COMMENTARY: Clark County School District must make succesful transition in wake of Pat Skorkowsky’s retirement announcement

Congratulations to Pat Skorkowsky, superintendent of the Clark County School District, on his recent retirement announcement. Mr. Skorkowsky has dedicated nearly 30 years of his life to the children of our community.

He started as a first-grade teacher and worked his way up to be the leader of a multibillion-dollar organization.

Mr. Skorkowsky has led the district to gains in student achievement, higher graduation rates and the implementation of numerous new programs and initiatives. On behalf of the community, we’d truly like to thank him for his service.

But now it falls to the district’s Board of Trustees to choose a successor. A successful transition is imperative for the district to continue the momentum in the reorganization implementation and to continue our gains in student achievement. As the trustees look for a successor, we would like to offer some advice as to how to best realize a successful transition.

■ In his retirement announcement, Mr. Skorkowsky said, “I will be dealing with the internal and external barriers that prevent even greater success.” Encourage him to do just that, and ignore the calls by certain groups to bring in an interim superintendent. There is too much on the line to change horses mid-stream — completing the reorganization effort, finding necessary budget cuts and removing the internal barriers to success are just a few of the challenges.

■ Selecting leaders of our public institutions is often a difficult process in this community. That being said, there are a few examples of processes that work well for this purpose. The Nevada System of Higher Education uses a committee comprised of community, business and civic leaders from various constituencies to assist the regents. While the ultimate decision would still be the responsibility of the trustees, we hope they will include the community in the selection process.

■ The district should conduct a national search for the next superintendent. Our school district is unique, but it is by no means so unique that talent from the outside cannot make a positive difference. If the trustees simply choose to promote from within, without soliciting interest from leaders outside the district, we will have missed a major opportunity. There is a tremendous talent pool at this district, but we should not limit ourselves in our effort to find the best candidates.

Finally, the Clark County School District is a complex, multibillion-dollar organization. Under the reorganization, the district operates as a group of more than 300 autonomous schools empowered with site-based decision-making. The superintendent is the leader of these schools and of a large and complex support system that provides services from busing and food service to adult education and wraparound services. To be successful, the new superintendent must have a demonstrated skill set that includes financial management, marketing, communication, human resources, IT and other skills needed to manage a major institution.

This is a big hire, and the trustees must make the transition to the new post-reorganization district as seamless as possible. The community stands ready to help.

Glenn Christenson heads the Community Implementation Council, a volunteer group tasked with helping the Clark County School District implement the state’s reorganization plan. This essay was also signed by Sylvia Lazos of UNLV’s Boyd School of Law; Nancy Brune of the Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities; Frank Woodbeck, a vice chancellor with the Nevada System of Higher Education; Curt Anderson, a member of the Las Vegas chamber’s government affairs committee; and Peter Guzman, president of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce.

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