Clark County school superintendent’s budget scrutiny upsets status quo

Some people are waking up today with indigestion courtesy of Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky. And that’s a good thing.

In his State of the District Address on Monday at Del Sol High School, Skorkowsky promised to squeeze and scrutinize every dollar that comes into America’s fifth-largest public school system. With a $2 billion annual budget, that’s a lot of oversight.

Such talk from Skorkowsky makes for good sound bites at a time many local taxpayers and business owners are still recovering from the recession and aren’t in the mood for paying higher taxes. It also adds to the superintendent’s greater credibility — as long as he follows through and we see the results of the increased fiscal focus.

What’s in it for you: For starters, increased confidence that your tax dollars for public education are being spent more effectively while simultaneously producing better results in the classroom.

What’s in it for teachers and administrators: Potentially, more funds from the same limited pool to apply to programs that show results, or at least real promise anecdotally. What a relief for dedicated teachers to know someone is actually questioning some of the tried-and-untrue programs, procedures and even texts they’ve been mandated to use in the classroom.

What’s in it for Skorkowsky: Call it speculation, but perhaps kind of political gravity it will take to make a powerful case in the future for focused increases in funding for a gigantic school district faced with complex challenges ranging from overcrowded classrooms to burgeoning English Language Learner students.

Finally, what’s in it for lovers of the status quo: the threat of substantial change. That’s where the indigestion comes in.

Those who believe Nevada doesn’t invest enough in the education of its children and young people can make a strong argument. But it’s also true that for a long time the booming Clark County district had the reputation of being long on growth and short on scrutinizing the efficiency of the spending. The quality of education, as measured by graduation rates, remained lackluster while the district grew to into a bureaucratic behemoth.

Growth was good for a lot of people — including those who had business and vending connections with the district. With a $2 billion annual budget, lucrative contracts were plentiful. But school district skeptics such as myself have long wondered how effective — and how supervised — all that spending has been. Maybe now we’ll see.

For his part, Skorkowsky has spent the past 26 years coming up through the district’s ranks, from teacher to top administrator. He clearly understands the system, what its influences are, but also what’s at stake in the long run for teachers and students. (It is about the students, isn’t it?)

So when Skorkowsky offers a solemn promise to take a hard look at the big numbers, it’s bound to make pulses pound down at Business-As-Usual headquarters.

While he’s busy working to increase student proficiency, improve academic growth, close achievement gaps, shape up college and career preparedness, encouraging family and community involvement, and respecting the need for staff diversity, he’s also focusing on ensuring the “return on investment” of programs and practices rises as well.

Part of the district’s new “Pledge of Achievement” reads, “Our students must achieve more. Our community must achieve more. We must do this as a community with unity and a sense of purpose — a recognition that we are all in this together, and we all have a stake in the outcome.” Those cynical of public education’s ability to stand and deliver for students will scoff at such an optimistic vision.

But increasing fiscal efficiency while raising proficiency won’t come easily. Substantive change never does.

And if some formerly comfortable folks have to start drinking Pepto straight from the bottle to control their stomach upset, well, call it a sign of progress.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. E-mail him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.

News Videos
Report knocks Las Vegas for ozone, but local officials cite improvement
The American Lung Association says Las Vegas has some of the highest ozone levels in the nation, but Clark County air quality officials insist the community is improving when it comes to the smog-causing pollutant. (Michael Quine)
It's Rattlesnake Season
As temperatures start to rise in the Las Vegas area, people are heading outside for various activities. Possibly hiking and maybe with a dog. People and pets aren’t the only creatures coming out of their winter homes – so are snakes. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP Trooper sustains dog bite during rescue
A small dog loose on the freeway bites the hand of an Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper that saved it.
Henderson fails to investigate the drug overdose death of one of its officers
Henderson Police Department's internal affairs did not investigate the 2014 drug overdose death of an officer. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP trooper and good Samaritans save a life
Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Jacob Fisher and a group of good Samaritans performed lifesaving CPR on a driver suffering a heart attack last month in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Syphilis Awareness Day
Dr. Joe Iser, District Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, discusses the effects and issues with syphilis in the Las Vegas community on April 16, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas diocese IDs 33 ‘credibly accused’ of sexual abuse
The Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas released a list on Friday of 33 “credibly accused” of sexual abuse who at some point served in the Las Vegas Valley. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CCSD Arbor View meeting
The Clark County School Board hears from the public about racial tensions at Arbor View High School on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Amelia Park-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Parents of autistic student battle Clark County School District
Joshua and Britten Wahrer, parents of a special education student, are battling the Clark County School District for the right to equip their son with a monitoring device. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Metro homeless outreach a shift in strategy
Lt. Joe Sobrio discusses the new homeless outreach team for Metro. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prayer for Opportunity Scholarships
Las Vegas students and adults hold a prayer meeting about the Opportunity Scholarship program on Thursday, April 4, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Solar scams on the rise in Nevada
As Nevada’s solar industry has made a resurgence, solar scammers have followed suit.
Clark County schools and the late bus issue
Year after year, late or no-show buses in the Clark County School District draw the ire of parents and students alike. One year the problem even prompted a parent to crack a school bus window in frustration over a late drop-off. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
I-15 southbound congested near Primm Sunday afternoon
Drivers heading toward California on Interstate 15 should expect heavy traffic and a 13-mile backup Sunday afternoon.
Learning lifesaving skills in advance of fire season
Students and firefighters attend a training session at Fire Station 80 in Blue Diamond, Saturday, March 30, 2019. The training session helps volunteer firefighters obtain necessary annual certification to work wild fires.
Car restoration behind prison walls
Inmates share their experiences working for the Southern Desert Correctional Center auto body shop in Indian Springs while learning valuable skills.
Parent remembers Las Vegas boy killed by car
People visit a memorial at the intersection of South Fort Apache Road and West Arby Avenue at at Faiss Park Wednesday, March 27, 2019, where Jonathan Smith, 12, of Las Vegas, died after he was struck while crossing Fort Apache Monday. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Couple left with surprise medical bills after visit to the hospital
Michael Pistiner took his wife, Marta Menendez-Pistiner, to the ER in January after she fainted twice and appeared to be having a seizure. Despite paying $856 monthly for health insurance, the two, self-employed musicians, were stuck with more than $5,700 in hospital and doctor bills after than hour-and-a-half visit. Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Las Vegas police brief the media on fatal crash
Metropolitan Police Department Capt. Nick Farese addresses the media about a car accident at South Fort Apache Road and West Arby Avenue that left one minor dead and one hospitalized on Monday, March 25, 2019. (Mike Shoro/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Arbor View parent talks about racial issues at the school
Lawanna Calhoun, a former Arbor View parent, talks about the state of the school. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jim Foley talks about 30 years of living HIV-positive
Jim Foley, who was diagnosed as HIV positive 30 years ago, talks at his home in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Traffic Slows to a Crawl on I-15S Near Primm
Traffic slowed to a crawl around 2:30p Sunday, on I-15S near Primm, Nevada.
Homeless residents speak about safety
The homeless residents living at the corner of Owens Ave. and Main St. reflect on how they feel about their safety after two homeless men died, one was hit crossing the street and another was beat to death by another homeless man. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
CCSD Superintendent address alleged racially motivated threats at Arbor View
CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara gives update on alleged racially motivated threats against Arbor View High School, and says such threats will not be tolerated. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Super Bloom Near Lake Elsinore, California
Crowds packed the hills near Lake Elsinore on Saturday to capture a rare selfie amidst the super bloom of poppies turning the landscape purple. The super bloom was caused by the larger rainfall this year. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fiery accident in Las Vegas
A three-car accident on Spring Mountain Road around 6:30 pm on Monday night
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Stardust implosion anniversary
Twelve years ago today, the Stardust Resort and Casino was imploded. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lawsuits filed against security contractors at Nevada National Security Site
Two lawsuits were filed today against the current and former government security contractors for the Nevada National Security Site, one on behalf of Jennifer Glover who alleges sexual discrimination and assault and the other on behalf of Gus Redding who alleges retaliation after he gave statements supporting Glover’s claims. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New housing option helps Las Vegas moms keep kids while kicking drugs
WestCare Nevada Women and Children’s Campus in Las Vegas has added a new transitional housing wing for women who have completed the inpatient treatment at the behavioral health nonprofit to help them as they go through outpatient treatment, shore up their finances and prepare to secure long-term housing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing