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Nevada group formed to find 'better' candidates for Clark County school board

Jesus Jara, Linda Cavazos
Bizuayehu Tesfaye /Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP

Superintendent Jesus Jara leaves the Clark County School Board meeting after the board of trustees voted to oust him from his position as Clark County School District Board of Trustees President Linda Cavazos continues to preside at CCSD Greer Education Center, on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Las Vegas.

The Clark County School District Board of Trustees oversees operations of the nation’s fifth-largest school district.

The seven members of the board are elected, and maybe no other elected board in this state has undergone as much controversy in the last year.

While dealing with emotional issues, like decentralization and racism policies, they were at the center of a superintendent controversy — first deciding to fire Dr. Jesus Jara, then weeks later saying they didn’t want to fire him.

They’ve publicly bickered among themselves. They’ve been attacked by parents and community members for mask mandates and other issues related to the pandemic.

The staggering mix of dramatic headlines has left some Nevadans wondering whether there’s a better way to find identify candidates to run for the Clark County School Board.

To that end, a new political action committee has been formed in Nevada called A Better Choice.

The PAC was formed by Terri Janison and Mary Beth Scow, both of whom previously served on the Clark County School Board.

"It's imperative that you get qualified individuals to oversee this district," Janison says.

A qualified candidate will have a basic understanding of how government works, what the difference is between managing and governing, and “has the demeanor to serve, to work hard, to listen,” Scow says. “It doesn’t hurt to have some business experience in working with large budgets and being able to collaborate with others.”

On fights at CCSD board meetings, Janison continues, "Things got heated when we were on the board with no pandemic … it's all about how you deal with the public … and communicate effectively."

She said the biggest issue to her was the lack of communication within the board, as any generation of the board will deal with members of the public heated on certain issues.

"We have such a need to focus on the students of this district," Scow says, noting those on the board should serve as a role model for more than 320,000 children.

"The job of the [Clark County school board] is to be strategic and set the objectives for what needs to happen in the school district, which is very powerful," says Scow. "That's not happening, we're seeing them get involved in managerial decisions."

The result, if the mission of the PAC is successful, is to have more discussion focused on student achievement rather than what we have seen at public meetings through the pandemic. They want to prepare a candidate for what the role is meant to be.

Scow said they’ve worked with a few people who said they wanted to run and have been approaching others. They want the candidates to understand the realities of the position.

"The upside is you're making a difference," Scow says. "The downside is you kind of get beat up on the issues … and the pay."

Janison says "if you truly care" about children, you can make a difference by serving on the board. "It's truly a labor of love."

Terri Jannison and Mary Beth Scow, A Better Choice PAC

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Dave Berns, now a producer for State of Nevada, recently returned to KNPR after having previously worked for the station from 2005 to 2009.