School Board names interim superintendent

Pat Skorkowsky will lead the Clark County School District as interim superintendent until a national search yields a permanent replacement for departing Superintendent Dwight Jones in seven to nine months, School Board members decided after 11 hours of discussion Thursday.

Skorkowsky, a 25-year district veteran, has been a deputy superintendent overseeing instruction for less than eight months. The School Board unanimously chose him over two associate superintendents, Jhone Ebert and Andre Denson. But the board didn’t reach consensus on how much to increase his salary. Some members suggested up to a 50 percent pay increase — about $72,000 more — while others argued such a jump is too much for just climbing one rung up the ladder.

“That’s a teaching position,” board member Erin Cranor argued.

At his current $144,000 salary, Skorkowsky is already paid at the top end of the $107,000-$144,000 range posted for the job he filled last summer.

Ruben Murillo, president of the Clark County Education Association, which represents teachers, scoffed at the idea of a raise beyond 10 percent, as board members originally suggested, especially when 11,000 teachers were just forced to take a midyear pay cut.

“It just sends the wrong message,” Murillo said.

The board was criticized by Steve Augspurger, executive director of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-technical Employees, for not properly vetting the four interim superintendent candidates. He said the School Board heard five-minute statements from each nominee and settled for “generalities” on how each would continue where Jones left off.

Board members did not ask any questions of the candidates nominated to head the nation’s fifth-largest school district of 311,000 students.

“I still expect more from a superintendent than I heard today,” Augspurger said after the board chose Skorkowsky.

In Skorkowsky’s statement to the board, he said that the district is at a difficult place and that his seven months at the side of Jones, superintendent for a little more than two years, has prepared him for the job.

“We have so many successes we need to build upon,” Skorkowsky said.

But the superintendent must quickly tackle some distinct tasks, Augspurger said. They include testifying before the Legislature, which is debating school funding and education reforms.

Skorkowsky must oversee drafting the budget for the next school year, direct the hiring of about 2,000 teachers this spring and summer, deal with the aftermath of teacher pay cuts and low morale, and possibly find a new health insurer for 17,500 teachers whose union-founded provider could go bankrupt, Augspurger said.

If the board approves a 50 percent pay increase for Skorkowsky, he would have a $216,000 salary.

Jones was earning $270,000 a year, not including $88,000 in benefits.

The board also needs to search for a permanent superintendent, which could cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 .

Most candidates considering a new job will be settled midway through the summer, when contracts usually lapse for school leaders.

Also, candidates often won’t wait through a drawn-out selection process. The School Board learned that a little more than two years ago.

“They bail,” School Board President Carolyn Edwards said of the 2010 search, in which two finalists dropped out midway through an eight-month, $60,000 search. The board picked the only remaining candidate, Jones.

The board on Thursday opted to use the Nebraska-based firm of McPherson & Jacobson in the upcoming search, the same firm that brought the district Jones.

The board set a goal of having a permanent superintendent start between October and December.

This time, the board will request four finalists, not three. Also, the district wants a free search from the firm if the new superintendent doesn’t stay two years. Jones’ contract was for four years, but he completed just half that.

Linda Young was the only board member against automatically hiring McPherson. She wanted to consider other firms too.

Skorkowsky and local candidates also will be allowed to apply for the permanent position.

Skorkowsky came to Clark County 25 years ago to teach first grade at Ronnow Elementary School after earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Oklahoma State University.

He completed his master’s degree in educational administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and was assistant principal at Eisenberg, Kahre and Bracken elementary schools.

Skorkowsky moved up to principal of French Elementary School and held that position for five years before becoming principal of White Middle School in Henderson for three years. He went on to open Webb Middle School in Henderson as principal.

In May 2006, he became assistant superintendent for what then was the district’s southeast region. He was an associate superintendent overseeing 108 schools for a year before Jones named him deputy superintendent.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@review or 702-383-0279.

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