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Southern Nevada voters tune in to often overlooked Clark County school board election

AP Photo/John Locher, File

A county worker collects a mail-in ballots in a drive-thru mail-in ballot drop off area at the Clark County Election Department in Las Vegas, Nov. 2, 2020.

Early voting for primary candidates starts May 28. Traditionally, voters tend to overlook races for school board, but maybe not this year.

Three Clark County school board members are facing a total of nearly two dozen opponents.

Why so many? The school board’s problems — from bickering with each other during public meetings to unexplained decisions like firing then rehiring the school Superintendent Jesus Jara — has drawn a lot of attention.

Nevada PTA President Rebecca Dirks Garcia is a parent with kids in public schools and she’s been collecting questions from parents and talking to them, largely through her Facebook page, CCSD Parents, which has thousands of members.

Three Clark County School District board members: Irene Cepeda, Danielle Ford and Linda Cavazos, are facing a total of nearly two dozen opponents.

"I think there's a lot of people are wondering if the direction it's going in now is the direction they want it to go," Garcia said.

We have some of the largest class sizes in the country, Garcia said. "Due to decades of underfunding, [CCSD] had many crisis points that need to be addressed." She also points to diversity needs and politics. She said social media, like her group with 16,000 members, has been a place where parents have expressed political animosity.

"Throw a pandemic on top of that and you saw the fractures happen."

She said while the board was under a microscope during the pandemic, the issues weren’t new. Multiple studies, she continued, found the board doesn’t focus on student achievement, which she said should be the top priority.

“There are so many that are concerned about school safety, that are concerned about the lack of teachers and the teacher shortage and how we're going to fill that, because we know, even with a great long-term sub, there's a difference when you have a high quality trained instructor at the front of the classroom, versus substitutes going in,” she said. “And so a lot of the questions, some are hitting on those hot, nationwide, political touchpoints.”

Rebecca Dirks Garcia, president, Nevada PTA

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Kristen Kidman is a former senior producer at KNPR’s State of Nevada and is proud to be from Las Vegas.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the audience engagement specialist for Nevada Public Radio. She curates and creates content for, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.