families at Gordon McCaw Elementary School.
We celebrated the achievements of 200 Advanced Placement students at Cheyenne High School as part of a celebration of the growing number of CCSD students taking AP classes and exams.
Seven outstanding support staff from throughout CCSD were honored during a special surprise ceremony at West Career and Technical Academy. Each of the employees, who were nominated by the Board of School Trustees, received a personalized gift from WCTA students.
Shirley and Bill Wallin Elementary School held an open house to celebrate its selection as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School, along with Sandra Lee Thompson Elementary School.
Culinary Arts students from five CCSD high schools will showcase their cooking talents during the fourth-annual "Diced!" culinary competition at Southwest Career and Technical Academy.
I want to thank everyone who plays a role – and they are big roles – in educating and supporting our students.
Let us all take the time to celebrate what makes our district great: Our teachers, our support staff, our administrators, our students, our parents, and our communities. I am thankful for you all.
Enjoy your break next week!
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
We know the vast majority of our Clark County School District (CCSD) employees and volunteers are dedicated to our students and act appropriately around them. We also know that parents and members of the community are understandably concerned about news reports in recent years on arrests involving sexual misconduct allegations against CCSD employees or volunteers.
Over the past few months, CCSD has been working to set appropriate boundaries and methods of communication for employees/volunteers and students. We worked to strike the right balance between allowing employees/volunteers to develop trusting relationships while also protecting students from the rare person who wants to take advantage of that trust.
In August, the Board of School Trustees approved Policy and Regulation 4100, which was the result of input from numerous working groups and public meetings. The regulation and policy outline appropriate interaction and communication between adults and CCSD students:
Communication with students should be through “logable” online platforms that track conversations such as Google Classroom or remind.com. This is for the protection of students and employees/volunteers.
Employees and volunteers should only text students in a group message with other students or staff/volunteers, and electronic communication should be avoided during the hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., unless there is an exigent – or urgent – situation.
If an urgent situation occurs and employees/volunteers text one-on-one with a student, or communicate with a student during off hours, the communication should be reported to a supervisor within 24 hours.
The regulation and policy also incorporate a new state law, Senate Bill 287, which now requires volunteers with unsupervised OR regular contact with students to be fingerprinted. CCSD staff worked with other districts in Nevada to define “regular” contact as someone who volunteers at least four times a month.
I’ve heard concerns from employees and the community that this new law may deter parents and family members from volunteering in our schools because of the cost or inconvenience of fingerprinting. I share these concerns. Parent and family engagement is one of the top priorities outlined in the Pledge of Achievement and it is my sincere hope that families will continue to participate in their child’s education while understanding the need to keep all students safe. A short survey regarding these new fingerprinting requirements can be found at ccsd.net/protectourkids. We will share the input we receive with legislators during the 2019 Legislative session.
Ultimately, we all must work together to protect our kids. CCSD is developing videos so employees, volunteers, parents and students are able to better understand regulation and policy 4100 to ensure students, employees and volunteers are protected. To learn more about the new regulation and policy, visit: ccsd.net/protectourkids. I appreciate each one of you working to keep our students safe.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Last week, during my weekly visits to schools, I made a special unscheduled stop. I checked in with the office manager (the principal was out at a meeting) and was escorted out to a portable classroom. I knocked on the door and waited, not completely sure what I was going to say to this young teacher. He opened the door and I introduced myself and instantly we fell into an easy conversation that lasted about 30 minutes, as he was on his prep period.
The uncertainty about the conversation came from the fact that we had spoken on the phone one time and sent texts back for about three weeks. You see, this young teacher was at the Route 91 Harvest Festival with his girlfriend and was hit by a ricocheting bullet in the back of his leg. The conversation was comfortable, but at times emotional. He wasn’t sure if any other employee were wounded (he was the only one, as far as I know), wasn’t sure if any students were wounded (one current and a few former students were injured), or if there was any loss of life (a recent CCSD graduate of Basic High School did pass away, as did several current parents). There were so many employees, families and friends who were there at the event and so many who were fortunate enough to live.
As I sat there, I realized that there is no way to truly comprehend what he had been through, no way to try to relate to his own personal experience during this traumatic event. I could talk about the numerous employees that were helping in our schools and across the valley with the victims, victims’ families and with employees in casinos in the immediate area of the event. I could ask about his healing process, both physically and emotionally, but I couldn’t truly understand the emotions that he must have been feeling.
In the Review-Journal, there was an article about a high school English persuasive/argumentative writing prompt completed by one of our students who was at the event. As I read the article, I couldn’t help but think about my conversation with the teacher – how similar their experiences were, and how they were both struggling to make sense of a senseless act.
We are all still quite emotional about this incident, but if I have learned one thing about our community in the past 29 years, we rally when we need to! We may not know our neighbors on our street, or have had more than a 3-minute conversation with them if we know their names, but when we are faced with a tragic event, we pull together.
As we leave October and head into the next few months where family is the focus, we need to remember that in the worst of times, we are all one family. And family takes care of each other. Family steps up with those less fortunate and those who are hurting. Family helps us keep going every day, even when tragedy strikes our community.
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
On Thursday, we are bringing two action items to the Board of School Trustees to help the Clark County School District comply with Assembly Bill 469, the bill that requires the reorganization of the Clark County School District.
AB 469 requires CCSD to provide more autonomy and flexibility to each school -- and to put more decisions in the hands of people who are closest to students. In an effort to increase the autonomy of schools, CCSD has started a process to transfer some responsibilities to local school precincts for the 2018-19 school year.
How did we go about this work? Over the past few months, we have polled principals three times to ask if they want more control over some services provided centrally.
In total, 10 principals said they wanted to take control over some services - specifically, custodial services and school technology support. Therefore, we decided to propose pilot programs for those principals in the 2018-19 school year. If passed by the Board Thursday, here’s how the pilot programs would work:
The District would pilot a program with several schools interested in taking responsibility for their own custodial services. The District would run a request for proposals from companies interested in providing custodial services. Our goal would be to provide those principals with choices of several outside companies they could choose from to provide some or all of their custodial services in 2018-19. We believe we will be able to absorb any custodial positions involved in this pilot process into other positions within CCSD.
The District also would pilot a program with several schools interested in taking responsibility for their own school technology support. Those schools would transfer their IT positions to open positions at central services, and they would receive credit for the cost of those positions in their school strategic budget. Then, the schools will buy back services from central when they need technology support. No positions will be eliminated in this pilot program.
These actions are outlined in items 5.01-5.03 on the Oct. 26, 2017 agenda.
The vast majority of our principals tell us they instead want better, more responsive customer service from central services, which we have been working to provide. We value all of our employees, and CCSD believes that these pilots will help show that our own employees can provide the best, most efficient services to schools. Ultimately, it is our goal that each school precinct will choose CCSD services.