Gov. Brian Sandoval will be picking from a list of three Nevadans when he hires the state’s next superintendent of schools, according to a state Board of Education decision made Thursday.
After three hours of interviewing four applicants with the goal of recommending three names to the governor, the board picked Rene Cantu, executive director of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce’s Community Foundation; Dale Erquiaga, former senior adviser to Sandoval; and interim Superintendent of Public Instruction Rorie Fitzpatrick.
The vote was unanimous.
A decision is expected in the next few weeks.
The fourth candidate was Michael Sentance, former Massachusetts secretary of education and the governor’s senior education adviser. He made it clear that he doesn’t support the Common Core Standards, which Nevada has adopted.
Sentance’s opposition to the standards earned him an “automatic disqualification” from board President Elaine Wynn, who said she cannot support a superintendent candidate who doesn’t believe in the state’s own school standards.
The others candidates all voiced support for the Common Core.
Cantu has school experience in substitute teaching and aiding dropouts who come to his organization for help in earning a general equivalency degree.
“I know these students well, these young people who fell through the cracks. I call them chasms,” Cantu said.
But Cantu has never worked in the administrative level of schools and only briefly filled in on the Clark County School Board in 2012, state board member Kevin Melcher said.
Erquiaga pointed to his time at the governor’s side crafting the reforms that passed the 2011 Legislature.
“I was there in the beginning,” he said, adding that his experience in politics and communications are vital to win the public’s support for these changes.
But board member Mark Newburn voiced concern about Erquiaga’s job history.
Erquiaga was Clark County School District’s executive director of government affairs, public policy and strategic planning 2009-10 before becoming Sandoval’s senior adviser, a position he held less than two years. Erquiaga vowed to commit to five years.
“I don’t want to be doing this again in 18 months,” Newburn said.
Previous Superintendent James Guthrie stepped down in March, not even a year into the job.
Sandoval chose Guthrie under a new power granted him by the Legislature to pick the superintendent. Previously, the state Education Board picked the superintendent.
On the job for four months, Fitzpatrick said she already has proved her commitment. The deputy superintendent stepped in when Guthrie abruptly resigned midway through a legislative session focused on educational reforms; she had to testify often before state lawmakers.
“My continued performance would look much like my past performance,” Fitzpatrick said.
“I’ve had a four-month interview. You can’t fake it for four months.”
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@review journal.com or 702-383-0279.