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CCSD trustees accused of breaking open meeting laws on dean job cuts

Updated June 21, 2019 - 12:10 pm

The union representing the 170 deans whose jobs were eliminated in the latest round of Clark County School District budget cuts has filed a lawsuit alleging that the School Board violated state open meeting laws, rendering the decision null and void.

The lawsuit, filed late Thursday in Las Vegas District Court by the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-Technical Employees, claims trustees met in a closed session without proper justification to hear a presentation from Superintendent Jesus Jara on the decision to eliminate the middle and high school deans.

The association cites state law that requires board meetings to be open and public.

“The CCSD Board of Trustees have supervision, control, jurisdiction and advisory power over operations of schools,” the complaint states, “and specifically whether to eliminate the dean of students position from secondary schools.”

Jara’s decision to eliminate the deans angered administrators and employees who found out about the announcement last week through a video released on its website.

The administrators union later placed a vote of no confidence in Jara, arguing that the unilateral decision was made without its input and without prior warning.

Two trustees allegedly opposed

The lawsuit claims that two trustees opposed the job cuts in the closed meeting — but does not identify them.

Jara told trustees in the meeting that principals would support removal of the deans, saying some were already converting deans to assistant principals and “because the principals viewed deans as weak,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit claims that at least one trustee, whom it also did not identify, expressed dissatisfaction with Jara’s presentation to the board.

“She feels ‘hoodwinked’ due to the inaccurate representation that was made by Jara in which he asserted that the principals would support the decision to remove the dean of students position,” the complaint states.

The association also plans to submit a complaint to the state attorney general’s office. The association also plans to file a motion with the court seeking a preliminary injunction to freeze the cuts until the case is decided.

State law requires all meetings of public bodies to be open to the public with a few exceptions. Those include to consider the character of an employee and to negotiate with employee organizations, among other exceptions.

The complaint requests that the court render the decision to cut the deans’ jobs be null and void, in accordance with state law.

Violation can be corrected

However, state law also allows public bodies to correct an alleged violation within 30 days by posting the item on the agenda and taking action on the matter in a public meeting, to try to avoid prosecution by the attorney general. The action would also then be valid.

In a statement, the district said it believes in transparency and strives to meet open meeting law requirements at all times.

“The superintendent does not need to bring budget cuts to the board for approval,” the statement reads. “A closed session was held with trustees to discuss how the budget cuts would affect ongoing collective bargaining and potential legal action related to the threatened strike.”

Jara has previously stated that the claim that the board violated open meeting law was inaccurate. After public outcry at last week’s meeting over the cuts, he said he would not rescind his decision to remove deans.

Meanwhile, schools are laying plans to deal with losing deans. Some have created or kept current assistant principal positions instead, using a creative mix of money from their own funds.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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