Ex-judge says school district abuses teachers

CARSON CITY — A former district judge charged Monday that the Clark County School District is not able to hire enough teachers because administrators too frequently abuse the teachers they already have.

Charles E. Thompson told the Assembly Education Committee that the school district’s "propaganda ministry" works overtime to convince people the teacher shortage is caused by lower salaries and a "stingy Legislature."

But he said in reality many teachers leave because of the district’s policy and practice of "mistreating, abusing and demeaning its teachers." He said an "atmosphere of fear" exists in the teacher community.

Thompson, a judge for 20 years and Clark County assistant district attorney for six years, spoke on behalf of Assemblyman Tick Segerblom’s Assembly Bill 459 in a four-hour meeting that ended after 7 p.m..

The bill would create a bill of rights for teachers, including written policies to prevent intimidation and mistreatment.

Former Nevada Teacher of the year Jamie Kinder said in an e-mail message given to the committee that she left Nevada for Colorado because the district "was not dedicated to education, but instead was dedicated to misappropriation of funds, visionless postulates and disorganization."

"In no way will I ever recommend CCSD to any educator that I ever come across," she added.

Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said the school district needed to hire 9,500 new teachers in the past four years. During the same period, he said the district has lost 6,000 teachers. "You want to treat the teacher with dignity and respect so they will stick around," Segerblom said.

Segerblom is a lawyer who often represents teachers in cases against the school district.

Education Chairwoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, did not take an immediate vote on the bill. Parnell said a work session will be scheduled for the bill next week. The bill must be approved by the committee by April 13 or it will be declared dead for the remainder of the legislative session.

Rose McKinney James, a lobbyist for the school district, said the incidents outlined by Segerblom and Thompson should have been dealt with through the district’s collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union.

"These matters are addressed through the negotiation process," she said. "We believe it is effective and balanced."

But Parnell, a former teacher, said she realizes the matters should have been disposed by contract agreements, but they apparently were not.

"How do we solve the problem if people are not following the contract?" she asked. "Some of these things should not be happening. The question is why."

Parnell requested McKinney James meet with Segerblom to try to reach an agreement.

During the hearing, Thompson released a bulky binder of information that he said detailed abuse by administrators against faithful teachers.

One first-grade teacher, Thompson’s wife, La Verne, said she has taught 17 years in Clark County and loves her job.

But she said her principal decided two years ago that he wanted her and three other teachers "gone" from the school. The others left, but La Verne Thompson said she fought, even though she suffered a heart attack.

"The bottom line is that many administrators are intimidating and harassing their staffs," she said.

Lobbyists for administrators objected because Thompson included names of administrators who he alleged abused teachers in the binder given to the committee.

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