The Clark County School Board approved a three-year contract for incoming Superintendent Jesus Jara with a divisive vote on Thursday, as the district deals with the financial stress of a $68 million budget deficit.
Jara, currently the deputy superintendent for Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida, will start in Clark County on June 19. That gives him about two weeks of overlap with retiring Superintendent Pat Skorkwosky.
Jara plans to meet with each trustee, individually, on his first day.
Jara will earn $320,000 as base pay and will have similar benefits to those in Skorkowsky’s contract, including an allowance for a personal vehicle and some discretionary money. Jara’s salary is nearly a 14 percent increase over Skorkowsky’s base salary of $280,788 this year.
Trustees approved the contract with a 4-3 vote — Linda Young, Chris Garvey and Kevin Child objected, citing concerns over the contract’s length and cost.
Young, who voted for Chief Academic Officer Mike Barton, still expressed frustration with the superintendent selection.
“This community, and the community I represent, have been hurt and harmed by the superintendent search process,” she said. “And there are some gaping, open wounds. And I don’t expect this hurt to go away quickly.”
But other trustees urged the board to move on from the past and come together.
“I think we need to move forward,” said Trustee Linda Cavazos. “We can’t unring the bell.”
Jara said in a statement that he’s grateful for the opportunity.
“I’m looking forward to working with the district’s Trustees, educators, and families to build on the progress CCSD has already realized with a clear focus on student achievement,” he said.
Benefits in Jara’s contract include up to $10,000 for relocation of his family and belongings. The district will pay Jara’s health insurance premium, but Jara is responsible for eligible dependents.
His contract also includes a potential $5,000 in annual health and wellness benefits. Jara also has the opportunity to earn an annual performance bump of up to 5 percent of his salary at the discretion of the board.
Trustees voted to hire Jara, 48, in early May. Jara was one of six candidates the trustees interviewed for the post in late April. During a lengthy meeting May 1, trustees first voted on whether to appoint Chief Academic Officer Mike Barton to the position, but that motion failed 4-3.
Jara was the next candidate trustees seriously considered, noting his experience as a superintendent in Monroe County Public Schools — which includes the Florida Keys — and as the deputy superintendent in Orlando, which also has a large, diverse student population.
Those who work with him in Orlando, including Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, said he’d be a tremendous benefit for Clark County. Board members in Florida say Jara is rarely ruffled and is focused on student achievement.
But some of Jara’s experience signaled a warning flag for trustees. Jara is part of the Chiefs for Change program, which is aimed at building a pipeline of school leaders.
The Chiefs for Change organization is a nonprofit, but Trustee Garvey says it promotes charter schools and hurts traditional public schools.
The teachers union in Monroe County wrote a letter to the Clark County teachers union that expressed concerns over Jara’s handling of the school district’s financial crisis, which included furlough days for staff. The letter said Jara couldn’t effectively manage the small district there and wouldn’t be able to manage district the size of Clark.
At that time, Jara said he was “disappointed” by the letter and defended his work to stabilize the district’s budget.