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School Board agrees to concessions to keep Jara on the job

Officers of the Clark County School Board approved concessions to Superintendent Jesus Jara to keep him on the job, including new “assurances” to be added to his employment agreement and mediation of his workplace harassment claims.

An agreement between the board and Jara, obtained by the Review Journal through a public records request, spells out the general terms of an agreement reached between board officials and Jara on Friday, the same day that he announced he plans to stay as superintendent.

Word of the deal comes as Jara prepares to face the School Board Thursday for the first time since the trustees voted to terminate his contract on Oct. 28 — only to reinstate it three weeks later.

The agreement, signed by board Board President Linda Cavazos, Vice President Irene Cepeda and Clerk Evelyn Garcia Morales, aims to resolve some of the underlying issues that led to the termination vote and Jara’s complaints about a hostile work environment.

Among other things, it notes the board and Jara “have different positions regarding the legal effect of the board’s action to rescind the termination.” But it states there’s a “desire to continue the employment relationship and seek to resolve their differences.”

Workplace claims head for mediation

Among other things, the deal calls for mediation of claims the superintendent’s legal counsel, John Bailey, made in letters on Nov. 5, 18 and 30 that outlined the hostile work environment complaint and related issues.

The agreement says the Nov. 5 and 18 letters relate to “claims of harassment, hostile work environment, and retaliation” involving “certain members of the board.” It does not identify them, but Bailey’s first “letter of demand” seeking more than $2 million to resolve the complaints stated that Cavazos and trustees Danielle Ford and Lisa Guzman were particularly active in the harassment of Jara.

Another provision of the agreement lists assurances to be considered for addition to Jara’s contract, including stipulations covering his responsibilities as superintendent. It also refers to a covenant of confidentiality, adherence to board policies, communications, cooperation and governance that both he and the trustees would agree to abide by.

The assurances also state that Jara is accountable “only to the board as a whole,” not individual trustees. It says trustees acknowledge they “shall timely refer all substantive criticisms, complaints and suggestions” to the superintendent and board liaison.

It also says the board will discuss and consider which assurances will be added to Jara’s contract at a meeting “sometime in January.”

On Friday night, Jara announced he plans to stay as superintendent, saying in a statement he plans to work to re-center the district’s focus on student safety, mental health and “unfinished learning.”

There has been “too much adult-centered attention” over the last five weeks, he said, noting it’s unacceptable and time to move forward.

In an interview with the Review-Journal on Wednesday, Cavazos said some of the assurances outlined in the agreement were requested by Jara as he considered whether he would remain as superintendent of the nation’s fifth-largest public school district.

Assurances ‘mutually flowing’

But she said the assurances are meant to be reciprocal and “mutually flowing” between the superintendent and board.

She said in a Twitter post over the weekend that “additional processes,” including mediation, “will be used to settle unresolved differences,” and there needs to be a focus on students’ needs.

Cavazos, who wrote in the agreement that “My preference would have been for all trustees to have signed this document,” said Wednesday that she included that statement when she electronically signed the document because she views the board as being a collective body — not just the three officers.

Trustees voted 4-3 on Oct. 28 to terminate Jara’s contract “for convenience,” meaning they didn’t need to provide a reason. Cavazos, Cepeda, Ford and Guzman made up the majority.

A week later, Bailey sent the board a letter saying the superintendent was owed more than $657,000 to pay out the remainder of his contract and $2 million to settle allegations of harassment, a hostile work environment and retaliation.

The dispute took another turn on Nov. 18, when the board decided in another split vote to rescind his contract termination — essentially allowing him to remain on the job. Cepeda provided the swing vote after helping get the item added to the agenda.

Jara is expected to address the board during Thursday’s meeting. He is listed as the contact person for an agenda item related to “transfer of responsibilities” under the state’s 2017 reorganization law, which allows Clark County School District campuses to have more control over decisions in areas such as staffing and budgets.

The School Board will consider four recommendations from Jara. One of them calls for “the transfer of responsibility for all remaining responsibilities currently transferred to schools under a service level agreement from schools back to central office.”

Ford says she’s been left out

The effort to get back to district business could be hampered by a new issue that surfaced this week when Ford said she has been barred from some board meetings for allegedly violating confidentiality rules.

“There are current issues related to me, an elected official, being excluded from Board/attorney meetings, purportedly for violating confidentiality,” Ford wrote Sunday in a post on Twitter. “There is no established precedent for this action, and there is no definitive proof that any breach of confidentiality occurred within the parameters set previously.”

It was not clear what meetings Ford had been excluded from from her post and the Review-Journal was unable to arrange an interview with her on Tuesday or Wednesday.

School Board governance policies state if confidential information isn’t kept confidential, it’s a policy violation and “details of the work will not be shared with you unless it is in a formal setting.”

Ford requested the late October agenda item related to the superintendent’s contract. And earlier this year, she filed an open meeting law complaint with the Nevada Attorney General’s Office about an item during a May meeting where a divided board renewed Jara’s contract through Jan. 15, 2023.

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