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Experts eying school budget a promising sign


It’s Tuesday, and everyone is entitled to my opinion:

If you know anything about the history of the Clark County School District, you know that it is often short of money and classroom space, but it has never suffered from a lack of costly expert analysis and commissioned studies.

Somewhere in the district’s deepest recesses there must be a warehouse stacked to the rafters with stuff professional opinions and big plans that never quite panned out.

So when CCSD Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky recently vowed to gather experts and take a serious look at the district’s budget and entrenched policies and procedures, some public school skeptics might have hit the snooze button and muttered, “Wake me when it’s over.”

But now some of the names associated with Skorkowsky’s push to improve the district from the bottom line up have been announced. And it’s an impressive bunch. The confirmed participants include former NV Energy Chairman Michael Yackira, NevadaSucceeds President Brent Husson, former Station Casinos CFO Glenn Christenson, and former school superintendents Brian Cram and Walt Rulffes.

Cram and Rulffes know the challenges Skorkowsky faces. They devoted their adult lives to keep the nation’s fastest-growing school district operating. They had their successes and failures, but it was hard to doubt their dedication to the public school system.

There’s room for healthy skepticism, but I consider those experts’ presence a promising sign.

SHINING LIGHT: The state showed good sense last week when it renewed approval of the Beacon Academy of Nevada online charter school after a four-hour meeting.

Beacon specializes in serving students with a variety of challenges that make it difficult to impossible for them to participate in a traditional school setting. Students with disabilities, single moms and others benefit from Beacon’s curriculum.

POLITICAL PUNDITS: Move over, “McLaughlin Group.” Out of the way, “Meet the Press.” It’s time for “Wynn &Clooney,” the political dust-up program where noted conservative casino baron Steve and Hollywood superstar George drink copious amounts of Casamigos tequila — think of the product placement possibilities — and then start popping off about the nuances of Obamacare.

Steve hates it. George loves it. Time for a shot. Cue the close-ups.

Oh, you mean the recent bro-haha between Wynn and Clooney wasn’t the pilot of an upcoming series?

The paparazzi press has been eating up the idea.

USE TAX: Just don’t call her the artful dodger. Socialite casino executive Elaine Wynn doesn’t want to discuss it, but apparently I’m not the only one who read a recent article in The New York Times that raised questions about whether she is avoiding paying Nevada’s use taxes on a major art purchase by taking advantage of a little-known Oregon law. I hear members of the Nevada Tax Commission also saw the story, which said the move could conceivably save Wynn $11 million in taxes in Nevada.

Sounds like grist for a public hearing.

POT POLITICS: The high-profile names associated with the ongoing pursuit of medical marijuana licenses in Clark County grow by the day. Las Vegas Sun Publisher Brian Greenspun recently outed himself on the issue. So now we know what puts the green in Greenspun.

Perhaps others will do the same soon.

If you think anyone who lacks substantial insider connections with the county has a chance of prevailing in the licensing process, you are already high.

BUGGING OUT: The popular Firefly Tapas restaurants continue to court disaster with the Southern Nevada Health Division. In April, the Henderson location racked up 38 demerits.

In addition to improving sanitary conditions, perhaps it’s time owner John Simmons stopped naming his restaurant after a bug.

It was the kiss of death for my La Cucaracha Tacos franchise.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. E-mail him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295.