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School Board accused of trying to stifle voices of nonvoting members

The Clark County School Board is considering a controversial policy change that would prohibit its four new nonvoting members from making motions or asking for a previous decision to be reconsidered.

The board voted 5-1 on Thursday to approve the consent agenda, which included a notice of intent to make policy revisions. Trustee Linda Cavazos opposed the motion, and Trustee Brenda Zamora was absent.

The proposed change has drawn opposition — including from local and state government leaders, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and business organizations — who say the changes would stifle the new trustees’ voices and violate the intent of the new hybrid school board law.

Board President Evelyn Garcia Morales said she recognizes that there is a “bit of controversy” around the item.

She said the board has had a public discussion about the proposal and understands that there are “a handful of expressed concerns.”

It has been implied that new trustees will have no other rights, and that’s not true, she said.

“We are fully committed to fully engaging our new members to make meaningful change towards improved student outcomes,” Garcia Morales said.

The policy revisions will be considered at a public hearing on Jan. 25 at Northeast Career &Technical Academy in North Las Vegas.

Four new nonvoting members were sworn in earlier this month — the result of a new state law that created a hybrid school board in Clark County. They join seven already-sitting elected trustees.

Each local municipality — Clark County, and the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson — appointed one trustee, who will serve a four-year term.

Thursday was the first regular meeting with the new hybrid school board.

Trustees are considering amending a board governance policy about “principles of operation.”

One of the proposed changes is that “a motion may only be made by a member with voting rights.”

Another change is that only voting members can request reconsideration of a prior decision.

The policy revision also calls for defining a “quorum” — the minimum number of trustees who must be in attendance to proceed with a meeting — as four voting members.

‘Contrary to the legislative intent’

The board heard about 15 minutes of in-person public comments — including from the Vegas Chamber and Retail Association of Nevada — opposing the proposed changes. It also received written comments.

In a written public comment, the two primary sponsors of Assembly Bill 175 — which mandated a hybrid school board — expressed strong opposition to the proposed change and said it runs “contrary to the legislative intent.”

In a joint letter, Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, D-Las Vegas — chair of the Assembly Education Committee — and Assemblyman Toby Yurek, R-Henderson, wrote: “Nothing in AB 175 gives the Board the ability to strip appointed trustees of their right to offer motions, so the rule changes being proposed on this agenda can only (be) seen as a cavalier effort to skirt the very same law that created the appointed trustee positions and a cynical attempt to preserve power in the hands of only those trustees who were elected.”

A joint letter opposing the policy change also was submitted by all four local governments.

It was signed by Henderson Mayor Michelle Romero, North Las Vegas Mayor Pamela Goynes-Brown, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Clark County Manager Kevin Schiller.

“The entire reason for adding the newly appointed trustees to the Board is to provide the cities and Clark County with a voice regarding CCSD policy,” they wrote. “Further limiting the ability of the new members to participate in Board meetings only stifles that voice.”

The ACLU of Nevada wrote that the policy change seeks to undermine the intent of the law and “only serves the voting members by restricting power and authority to a few individuals on the Board.”

The organization also wrote: “It is worth noting that the only two Black members of this Board of Trustees are non-voting members and silencing their voices via this proposal is, diplomatically stated, problematic.”

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com. Follow @julieswootton on X.

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