Just inside the front door of Tom Williams Elementary School in North Las Vegas, vending machines sell pencils, ballpoint pens and erasers for a quarter each.
The school motto is “Tom Williams Elementary School: Where kids come first.”
Within the last two years, Williams Elementary was identified as one of the 20 poorest performing schools in Clark County.
But Clark County School District officials say Nevada’s $50 million Zoom Schools program, enacted in 2013, is designed to improve Williams and other schools like it.
And as part of Governor Brian Sandoval’s school-focused budget that passed on June 1, another $50 million dollars will be added to the Zoom Schools program.
So the governor, and an entourage of state lawmakers, visited Tom Williams Elementary Wednesday afternoon to sign that bill into law.
As the governor sat at a table to sign the legislation, teachers encouraged the 40-some students at the event to gather around the table. As it turned out, the governor signed the new law, but many more autographs on paper borrowed from your reporter’s note pad.
"I'm so proud of all of you, because you've worked so hard, and you've shown that the Zoom Schools work," he said.
As the governor signed, Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, a Las Vegas Republican, smiled in the background.
"I literally get chills thinking about it," he said. "This is a pivotal moment in the educational landscape in Nevada."
Lorna James-Cervantes beamed throughout the ceremony. She is the assistant chief student achievement officer for the Clark County School District. She began her career in education more than two decades ago as a second-grade teacher.
"Also, it has helped us to reduce class size in our kindergarten classes," she said. "So, right now, our kindergarten classes are at [a] 21 to 1 [student-teacher] ratio, which, in the past, they were at a 34 or 35 to 1 ratio for full-day kindergarten."
Happy as she was at the extra money coming to the Zoom Schools program, James-Cervantes was more circumspect when asked about the prospect of Sandoval potentially moving onto higher office.
Speculation about his potential as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate has been rampant over the last few days.
"If we have somebody who is working for our schools and our education at a federal level, maybe we would see some real advances for our state at the federal level," James-Cervantes said, referring to Sandoval's potential run.
Sandoval, who many think came into his own as Nevada governor this session, said he is very close to making a decision on his future.
"I love my job," he said. "It's an honor and a privilege to serve as governor of the great state of Nevada. I think I have the best job in the United States."
But, what was arguably more important to him that day was seeing the beginning of his plans to overhaul the state's education system take hold.
Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.); Assem. Paul Anderson (R-Las Vegas); Lorna James-Cervantes, assistant chief student achievement officer, Clark County School District
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