CCSD continues Teach for America relationship

Up to 150 new Teach for America teachers will be hired by the Clark County School District at a two-year cost of $600,000 in addition to the teachers’ salaries, continuing a controversial partnership with the nonprofit that drew heat as well as support Thursday.

Although the fledgling teachers will earn the same salary as all new teachers with their equivalent education, the Clark County School Board unanimously agreed Thursday to pay $2,000 annually per teacher to the nonprofit group. Teach for America trained the teachers who have made a two-year commitment to work in schools with high poverty or take hard-to-fill positions in math, science and special education.

While Monaco Middle School principal Lisa Medina praised the Teach for America teachers filling 20 percent of her classrooms, the director of Southern Nevada’s official training ground for public school teachers opposed extra expenditure.

“We can’t continue to waste our resources on staff who won’t be here in a few years,” said Bill Hanlon, director of the Southern Nevada Regional Professional Development Program created by the Legislature to provide professional development for teachers. “Support people who intend to stay.”

The district needs to grow its own teachers and not outsource to Teach for America, contended board Vice President Linda Young.

Board member Chris Garvey said she has been critical of Teach for America. But because 68 percent of those teachers stay longer than three years, according to Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, she supported continuing the contract.

Skorkowsky said it costs the district $740 per teacher to recruit on its own.

The district will have about 325 of the nonprofit’s teachers next school year, including 25 donated positions.

This annual payment to Teach for America covers 10 percent of the nonprofit’s cost for training the teachers, meaning the organization annually spends $20,000 per teacher, said Victor Wakefield, executive director for Teach for America in Las Vegas.

Each teacher goes through a five-week training period and additional professional development throughout the school year provided by Teach for America, Wakefield said.

Teach for America relies on private donations to cover the majority of costs, which means “we’re only going to grow to the size that the community wants,” Wakefield said. Its teachers must be requested by principals, who say they want more from Teach for America, Wakefield contended.

“We’re not reaching that demand yet,” he said.

The district began using Teach for America in the 2004-05 school year, hiring 650 teachers through the organization, which was 3 percent of the 19,462 teachers hired during that time

After two years, these teachers don’t cost the district a dime beyond their normal salary and benefits, and Teach for America doesn’t receive further payments.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.