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The new school year started Monday for the 322,000 students and 39,000 staff members in the Clark County School District.
And it’s the first school year with Jesus Jara at the helm as the district’s new superintendent.
Jara took over June 19 from Pat Skorkowsky, who announced his retirement earlier this year.
Jara told KNPR’s State of Nevada he is excited to be in Southern Nevada and he has had a great time getting to know the community. He said he has had several meetings with everyone from administration staff to teachers, principals, parents and students.
His slogan for the next year is simple: One Goal One Team and believes that team involves everyone
Jara hit the ground running, releasing a 90-day plan.
One of the top points of the plan is deciding on how to measure success. He said that right now the measurement is student success but he believes the measurement should be deeper than that.
“Is it just student achievement? Is it social, emotional? Is it the whole child academics?” he said, “And it’s critical because then how do we set targets.”
Jara said while Nevada ranks at or near the bottom on many school rankings there are great things happening our schools and those need to be measured.
Plus, a plan on measuring success helps the school board keep him accountable.
Those metrics are not just about test scores for Jara. He wants students to be responsible citizens and ready for the workforce.
“We want to be the choice for whatever that child, for whatever they want to dream,” he said.
For several years, one of the biggest challenges for Clark County schools has been funding.
Jara, like his predecessor, says the funding formula for schools in Nevada is out of date and needs to be fixed.
“It favors rural smaller school systems,” he said. “Clark County is the… economic engine for the state.”
He said there have been 17 studies done since the 60s that show the same thing. He said he has already talked to the State Superintendent of schools about the funding formula.
Jara is hoping the problem will finally get addressed during this legislative session.
The problem is part of why tax money from marijuana sales have not trickled down to Clark County, he said. The money goes into the main Distributive School Account and is distributed among the school districts, whether those counties allow marijuana sales or not.
It is also one of the reasons there are overcrowded classrooms at many schools. Jara said reducing class sizes by hiring more teachers will be something he is going to work on advocating for during the next legislative session.
He also said he was working with the Clark County Education Association, which is the teacher’s union, to discuss a solution to on going salary dispute.
Teachers won a salary increase through an arbitration award that was recently upheld by a District Court judge.
“I’m just as frustrated with the budget challenges that we have,” he said, “Because I know how critical the teachers, the support professionals, the building principals, the bus drivers are to this organization and to our children.”
Jara would like to see the budget for teacher salaries and teacher shortages improve, but also wants a budget bump to improve school safety.
The governor’s school safety task force laid out a number of recommendations for improving school safety and agrees with those recommendations, including hiring more school resource officers.
He said he would like to see more adults in the school to improve safety and would like to see money for that in the budget.
But the other part of it is mental health services for students.
“I think hardening our schools is critical to make sure kids are safe as they’re walking and coming in on campus,” he said, “But also, I think it’s that social, emotional that we can then wrap our arms around our children and help them deal and cope with some of the adult issues that they’re facing.”
He would like to strengthen partnerships with Nevada’s higher education institutions to smooth the path for people graduating UNLV and CSN with degrees in counseling, psychology and other mental health services to get jobs at CCSD.
Jara said he talked with outgoing superintendent Pat Skorkowsky about the position. He said his advice was to stay focused on the children. Jara said he plans to do just that as he guides the fifth largest school district into the future.
Jesus Jara, superintendent, Clark County School District
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