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Governor Brian Sandoval passed landmark legislation to help fund education in the state during the 2015 legislative session.
Clark County School District received the lion's share of that $1 billion tax package, and was simultaneously tasked with a restructuring that would change the face of the nation's fifth largest district.
Education Savings Accounts, which would have allowed the use of state money to fund private school tuition, also took a blow in the Nevada Supreme Court earlier this year.
That, on top of the perennial issues of low graduation rates, overcrowded classrooms, teacher shortages and a crumbling infrastructure, is what superintendent Pat Skorkowsky joins KNPR to discuss.
On reorganization and empowerment schools:
I will tell you we are moving at break neck speed.
We have to have the school strategic budgets in place in by January. So that those school organizational teams can begin to plan for the 2017 – 2018 school year.
On leadership in these new autonomous schools:
We have a series of trainings that we have done both with our building principals and school staffs and parents have had access to that training. We have seven different training series we would have finished by January 15.
So all these pieces are coming together to give everybody that surface level of understanding so they can actually start the work in January.
On the new associate superintendent positions:
The whole intent is to move out of a supervisor that directs and guides and forces schools sometimes – guess forces is a bad word – requires schools to do certain things.
The model now is where the school team and the school principal have the authority to make decisions at the school level. These individuals will start off as coaches, monitors, mentors and they will provide professional development to the team to get them functioning well so they can make the choices that will impact their students.
On the fact that not all pieces are in place legislatively for empowerment schools:
That’s one of the biggest challenges we’re going to face in literally the very next couple of weeks. The board and myself have really talked about this because we have a really finite pot of money. But then we have to add weights on for special education and for second language students, for poverty students and gifted and talented.
So we’re trying to figure out how that’s going to happen. The State Department of Education is required by the regulation to come up with that weighted funding formula. We’re going to have to work closely with them to see how this is going to work, but it is a challenge with no additional funds we’re just not sure how it will play out.
Caller wanted to know what the school is doing about students who are undocumented or their parents are undocumented:
Whatever children walk in the door we’re going to teach. We will provide them the educational experience they not only deserve to get. We cannot worry about adult issues when it comes to our kids. We have to protect them. We have to teach them. We have to educate them and give them that next step.
On the controversial reorganization consultant:
There are things about this reorganization, the decentralization of services, the system of how we do business centrally to decentralize and put more resources and decision making at the school level is something that the district may or may not have expertise in.
And we’re finding as we go through this entire process is as soon as we solve one problem sometimes two more pop up. I think the main reason that the Community Implementation Counsel was formed was to assist us and break down some barriers we might have.
Caller wanted to what is being done for students who are doing well and working hard:
The new weighted formula has actually has a weight for gifted and talented students. That will help us have some sort of a focus.
The other thing is the school organization team and what plans and programs they’re going to look at to help their students. When you have a group of students, which are push and not pushed enough at school but are pushed at home or just have that internal longing to be successful, we need to build programs.
We have an accelerated learning model at the elementary level that helps push that, but we need to expand that model so that it actually takes those kids and moves them forward.
On failing schools that are moving into the charter school system:
One of the things that came out of the 2015 legislative session was the idea of achievement school district. We have seen an amazing process happen within the school district over the past six years. We have created our own district very similar to that. We call it the ‘turnaround zone.’ We actually bring in our lowest performing schools and have seen amazing results.
The charter school movement is one that has moved across the nation. We have seen some benefits and some challenges with that.
This achievement school is new to us all. The intent is to change instruction for the poorest performing students in the nation and in our district. It has mixed results across the United States.
Pat Skorkowsky, superintendent, Clark County School District