Students facing demise of theater, other ‘noncore’ classes

Michael Demasi thought he had it all figured out. Like others before him in the Palo Verde High School theater program, he hoped to get a scholarship and major in technical theater at Southern Utah University in Cedar City.

Only a sophomore, Demasi already has shown his commitment. He’s spent so many hours "teching" performances at Palo Verde that his teacher told him he had to stop so other students could have a chance to earn class points.

"Now, I have no idea what I’m going to do," he says.

Palo Verde is eliminating its theater program because of budget cuts.

It’s a windy day and, standing outside the school, Demasi’s long, brown hair won’t stay off his face. Inside the theater, his classmates are preparing for their final curtain call.

"We try not to talk about it," he says. "It’s really depressing."

The cuts to Palo Verde and every public school in the valley stem from the Clark County School District’s $1.8 billion biennial budget for 2011-12. Already submitted to the Nevada Department of Taxation, the district’s plan included a $407 million shortfall from the current budget and could result in the elimination of some 1,800 positions. The plan is tentative, subject to any revisions of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget, which makes major reductions in spending on education.

District principals were notified last month how many positions they must cut. They must also determine which courses will continue and how their school will meet an increased average class size — from 32 to 34.

Whether it is theater being cut at Palo Verde or choir at Sunrise Mountain, Arbor View and Bonanza high schools, each principal makes site-based decisions. In most cases, those decisions are based on projected enrollment in fall elective classes.

Because required core classes — math, science, English and social studies — have the largest enrollments, noncore classes and extracurricular activities are the most vulnerable.

Principals don’t like it any more than students.

"It’s like dying," says Valley High School principal Ron Montoya, who plans to cut 18 teachers and eliminate home economics and fashion design classes.

"Your teachers do everything for the kids. They stay after work, they’re dedicated. For me to even have to cut one teacher, it’s like death."

Montoya plans to retain band, chorus, theater, automotive and woodshop classes. "(Noncore) classes are very important," he says. "You have kids in the programs like woodshop or automotive, and that’s going to end up being their career."

School district Trustee Lorraine Alderman knows the importance of noncore class offerings and extra curricular activities: They "saved" her son, James, in high school, she says.

James Alderman attended Nevada Vocational Technical Center, now Southeast Career Technical Academy, and enjoyed two things in high school, welding and wrestling. He wrestled at Valley High School since it wasn’t offered at his school.

"They really brought him alive once he found something that inspired him," Alderman recalls. "It built his character. Those are things you don’t necessarily pick up reading a textbook.

"It was wonderful to see him excel at something where it came naturally. It just helped him flourish as a person. For some students it happens with music, art and theater."

Alderman, a former teacher and principal at Burk Horizon Southwest High School, says she doesn’t like that elective classes are the first to be cut, but she understands why.

When a family has only so much money, she says, you first must pay your mortgage, power bill and buy groceries at the expense of non essential items.

But it’s a "no-win scenario," she says, as noncore classes help increase student achievement.

Students involved in noncore activities, such as the performing arts and sports, are three times as likely to perform better in math and reading than those who aren’t, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Such students also have better attendance and are more likely to aspire to college.

The school district’s tentative budget did not include cuts to the $5.5 million athletics budget, which covers uniforms and equipment, contracted services for referees, campus security, support staff, transportation and association dues.

Ray Mathis, executive director of student activities and athletics, says that athletics is already stretched about as thin as it can be.

"If we had to scale down, it would pretty much cripple us," he says.

An average Clark County teacher, with benefits, costs the district about $70,000, and eliminating every sport at every high school equals 78 teaching jobs.

"It gets difficult to defend," Mathis says. "Is it more important than a math teacher? Probably not. But if you look at what we do and our productivity and how many kids we serve, I think we do an excellent job."

Alderman agrees: "In the big scheme of things, ($5.5 million) is pretty darn cheap to run athletics. The benefits are so great considering the cost. We get a lot of bang for our buck."

The athletics budget is about 0.25 of 1 percent of the school district’s budget. Athletics did take a 15 percent cut two years ago and had to reduce security at games and shorten seasons to save on transportation costs. Bus trips this school year cost about $30 more per game than last because of rising gas prices.

Mathis says that nearly 30,000 high school students participate in athletics and that half of the money from ticket sales at football, basketball and volleyball games goes to each school and half to the district.

Alderman and Mathis agree that athletics also increases achievement because a grade-point average of at least 2.0 is required to participate. For some students, athletics is the incentive to get their diploma, they say.

Mathis stresses that the budget isn’t final and athletics might still be subject to cuts.

Palo Verde theater students are upset that athletic programs aren’t taking a hit, Demasi says, asking, "Why should our entire department get cut when athletes are getting new uniforms?"

Some students may want to transfer to another district school that will continue to offer the elective courses no longer offered at their current school. Zone variances are possible, but requests are approved at the district’s discretion.

A zone variance can be requested if it is in "the best educational interest of the student," according to district regulations, but all such requests require a principal-to-principal agreement. Among the considerations are enrollment, number of requests and ethnic diversity.

Clark County’s problems are nothing special, according to Michael Casserly, director of the Council of Great City Schools in Washington, D.C. The council is a coalition of more than 60 of the nation’s largest urban school districts, including fifth-largest Clark County School District, and it works on issues, projects and legislation to improve the overall quality and functioning of big city schools.

"Clark County School District is having to cut budgets exactly like other school districts are having to cut," Casserly says. "The choices are largely untenable for everybody."

Casserly says that adding two or three more students to already large classes would not have a "significant effect" in most cases.

The next two largest school districts, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Chicago Public Schools, face budget shortfalls next year of $216 million and $720 million, respectively, on top of already severe cuts made in the past few years.

Back at Palo Verde, theater program students are busy rehearsing a comedy, "The Man Who Came to Dinner," which they will perform in May.

After that, the theater has to be cleared out — the costumes from "Annie," which they performed in March; the backdrops from "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," which they staged in October; every prop, flat and remnant of the past 15 years.

The students’ last event of the school year is Theater Awards Night, where students are recognized for their dedication to the program. It comes in the form of blue and gold thespian cords they get to wear at graduation — sort of a letterman’s jacket for theater students.

Sophomore Demasi and classmate Austin Mireles can’t get a cord. To earn one, you must have spent three years in theater.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

ad-high_impact_4
News
2 in custody after chase
Two people were in custody after a chase involving Nevada Highway Patrol and Nye County Sheriff"s office deputies ended in southwest Las Vegas. Las Vegas police blocked off Rainbow Boulevard north of Tropicana Avenue around 1 a.m. Wednesday. Law enforcement personnel prepared to tow a black sedan as part of their investigation. It's not certain what precipitated the chase or where and when it started. Check back for updates.
Police Officer's Vehicle Was Taken During Shooting
Video from body worn camera footage released by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Wednesday shows an officer realizing his police vehicle has been taken during the chaos of the Route 91 shooting. It was later recovered at Sunrise hospital with the keys in the ignition and nothing removed. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
See Kitty Hawk’s flying car cruise over Lake Las Vegas
Kitty Hawk takes their flying car for a ride in the company’s hidden test facility in Lake Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Watch Las Vegas police wild pursuit through busy Las Vegas streets
An intense chase near Downtown Las Vegas ends after gunfire is exchanged as the suspect flees on busy streets and ends up near an elementary school. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Man shot strolling through park
A man was hospitalized early Tuesday morning after being shot while walking in a central Las Vegas park. Las Vegas police say the man and a woman were in Molasky Park just after midnight when the man was shot. The pair ran to a nearby supermarket where a security guard called for help. The man was hospitalized and as of 3 a.m. was in stable condition. Police have yet to identify the shooter and no suspects are in custody.
Police investigating shooting at east valley apartment complex
No one was injured late Monday night after someone fired shots at a vehicle at an east valley apartment complex. Police responded just before midnight to the Hamptons Apartments, 3070 S. Nellis Blvd. Someone fired shots at a vehicle that was leaving the complex, and struck the vehicle. Another bullet struck a nearby apartment building. The shooter or shooters remain at-large.
Hundreds Attend Slides, Rides and Rock and Roll in North Las Vegas
Hundreds attended the inaugural slides, rides and rock and roll event in North Las Vegas Saturday. The event featured a car show, water slide park and live music. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
It's All Rainbows At The Center's New Cafe
The Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada (The Center) introduced its new coffeeshop, Little Rainbow Cafe, in June. Rainbows are everywhere, even in the lattes and toast, and employees wear t-shirts with the quote "Be a rainbow in someone's cloud." Owner Ben Sabouri said the concept is "built around the idea of, you know, be kind and treat everybody the same." (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a Rainbow Latte at the The Center's Little Rainbow Cafe
The Center, a community center for the LGBTQ community of Southern Nevada, has a new cafe. Little Rainbow Cafe serves up a pride-inspired signature "Rainbow Latte." (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pedestrian killed trying to cross Sahara
A pedestrian was killed Friday trying to cross Sahara Avenue near Maryland Parkway about 5 a.m. A sedan struck the pedestrian while the person was outside the crosswalk between Maryland Parkway and Pardee Place, according to Las Vegas police. Police also said the driver of the sedan remained at the site of the crash. The pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene. This is the 75th fatal crash that Las Vegas police have investigated in 2018.
Man shot multiple times
Las Vegas police are investigating after a man was shot multiple times early Friday morning. The shooting was called in about 3:20 a.m. at the Harbor Island Apartments, 370 E. Harmon Ave., near Koval Lane. The man was hospitalized and is expected to survive, but police are still searching for the shooter.
Former Military Police Corps Officer Celebrates 100th Birthday
Summerlin resident Gene Stephens, who served as a military policeman in WWII and escorted then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and President Roosevelt during the war, turned 100 on July 13, 2018. He credits his longevity to living a normal life, exercising regularly and eating three square meals a day. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Motorcyclist suffers serious injuries
A motorcycle rider was seriously injured Tuesday night after a crash on Charleston Boulevard. The crash was reported just before 10 p.m. near Durango Drive, according to Las Vegas police. The motorcyclist was hospitalized with unknown injuries but is expected to survive. Las Vegas police are investigating the cause of the accident.
CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara Has Lunch With Students
New Clark County School District superintendent Jesus Jara continued his listening tour by having lunch with students at Red Rock Elementary School as part of the district's summer lunch program. In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children under the age of 18 can find a free lunch at 104 different locations across the valley through the summer months. Jara highlighted the free program and the importance of eating healthy during his visit. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Timeline Leading Up to Scott Dozier's Execution
Scott Dozier is set to be executed by lethal injection the night of July 11 at Ely State Prison. Dozier was convicted of the April 2002 killing of 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller and was given the death penalty in Oct. 2007. In 2016 Dozier asked in a letter to District Judge Jennifer Togliatti requesting that he “be put to death.” A three-drug cocktail of midazolam, a sedative; the painkiller fentanyl; and cisatracurium, a paralytic, is expected to end his life. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Program Helps Mothers Battling Addiction
Jennifer Stanert has battled drug addiction on and off for the last 21 years. It caused her to lose custody of one of her children, Alec, after she gave birth while high. A new program at Dignity Health St. Rose Dominican Hospitals aims to connect mothers like Stanert with community resources and provide case management services while still pregnant to get connected to lactation and parenting classes, group peer support and education on neonatal abstinence syndrome. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Felon caught with guns in Mandalay Bay room 3 years before Las Vegas shooting
A felon was caught with guns in a Mandalay Bay hotel room three years before the October 1st mass shooting. Six weapons were found inside Kye Aaron Dunbar’s 24th floor room in November 2014. Four were semi-automatic. One was a scoped rifle pointing toward the Strip, according to court documents. Dunbar was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison for unlawful possession. The case just came to light in a lawsuit accusing Mandalay Bay of negligence in connection with the Oct. 1st shooting.
Illegal fireworks in the Las Vegas area garner complaints
Clark County received nearly 25,000 complaints over the Independence Day holiday on a new illegal fireworks site. Reports from the site led to at least 10 illegal fireworks busts across the valley overnight. As of Thursday morning, the county is still compiling the total number of citations issued.
House fire displaces 2 people
Two people were displaced after a house fire early Thursday morning. The fire, at 963 Temple Drive in east Las Vegas, was reported just after midnight, according to a battalion chief from the Clark County Fire Department. Crews from the North Las Vegas and Las Vegas fire departments also were called in to help. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
"Red White and Boom" July 4 Fireworks at the Stratosphere
Full video of the Fourth of July "Red White and Boom" fireworks show at the Stratosphere as seen from the 8th floor Elation Pool. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
July 4th fireworks at the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite
July 4th fireworks at the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite. (7-04-18) (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Crowds Enjoy Fireworks at the Stratosphere
Revelers enjoyed watching fireworks displays from the Stratosphere's 8th floor Elation pool on July 4. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pedestrian killed in Henderson
A pedestrian trying to cross St. Rose Parkway at Bermuda was hit by a vehicle on Tuesday night and later died. The crash was reported around 11:30 p.m. Las Vegas police responded initially, but handed over the investigation to Henderson police once it was determined the accident happened in their jurisdiction. Las Vegas police did respond to a report of a pedestrian being hit by a vehicle on the Strip. The person, who was hit by a BMW near Fashion Show mall, suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.
USPS owes $3.5 million for using Vegas Statue of Liberty on stamp
The United States Postal Service has been ordered to pay $3.5 million to a sculptor after using the Las Vegas replica of the Statue of Liberty in a stamp. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Officer Brent Horlacher shoots at Jessie Murillo
Las Vegas police video of an officer-involved shooting on June 29, 2018. Officer Brent Horlacher, 28, fired a single shot at suspect Jessie Murillo. Murillo was not injured. The radio audio is of the officer who fired the gun and the body camera video is from a different officer. Radio audio excerpts are added to the video and are not the precise times the audio was spoken.
Pawn Stars' Richard Harrison honored at memorial service
A memorial service was conducted for Richard "Old Man" Harrison at Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas on Sunday, July 1, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
UNLV professor cautions dangers of distracted walking
An alarming number of adults do not cross the street safely according to a study conducted by professor Tim Bungum of the School of Community Health Sciences at the UNLV. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas-Review Journal) @brokejournalist
Car left in remote desert 21 years is recovered for late owner's children
Showboat casino blackjack dealer Mark Blackburn died outside of White Hills, Ariz. 21 years ago. His 1980 Datsun B310 wagon remained in the remote desert until a network of volunteers recovered the car for his children. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Resort on Mount Charleston Sold for $4.8 million
North Carolina couple and hoteliers Deanna and Colin Crossman have purchased the Resort on Mount Charleston for $4.8 million. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like