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Clark County School Board meeting ends early amid outrage, protests

Updated August 23, 2019 - 12:09 am

The Clark County School Board abruptly ended its meeting Thursday night amid protests from an outraged crowd of teachers who showed up in droves to demand appropriate pay for a new contract.

The rowdy showing of hundreds of teachers threatening to strike on Sept. 10 followed a standstill in negotiations with the district over a new 2019-21 contract — particularly over paying raises for some 2,600 educators for completing enough professional development activities to move across a column on the salary table.

The meeting got off to a heated start even after School Board President Lola Brooks’ opening remarks.

“Your anger is displaced, but it is our job to absorb it,” she said, prompting shouts of outrage and “shame on you!”

But while dozens of teachers signed up to express their disappointment with the School Board, only a few managed to speak before the boisterous crowd prompted trustees to retreat backstage.

Lashaun Limbrick, a counselor at Desert Pines High School, said he is a single dad depending on his salary increases through step and column advancements to provide for his three sons. “I, like many educators here today, have spent time and money working towards a column advancement — just to be told the funds are not there,” he said.

Special education teacher Melissa Gardner said she remains in the first column on the salary table despite her experience.

“With 10 years’ experience in CCSD alone I sit in the bottom of column one,” she said. “Now you’re telling me I have no way to advance. I am not a line item on a spreadsheet. This is my life and this is my family.”

Teacher Matthew Kranz said he invested thousands of dollars for professional development. When the district wants to find money, he said, it finds it.

“When the superintendent needs a bike, we find the money for that,” he said. “We are not asking, we are not demanding, anything that we didn’t earn, but come Sept. 10 we’re going to start demanding what we’re worth, and you’re not prepared for that.”

As trustees moved to end the first public comment period, teachers shouted in protest to let the next educator speak. School police intervened, ushering trustees to the back of the theater stage.

Brooks later came back onstage to announce the meeting would be postponed to another date.

Superintendent Jesus Jara later said in a statement that the district is still very interested in discussing possible solutions for the contract.

“It is unfortunate that we had to end the meeting early, but for the safety of our Trustees, and everyone else in attendance, it was the right course of action,” he said. “Safety at our public meetings must remain paramount.”

The contract negotiations follow the end of a legislative session that did not appropriate enough money for the district to both offer raises promised by Gov. Steve Sisolak and balance a budget.

Following $17 million in cuts at middle and high schools and $6.7 million in cuts from the central office, the district still needs to handle another multimillion-dollar deficit next school year.

The district has offered the union $69 million in increases that include a 3 percent raise, 2 percent step increases and a 4 percent increase to monthly health care contributions.

Paying the salary increases for column advancements would cost about $19 million, district officials told the Review-Journal in an editorial board meeting earlier Thursday. Trustees were expected to meet in closed session on Thursday to discuss the contract.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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