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Nonprofit group offers ideas for bridging teacher gap

Plans to turn around Southern Nevada’s teacher shortage are in the hands of state lawmakers.

A nonprofit group of almost 60 education, business and government leaders on Tuesday unveiled recommendations resulting from five months of brainstorming on how to improve schools. Those working with the business-backed education reform group Nevada Succeeds and the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance described the plans at Bonanza High School.

Dale Erquiaga, chief strategy officer for Gov. Brian Sandoval, said traditional classroom methods no longer work and need to be overhauled to serve today’s technology-savvy students.

“We still run education like a 19th-century assembly line,” he said. Instead, the school system needs to teach students to think and adapt to change.

The group hopes to do so by attracting and keeping quality educators. It wants to create ways for teachers to advance their careers without leaving the classroom to join administration. The group recommended overhauling principal training and giving them more power to lead schools.

Suggestions also include involving parents in creating high-performing schools and expanding programs that help rookie educators and science, technology, engineering and math teachers.

Many in the group said the improvements would work because people from different backgrounds helped devise them.

“It’s a far cry better than not doing anything,” former Gov. Bob Miller said.

Former Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones suggested putting together the group after learning about a similar one in Colorado. The nonprofit’s largest donor is the Las Vegas Sands Corp.

The recommendations come as the Clark County School District and others across the state ramp up hiring for the 2016-17 school year. There were 881 classroom vacancies in August. That’s up from 171 open teacher jobs at the start of the academic year in 2013.

The vacant positions are concentrated at schools with the most at-risk students. Veteran educator Sandy Pontillas works with new teachers at 22 of those schools. Rookie educators often leave the profession because they don’t get the support they need.

“It’s such a tough job,” she said.

The suggestions are a major step in solving educator shortages, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison said. With the group’s suggestions, lawmakers will start writing bills for consideration by the Legislature, which convenes in February.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Amy Nile at anile@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Find @AmyNileReports on Twitter.

Clark County School District classroom vacancies

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