The Clark County School Board, following a year of public disputes over sex education, teacher contracts and other heated issues, rang in 2016 with a divisive vote Wednesday to select its next leadership.
Across the country most school boards accomplish that annual task with little fanfare or disagreement.
But the seven trustees guiding the nation’s fifth-largest school district succeeded in shocking one member of the public who witnessed the typically mundane procedure devolve into a squabble.
“This is not the behavior you’d expect from top leaders,” said Hilda Matias, a master’s degree student at National University in California. Matias, who previously taught in the Clark County School District, attended the board meeting Wednesday for research on an assignment on educational administration.
She expressed disbelief when Trustees Carolyn Edwards and Deanna Wright, who Edwards nominated to become board president, walked out of the meeting after President Linda Young was re-elected.
“Imagine if I saw that behavior in a classroom. If I conducted myself in that manner, I’d be disciplined,” Matias said. “That’s just not acceptable.”
Her critique of the trustees reflects a wider sense in the community that the district lacks proper management.
Minority and activist groups, already preparing for school board elections later this year, started seeking potential candidates last summer. Support staff and teachers remain upset over rising health costs, and on Friday, a legislative committee meets for the fourth time to consider whether to split the district into smaller precincts to boost student achievement and increase local control.
That committee’s work persuaded four trustees, including Young, to keep her in the presidency.
“These are sort of extraordinary times and a pretty unusual circumstance (that) the district is facing,” said Trustee Patrice Tew, who later secured a 5-1 vote to replace Wright as board clerk.
“My instinct tells me we need the sustained and continuous effort of the current leadership,” Tew added.
Trustee Chris Garvey, who was unanimously re-elected vice president, joined Edwards and Wright in voting against Young’s nomination as president.
Under board policy, the president schedules and leads all meetings, may call special meetings, appoint fellow trustees to committees, sign legal documents and guide the board’s evaluation of Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky.
Without criticizing Young’s performance, Edwards stated that her nomination for Wright would benefit the board as a whole.
“This is a time for us to demonstrate what we say we mean, and that is we want to grow the leadership on this entire board and not be exclusive,” Edwards said.
For her part, Young acknowledged the tension in Wednesday’s meeting.
She also commended the trustees for being “passionate” about leading their community.
“From time to time, (there’s) the appearance that maybe I’m taking away from something that they’re doing,” Young said. “That may cause a little bit of concern or consternation.
“What the balance on that is, is the continuity and keeping us all together at this time.”
Contact Neal Morton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @nealtmorton