Superintendent puts priority on staffing, smart spending

The Clark County School District was blindsided when Superintendent Dwight Jones stepped down in March, citing family obligations. That led to the appointment, twice, of Assistant Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky.

View caught up with the new superintendent and asked his vision for the district. What are his top three concerns?

“Well, right now, I actually have more concerns than three,” he said. “First is looking at results. We have to get better achievement results and focus in on increasing the rigor in the classroom to get those results. Second is people. We need to ensure that every student has the best teacher and every employee supports what’s happening in our schools.”

Skorkowsky said the district also needs to look at its return on investments and be sure money is spent wisely, “and that it will get us results. If not, then we need to figure out why it’s not. And if it’s not going to get us results, then we need to stop spending that money and look for something different.”

The Las Vegas City Council is stepping up to the plate. It voted in July to partner with Teach For America to partially fund a teacher development program that will provide up to 25 teachers in downtown schools over the next two years. The city voted to provide $62,500 to Teach For America to help offset costs associated with recruiting, selecting and training the teachers.

“The city of Las Vegas is committed to working with our education partners to increase reading proficiency and the high school graduation rate,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman said. “This program brings highly trained Teach For America corps professionals to instruct at our inner-city schools, and we hope that this sets a precedent and improves the quality of education across the city.”

Teach For America has 270 corps members teaching in the district, spread over 56 schools. A Teach For America corps member has been named Clark County New Teacher of the Year every year since the 2005-06 school year.

Skorkowsky said the district needs to be “looking at innovation, finding ways to do things different that are going to give us better results.”

That innovation included the district dumping the No Child Left Behind Act. One of the studies that spotlighted its ineffectiveness was a 2012 report from the Harvard Kennedy School, “Achievement Growth: International and U.S. State Trends in Student Performance,” which analyzed student performance in math, science and reading between 1992 and 2011. The study showed that students experienced only modest educational gains since 1995 with test score performances improved annually by 1.6 percent of a standard deviation.

Skorkowsky could have cited that same report, which concluded, “Per-capita spending was found to have no effect on testing outcomes.” Instead, he said, “We’re working on, when you look at what we pay versus what taxes they pay, it does decrease it a little bit. It does make the take-home pay a little better. … if we can get teachers to teach for more than five years, we can keep them. And so we’re working hard at those first five years to get them indoctrinated not only into our school district but into the community, get them connected to Las Vegas, so that, you know, if they’re from out of district, they don’t want to go home. They want to stay here.”

Regarding improving test scores, Skorkowsky said the new system would be a growth system.

“So we looked at where every student performed the previous year, and when they go into the classroom, we can expect a year’s worth of growth or higher out of that student,” he said. “If the student is below grade level, then we need to catch them up. (We can) predict how students are going to do. And as soon as they are predicted to not score as well, then we’re able to put prevention measures in place to bring them up. So, extra tutoring, extra instruction, after-school programs, those types of things, to bring them up to that proficiency level.”

How is he going to put his stamp on his time as superintendent?

“I think that we have to look at everything that we do through the accountability lens,” he said. “I won’t ever ask for anything without a specific plan of how I’m going to use it and how I can be held accountable for it. So I think you’re going to see it’s a system that outlines all the goals, gives us specific performance indicators and key strategies of how we’re going to get there, and then you can expect that I’m going to provide data points, both qualitative and quantitative, to show you how I’m doing in that quest.”

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at or 702-387-2949.

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