On this special
School Matters edition of Inside Education,
we sit down with the Clark County
School District’s new Superintendent as
well as the President of the School
Board of Trustees.We talk isues, plans,
concerns and community
as we get to know
the new Superintendent
a lttle bit better.We hope you stay with us for this important
conversation. School Matters
starts right now. ♪♪♪ Thank you for joining us
for this special School Matters edition
of Inside Education. I’m your host,
Mitch Truswell. With the start
of a new school year comes a new
superintendent.Dr. Jesus Jara started
his new job as head
of the Clark County
School District in June.
He is spending his first
months on a listening tour
meeting with the Board
of School Trustees,
District employees,
families
and community leaders
to learn firsthand
about the needs of
students, employees,
families
and the community.
But right now
we’re going to hear
what he has to say.Joining me now is
the new Superintendent for the Clark County
School District, Dr. Jesus Jara,
and School Board of Trustees President
Deanna Wright. Dr. Jara, first of all
welcome to you, and welcome to
Inside Education. -Thank you.
Thank you for having me. I’m excited
to be here with you. -We’re happy to have you
and Trustee Wright as well. Thank you for coming again. You’ve been busy
since you started. We’ve been watching. You’ve been talking
to a lot of folks. I want to get your
first impressions, but I want to know
what you’re hearing. What are you hearing
in the listening tour that you’ve been on? (Dr. Jesus Jara)
Thank you, and
I’m glad you’ve been kind of paying
attention a little on where I’ve been
spending time learning and listening
from our community. It’s important for me,
and I go back to when I interviewed
and came out for the job and had a conversation. I’ve seen a lot
of great things, but it wasn’t about a
recipe that comes in and you have, because every
school system has their own culture and their
own beliefs of what they want to do. So it was important for me
coming out of the gate to set a plan for
the first 90 days, and an important piece
of it was to really listen and learn
from our community, meaning communities
and all stakeholders. It’s not just
the internal staff. I mean,
they’re important, but I started
having conversations in my first week
with teachers, support staff and
with our principals. The first day I met
with every Trustee individually to have
a clear understanding of where
they wanted to go as an organization
and continued on with business partners
and also business leaders in this community
because I believe Clark County is to me
the economic engine, because you are
producing top students with an effort
to make sure they go into the workforce
and go into college, but then also when
businesses come in, the first question is
how is the school system, how are your schools, so it was important to
get a clear perspective. What I’m hearing is
there’s a lot of excitement,
and what I try to say to the members
and everybody is it’s not about
excitement. Please don’t be excited
about just one person, because it’s
not just one person that can do this job.
-It takes a village. -It does, and there’s
322,000 students and only 40,000
employees, so we need
everybody on board. So with a clear message
of one team with one goal to be number one,
“CCSD #1 for Kids,” and that’s for every kid
to do whatever they feel they’re capable of
in our schools. So the excitement,
and I’ll be candid and I’ve had
this conversation with the Trustees,
there’s some concerns on transparency
and lack of trust. So some things
that we have to then change that narrative,
so having me here on your program
so we can get a real picture
of the great things happening in this
school system right now. I said to our principals
and leaders last Friday, how do we move from
pockets of greatness, right, because there’s
great things happening in our schools,
how do we move from that, great schools,
individual schools, to a great system
of schools where all 360 of our schools
are great schools for every single student? -You’ve had the chance
to come in contact in the listening tour
with some parents, have you not? -I have. Actually,
a week ago I was part of a Facebook Live,
that was one, but we also had
some round tables, some folks that
came into my office, absolutely.
-Right. What were the
takeaways from that? What are you hearing
from parents when they’re talking to
the new Superintendent? -The new guy?
-Yeah, the new guy. -So here’s
one of the things, I feel their passion. I feel their
passion for kids and wanting
to be involved, and I think we’re
at a tipping point, if you will,
that we then need to work with them
to really provide high-quality education. One of the things
they’re concerned about, parents,
and I told them, I said I understand
the challenge, their concern about
the class size. That is a concern and
it’s a concern of mine, and it’s how do we
then work together in Carson City and
the legislative process? They want to be part
of the conversation, which is really
exciting, and moving away from
just as I tell them, I say, I don’t want you
to be involved just around bake sales
and candy sales. I want you to be
involved in really moving us forward
together as one team. They’re part of the team. I told them, I said,
you’re going to be part of our team
to then help us. -And what was the big
concern from the business community
that you heard? -You know, transparency
on the funding, and that’s one
of the things– and before I got here,
I give credit to our CFO, Jason Goudie, who is
doing a great job with trying to get
the understanding of where the money is
and where it’s not. So last Board meeting,
two meetings ago, he had a presentation
for the Board of our projected budget,
where we’re going to end up at the end
of the fiscal year, and those are some of
the things that again we continue to share,
and we’re not hiding. We’re not hiding money. Here’s what we’re doing
and where we’re going and how we’re going
to get better. So a lack of transparency
with the money is a challenge for some
of our business partners. -That’s good
to know, though. Trustee Wright,
this listening tour that Superintendent
Jara has been on, this was an
intentional act. This was something the
Board wanted him to do. Why was this important
from your perspective and the Board’s
perspective? (Deanna Wright)
Well, I think one of
the things as a Board we heard during the
process was the concern of an external candidate, someone who wasn’t here
already in Clark County, knowing our state,
our system, seeing the pockets
of excellence, having relationships
with legislators, business community,
our parent groups, PTA, PTOs
and our SOT teams, all those things. So this listening tour
was an intentional act to make sure that he
could get connected with those people,
and let me tell you, this is one smart man. He’s up to speed
pretty dang fast. -That’s great.
-Thank you. You know– and thank you,
Trustee Wright. One of the things is
you’re hearing the excitement
and there’s hope, and what I say to them
when some of them wish me luck, I say well,
it’s not luck for me, it’s for the entire
community because our kids are
counting on us, and that’s the message
I want everyone to know. Our kids are depending
on the adults to all get aligned
to help them. -Let’s talk briefly
about your background. You’ve said in the past
that education really gave you
an opportunity. What do you mean by that? -I always go back to when
I first came to America in fourth grade
from Venezuela. My parents
decided to move, and one of the things
I always say is when we think
about our kids, our kids are scared,
are nervous when they’re coming
to this country because my parents
didn’t ask me, hey, do you want to move
to the United States, they just made
the adult decision. When we were here,
we knew– my mom understood that
public education was going to be the key,
and that’s why I believe it’s the great equalizer
to where I am today. It’s what my teachers,
my principals and my counselors
did for me. I still remember
my fourth grade teacher Ms. Kilbright
who nurtured me and really pushed me
into understanding that it was important
to learn the language. My mother, who has
a sixth grade education, made a concerted
effort and said this is what
you need to do to make it
in this country. So to me I see a lot kids
in our urban schools are going through some
of the same challenges. Then I became a bilingual
biology teacher in Miami and seeing kids
coming into this country with a fire to learn
and to get better, it made a huge impact. Then as I continued
in my career, it was always with
that notion if all kids have a caring adult
in every school, our kids will succeed
at high levels, and I always put my
money on our students. -That caring adult that
you had when you were in elementary school,
is that why you went into
teaching, you think? -No. When I go back
and I think back to going into the
teaching profession, it’s just more of
being around athletics. I was an athletic
trainer, and looking at the
opportunity as a coach, I was able to provide
that mentoring. So I was coaching and
then an athletic teacher and I was
a teacher as well, so it just sort
of happened. My wife and I, we were
dating at that point, she said you really can
see the passion for kids, and then she’s
always pushed me to really stay
focused on education. So it’s something
that just happened, and as I progressed
in my career, it was how do you
make a bigger impact with more kids? You go from a classroom
to then a building to then the
district office. You never forget that
classroom teacher and your classroom,
but you’re making a greater impact in
the overall community. -Let’s talk about
some of the issues that have been
an issue for– well, not only
this district but districts
across the country, the teacher shortage. I know you want to make
sure every classroom has a teacher,
but I think we’re about 500 short as the
school year begins. I think it’s about 500? -We’re 97% staffed,
so let’s look at the numbers
the other direction. We’re 97% fully
staffed for the year. -Great, but how do
we make up that? That’s a great point but
how do we make up that 3%, because it seems like
it’s an issue every year, and it’s not just
this district. -You’re right. There’s a couple things, and actually
when I came out in my 90-day plan,
I said you know what, I want to start school
on the first day with fully staffed
classrooms, and I knew that was
an obstacle but that’s what our kids deserve,
so how do we get to that? I remember Trustee Wright
said to me, look… And I said that’s where I draw the line
in the sand. I think every
student deserves a highly qualified teacher
in every classroom, so how do we move
into that direction? Trustee Wright
is correct, 97%, so we have about 500
vacancies right now. One of the other things
is after school starts, we hire, the number
is about 400 teachers, so now we’re
looking at the gap. We have to be strategic
in how we recruit and retain our teachers.
and that’s one thing we need to have some
conversations on. I met with UNLV a week ago
and I told them, I said we need
to start strengthening our partnership
and maybe spread out the College of Education
because you have maybe math majors just
studying mathematics, well, bring them
into our classrooms and we can help them, find ways to be
creative to do that. There is a national
shortage of teachers, and that’s where we need
partners like you and others in this
community to say teaching is
a great profession. How do we partner to
bring in teachers that are going
to stay with our kids who have a passion
for education? It is something that’s
at the state level also, because to be
quite candid, in Florida we were
facing some challenges because some
of the state policies and laws that
were enacted by the legislature
were deterring teachers from going
into the profession. When you look
across the country, going into
higher education, going into the
teaching profession, that number
is also decreasing. It’s a conversation about
how great the profession is and the impact
you have on kids. -And there’s also
another part to it, retaining those teachers
so they want to stay. -I think nationally we
need to have a discussion about elevating the
profession of teaching. We need to look at
the amount of education that teachers have
and the amount of professional development
that most teachers take. I have often talked about
for years and years that we need to be
looking at teachers at a level of
a nurse or more. When we talk about
nurses in the field and in the profession,
they’re well respected, people know they
have to have classes to keep up their licenses, and they get paid
extraordinarily well. We need to be looking
at our teachers in the same light,
as highly trained, dedicated professionals with continuing
education. -I know achievement
is also something that you’re going
to be focused on– all administrators are
focused on that of course, but we have the
pockets of excellence that a lot of the public,
I think when I go out, they don’t always
know those pockets of excellence,
like some high schools had a 100%
graduation rate. But in terms of
overall achievement, do you have a specific
goal in mind in what you want students
to be able to achieve? -Absolutely.
You start looking at what things–
I’m glad you brought up the great things
that are happening because that’s
a narrative we need to start
communicating with. This morning I heard
well, Clark County and the school system,
there’s some challenges oh, yeah,
but there’s also some great things
happening. So it’s how to replicate
and having conversations with our principals
at levels and say if elementary and middle
school principals are doing great things,
how do we replicate and share some of
the best practices across the board? So that’s number one, and the same thing
with our high schools. Our advanced placement,
just yesterday Dr. Barton and myself
and the deputy superintendent with
the College Board and really looking
at the great things that are happening,
and more kids are taking college-level courses
and completing. I said let’s look at
the five urban districts because we’re
the fifth largest, so how do we compare
with Chicago, New York, Miami and L.A.? We’re not too far off, and actually
we’re beating some. So that’s the
message, right? Our graduation rate and
NAEP scores, first time we administered
the NAEP scores, the national report
card, as well. So we’re doing well,
but again, replication. For me it’s always
the growth and getting our kids to leave
college and career ready. But when you talk
about achievement, what I’m really looking at
is being equitable. The equity, one of the
things I laid out last Friday with
all our leaders, equity, transparency
and a safe and supportive school
in every classroom supported
by the District so everybody can do
the great things. So if I go back to
what am I looking for when I say “#1 for Kids,” what does that
mean, right? Because it’s well,
is it a test score? No, it’s not
just the test scores. That’s important,
but I want all kids to feel if they
want to do art, if they want to be
in theater, if they want to be
an athlete, if they want to do
piano or orchestra, that’s what
we need to provide and give that outlet
for those students, because I know that
having three kids going through the
public school system, everyone’s different. Everyone’s different,
and it’s how do we provide that high
quality education and every opportunity
for every kid. As you really
look at it, it’s the whole social
aspect of a student. I can tell you kids don’t
get up in the morning to want to learn
more biology, right? Kids get up in the morning
to go to school, to be part
of that social. Maybe it’s
that orchestra, maybe it’s that choir, maybe it’s
that art class, and then we get them
in the classroom and teach them math
and find ways to make that relevant. So it’s not just
about a test score. It’s about
everything else. I want my kids
and the 322,000 that we serve to find
a love for learning. -Right. The achievement
that we mentioned is also important
for those students no matter if they’re
going to college or straight
into the workforce. We got some great
examples recently. Tesla, we have several
students that went up and are now working
for Tesla, but a lot of businesses
have that opportunity. Are you looking to
strengthen the support? It seems like the
business community is ready if there’s
an opportunity to really make
that transition whether it’s high school
to college or high school
into the workforce. -I absolutely agree
with you, and when I met
with Tesla, I said how many spots
do you have for more kids? Open the doors,
we have plenty of kids. But it’s not only Tesla,
it’s everybody else, and how do we then bring
the partners in so we can be more
targeted in the work that needs to happen. I always say my son,
my middle guy, found a passion for
learning when he went to a welding class.
-The hands-on. -Yes, learning how to weld
is where he said okay, I need this and he
graduated high school with a certification in
welding and then decided well, I want to go
to college. I said great.
But you know what? He’s got a life skill
that when things– he may decide at a later
time he can be a welder and probably make a lot
more money than whatever he was thinking
of doing later on. So it’s the opportunity
for us to provide the outlet for our kids
to go into the workforce and make a high salary
because they can, and they’re here
and that’s where the partnership,
what I talked about at the beginning,
that we should be the economic engine–
and we are– of this community. It’s because we have
322,000 kids, and how do we get them
ready for the workforce. -Let’s move on
since we only have a few minutes remaining. Let’s talk about the
budget and budget cuts. Obviously, a lot of
people over the summer saw the discussion of that
and some of the cuts that came
to the schools. How do you make sure
the money the District is using
is used efficiently? I imagine that gets
in part to some of the transparency,
but a lot of people are looking at okay,
we’ve had these cuts, but I want to make sure
my student is going to be taught everything
they need to know. -You know, that’s
a great question and some of the parents
are concerned about it, and the Board and the
previous superintendent had to make some
tough decisions, right, to balance
the budget. They were very tough and I know
they always are, and I understand
the challenge because I also understand
the class size and the supplies
and some of the issues. I’ve had these
conversations with members
of the community, and legislators,
as we’re going up, the Board members
understand when we go to Carson City and
say we need more money, part of my big bucket
here internally is we need to also know that our house
is in order. When you look at
the taxpayers trust us with our funding
and we need to do that and that’s part of what–
I’ll tell you, Jason Goudie as the CFO
had been putting a lot of systems in place
before I got here for the last year,
and now it’s how do we manage it internally
so we can go to the legislature
and say okay, here’s what we need. Then the legislature,
the state, and the community have
faith in our asking. -And that may help
your cause as well. Trustee Wright,
let me ask you this: How will you–
in light of the budget, how do you measure
the success of Dr. Jara? I know he just got here and he’s on
the listening tour, but obviously
that’s also something that people are like, how do you measure
what he’s doing? I’m curious about that. -In the previous years it was under
policy governance, and now we’re under
this balanced governance and it’s laid out
in there how we do this. What we’re going
to be doing is Superintendent
Jara has agreed that we’re going to
start presenting data in meetings
with the caveat that it’s not his data
but District data. We’re going to be
looking at where we are in magnet seats,
where we are in AP tests, where we are
in graduation rates, where we are
in reading and math and the fourth
and eighth grade tests, the NAEP scores,
and we’re going to be compiling all that
information as we go. Then at some point
we will have a superintendent
evaluation. You know, this first year
is a little bit of a muddied
situation because it’s really not his data, it’s Superintendent
Skorkowsky’s data, but I think it’s important
that we start off on the right foot looking
at the District’s data and acknowledging
where we are and then looking at
where we want to go. So the easy answer is
we’re going to be looking at data
starting in September all the way through,
and he will have an evaluation
and we’ll talk about things like progress
on certain points, progress in budgeting,
student achievement, culture and climate,
community engagement and some of those
kinds of things, and we’ll make sure
the community is aware these things are what
is going into components of the Superintendent’s
evaluation. -It’s part of the
transparency in many ways, right?
-Correct. -And she mentioned
magnet schools. That’s been a huge success
for the District, so popular with
parents and students want to get in there
and they love going to school
and engaging. But we’ll save that
maybe for another conversation because
we’re just about out of time. But again, welcome
and thank you. -Thank you
for having me. This is great. We’ll have to do
it again, Mitch. -Well, I hope so. We’re here when
you’re ready.We want to let folks know
that you can learn more
about Dr. Jara
on the CCSD website,
CCSD.net.There you’ll find
his complete bio
and 90-day entry plan
as well as
a welcome video in both
English and Spanish.
Before we go a quick
reminder that you can find this episode as
well as past episodes of Inside Education
on the Vegas PBS website
and YouTube page. We also want to thank you
for tuning in. We wish everyone an awesome
first day of school. It’s coming up
on Monday, August 13. We will see you
in two weeks. ♪♪♪