CARSON CITY — Football great Brett Favre’s example is guiding Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones as he scrambles to improve student achievement in the state’s largest school system.
The quarterback would tell people he played hard because he had a "fear of failure," Jones told members of the Senate and Assembly education committees Wednesday.
Jones, the former commissioner of education in Colorado, has the same phobia.
"I am very optimistic," he said. "I have never failed. Failure cannot be an option."
Jones told legislators that he intends to implement reforms in Clark County by September and that he continues to make changes that will improve teacher performance and increase student achievement.
"We are going to have to teach at a harder level. Kids can work harder in the classroom. Our expectations are too low, especially for brown kids," he said.
Jones’ appearance was his first before the legislative committees since he began working as superintendent in December.
No action was taken during the meeting. Legislators just listened for more than two hours as Jones, Washoe County Superintendent Heath Morrison and Nye County Superintendent William "Rob" Roberts outlined their plans to improve student achievement.
Several legislators praised Jones, including Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who called him a "shining star."
But no one asked for his reaction to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s plan to reduce state support to public education by 9 percent, or more than $200 million.
Sandoval proposes 5 percent cuts in teacher salaries and a $270 reduction in per pupil support.
"I know we have to make sacrifices. But what is being proposed is too much," Jones said after the hearing. "I don’t think we can cut our way out of this budget crisis and get better results. What is being proposed now is too difficult for our districts to sustain."
Roberts chairs the state’s superintendents association, and he told the committees that all 17 school superintendents want to maintain education funding at levels set by the Legislature in 2009.
They also want legislators to make collective bargaining reforms, although what reforms they want were not clear in a handout given to lawmakers.
With those changes, Roberts promised that student achievement would increase.
"We have cut to the bone," Roberts said. "Further reductions would impede our ability to do our jobs."
Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, suggested that student achievement has fallen because parental involvement has declined since he went to school in the 1980s.
But Morrison said students today are different. More than half of the students in his district come from poverty and have parents for whom English is a second language. They don’t have computers and often lack the skills to deal effectively with teachers.
Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, said parental involvement is critical in improving student achievement. She mentioned she was a dropout but later returned to school and now is a law school graduate.
"My dad only had time to work," she said. "Parents need help, need tools."
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.