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Principals vote no confidence in CCSD superintendent Jesus Jara

Updated June 12, 2019 - 11:38 pm

Secondary principals across the Clark County School District passed a no confidence vote in Superintendent Jesus Jara on Wednesday, just two days after the district leader announced in a video that he would eliminate all 170 dean positions from middle and high schools.

The unanimous vote among the 72 middle and high school principals present at Green Valley High School on Wednesday marks the first no-confidence vote cast against a superintendent in the history of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-Technical Employees — the group that represents principals, deans and other administrators.

There are just over 100 secondary principals in total, excluding leaders of special schools and programs.

It signals the beginning of eroding trust between Jara and school leaders, who are outraged that they were not consulted about the cuts beforehand and that deans found out through a video posted online. The cuts are expected to cover the $17 million in cuts that the district is seeking to help close its deficit — which came at the end of a legislative session that provided more money for education but still not enough for Clark County.

Critics say the cuts will jeopardize school safety — which deans primarily oversee — and force schools to cut teaching positions to pay for positions similar to dean that would help with the administrative workload.

“It’s not right for us to have to go back into our budgets and increase class sizes and eliminate teaching positions to be able to keep our schools safe,” said Dave Wilson, Eldorado High School principal and president of the association. “It’s just — it’s unconscionable.”

Ninety percent of principals at Wednesday’s meeting said they would be cutting teaching positions to create another position that would help cover administrative duties, Wilson said.

Eliminating deans also would cause schools to cut support staff as they eliminate the dean’s secretary positions, he noted.

The association says it wants Jara to reinstate the dean positions and look elsewhere for funding.

“What we really want him to do is to do what he should’ve done in the first time,” said Stephen Augspurger, executive director of the association. “And that is, have a discussion with his employee groups about how savings can be achieved and save positions.”

Wilson said principals may be willing to give up attrition dollars — money from unfilled positions from the 2018-19 school year — in order to save these positions.

Schools have not yet received the savings realized from vacant positions last school year, which should be given to schools for their use this fall, Wilson said.

“I’m probably looking at a couple hundred thousand dollars at Eldorado alone that, if I had been asked, I would’ve said I will happily give up these attrition dollars in order to help keep my schools safe, as well as other schools throughout CCSD,” he said. “But nobody asked.”

Jara responds

At an education town hall meeting at UNLV later Wednesday, Jara apologized for how he announced the decision — but noted that he wanted to make sure everyone hears from him first in a uniform video.

“I made a judgment call — obviously there’s a lot of hurt feelings that I have to repair with the deans,” he said.

But Jara said he met with the executive board of the administrators association just before their no-confidence vote and felt they had a good meeting. Looking at other school systems across the country, Jara said, he felt eliminating deans was the best decision.

He also noted newly approved funding for safety measures from the Legislature, and the district’s move to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions through the newly announced School Justice Partnership — which rethinks the way the district handles discipline.

Money from the Legislature includes roughly $46 million over the biennium for police officers and mental health workers, and roughly $17 million for school facility improvements.

Parental concerns

Meanwhile, parents, students and staff are still processing the news.

Yvonne Wallace, whose son is entering his sophomore year at Basic High School, said he was flabbergasted when he heard the news.

She argued that schools don’t have the resources to control students who are causing trouble. The cut, she said, was a knee-jerk reaction to the teachers threatening to strike.

“What’s going to happen when a child gets hurt or a teacher gets hurt because they didn’t have that extra person to be roaming the halls, or they didn’t have the extra person who could be the connection for Henderson (police)?” she said.

This article was updated to correct the amount of money approved by the Legislature for school safety.

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

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