Middle school namesakes dedicated decades to district

Monaco Middle School wasn’t named on a whim. Its namesakes, Mario and JoAnne Monaco, spent decades working in the Clark County School District in multiple roles and locations. The couple’s relocation to Las Vegas was happenstance, but their dedication to the school district once they arrived was irrefutable.

Mario Monaco was born in 1928 in Italy. His family immigrated to America when he was 9 months old. They settled in Montana, where his father worked as a welder for the railroad.

A slide show presentation on the Monaco Middle School website lays out the basic highlights of the namesakes’ lives. Joanne Monaco graduated from Butte Central Girls High School in Butte, Mont., in 1944 and completed training in nursing at St. James Hospital School. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Carroll College in Montana and interned at a veterans hospital in Boise, Idaho.

Mario Monaco graduated in 1946 from Anaconda High School in Montana, where he returned to teach in 1956 following a two-year stint in the Navy, college and two years of teaching in Oregon.

In a 1988 interview in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on the occasion of his retirement, Mario Monaco said his father wanted him to be a doctor, lawyer or teacher. He had no interest in law, and the thought of dealing with the sick or dying was depressing, so teaching it was.

The Monacos married in 1957. On their honeymoon they traveled south by car and came to Las Vegas. On an impulse, Mario Monaco applied for a job with the Clark County School District. Much to his surprise, he was hired.

He taught for five years, starting at Fremont Middle School, moving to Hyde Park Middle School and ending up at Western High School, where he was teaching when he made the transition to administrator, becoming assistant principal of Gibson Middle School in 1969.

That was the same year that JoAnne Monaco felt their children were old enough that she could re-enter the workforce. She took a position as school nurse at Lincoln Elementary School and later was school nurse at several other elementary schools, including Twin Lakes, Helen M. Smith, Warren, Adcock, Pittman and Wasden.

In 1981 Mario Monaco was selected as director of the Southern Nevada Vocational Technical Center, a position he held until his 1988 retirement after 31 years with the school district. His wife retired two years later, after 21 years of service.

In the proposal to name a school for the Monacos, Patrick L. Herron, assistant superintendent for facilities with the Clark County School District, praised their commitment to the community and said that much of their time and energy was devoted to their careers to ensure that the children of Las Vegas were provided with the necessary tools to become successful in society.

“They were one of the first families to devote much of their time into organizations such as the Pop Warner Football League,” Herron wrote. “They have always put the needs of others before their own.”

The 1988 Review-Journal article written by K.J. Evans points out that the Monacos, and Mario in particular, didn’t work in elite neighborhoods.

“Monaco didn’t run schools attended by the sons and daughters of power and privilege,” Evans wrote. “His students were mostly of the working class and the downright poor.”

The article praised his skills as a moderator often caught between angry students, parents and teachers during racial conflict in the ’70s at Rancho High School.

For a time, the National Honor Society branch at Rancho High School was named for Mario Monaco. The Mario C. and JoAnne Monaco Middle School at 1870 Lamont St. opened in 2001.

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 380-4532.

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