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Embattled CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara resigns

Updated January 31, 2024 - 10:22 pm

Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara plans to step down later this month after a tumultuous tenure at the helm of the nation’s fifth largest school district.

The Clark County School Board is scheduled to consider his resignation next week. They also will decide whether to appoint current Deputy Superintendent Brenda Larsen-Mitchell as the district’s new top leader.

In a Wednesday statement, the School Board said it will consider an agenda item to “end Superintendent Jara’s contract sooner than the contract’s expiration date of June 2026.”

“This decision is being considered due to the mutual benefit of both parties, recognizing that CCSD is in the strongest possible position to consider this transition,” the statement read. “This is a natural transition point as the district embarks on revising our five-year plan, which is set to expire this year.”

Controversial leader

Jara, who has served as superintendent since 2018, has faced criticism over the years on topics such as student achievement, his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning, contentious teacher contract negotiations and erroneous statements presented to state legislators.

The reason for his departure isn’t clear. In late January, Jara canceled his yearly State of the Schools address because of the death of his mother.

In a resignation letter submitted Tuesday, he wrote that his departure will become effective at 11:59 p.m. Feb. 21.

Three items related to Jara’s departure are on the agenda for a work session at 4 p.m. Feb. 7 in the Henderson City Council chambers.

Those include considering Jara’s resignation and accepting an amendment to his contract, directing the board attorney to give written notification of the contract termination and appointing Larsen-Mitchell as superintendent.

The agenda notes an item for “discussion and possible action” to appoint Larsen-Mitchell as superintendent “upon the conclusion of Jesus F. Jara serving in such capacity.”

It also directs the board attorney to negotiate an employment agreement with Larsen-Mitchell “to serve as superintendent.”

No additional meeting materials are posted online to indicate how long Larsen-Mitchell would serve in that role and whether it’s an interim or permanent appointment.

Jara’s current contract says he must give written notice to the school board at least 90 days before the date he plans to terminate the agreement.

But a proposed contract amendment states Jara would only have to give at least seven days notice.

It also says he would be entitled to other payouts, including a lump sum severance payment equal to one year’s salary and all benefits and payment for unused vacation and sick leave.

In its Wednesday statement, the School Board said that Jara and the board have “sought to improve student outcomes, strengthen the district’s finances, and implement systems to support student learning.”

“We currently have a unique opportunity to lead the district on a path forward without disrupting the district’s stability and remaining laser-focused on student outcomes in our district,” according to the statement.

Reaction from CCEA, legislator

Last year, the Clark County Education Association teachers union — as well as state Democratic legislative leaders — called for his resignation.

CCEA said in a Wednesday news release that it has called for Jara’s resignation since January 2023 and “now it is time for the CCSD School Board Trustees to do the right thing.”

“With over 75 percent of our members expressing a loss of confidence in his leadership, our front-line educators know first hand the damage done with Jara’s misleadership for our 300,000 students’ education,” the union said.

CCEA will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. Thursday to “discuss Jara’s departure, as well as the accountability this district needs going forward,” according to the release.

Nevada Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager, who called for Jara’s resignation in November, said in a Wednesday statement: “It comes as a great relief that Dr. Jara has finally recognized that parents, teachers, students, and community leaders no longer have confidence in him or his ability to get CCSD back on track.”

Past attempts to end contract

Jara’s contract is slated to continue through June 2026. The School Board voted 4-3 in October 2022 on a contract extension and boosted his salary to $395,00 a year — a $75,000 pay increase.

The School Board has attempted to terminate Jara’s contract twice.

In July 2020, trustees voted 4-3 to adjourn a special meeting before getting to an item about his contract.

More than a year later in October 2021, the board voted 4-3 to terminate Jara’s contract “for convenience,” meaning they didn’t need to provide a reason. They reversed course the following month.

Four days after his contract was terminated, Jara told School Board trustees that he planned to award more than $400,000 in salary increases to members of his executive Cabinet.

Jara’s attorney also issued a demand letter saying the superintendent was seeking more than $2.6 million to pay out the remainder of his contract and to settle allegations of a hostile work environment.

In August 2022, the board voted to pay $95,000 in Jara’s attorney fees over his hostile work environment claims.

Last year, Jara told Broward County Public Schools in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that he was interested in a superintendent job that was open, but later withdrew from consideration.

Before coming to Clark County, Jara was deputy superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida.

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