Voters in District D face an unusual situation in their race for a Clark County School Board representative.
Sitting board member Stavan Corbett seeks to keep the nonpartisan seat he was appointed to fill. Voters elected him four years ago to represent their public school interests, but on the State Board of Education. When Clark County School Board member Lorraine Alderman stepped down in October, Corbett and three others applied to finish her term. He was chosen by the six remaining School Board members.
Voters will now decide whether to keep Corbett or go with one of three others, including Charles Ware, who unsuccessfully sought the appointment to the seat after Alderman resigned.
Ware, a five-year Las Vegas resident, owns Professional Fitness Institute. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Central Missouri and has a doctorate in health education from A.T. Still University in Missouri.
Another candidate is Kevin Child, a local real estate agent and chairman of the Southern Nevada Anti-Graffiti Coalition. He graduated from Bonanza High School in 1980 and took college courses while running the family’s several A&W restaurants, but he never earned a college degree.
The other candidate is Wesley Cornwell, a 22-year-old University of Nevada, Las Vegas student studying criminal justice and working full time as he prepares for law school.
“We have one of the worst-rated education systems in the country,” said Cornwell, a Rancho High School graduate. “Right now, we have people decades removed from the school system. They’re using old approaches on new issues, and it’s just not working.”
The candidate elected will face several pressing issues arising from school crowding and deferred maintenance. With district officials asserting they don’t have the funds to build new schools or make major repairs to existing schools, suggestions for drastic operational changes have been made, such as double-session schools, year-round schools, districtwide rezoning and moving fifth-graders to middle schools.
Ware and Child support more year-round schools, which lessens the number of students in class at any time by 20 percent. But Ware is against adding more portable classrooms and relocating fifth-graders to middle schools.
Students need to be part of a “cohesive group,” which is undone with portables, he said. The district uses about 1,300 portable classrooms, mostly in elementary schools, to provide more space.
“We also need to keep students with their peer group as long as we can,” said Ware, arguing that fifth-graders are developmentally more aligned with elementary school students.
Corbett said the district needs to be “innovative.” These approaches take money — a year-round school costs about $308,000 more annually to operate — but provide little or no educational benefit, he said. Corbett advocated looking to new means that cost money but could improve student performance, such as creating more magnet programs at schools that have empty classrooms, distributing students more broadly. Cornwell also advocated for more magnet programs for the same reasons.
But the valley’s population growth is going to continue and the School Board will need to discuss another ballot question in two years seeking an increase in property tax rates to build schools, Corbett said.
Child said he won’t ask taxpayers for another dime until the district’s frivolous spending is corrected.
“If I’m not using their money right, I have no business asking for it,” said Child, calling the district’s budgeting system broken.
Cornwell shared that stance. “We’ve been asking the public for a lot of money and not seeing a lot of return on the dollar.” He’s looked through the budget and said savings are possible by running programs in-house that are currently being outsourced. Any savings must be used to add teachers, he said.
Child and Ware look at the Margins Tax — proposing new taxes on Nevada businesses to provide education funding — in a similar light.
Ware said the tax would hurt businesses like his own, but he would support it if he knew “line by line where the money would be going.” Only problem is he doesn’t. No one does, he said. The same goes for the district, which needs an assessment of its spending, he said.
“I don’t feel very confident in the district’s assessment of its resources,” said Ware, recalling how the district also overstated its 2012 and 2013 graduation rates.
Contact Trevon Milliard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @TrevonMilliard.