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Namesakes recommended for new Clark County elementary schools

Updated September 13, 2017 - 7:57 pm

Kenneth Divich loved teaching in the Clark County School District so much, he supplemented his income by working as a card dealer on the weekends to support his family of five.

And he didn’t even take the easier teaching gigs during his 31 years in the district — he focused on at-risk students, said his son, Kurt Divich.

Kenneth Divich, who died in 2010 at age 78, is one of four recommended namesakes for the four new Clark County School District elementary schools opening in fall 2018. The School Board will vote on those recommendations from the School Name Committee in October.

The committee chose 15 finalists from 61 nominees. The committee grades each name under six categories, including a person’s contributions to education and impact on Clark County children. Then people who submitted applications for finalists could present their case for name recommendations.

“He could’ve walked in and worked as a full-time dealer anywhere,” Kurt Divich said of his father. “But he wanted to work with those kids, and he wanted to work with the ones in the roughest neighborhoods.

“(The nomination) is an honor because it celebrates the people who make the extra mile part of their daily journey,” Kurt Divich said. “It shows all the teachers working in the at-risk community and doing the little things that are the hardest to do how much they matter.”

The other recommendations are former School Board member Shirley Ann Barber, community philanthropists Robert and Sandra Ellis, and former educator and administrator Dennis Ortwein.

Ortwein, who began as a teacher, remembers coming from college in Montana and witnessing the first meeting of the newly consolidated Clark County School District in 1956.

He later served as principal of Tom Williams Elementary but left to help develop a teachers college in Nigeria through Ohio University. Ortwein returned to the district and ended a 30-year career as Ronnow Elementary’s principal, where he remembers having U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., as a student.

“It’s truly humbling,” said Ortwein, now 85, of having a school named for him.

“I just like to think that I will have an opportunity to work with the new principal and the staff and to bring some of the resources and some of the people that I know locally into the school to be part of it.”

Robert and Sandra Ellis, who are Clark County School District graduates, are known for giving students shoes and toys to local schools during the holidays. Their nomination, sent by Richard Bryan, a former Nevada governor and attorney general and a U.S. senator, received a wave of support from principals.

“The Ellises have contributed a great deal of financial support to our schools; however, they don’t just send a check,” wrote 13 principals in a letter to the committee.

“Bob and Sandy are personally involved in our schools. They attend holiday assemblies, school fairs, band concerts, family nights and sunrise ceremonies.”

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

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