Clark County School District Trustee Chris Garvey, who has represented District B since 2008, is leaving the board because of term limits.
Running to replace Garvey are eight candidates, including business owners Jeff Proffitt and Chris Shank, CCSD social worker Kasina Boone and Cortland Hill, who works in juvenile probation.
Ebony Sherman, Jack Stanley and Katie Williams did not return interview requests from the Review-Journal.
Kasina Boone is a Western High graduate who has served in various roles at CCSD for more than 20 years. She currently works as a social worker in the district.
“I’ve been just about everything except for custodian,” Boone said. “I know the ins and outs of this district.”
Boone says her experience gives her insight into decision-making at CCSD, so that even when she disagrees with the outcome, she understands how the choice was made. She’d like to bring more parents into the fold and make them feel like they’re part of those processes, she said.
Boone said District B families were hit particularly hard by the effects of the last recession, and are finding themselves in turbulent times again. Looking ahead, Boone said she’d like to encourage more parents to get involved with their school organizational teams, particularly given that another round of budget reductions may fall on schools to decide.
“The district can only do so much,” she said. “With certain powers given to schools we need to pick it up as parents.”
Cortland Hill grew up in North Las Vegas and graduated from the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts before leaving for college and a career as a flight attendant. Now working in juvenile probation, he said he was motivated to run in part by hearing stories from those students and their families.
“Knowing how large our district is and what potential we have, I’m excited for CCSD’S future, to be not just the fifth largest, but be a ranked district, too,” he said.
Within District B, Hill says he sees huge socioeconomic disparity between students on the east side versus the north side, adding that more investment is needed to level the playing field. Hill further said the district needs to account for every penny in order to avoid spending on “fixing things that aren’t broken.”
On what he might have done differently this year as a school board member, Hill pointed to the pay issues raised by substitutes this spring. He said he was disappointed to hear that upper leadership hadn’t responded to some of their emails raising concerns.
“If I was on the board, I would have reached out to them. I would be talking to payroll and HR at least to start and find out what happened. I would be asking, what can I do to help you get paid?”
Jeffrey Proffitt, a business manager for a sheet metal company who has also worked with CCSD as a training director in the apprenticeship program, says he’s seen firsthand the life-changing impact that career and technical programs can have on students. He said he’d like to see more of those opportunities in the district.
“There’s more than just going to college, and there’s a good life and career available for those who don’t, especially in Vegas,” he said.
Proffitt said his experience would also be applicable in helping the district assess its construction costs and waste. As a major construction buyer in the state, CCSD could leverage its status for better prices, while building more efficient buildings, he said.
Of District B, which includes rural schools in Moapa and Mesquite, Proffitt said he’s seen the community step in to support students and classrooms when they’re in need. Still, some lingering issues exist that need to be addressed at the school district level, like fencing and security for rural high schools.
On school closures and the switch to online learning, Proffitt said an online learning system should have been implemented over a decade ago. A future one could be set up based on the model at the College of Southern Nevada, he said.
“Ultimately we need to get our education system out of the dumps in order to attract people and businesses to town,” he said.
Chris E. Shank
Chris Shank is father to two CCSD graduates and husband to a district assistant principal. He operates a local engraving shop.
He says one of the bright sides of school closures during COVID-19 has been the groundswell of parental involvement and participation in students’ schooling — something he hopes is here to stay.
“Now they’re seeing what teachers do and how important it is, because it’s more than academics,” he said, adding that teachers have risen to the occasion to come up with lessons and curriculum on the fly.
In evaluating the board’s decisions prior to COVID-19, Shank says the governing body has not been as effective as it could be, citing the time the board spends on data and testing results versus the issues of teacher recruitment and retention.
Shank also said the district erred in rolling out its new human capital management system mid-year without enough testing, leading to months of pay discrepancies for CCSD employees. He added that substitutes, who were not only affected by the new system but by a decade without a pay raise, need both a pay bump and an option for health benefits.
“There’s no excuse for pay issues,” he said. “Once you realize there’s an issue, you should be hand-writing checks and getting people paid today.”
Bryan Wachter is the director of public and government affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada. He says that with his experience, he’ll need no on-the-job training to get into the work of being a trustee, particularly in tackling the budget reductions likely to come before the board this year.
He says that while there are ways to reimagine and reorganize the central office, support staff and counseling areas, with up to 88 percent of the budget spent on payroll, there will be no way to avoid cuts to personnel in the worst case scenario.
“Unfortunately the way the district budget is allocated, the district does not have the funds or the capital to hold schools harmless even under the best of circumstances,” he said, adding that the reorganization under Assembly Bill 469 in the 2017 Legislature was a good first step, and that the central office should be reconfigured as a support system for principals and SOTs.
Wachter said while the board and the district were a little late in responding to COVID-19, they’ve so far done a good job, with particularly high marks in food distribution.
Still, he said he’d like to see more of an emphasis on academics, as well as on the plans for the next school year.
Going forward, Wachter said one option would be to ask some of the district’s best and brightest teachers to design and record online classes for a pay incentive in order to give students more online learning options.
“First graders losing their fourth quarter in math are going to be impacted when it comes to algebra in high school,” he said.