Meeting focuses on Prime Six schools

Rose Bear doesn't have much time to go out because, unlike most grandparents, she is raising her three grandchildren.

But she made a point to come out Tuesday -- as did 100 other concerned parents, teachers, principals and elected leaders -- to support swift changes to a handful of troubled West Las Vegas schools known as the Prime Six.

"Just because we're under poverty level doesn't mean children can't learn," she said of the schools with enrollments of largely poor, minority students who often don't speak fluent English.

Most others in the public-input meeting agreed with Bear, something demonstrated as they voted in vast support of all 12 recommended changes to the six elementary schools, Booker, Carson, Fitzgerald, Kelly, McCall and Wendell Williams.

"Just having you here tells us how much this matters to you," Clark County School District Deputy Superintendent Pedro Martinez said at the meeting at the Nevada Partners building.

The recommendations were written by the Superintendent's Education Opportunities Advisory Committee and will be passed on to the superintendent, who then will submit them to the School Board.

"We know that we have a problem with persistently underachieving schools," said committee member Frank Hawkins. "We want to hear from parents. We need your buy-in."

The list includes closely tracking student progress over three years. That will make it easier to fire teachers who don't meet benchmarks, Hawkins said.

"If teachers do not perform, we want them to find another job," he said.

Some teachers in the room said that was harsh.

"Teachers have to be taught to teach effectively," said one teacher.

Along those same lines, the district needs to stop looking for just "highly qualified" teachers, as advocated in the No Child Left Behind Act, and pick "high quality" teachers, said Beverly Mathis, co-chair of the committee.

Accomplishments and plaques aren't as important as affection and passion, she said.

"We need teachers who are going to stay in the building instead of a drive-by," she said.

Applause from the crowd signalled agreement, as did repeated clapping for establishing early childhood development programs for 3- to 4-year-olds in every Prime Six school.

The crowd wanted more details about the recommendations to make sure they understood the implications of every bullet point.

That was good news to Martinez, who said a lot needs to be done before the recommendations can ever become actionable.

''We're a month away from school and still filling principal vacancies in the district," he said.

West Las Vegas is bordered by Rancho Drive to the west, Interstate 15 to the east, Bonanza Road to the south and Carey Avenue to the north.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at or 702-383-0279.