Jim Rogers, the former chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, has suddenly become the popular choice of many who would like to see him take over immediately as interim superintendent of the beleaguered Clark County School District.
The School Board on Thursday received a petition with 3,350 signatures asking for Rogers to replace outgoing Superintendent Walt Rulffes, who plans to leave the post in August.
In an interview, Rogers said he would be happy to step in and work for free. Rulffes earns $276,932 a year.
"I'm not hustling for the job, but if they said, 'Jim, we need you,' I would do it," Rogers said.
Rogers, who is also busy leading efforts to transform the University Medical Center into public-private teaching hospital, said he could take over "next Monday or Tuesday" if needed, but would not want to work much longer than a year for the school district.
Andres Mendoza, the parent who presented the petition, said Rogers possesses the necessary "leadership skills" and is a "visionary person." In contrast, Mendoza urged the School Board to stop "turning a blind eye to everything bad that is going on in this district."
The district is trying to figure how to fill a $30 million shortfall in its budget for 2010-11. It might have to cut as many as 1,077 jobs by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Stephen Augspurger, executive director of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-technical Employees, said new leadership is needed.
"There's no sense of urgency to resolve this (budget crisis). You have employees in limbo land (because of pending job cuts)," Augspurger said.
None of the four bargaining units has come to an agreement for 2010-11; the teachers union, the Clark County Education Association, is going to arbitration.
Rogers seemed to relish the idea of jumping into the bargaining process.
"That's been my life," Rogers said. "I've been a lawyer. I've been in the TV business for 40 years. I love making deals. I will be glad to help."
Appointing Rogers as interim superintendent also appeals to Martin Dean Dupalo, a School Board candidate for District G. Dupalo worries about the board "short-circuiting" the superintendent search so it can select a favorite candidate or else narrow the pool to a few candidates before the three new board members who are elected in November can get much of a say.
School Board member Linda Young agreed that Rogers would be a "phenomenal choice" for superintendent, but added that it is too soon to be talking about it.
Larry Mason, a School Board member who has worked under Rogers in the university system, said, "he's a no-nonsense type of guy who wants what's best for children and Nevada. I appreciate that about him."
Citing contractual obligations, Mason said it would be too costly to replace Rulffes before his contract expires on Aug 30.
School Board President Terri Janison said she understands the public support for Rogers, but believes an interim superintendent won't be necessary since the board has discussed keeping on Rulffes for a few extra months if it needs extra time to finish the search for his replacement.
Voting to hire Rogers would be a conflict of interest for Janison, since her husband, Kevin Janison, is the weatherman at KVBC-TV, Channel 3, which is owned by Rogers.
Contact reporter James Haug at email@example.com or 702-374-7917.