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Las Vegas appoints new state-mandated member of school board

The Las Vegas City Council voted Wednesday to select former charter school leader Adam Johnson as its appointee to the Clark County School Board.

The board currently has seven elected members, but four non-voting members will be added next year — the result of a new state law, Assembly Bill 175, which created hybrid school boards. The change currently applies only to Clark County.

One trustee each will be appointed to the board by Clark County, as well as the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson. They’ll serve a four-year term starting in January 2024.

Johnson is a senior director for the western region for the College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers SAT college admissions testing and the Advanced Placement course program.

He was executive director of Democracy Prep Public Schools in Las Vegas from 2017 to 2022. Prior to that, he was a managing director of Teach For America in Las Vegas.

The council initially voted 5-2 on Johnson’s appointment, with Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Councilwoman Victoria Seaman opposed. But after making comments, Goodman and Seaman asked for their votes to be switched to in support for a unanimous vote.

After the vote, Johnson said it’s an “incredibly humbling honor” to receive the support of the council, which has a strong vision for where it wants education to go.

He said he switched from the business world to become an educator and his commitment is that all children have opportunities.

Johnson was also previously board chair for the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority.

School Board President Evelyn Garcia Morales said in a Wednesday statement: “We look forward to the City of Las Vegas appointee, Adam Johnson, joining us on the school board of trustees as we work together on behalf of the children of Clark County.”

More appointments expected

The city of Las Vegas is the first local government to select its appointee to the school board.

Henderson City Council plans to make an appointment Oct. 17, while the Clark County Commission is slated to make a decision Nov. 7.

The city of North Las Vegas is determining a process for how to make an appointment and doesn’t have a timeline yet for when that will occur, a city spokesperson said.

Las Vegas City Council considered two other nominees in addition to Johnson: Eric Preiss, former director of the Nevada Film Office, and Elena Fabunan, recently-retired principal of Global Community High School, which serves students new to the country.

The council was originally scheduled to make a decision in August, but postponed the item until this month due to timeline requirements outlined in state law.

The school district opposed the hybrid school boards bill during the legislative session, arguing it’s not rooted in evidence and puts adult power struggles over what’s best for students.

But those in favor cited board turmoil in recent years, including infighting among trustees and split decisions in 2021 to fire Superintendent Jesus Jara and then reverse course.

In July, Garcia Morales sent a letter to local governments requesting the name of each appointee and an official record after votes take place.

She wrote that she expected appointments to be made between Oct. 3 and Dec. 2 to meet requirements under state law.

New trustees, who’ll complete at least 30 hours of training and onboarding, will take the oath of office Jan. 2.

City council comments

Las Vegas Deputy City Manager Tim Hacker said during Wednesday’s meeting that other jurisdictions might be interested in appointing a member of their respective councils to serve on the school board. City Attorney Jeff Dorocak said a review of the state legislation shows it would be permissible.

None of the Las Vegas City Council members expressed interest in being considered.

Goodman said it’s a big time commitment and serious obligation, noting, “this is not a walk in the park.”

Goodman — who founded The Meadows School, a private school in Las Vegas, in 1984 — said she’s passionate about the quality of education in the community and is hopeful the appointed school board trustee will bring a different vision.

She said of the city’s three nominees: “Each of these wonderful individuals have been so gracious to put their names forth and agree to be that person.”

Mayor Pro Tem Brian Knudsen — who nominated Johnson as the school board appointee — said he has known him for 15 years and when they talk about education, “he has the guts and courage to disagree with me.”

He said he would trust his own children with Johnson, who he described as an excellent role model.

Knudsen told Johnson that if he disagrees with something while on the school board, to do so “loudly and proudly” and in a respectful manner.

Goodman said she voted against the motion originally because she wanted an opportunity to make comments ahead of time about other candidates, but noted she’d be 100 percent supportive of Johnson.

Councilwoman Olivia Diaz said the priority for the council is they want ward-specific data about schools.

Goodman said it’s an embarrassment that the U.S. is in the mess it’s in with public education and Southern Nevada is not setting an example.

Goodman said the city offers before- and after-school programs, and she also pointed to Strong Start Academy, a city-sponsored public charter school.

“But in a personal opinion, charter schools are not the answer,” she said. “Fix what’s broken.”

The data hasn’t changed in 25 or 40 years in the community, Goodman said.

“We need results,” she said. “We don’t need to wait another 40 years for the change.”

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on X.

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