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State Superintendent Canavero sees CCSD lawsuit as threat to stability of system overhaul

The Clark County School Board’s lawsuit over a mandated reorganization adds a “layer of instability and uncertainty” to its implementation, the state’s top education official said Thursday.

Unless a judge issues an injunction, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero said, the process must continue to move forward.

“The regulation is still in force. It’s not like this suddenly turns everything off,” Canavero said, although he added it’s a fair assumption that if the injunction were granted a large part of the overhaul’s implementation would grind to a halt.

State education officials were caught off guard by the complaint, filed late Wednesday in Carson City District Court, and were mulling how, or if, they should respond.

But Trustee Chris Garvey suggested Thursday that the lawsuit could help forge some kind of compromise. She said that perhaps returning to the original timeline that called for the reorganization to be rolled out for the 2018-19 school year might bring the sides together.

“Maybe that, being able to work forward but in a different timeline, would be a solution,” Garvey said.

In June, a consultant hired to craft the reorganization plan sped up the implementation to 2017-18 as a way to prevent opponents from railroading the effort.

“If a lengthier timeline were allowed, the reorganization would likely be delayed and resistance to the change would likely grow,” Michael Strembitsky, a longtime Canadian educator, wrote in the plan. “To carry out the changes proposed in this plan, there must be a willingness and urgency to carry out the change.”

That hasn’t played out well at the local level.

The board’s lawsuit — filed against the Department of Education and state Board of Education — claims the regulations for the law are invalid because they create an unfunded mandate. They also say the process to create the regulations was crafted improperly. The complaint repeats specific issues the trustees have continually addressed about the reorganization in recent months.

Those issues include a lack of a weighted student funding formula, the accelerated timeline and the excessive involvement of the Advisory Committee for AB394 — the group of legislators working on a plan for the rollout.

Garvey and other trustees said the district will continue with the implementation process, albeit recognizing that it’s difficult to meet deadlines for things such as budgets without information from the state on the funding formula.

A number of complaints are included in the lawsuit, but it particularly takes aim at the advisory committee and the Community Implementation Council, which the committee created to assist with the reorganization.

Putting up a legal fight this far along in the process, when the district has had plenty of time and opportunity to raise concerns, is a disservice to the public, Canavero said.

“We should be working to solve their (the community’s) problems, not creating new ones,” he said. “At a time when our community needs stability, ultimately what this means is a layer of instability and uncertainty has been added now to the table.”

Citing the ongoing litigation, district spokeswoman Michelle Booth said officials were not able to provide further comment or clarification Thursday. Carlos McDade, the district’s general counsel, was also unavailable for comment.

Advisory Committee Chairman and state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, and Community Implementation Council Chairman Glenn Christenson both declined to comment Thursday, citing the pending litigation.

The complaint has been assigned to First Judicial Court District Judge James Russell.

Also Thursday, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office said they had not yet been served with the lawsuit. Once served, the Department of Education will have the opportunity to respond through the attorney general and then a hearing will likely be scheduled.

Canavero wasn’t sure how or if his office would respond.

Contact Meghin Delaney at 702-383-0281. Follow @MeghinDelaney on Twitter.

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