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School district looks to improve performance at nine Prime Six schools

In an effort to improve test scores at underperforming schools in the downtown and North Las Vegas areas, the Clark County School District is recommending a dozen reform initiatives for the coming school year. A public input session regarding the district’s plan is scheduled from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. today at Nevada Partners, 710 W. Lake Mead Blvd.

The Superintendent’s Education Opportunities Advisory Committee will make a presentation on its recommendations to Superintendent Dwight Jones, and the public will be able to offer input regarding the recommendations.

It’s essential the affected community take part in the discussion, according to committee co-chairman Robert McCord.

“Community involvement helps us understand if we’re on point or not,” he said. “We want to hear from people. The superintendent specifically requested community involvement.”

The meeting concerns the nine so-called Prime Six sites, including Booker, Carson, Fitzgerald, Gilbert, Hoggard, Kelly, Mackey, McCall and Wendell Williams elementary schools.

The schools traditionally have had high minority populations and have the Prime Six moniker because they were the sixth-grade campuses for all Clark County students as part of the district’s effort to desegregate schools beginning in 1972.

Some of the committee’s recommendations include:

n Hiring a Prime Six manager with supervisory authority.

n Authorizing great school autonomy through block granting of funds with accountability tied to the increased autonomy.

n Establishing high quality early childhood programs for 3- to 4-year-olds .

n Converting part of Kelly Elementary School, 1900 J St., which has been significantly under-enrolled for several years, to an early childhood center in 2013.

n Implementing a high-quality English Language Learner program.

n Establishing a three-year window for demonstrated success, tracked with accountability metrics.

The committee is made up of about 10 education and community leaders who volunteered to help with the project. It also received input from the principals of the nine schools in question.

One of them, committee co-chairwoman Beverly Mathis, is retiring after 16 years as the principal at Booker Elementary School, 2277 N. Martin Luther King Blvd.

“Who better than the Prime Six principals to know what to bring to the table?” Mathis said. “These are suggestions we formulated, things that we knew. Now we are just sharing with the community exactly what our suggestions are. Transparency is the name of the game here.”

Mathis and McCord said not all of the schools are consistently underperforming and that some of them are trending in a positive direction already.

Because of the specialized programs and federal funding they receive for serving low-income students, the schools averaged $3,387 more in per pupil expenditures than the district average of $8,246 during the 2009-10 school year.

These recommendations, ideally, will be applicable to every school in the valley, they said.

“We’re hoping what we’re doing will be emulated throughout the district,” Mathis said.

Mathis, who said she’ll always be involved with education even though she’s retiring, is excited about the possibilities that could come from this project.

“I’m just excited about the action,” she said. “Sometimes we talk about it. Well, this is a different world. Now we’re actually seeing some movement instead of just standing still, talking about what needs to take place.”

The committee’s recommendations will be sent to the superintendent for approval and are expected to be implemented this fall.

For more information and the complete list of recommendations, visit ccsd.net. Members of the public requiring accommodations in order to attend the meeting can call 799-1080.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

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