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Emotions run high in charter battle between 2 school districts in Southern Nevada

West Prep Academy junior Angela Morales wanted to know what she could do to stop her school from turning into a charter.

“All of the students here care about the school, and will do whatever it takes for us to keep it our school,” she said. “Not their school.”

It was yet another impassioned public comment period, one attacking the Achievement School District that will turn up to six underperforming schools over to charter operators.

Emotions are running high in this fight, which has turned into a finger-pointing “us vs. them” battle.

“Us” being the Clark County School District, which consistently explains to parents in packed meetings that scores are getting better. That schools just need more time to improve.

“Them” being the Achievement School District staff and state education officials, who seem to have adopted an “enough is enough” attitude toward school improvement.

The Clark County School District has certainly won over the masses in this showdown, as hundreds of parents have protested against a charter takeover.

The latest State Board of Education meeting featured parents bused in by Core Academy, the after-school program at West Prep that’s powered through the Rogers Foundation.

Lindsay Harper, the program’s chief inspiration officer, said the program is only a bystander in all this.

But she said it took parents to the meeting because students came to Core with concerns.

“Core Academy just wants to stay out of it as far as just picking sides, but we definitely want our kids to have a voice,” Harper said.

Yet amid the clamor at that meeting, charter-school parent Gabby Ardon had a thought-provoking message for parents.

“We are only getting half the information,” she said through a translator. “The truth is that charter schools will also provide great programs and provide support.”

The Clark County Education Association suggested allowing parents to vote whether or not they want their school to join the achievement district, paired with an objective presentation of the options for eligible schools.

“We’re confident parents will make the right decision,” said CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita. “It could be that their decision is one way or the other.”

Judging by this month’s past rallies, though, if parents had their way there would be no achievement schools at all.

Tensions have been high behind the scenes, too.

Opportunity 180, the harbormaster that recruits charter operators, is hosting a family fair on Saturday. Parents can see the options they might have, specifically in charter and magnet schools.

The group reached out to CCSD to invite its magnet schools to participate.

The district isn’t attending, saying that it was made aware of the fair on short notice.

“Additionally, when making choices about participating in community events we are careful to chose partners who are positive about our students and teachers and will further bridge the gaps with the community as opposed to breaking them down,” the district said in a statement.

And a simple gift card further strained the relationship — Opportunity 180 gave a $5 card to a magnet school coordinator and asked that the fair flier be distributed throughout school, according to the group’s president, Allison Serafin.

That doesn’t sit well with the district, which plans to return it. Meanwhile, Opportunity 180 still plans to promote and share information about the district’s magnet schools at the fair.

As both sides trip over each other to prove their point, perhaps both can agree: it’s the kids that lose.

On Education appears every other Saturday.Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at 702-383-4630 or apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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