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If Las Vegas community wants improvements in education, leaders must step up

Wade Vandervort

Superintendent Jesus Jara attends a CCSD School Board of Trustees meeting at the Clark County School District Education Center Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021.

Recent displays of dysfunctional leadership by the Clark County School District board and the Nevada Board of Regents have prompted conversations about how to restructure or reimagine those panels to make them more effective. Ideas include appointing some or all of the regents, beefing up the requirements to serve on the board, and increasing the pay.

But while all of those ideas are worth discussing, the conversation takes away from a fundamental and immediate need. At all levels, our community needs responsible, moderate and qualified leaders to step up.

The Sun will offer more on this subject in coming months, but the calamitous situations at CCSD and the higher education system scream out for good candidates — people devoted to education, not a particular ideology — to seek positions on those boards in the 2022 elections.

This applies to other offices as well, to fend off a movement by extremists to fill leadership positions even in areas that largely have not been politically partisan.

Not only that, but nationwide extremists have become a growing presence in meetings at these levels, where they try to intimidate leaders into succumbing to their wants and wishes. Our community needs responsible, ​​moderate and qualified individuals to stand up to this element, keep extremist politics on the fringe where they belong, and work in the best interests of Southern Nevadans at large.

We’ve already seen the chaos that can result from this movement, as CCSD’s pandemic precautions led to outcry among anti-vax, anti-mask parents against Superintendent Jesus Jara. No doubt, the noise from these trolls played a role in the board’s late-October vote to fire Jara, which plunged the district into turmoil which persists even though the vote was rescinded last week. Jara hasn’t indicated whether he’ll remain on the job, and the board has no idea how to replace him. That’s terrible in a district where students and families are still trying to dig out from the disruptions of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the top administrator of Nevada’s higher ed system, Chancellor Melody Rose, claims that pandemic protections were a key issue in her hostile-workplace complaint against Regents Chair Cathy McAdoo and Vice Chair Patrick Carter.

Rose alleged in the complaint that after she announced she was working to implement a vaccine mandate applying to the eight institutions overseen by the Nevada System of Higher Education, McAdoo and Carter launched an orchestrated campaign to oust her. Rose said the two board officers demeaned her, subverted her authority, discriminated against her based on her gender, and committed several ethics and code-of-conduct policy violations in their efforts to get rid of her.

For both the regents and the CCSD trustees, the handling of these situations underscored the need for a higher quality of leadership.

McAdoo and Carter caused oversight of the system to lock up for weeks by refusing to step down from their officer positions while Rose’s accusations are investigated. It should have been instinctual for these two to give up the officer seats — keeping them was an obvious conflict of interest. Under the oversight structure, the board’s chair and vice chair normally work closely with the chancellor to determine and prioritize the regents’ business and maintain effective daily operations of the system. With no communications between Rose, McAdoo and Carter, the system went into paralysis until the regents finally voted to replace its officers.

That vote also was too long in coming. All that was needed were five votes to bring about the vote on leadership, but it took a couple of responsible regents — John T. Moran and Amy Carvalho — weeks to convince enough of their colleagues to step up and do the right thing.

As far as the CCSD trustees go, it was a staggering display of poor leadership for the four board members who voted to fire Jara to do so without any plan for succession.

Now, the district is in leadership limbo.

The Sun knows we have readers out there who understand that things need to change and are capable of making a difference.

To borrow from the famous Uncle Sam military recruitment posters, Las Vegas wants you.

We need leaders who are well-educated, have organizational managing experience and, like us, are watching the uprising of extremism with growing concern.

With filing deadlines coming up this spring for a range of political positions, it’s not too early to start thinking about running for office.

It’s one thing for our community to discuss changing the structure of the boards, or beefing up the pay or requirements. (Particularly requirements for the regents and school board, neither of which currently even require candidates with a college degree. That’s shameful considering that we’re talking about education.)

But regardless of how positions are set up, their success or failure comes down to smart, level-headed and capable people to come forward and make things work.



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