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Clark County trustees to reconsider Teach for America contract

Clark County School District trustees will reconsider a retooled contract with the nonprofit Teach for America on Thursday, after rejecting renewal of the long-running partnership two weeks ago.

The often-controversial, nationwide program aims to bring college graduates who didn’t study education into classrooms to help alleviate teacher shortages. Teach for America recruits and trains the candidates, who commit to working for two years in high-needs schools.

“Our goal at TFA has always been to be a great community partner,” said Sean Parker, executive director of the Teach for America-Las Vegas Valley. “We’re trying to continue our partnership.”

The teacher salaries are paid by the local districts, and Teach for America in Las Vegas typically gets a $2,000 stipend per teacher for each of the two years they are committed from districts to help defray costs of training and recruiting. Clark County has partnered with the program since 2004, renewing the contract every two years.

Two weeks ago, however, trustees raised doubts about the program, saying Teach for America teachers often leave after two years, are undertrained, have no ties to the community and that the district would be better served by bolstering its own recruiting program. They then rejected the measure to renew the contract by a 4-3 vote.

But Trustee Linda Cavazos, who voted against the measure, asked for the item to be brought back for Thursday’s meeting, saying she didn’t feel prepared for the last vote.

“We had not received a briefing on this, and normally with expenditures of this type it would be brought before the board or we would have a briefing to explain to us,” she said.

Since the vote, Cavazos said she’s talked to a lot of principals, teachers and others in the district and feels better about the partnership. She admitted, however that she’s still a little conflicted.

“I see it as a Band-Aid, not a very good one, but I have to look at the needs of the kids in the schools,” she said, adding that the Teach for America teachers are better than long-term substitutes that would otherwise be required in many classrooms.

The new contract, which trustees will consider Thursday, changes the reimbursement formula for Teach for America slightly, with the district paying $1,500 for the a teacher’s first year of service and $2,500 for the second, which CCSD’s human resources director Andre Long thinks may be more palatable to board members.

The fee is the only item in the contract that changed. In the contract, Teach for America agrees to bring up to 125 teachers to the district in each of the next three years, which helps meet a critical need for the district, Long said.

“It’d be difficult to match the national reputation and the amount of professional development that’s offered,” he said of the program.

Contact Meghin Delaney at 702-383-0281 or mdelaney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @MeghinDelaney on Twitter.

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