EDITORIAL: The bumbling school trustees and the search for a new Clark County School District superintendent

The Clark County School District has many issues, but don’t underestimate the ramifications of a bumbling school board.

Take the search for a new superintendent, which could have a profound effect on the district’s future.

The trustees are in the process of hiring a successor to Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, who is retiring at the end of the school year. A search firm this month winnowed the field to four candidates, all from outside Nevada. But when some critics expressed disapproval, the trustees postponed scheduled interviews and voted to consider internal applicants at a meeting next week.

The obvious question: Why waste money on a national search if insular interests are intent on hiring from within? Was it all for show? And if internal or local candidates were a priority, why didn’t the trustees make that clear from the beginning to those in charge of vetting the candidates?

The decision to change course sends a clear message to the original four finalists. Sure enough, one of them — John Deasy, former superintendent of Los Angeles schools — said Thursday that he is no longer interested in the job.

The dance currently playing out is tired and worn. Members of the local education establishment would much prefer a candidate who is less likely to upset the status quo. Those from outside the district are unknowns and threaten to afflict the comfortable.

But the status quo isn’t acceptable. The district, the nation’s fifth-largest, has underachieved for decades, and test scores remain woeful (see above). The next superintendent should bring a fresh approach, along with a willingness to challenge entrenched interests and practices. Is hiring from within a foundering system a recipe for improvement?

Perhaps a local candidate will now rise to the top. We’ll see. But the process so far raises questions about whether the trustees are more interested in placating various special interests than in hiring a dynamic new leader eager to confront a legacy of mediocrity and outright failure.

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