Turnaround schools tipping the scales in students’ favor

Reputations can be hard to mend, and the reputations that follow at-risk schools are hard to leave behind, which is what prompted the creation of a program that helps schools turn around.

Nonetheless, Mojave High School, Canyon Springs High School, Wilhelm Elementary School and recently added Fitzgerald Elementary School have taken up the challenge.

“Gallup did a survey a while ago and found that the single greatest factor as to why kids drop out is the lack of hope,” Mojave High School principal Antonio Rael said. “When they lose hope in the potential to graduate, that’s when they shut down and give up. We’ve turned our focuses on giving kids hope, finding things that kids love to draw them into the school.”


The website ccsdturnaroundzone.net says Turnaround Schools are those that have chronically underperformed and are in need of a renewed focus that emphasizes helping students achieve and grow.

Under the Turnaround Schools model, underperforming schools receive additional resources, including extra funds to either extend instruction time or extend the contractual day to increase staff training and collaboration.

Principals at Turnaround Schools have the opportunity to select their administrative team and have budget flexibility to strategically staff their school.

Schools are selected for support and supervision by the Turnaround Zone based on academic performance.

These schools remain under supervision of the Turnaround Zone for four years to ensure the proper structures, functions and processes are being implemented to create long-term sustainability.


Mojave High School, 5302 Goldfield St., was one of the Clark County School District’s most troubled schools.

Before Rael took over for the 2011-12 school year, Mojave had 17 long-term substitute teachers, graffiti covering the walls and an almost 40 percent graduation rate.

“We know the community has extenuating pressures, whether those be gang activity or crime,” Rael said. “That’s not to say that that’s the whole totality of our community, but there are certainly pockets of that that are influences on our kids.”

Seventy-five percent of the students enrolled at the school are enrolled in free or reduced breakfast and lunch programs, and 90 percent of the population identify as a minority.

“During the former principal’s time, the economy went bad, and that really affected the surrounding neighborhood,” said Clorinda Fontano, mother of a junior student. “Legacy High School opened around 2006, and as a casual observer, I noticed that all the good kids went to Legacy. That took a lot away from Mojave.”

Similarly, Canyon Springs High School, 350 E. Alexander Road, was known as one of the district’s most violent schools.

Two years ago, three students were attacked at gunpoint in the facility’s parking lot.

“Before I took over the 2012-13 school year, there were about 18 students being expelled and 19 police incidents per month,” principal Ronnie Guerzon said. “Many students entered the school with a sixth- or third-grade reading level, and 68 percent of the student population qualified for free or reduced meals.”

Before entering the turnaround program, the graduation rate was 48 percent at the predominantly minority-attended school.

Unlike the high schools, the elementary schools faced a different challenge.

Wilhelm Elementary School principal Debra Jones entered the school at 609 W. Alexander Road in the 2013-14 school year.

“One of the big issues was the students’ behavior,” Jones said. “Kids pretty much did what they wanted. There was no accountability. Students were in and out of the classrooms all of the time, and there were no consequences.”

She added that parents were also not involved in the school because they did not feel welcome, and there was a high transient student rate.

Fitzgerald Elementary School, 2651 Revere St., was added to the turnaround program this year.

Principal Fred Watson entered the school in April and hopes to turn the one-star school into a five-star one through additional activities and programs.

“We want to teach students career skills to prepare them early on for jobs,” Watson said. “It is my goal to provide students with things that their parents may not be able to pay for. We want to fill in the gaps that are missing with effective teachers, programs and lessons.”


Rael used the turnaround model to create drastic changes.

As part of the transformation process, Rael replaced 75 percent of the staff at Mojave and renovated the campus.

“I went around and observed every teacher in the classroom, reviewed all of their personnel files and then interviewed each one of them,” Rael said.

In June 2011, the teachers went through a specialized training program called Capturing Kid’s Hearts, which focuses on developing powerful relationships with students.

“During my freshman year, there was a bad atmosphere at the school,” former student Candace Harris said. “The teachers didn’t care because they knew they were being replaced, the school was dirty, and we rarely saw the principal. We didn’t learn much.”

“One of the things we were keenly aware of early on was the reputation that Mojave had in our community,” Rael said. “That’s something we’re still trying to separate — the old Mojave versus the new Mojave. Some students were really ashamed about the reputation that Mojave had, and it wasn’t fully deserved. There are a lot of great students on our campus, but getting past that reputation was and is a big hurdle.”

Efforts involved removing graffiti and adding specialty programs, including an agriculture program, an engineering partnership with Made in America, the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and a sports medicine program.

With approximately 2,200 students enrolled at the school, the challenges Rael faces are still plenty, but he said he’s happy with the progress.

The high school’s academic success is seen through its 20 percent graduation rate increase and growth in reading and science.

“We know that the kids that start with us and stay with us end up being successful,” Rael said. “For those students last year that stayed at Mojave for four consecutive years, the graduation rate was 80 percent. In addition, the school has won one state championships in track, two state championships in men’s volleyball and four state championships in guitar.

“We wanted to institute a different discipline philosophy with really firm boundaries and expectations, but those firm boundaries rooted in love,” Rael said. “We’re disciplining them not because we don’t love our students but because we do love them.”

Canyon Springs High School took a different approach and kept 95 percent of its teaching staff.

“The first thing I wanted to tackle was getting to know the students,” Guerzon said. “I realized that what was missing in the past was the ability to give students exactly what they need at the precise moment they needed it. We had excellent teachers; we just needed a different approach.”

Guerzon wanted to add more learning time, so he changed the bell schedule to add one extra period per day and extended the lunch period.

He had teachers meet with one another to collaborate daily and hired three instructional coaches in English, math, special education and English language learners to work with the teachers.

“Our main goal now has been to inspire our students from the beginning, so they can start strong and stay strong, like our motto states,” said Treemonisha Miller, freshman academy department chairwoman and algebra 1 teacher leader.

“Teachers don’t just teach from the textbook; they teach students life lessons,” senior Jack Wier said.

As a result, the graduation rate has increased by 17 percent in two years.

Guerzon added that the school received the 2015 GRAMMY Signature Schools Enterprise Award; its We the People competition team qualified for the national finals; and recently, its baseball team made the playoffs for the first time in the school’s history.

Police incidents and expulsions have also gone down to roughly five per month.

Despite losing the grant money in the upcoming school year, Guerzon is hopeful the school will remain successful.

At Wilhelm Elementary School, Jones designed a schoolwide discipline plan.

“We connected with parents and explained the importance of having a student at school,” Jones said. “If students are not in the classroom, then there is no learning going on.”

Jones also hired 21 new teachers and developed a reading program.

“The academic results were so low at this school that we needed to make drastic changes right away; kids needed to learn,” Jones said. “Reading affects every subject — math, writing, everything. So we added a new reading structure with independent reading time.”

Although Watson only recently took over at Fitzgerald, he has big plans for the upcoming academic year.

In addition to creating a STEM lab and a computer coding and robotics program, he hopes to expose students to Mandarin Chinese, nutrition classes and violin and piano programs.

“We can’t control what happens with these students at home or the environment that they live in,” Watson said. “But these students deserve to be successful regardless of their circumstances.”

For more information about the turnaround program, visit ccsdturnaroundzone.net.

To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email slopez@viewnews.com or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.

Henderson police bodycam footage of officer-involved shooting
Henderson police released body-worn camera footage of an officer-involved shooting in a grocery store parking lot at 2667 Windmill Parkway on Aug. 12, 2018. (Henderson Police Department)
Bicyclist suffers major head trauma in hit-and-run
A bicyclist was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after a Thursday morning hit-and-run crash near the school formerly known as Agassi Prep. Police said the bicyclist was hit by a white SUV, which fled the scene. The injured man suffered multiple injuries including major head trauma. As of 9 a.m., Lake Mead remained closed between Martin Luther King and Revere Street while police investigate.
Las Vegas artist Dave Dave dies at 42
Dave Dave talks about his art and his life in 2016. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dave Dave, whose dad set him on fire in 1983, dies
Dave Dave, a respected Las Vegas artist who was badly scarred as a boy when his father tried to burn him to death in Southern California, died at Sunrise Hospital on July 15. He was 42. When he was 6, Dave's father tried to kill him by setting him on fire. He was given a sleeping pill and his bed at a Buena Park, California, motel was doused with kerosene. “I remembered being in a lot of pain,” Dave told the Review-Journal in 2016. “When stuff happens to you at that young of an age, you tend to block it out, but I remember the pain was excruciating.” Dave, who was born David Rothenberg, became close friends with Michael Jackson, who met him after the attack, which burned more than 90 percent of his body. “I wanted to meet him, and he wanted to meet me, and that just turned into a lifelong relationship that never ended,” Dave said. “It was amazing being friends with Michael Jackson. He was an amazing person.” Dave attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, and collaborated with various artists around Las Vegas, eventually selling his art to private collectors. Despite his challenges, he continued to live, thrive and create. Dave Dave
Homicide detectives investigate woman's death
Las Vegas police were called to Tahiti Village Resort early Wednesday after calls that someone had been shot. Police found a woman’s body between a parking garage and boiler room on the resort's property. A guest first reported hearing gunfire. There are no witnesses, but police will examine surveillance videos and look for clues. The woman was not identified, but a purse was found near the body. She did not appear to be a guest at the resort.
LVMPD Discusses Ross Dress for Less Shooting
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank discussed the 15th officer-involved shooting of the year at a press conference at Metro headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The active-shooter incident took place at the Ross Dress for Less store at the 4000 block Blue Diamond Road in the south Las Vegas Valley. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Work Begins at Las Vegas Community Healing Garden
Crews moved the wooden Remembrance Wall at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on South Casino Center Boulevard Monday. Construction on a permanent wall is set to begin within the week. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Man wounded outside Cottages apartment
Las Vegas police don't have a motive after a man was shot early Monday morning outside a northwest valley apartment. The man's mother called police to say her son had been shot. She called police around 1:15 a.m. Other people were inside the apartment but no one else was injured. Police are still looking for the shooter.
Ride new Interstate 11 segment in one minute
Interstate 11 opens to the public Thursday, providing sweeping views of Lake Mead, art deco-style bridges and a mural illustrating the construction of Hoover Dam. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Miss El Tiempo 2019
Miss Teen El Tiempo and Miss El Tiempo 2019 were crowned at Sam's Town Saturday, August 4, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Las Vegas Woman Raises Awareness for Anxiety and Depression
Cassi Davis was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after the birth of her second child. After seeking help and support, she felt that there wasn't enough for support for those living day in and day out for those with mood disorders. She created the Crush Run, set for Sept. 22, to raise money for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and bring together a community of people who live with the same conditions she does. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas marks the opening of Tropical Parkway connector
The City of North Las Vegas, Nevada Department of Transportation and other partners celebrated the opening of the Tropical Parkway connector to Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Beltway. The stretch of road will make access easier for distribution centers for Amazon, Sephora and other companies moving into an 1,100-acre industrial area rising near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bighorn sheep with West Temple in background at Zion National Park
A bighorn sheep walks through Zion National Park (National Park Service)
Adult Superstore location closes after 45 years
The Adult Superstore on Main Street has closed its doors for good after 45 years. The shop, which offered a multitude of adult toys, novelty items and movies, opened in 1973. Four other locations remain open. A note on the front door tells customers, “We can’t fully express our sorrow.” Adult Superstore was awarded Best of Las Vegas adult store by the Review-Journal in 2016 and 2017 .
Funeral held for Las Vegas corrections officer
Department of Public Safety Correctional Officer Kyle Eng died July 19 after a fight with an inmate at the Las Vegas Jail. A funeral was held for Eng at Canyon Ridge Christian Church Monday, July 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What Back-To-School Shopping Is Like For a CCSD Parent and Teacher
Laura LeBowsky, a CCSD special education teacher and mother of two, set out to shop for her children's supply lists at her local Walmart and Target. She was looking for deals to try to keep the total under $150, while also allowing Chloe, 8, and Brady, 6, some choice in what they wanted. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Businesses struggle to fill food manufacturing jobs
Chelten House is a family-owned food manufacturing company from New Jersey. They created a facility in Vegas five years ago and have struggled to find experienced workers in the area. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LeBron heckler crosses line, altercation erupts
NBA superstar LeBron James, his wife, Savannah, and daughter Zhuri were at Liberty High School to watch Bronny James in action Wednesday night. But an unruly fan wearing a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey heckled the newest Los Angeles Laker. The man screamed at event security with LeBron and his family about 150 feet away. The man had to be restrained, triggering a brief altercation with security. James and his family were escorted out a side door along with Bronny's team, the North Coast Blue Chips. Event officials canceled the game between the Blue Chips and Nike Meanstreets.
Las Vegas Oddities Shop in Downtown Las Vegas
Las Vegas Oddities shop owner Vanessa VanAlstyne describes what's for sale in one of the weirder and wackier stores in Downtown Las Vegas. The store opened less than a year ago and carries everything from human bones to "rogue" taxidermy to Victorian death photography. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like