State Board of Education sworn in, begins work on reforms

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s newly constituted State Board of Education, including Elaine Wynn, director of Wynn Resorts since 2000, was sworn into office Monday and immediately got down to work on Gov. Brian Sandoval’s ambitious education reform agenda.

Wynn, a long time education advocate, was appointed to the board by Sandoval and was unanimously elected president of the board at the meeting.

“I think this brings full circle a lifetime of work that centers around education in our state,” Wynn said after being sworn into office. “I think most people who know me, know that it is a passion of mine, and this state has been wonderful for me and my family.”

In later remarks at the board meeting, Wynn said she would like all of those parties working on education reform to find the areas where there is agreement and then move on to those issues where differences remain.

“It’s our job to help clarify, clarify, clarify, as much as we can, for the citizens of this state, a vision and an action plan that we think we can all buy into,” she said.

Sandoval, in brief remarks to the board, called the day historic for Nevada. He noted that the board’s original duties included buying textbooks and investing the school fund. It was required to meet at least twice a year.

“I fully expect that you are going to be meeting much more often than twice a year,” Sandoval said. “You have some monumental tasks in front of you.”

One of the most significant is the development of a new evaluation system for teachers and administrators, he said.

The board is expected to hear about the proposed evaluation system at its next meeting scheduled for Jan. 25.

James Guthrie, state superintendent of public instruction, said that the board represents a “new day” for education in Nevada.

“That is not a hollow statement,” he said. “When individuals of this caliber are willing to devote their time and attention to education matters, it is symbolic and real that we’re going to change the schools in this state. And I think from now on there is nothing but progress ahead.”

Historically, Nevada voters chose the board’s 10 members, but the Legislature changed that last session in a bill sought by Sandoval to gain more control over the board and Department of Education.

Voters now elect four board members to join three appointed members and four nonvoting members. And, for the first time in state history, the governor has the authority to not only appoint members of the board but also the state superintendent of public schools, who previously was appointed by the board.

The composition of the new board caused a minor bit of confusion when a nonvoting board member seconded the nomination of Wynn as president. The voting members of the board later reaffirmed her selection to ensure the decision was proper.

Wynn and most of her new fellow board members were given the oath of office by Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty.

The four elected members of the board, representing the four congressional districts, are Dave Cook of Carson City, and Alexis Gonzales-Black, Mark Newburn and Allison Serafin of Las Vegas. In addition to Wynn, the appointed voting members include Stavan Corbett of Las Vegas and Freeman Holbrook of Reno. The nonvoting members are Thad Ballard of Wells, Richard Stokes of Carson City, Kevin Melcher of Elko and Kamryn Mock, a student representative from Las Vegas.

Wynn was appointed by former Gov. Jim Gibbons as co-chair of the Education Reform Blue Ribbon Task Force in 2010, created to submit a state application for the federal Race to the Top competition and make education reform recommendations to the state Legislature.

She is founding chairwoman of Communities in Schools of Nevada, current chairwoman of the national board of Communities in Schools, a trustee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a board member of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and a board member of the Library of Congress Trust Fund.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.

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