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EDITORIAL: Rush to approve Jara’s new contract is a disgrace

The dysfunction of the Clark County School District has been on full display over the past week. If the future of so many children weren’t at stake, this comedy of errors would be laughable.

On Wednesday, the School Board is scheduled to vote on a contract extension for Superintendent Jesus Jara. The timing is indefensible given that an election looms and the panel could see a voter-imposed makeover. Three of the seven board members are up for election.

For many months, the board has been narrowly split on Mr. Jara’s performance. The election could either erode or solidify Mr. Jara’s job security. Either way, waiting to make a decision on Mr. Jara’s contract would give voters a chance to make their voices heard. Yet the board’s current majority wants to ram and jam Mr. Jara’s sweetheart extension through with as little community input as possible.

That’s inexcusable on a number of grounds, not least of which is that Mr. Jara has done nothing to lift the district out of the academic depths. In fact, he’s made things worse.

Yet the new deal would lavish Mr. Jara with a $75,000 raise, boosting his annual salary to $395,000 plus benefits while extending his contract — set to expire in January — through June 2026. The move represents a textbook example of rewarding failure. There has been a dramatic decrease in student achievement during Mr. Jara’s tenure. He has dumbed-down grading standards and imposed lax disciplinary policies under the guise of “equity,” which led to an increase in school violence.

The board originally had a deadline of Dec. 15 to complete Mr. Jara’s evaluation. Instead, the board inexplicably moved the process up to last week. One might expect that this would have gone poorly for Mr. Jara, given the state of the district. But a majority of trustees rated him “highly effective” based on dubious metrics. It appears grade inflation isn’t limited to the classroom.

Shortly after that meeting, the board announced it would vote on extending his contract this week. On Monday, the public learned the board would make that decision on Wednesday morning. Board meetings are usually on Thursday evenings.

It’s hard not to see this expedited process as anything but a taxpayer-funded payoff. What’s the hurry? Why not allow the reconstituted board to take the matter up after the voters have spoken? Rushing ahead with this decision may not prevent a future board from firing Mr. Jara, but it will make any such decision more expensive because taxpayers will have to pay out the rest of his new sweetheart deal.

The only one who benefits in this arrangement is Mr. Jara. The trustees, who are elected to serve the public, should elevate taxpayer interests above those of the superintendent. Pushing the contract extension through at this time would be a colossal mistake.

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