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Clark County school leaders offer ideas to save deans

Schools across Clark County may band together to share the financial burden of keeping dean positions — all while allowing the district to close its $17 million deficit.

Roughly a dozen Clark County School District principals floated ideas Wednesday to Superintendent Jesus Jara, who is using the funding for deans to close the district’s shortfall for the school year that starts in less than a month.

The goal, school leaders say, is to keep all middle and high school deans while equally distributing the financial burden across all the schools — or to at least make the cuts more equitable.

Faced with the plan announced last month to eliminate dean positions, schools individually made cuts in other areas of their strategic budgets to keep as many deans as they could.

However, the process wasn’t the same across the board. Cuts are typically easier for schools in poor areas that receive additional state funding because of their student population and academic ratings. Schools in wealthier areas with higher-performing populations miss out on such funding and can have a harder time scraping money together to save such positions.

One possible solution: Schools would pool their attrition money — gained from vacant positions last year — and send it to other schools that need it in order to fund their deans.

Another suggestion is to cut a per-pupil amount out of every school’s budget.

“Truly I think everybody was willing to give up and sacrifice to help,” said Sierra Vista High School Principal John Anzalone, who attended Wednesday’s meeting.

The meeting is one of a few Jara plans to have with staff, teachers and principals this week as the district reconsiders options for the deficit crisis.

“Dr. Jara continues to echo the sentiment that he wants to make sure all viable options have been exercised before he provides an updated recommendation to the Board of School Trustees,” the district said in a statement.

Some principals are hoping the dean title will stay for at least this year, funded by the schools. Then the district could roll out two new suggested positions — a student success project facilitator and student success coordinator — and eliminate the dean job.

The brainstorming session follows a contentious fight over Jara’s decision, which has attracted critics and supporters alike. Deans deal extensively with school discipline, among other matters.

The district is hoping to rethink the way it handles discipline to shrink the school-to-prison pipeline and reduce the disproportionality of discipline for minorities.

Eldorado High School Principal David Wilson, former president of the administrators union, said administrators would commit to doing business differently in respect to restorative justice if Jara restored dean positions.

“That was a strong pledge from us to him,” Wilson said.

The union filed a lawsuit last month alleging the School Board broke open meeting law when it voted to eliminate the dean positions behind closed doors. A judge has issued a temporary restraining order that froze the decision to eliminate the positions while the two parties present their arguments in court.

The district is asking the court to dissolve the order. It argues in its latest court filing that the School Board’s open meeting last week corrected the alleged violation of open meeting law, which the district maintains it did not violate.

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

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