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A new leader will be a start, but Las Vegas schools need improvement

Fairfax County Public School buses are lined up at a maintenance facility in Lorton, Va., Friday, July 24, 2020.
J. Scott Applewhite
Fairfax County Public School buses are lined up at a maintenance facility in Lorton, Va., Friday, July 24, 2020.

The Clark County School District teaches more kids than roughly 13,000 other school districts in the U.S., and for the person in charge — the superintendent — it's a huge job.

So, now that embattled Superintendent Jesus Jara is gone, what do parents, teachers and staff want to see in a new school superintendent? And how long will the search take?

"We're kind of in a holding pattern right now," said April Corbin Girnus, Deputy Editor of The Nevada Current. "Last week, the trustees voted to accept requests for proposals for a search firm. So, they'll have to decide in the coming months whether to do a national or local search and what that looks like. We're still several months away from any progress on real candidates. "

One of the district's biggest problems is low teacher morale, whether it's due to low pay or burnout. Currently, more than 1,500 teaching vacancies are scattered across Clark County. The teaching shortage is likely one of the more challenging jobs the next superintendent will have to address.

Vicki Kreidel, the President of the National Education Association of Southern Nevada and a veteran teacher, told State of Nevada that even she has started warning people against education as a career.

"I don't recommend teaching as a profession right now," said Kreidel, "not to my own children or anybody. Public education is in a bad place. This is my 21st year in public education. I want it to be different. I hope we can change the culture and improve it, but I'm not seeing us move in that direction yet."

That's why many in the community, including parents and organizations such as the ACLU of Nevada, Henderson Chamber of Commerce, Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce, Latin Chamber of Commerce, Nevada Resort Association, Nevada State AFL-CIO, Retail Association of Nevada, Urban Chamber of Commerce, Vegas Chamber, and Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance have all called for the e school board to conduct a national search.

For Rebecca Dirks Garcia, a mother and the moderator of a Facebook parent's group, calls for a national search are prompted by a perception that CCSD's current leadership is not working in the community's best interest.

"There's such a challenge of people feeling like the culture and climate of CCSD is too, for lack of a better word – toxic, and promoting from within will continue the policies and procedures that have people dissatisfied," Dirks Garcia said.

At the same time, she worries that the job is too much for one person to tackle.

"One of the greatest challenges with the superintendent search is that we hang so much on one person to fix instead of recognizing as a community all the challenges that our kids are coming to school with and that we're asking the education system to fix," said Dirks-Garcia.

The superintendent's search also coincides with the 2024 general election. This year, four board seats are up for election with some trustees. For union leader Vicki Kreidel, the election is an opportunity to ensure that all trustees are working to make the school district the best place to learn and work.

"I'm looking for people I know because I've seen them advocating for students," said Kreidel. "I'm also looking for someone who listens to their constituents and the educators and staff in the buildings. When someone comes to you about a potential problem. I want someone who takes action, reaches out to different people in the district, and tries to help bring solutions to some of our problems because right now, we don't have anybody to go to."

Guests: April Corbin Girnus, deputy editor, The Nevada Current; Vicki Kreidel, teacher and President, National Education Association of Southern Nevada (NSEA); Rebecca Dirks Garcia, vice president of resource development, Nevada PTA

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Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.
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