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With layoffs and understaffing contributing to low teacher morale, Clark County Superintendent Dwight Jones says he thinks teachers have done a laudable job staying focused on children, particularly given the many challenges they face.
“When you think about some of the things that are changing at the legislature in relationship to evaluation, teachers are still trying to wrap their arms around the common core,” says Jones.
Jones acknowledges that contract talks held throughout the year and subsequent layoffs have also been difficult on teacher morale. He says that as superintendent, he is ultimately responsible for successful governance of the system, but he’s limited by working within a budget.
“I take huge responsibly in cases where I haven’t communicated as well as I should have. What’s difficult for me to take responsibility for is a budget that gets passed, and I have to implement that budget,” says Jones. “I think that’s being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers. I have to have a balanced budget, and I make no bones or apologize for that. I have to work within the criteria that are handed down.”
Jones also echoed the thoughts of exiting Deputy Superintendent Pedro Martinez who believes that Clark County is graduating many students who are not ready for higher education.
“When they exit our system, they have to be ready for something post-secondary,” says Jones. “It could be a journeyman’s license; it could be a four-year degree,” says Jones.
But he says it has been a challenge to ascertain exactly what the criteria are in preparing a student for a four-year degree, given that those criteria vary from institution to institution. He thinks that colleges have to take more responsibility to help establish those standards.
“It’s one of the things that the K-12 systems have done and a lot of people don’t totally understand it," says Jones. "We’ve been doing standards for a long time. What does a kid have to know and be able to do in order to ultimately move to the next grade? If you go to higher ed, standards don’t exist. So from one institution to the next it becomes ‘I hope we get it right.’ Hope is not a good strategy. I think we have to get better aligned.”