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COMMENTARY: Clark County School District should conduct national search for new superintendent

On Wednesday, members of the Clark County School Board will determine their course of action to hire the next district superintendent, one of the most important leaders in Nevada. The person in this role is responsible for overseeing an education system that has a profound impact on every aspect of our community and economy and all our lives.

The decision should not be predetermined. The stakes are too high. That is why the Vegas Chamber and the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance urge the trustees to conduct a national search to identify candidates who bring fresh perspectives and best practices of success.

This decision is too important to be limited by geography, familiarity or expediency. We encourage the board to utilize a search firm that has a strong reputation for finding talent and identifying candidates who embody the skill sets that our district needs to positively move the needle on student achievement.

Tough questions need to be asked for the sake of our students. What is a candidate’s success rate on factors such as college and career readiness, math and reading proficiency and high school graduation rates? What is the candidate’s reputation when it comes to building trust and partnerships throughout the community?

The chamber and the alliance believe that the next superintendent must have a record of fostering high student achievement. A qualified superintendent also needs to be a leader who inspires our administrators, teachers and support staff to do their best. The top candidate should be a person who is trusted by parents and respected by employers, civic leaders, policymakers and the community.

Current levels of student achievement in the district are not measuring up. Insufficient numbers of our students are graduating career- or college-ready. Fewer than half of high school students can read at grade level, and fewer than 20 percent of students in high school are proficient in math. This is not only harming students and their future prospects, it is also negatively impacting our economy and economic development.

K-12 is Nevada’s main workforce development pipeline. If it is not preparing students for the next level of education and workforce training, it is hard for students to catch up, which puts them at an academic and economic disadvantage. District leaders must be focused on this, and they should be held accountable, especially any current district administrator candidates the board may consider.

To find the right leader to transform the district, we must aim high. To help in this mission, the school board should create a community advisory committee that would include teachers, parents, business leaders and other key community partners. The committee should conduct a series of town halls to seek important input.

It is clear that our community wants a say in the selection of the next superintendent. A lot of rebuilding of trust must take place. Adopting these recommendations would be important steps in rebuilding confidence in the superintendent role and the district.

The 300,000 students in the Clark County School District and the children who will follow them are depending on all of us to work together to find the best next superintendent. The trustees owe it to our children to be bold and visionary in this quest. This is an imperative for the entire community.

Mary Beth Sewald is president and CEO of the Vegas Chamber. Tina Quigley is president and CEO of Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance.

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