West LV community angered by schools hire

In the face of much ridicule, the Clark County School Board voted 5-2 Thursday to hire a former consultant who once advised School Board members on the colors of their brains.

Some of the angriest protesters were the people that Dale Erquiaga could soon be serving as the executive director of government affairs for the Clark County School District. The position pays between $89,000 to $109,000. His exact salary was not disclosed.

Erquiaga, who once performed thinking pattern profiles, may be tasked with helping to ease the racial isolation at schools in the historically black community of West Las Vegas, an area generally bordered by Carey Avenue on the north, Bonanza Road on the south, Interstate 15 on the east and Rancho Drive on the west. Schools there also serve a growing population of Hispanic students.

"This is about the most ridiculous thing I've seen in my life," said Marzette Lewis, member of West Las Vegas community group WAAK-UP.

Lewis said the district could find more qualified people for the job. "We have ministers who would love to work for $109,000 to tell you about black folks," she said.

Prior to Erquiaga's hire, the district spent $20,935 on a report detailing the growing isolation of six elementary schools in the neighborhood. Residents there have complained that the report by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, summed up what they had been telling the district for years. Vocal West Las Vegas residents considered Erquiaga'a hiring as another slight since it was being done without their input.

Joyce Haldeman, associate superintendent for community relations, clarified that Erquiaga wouldn't necessarily be working on the West Las Vegas issue.

Haldeman said she simply used West Las Vegas as an example of something Erquiaga might do. His main responsibility will be as the schools' lobbyist with state government. The job has been vacant since November 2008.

School Board Member Chris Garvey said the district needs an advocate. "We have a very big job ahead of us. Things are only going to get tighter."

School Board members voting in favor of Erquiaga were Garvey, Deanna Wright, Sheila Moulton, Terri Janison and Carolyn Edwards. Those who opposed the hire were Larry Mason and Linda Young, who represents West Las Vegas.