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Jara contract extension, $75K raise approved by 4-3 school board vote

Updated October 5, 2022 - 7:00 pm

The Clark County School Board voted Wednesday to extend embattled Superintendent Jesus Jara’s contract for another 3½ years, with a $75,000 bump in his annual salary.

Trustees voted 4-3 to extend Jara’s contract, with Lola Brooks, Irene Cepeda, Evelyn Garcia Morales and Katie Williams voting to extend, and Linda Cavazos, Danielle Ford and Lisa Guzman voting against. The vote comes nearly a year after Jara was fired and subsequently rehired.

Jara said after the vote that he was “extremely grateful for the opportunity that has been granted by the majority of this board” to continue leading the district.

“We have a ways to go, I don’t deny that,” he said. “But we have to really continue to stay focused on the health, safety, the well-being of our 300,000 lives that I am humbled and honored to serve as their superintendent.”

The board announced that it would review Jara’s contract after completing his evaluation last week. The evaluation rated him as “highly effective.”

Jara’s new contract will run through June 30, 2026, and will see his pay increase to $395,000. Jara joined the district in 2018 at a salary of $320,000.

Cavazos said Wednesday that Jara’s total compensation, including benefits, would be over $500,000.

‘A lot of healing to do’

Speaking through tears on the dais ahead of the vote, Cepeda said serving as board president was the “most difficult thing” she has done in her life.

Cepeda, who was the swing vote to fire and rehire Jara last fall, said highly effective boards should be talking about student outcomes at least 50 percent of the time.

“I think for today, that’s kind of where my mindset is, knowing that there’s still a lot of healing to do, a lot of work to do,” she said.

Some in the school community have criticized the metrics that were used to evaluate the superintendent and the timing of his contract extension.

Jara’s contract was set to expire in January of next year, on the heels of a November election in which three school board seats are up for grabs.

Under Jara’s new contract, if a new iteration of the board decides to terminate the agreement, the district still would need to pay out the remainder of the salary and benefits owed to him through the end of the new contract term.

Ford said Wednesday that it was not necessary to renew Jara’s contract at this time.

“If and when the time comes in January, and we have to terminate for convenience and pay out the superintendent nearly $2 million, it will be because of the four ‘yes’ votes that just happened at this meeting,” she said.

The same board members who voted to reinstate Jara last fall voted Wednesday to extend his contract.

Last year, Jara leveled allegations of a hostile work environment against some trustees — claims that he settled with the board earlier this year.

‘Time of incredible upheaval’

On Wednesday, Dylan Keith, assistant director of government affairs for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, said turnover in leadership would not enhance student outcomes and would cause instability in the district.

The chamber recently endorsed an effort that would split up the school district, instead.

“We are in a time of incredible upheaval and turnover,” Keith said. “Now, more than ever, our students require and deserve the utmost in leadership and stability.”

But Bryan Wachter, senior vice president of the Retail Association of Nevada, said the board was becoming a political liability for members of the Nevada Legislature.

“The public doesn’t trust the seven of you. The public doesn’t trust the superintendent. Parents don’t trust them. The voting public doesn’t trust them,” he said. “In fact, when you ask the voting public: Who do you blame for the poor performance of the Clark County School District? It’s not the superintendent. First and foremost, it is the seven of you.”

Others in the school community called attention to the metrics that were used to evaluate Jara — metrics like students’ reading and math proficiency, the reduction of suspensions and expulsions among Black students, and the hiring of more teachers.

Former special education teacher Jessica Alley said Jara’s evaluation was significantly different from those of teachers and other staff in the district.

“We fired him, and now you’re telling us that he’s earning a satisfactory rating?” Alley asked. “How does that happen? How does that make sense to anyone on this board? You all look like fools. You all look insane.”

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow her at @lolonghi on Twitter.

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