To search or not to search: Clark County School Board remains undecided

Correction
5/22/13 - A story that appeared in Tuesday’s Review-Journal about the Clark County School Board’s discussion on how to select a permanent superintendent should have said that board members Linda Young and Chris Garvey voiced support for appointing Interim Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky to the job and not conducting a national search.

To search for a superintendent or not?

After almost three months of back and forth, the Clark County School Board still couldn’t come to a decision Monday night despite holding a four-and-a-half-hour meeting to answer that “simple question,” as one high school teacher put it during public comment.

The seven School Board members heard from many teachers and community leaders who were adamant about what they should do to select the next leader of the Clark County School District.

Clark County Education Association President Ruben Murillo — and many teachers represented by the union — pushed for permanently appointing Interim Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, who was deputy superintendent for eight months before being chosen as a stand-in superintendent. Murillo said the union is lobbying for Skorkowsky, but not because he’s in the union’s “pocket,” as some critics have suggested.

“Listen to what the community wants,” said Murillo, pointing to a district survey that showed support for a homegrown superintendent.

Board members Chris Garvey and Deanna Wright, who have been voicing support for Skorkowsky and no search, also pointed to the survey as community-wide agreement.

But only 1,682 surveys were completed and an average of 35 people attended each of the dozen town hall meetings held by the district to gather public comment. That’s a minute number considering the district, which is the fifth-largest in the nation, has 311,000 students. That makes the survey – described by district staff as “unscientific” – not representative of the community, some contend.

A contingent of community leaders saw more potential for harm than good in just hiring Skorkowsky without any kind of national search.

“Selecting the next leader of our schools should not be limited by geography,” said Hugh Anderson, chairman of the government affairs committee for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. “Familiarity rather than data and results is a mistake.”

If Skorkowsky is vetted and outshines other candidates, then he should be hired, added Sandy Miller, former Nevada first lady and mother of Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller.

Although remaining quiet at Monday’s meeting, Nevada’s Board of Education President Elaine Wynn has advocated that a search is a necessity.

“We seem to be afraid of competition,” said former School Board member John Cole, flabbergasted by the push to appoint Skorkowsky without looking at anyone else. “If he truly is the best candidate, he’ll outshine the others and get the job. It seems simple.”

The School Board will reconvene at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to continue debating whether to search or not.

It’s been an indecisive two-and-a-half months.

The School Board chose on March 14 to start negotiating with Omaha-based search firm McPherson & Jacobson to nationally search for a new superintendent to replace Dwight Jones, who abruptly resigned on March 22. But the board abandoned the search in April and scheduled town hall meetings to gather public input.

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

 

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