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Trustees to reconsider Superintendent Jesus Jara’s termination

Updated November 6, 2021 - 9:58 pm

Clark County School Board trustees will vote again on the fate of Superintendent Jesus Jara after a board member said she regrets her vote last month to terminate his contract.

Trustees Irene Cepeda, Evelyn Garcia Morales and Lola Brooks sent a letter to board counsel and board President Linda Cavazos requesting two new agenda items for the Nov. 18 board meeting: rescinding Jara’s termination and investigating potential harassment of Jara and his cabinet.

On Oct. 28, the board ended Jara’s contract “for convenience,” on a 4-3 vote, meaning trustees didn’t have to cite any particular reason. Trustees Danielle Ford, Lisa Guzman, Cepeda and Cavazos voted to end the contract, while Brooks, Katie Williams and Garcia Morales voted against the move.

Cepeda, the board’s vice president, provided the swing vote that led to the termination of Jara’s contract after voting in May to extend it until early 2023. After his contract was terminated, trustees told the Review-Journal that Jara would remain on the job for 30 days.

But Cepeda said Saturday that she voted to terminate Jara because of the “toxic environment” of the board.

“I’ve lost my own voice trying to find middle ground and consensus in a board so painfully divided,” she wrote in a statement released to the Review-Journal. “More and more troubling information has come out about the process of termination, his tenure, and work environment.”

Two days before his contract was terminated, Jara emailed Cavazos and outlined allegations about her behavior, including that she sent a text message to his chief of staff implying he had support to become the next superintendent.

Cepeda, Brooks and Garcia Morales are requesting an investigation into allegations of harassment Jara and his executive cabinet said they have faced.

The board may vote on bringing in a third party to investigate, according to the letter requesting the new agenda items.

Jara wrote in an email to Cavazos that the past nine months have been “extremely challenging due to untruths and information that is leaked from closed sessions and our 1:1 meetings.”

Cavazos told the Review-Journal that she has never leaked anything from a closed session in the more than four years she has been on the board, and noted that some cabinet members text trustees. Cavazos said she hadn’t reached out to anyone in the executive cabinet to inquire if they’re interested in becoming interim superintendent

“As a board we haven’t taken responsibility for OUR contribution to CCSD’s problem,” Cepeda wrote Saturday. “We only blame him for actions that could have been avoided if we had a good rapport and guided him away from potential pitfalls. In some cases, this board has maneuvered him right towards them in an effort to remove him.”

Trustees surprised

Calls and emails to Jara and some trustees were not returned Saturday.

Cavazos said late Saturday that she was caught off guard by the agenda request, which she said was leaked to the Review-Journal. She said trustees are typically prohibited from talking about items until the formal agenda comes out.

“Leaks of confidential information is something we’ve been dealing with for a while,” she said. “It absolutely has to stop.”

Cavazos said she is hoping the School Board can move forward to tackle larger issues, including school buses and students struggling to learn English.

“I have to say I would not want to be a constituent watching seven grown women bicker,” she said.

Ford said she was surprised the termination was being reconsidered, and she fears the board counsel isn’t representing the board well.

“I’m in the process of obtaining a lawyer to ensure that my rights as an elected trustee aren’t being steamrolled over and that my constituents’ voices are fairly represented,” she wrote to the Review-Journal.

Guzman, when reached by phone, said she had only heard the news after the Review-Journal published the story.

“I’m just shocked,” she said.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Julie Wootton-Greener contributed to this report.

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