School Board puts off planned search for new superintendent

After three weeks of negotiating with a firm to oversee the quest for a new superintendent, the Clark County School Board tabled the contract Wednesday and essentially abandoned the search for now.

The board’s original plan from just a couple of weeks ago was to name a replacement for former Superintendent Dwight Jones sometime between October and December. However, board members scrapped that in a 6-1 vote.

The about-face resulted from community pressure, some board members said.

“We need someone who knows us and will be here for the long run,” said board member Chris Garvey, reiterating what constituents told her about their reluctance to embark on a national search.

“They’re tired of people coming in like carpetbaggers,” said Young of voters’ statements to her, while emphasizing that the comments weren’t about Jones in particular.

Jones was hired out of Colorado in 2010, where he was commissioner of education. The stated reason for his resignation was to care for his mother in Dallas. Jones moved back to Colorado after March 22, his last day in the district. He completed about half of his four-year contract.

“I’m very concerned about the backpedal,” board member Deanna Wright said about halting the national search. “I think that reflects very poorly on us.”

Board member Linda Young argued the opposite, asserting that the board changing its mind about the search is a positive for its image.

“It’s worse to know you’re going in a bad direction but keep going,” said Young, the only board member who voted March 14 against negotiating with the search firm, McPherson & Jacobson, and choosing a new superintendent by December.

No superintendent “worth their salt” would take over a district halfway through a school year, she said, noting that qualified candidates will be settled by summer’s end at the latest.

Jones was hired in October 2010 and started that December. He gave two weeks’ notice of his resignation although his contract called for 90 days.

It falls to interim Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, a 25-year district employee whom the board promoted from deputy superintendent, to put together a budget for next school year and negotiate contract terms with four employee unions representing about 29,000 workers.

The district is the largest employer in Southern Nevada.

Skorkowsky also must represent the district’s interest at the Legislature, where education is front and center this session.

Board President Carolyn Edwards said she shared other board members’ concerns.

“But I don’t have a sense of panic about it. …I don’t think we’re rushing,” she said, to which Young shook her head in disagreement.

Edwards told Young to not shake her head.

“Don’t call me out like that,” Young snapped.

Just a few minutes before the exchange, Young couldn’t get Edwards attention.

When Young had the microphone and stated her case, Edwards talked with another board member until Young paused for her attention.

Tension has been building between Edwards and former board President Young since January.

Several board members suggested letting Skorkowsky remain for a full year, or possibly the remaining 1½ years of Jones’ contract.

Skorkowsky has been interim superintendent since March 23, but his contract hasn’t been finalized.

The board is expected to decide May 20 whether to launch a national search or permanently appoint Skorkowsky.

Although supportive of Skorkowsky, Edwards and others repeatedly asserted that simply giving him the job would be a mistake. He needs to outshine the best candidates out there.

“We need the richest pool we can pull from,” Edwards said.

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