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School board president defends timing of potential contract renewal for Jara

Updated October 4, 2022 - 2:04 pm

After pushback from some in the community about the timing of Superintendent Jesus Jara’s potential contract renewal this week, Clark County School Board President Irene Cepeda said Monday that there were no other available meetings to bring the issue forward before the end of the year.

The board is set to discuss and possibly vote on a contract extension for Jara at a work session Wednesday morning, when educators, students and parents in the school community likely will be in school or at work.

The board announced that it would discuss Jara’s contract renewal just hours after his evaluation was completed last week and rated him as “highly effective.”

A discussion on possibly extending Jara’s contract comes on the heels of a controversial year for the superintendent that culminated in his firing and subsequent rehiring last fall.

The proposed contract extension would run through June 30, 2026, and would see Jara’s pay increase to $395,000 a year from $320,000.

Cepeda said in a statement Monday that it is not uncommon for contract discussions to take place during work sessions, and that it is difficult to schedule meetings in November and December because of the holidays.

Three of the candidates for school board criticized the timing of the contract renewal and the metrics that were used to evaluate Jara, citing the upcoming November general election when three School Board seats will be up for grabs.

“They’re cutting out tens of thousands of voters’ voices, if not more,” Trustee Danielle Ford, who is running for re-election, said.

In her statement Monday, Cepeda said the board needed to take action on the superintendent’s contract in part because of the lengthy process if the board needs to conduct a search for a new superintendent.

“Waiting to discuss this item after elections is purely political and poor governance,” she wrote.

Cepeda herself is running for re-election in November, in a race that has the potential to shake up the balance of power on a board where decisions are consistently decided with a 4-3 vote.

She often votes as part of the current board majority that in the last year has voted to rehire Jara, expedite his contract process and approve Jara’s evaluation.

In a statement posted to Twitter Tuesday, Trustee Linda Cavazos, who served as board president last year, said that the president has the power to change agenda items from discussion/action items to discussion only. Possible action on an item could be deferred to a regular Thursday evening meeting or to a special meeting, Cavazos said.

Cepeda told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that all of the board’s regular meetings through the end of the year are scheduled around updates on student outcomes, an issue that she has attempted to prioritize since taking over as president.

The board’s policies also recommend that the board not schedule more than two big items as part of any given agenda, according to Cepeda.

“It’s not out of the norm to have these at a work session,” she said.

Regarding members of the school community who have raised concerns about not being able to attend the meeting, Cepeda encouraged them to submit written comments or call and leave a voicemail with their feedback.

Discussion on Jara’s contract extension will take place at 9 a.m. on Wednesday at the Edward A. Greer Education Center, 2832 E. Flamingo Road.

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

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