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VICTOR JOECKS: School district administrators union considering suing Jara — again

The Clark County School District administrators union thinks Superintendent Jesus Jara has broken the law — again.

Last week, Jara reversed his previous decision to eliminate deans at middle and high schools. He axed the positions to save $17 million, which he needed to fund 5 percent pay raises for district employees. Instead, he directed middle and high school principals to reopen their budgets and eliminate expenses equivalent to $98 a student.

Jara seemingly made the announcement in response to a lawsuit filed by the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Profession-Technical Employees (CCASA). The union alleged that Jara and the School Board held a secret meeting in violation of the open meeting law to approve eliminating the deans. A judge had awarded the union a preliminary injunction, preserving the 170 dean positions.

“We didn’t want to make any cuts to classroom teachers, support professionals or increase class size,” Jara said regarding the $98-a-student spending reduction. “Our principals and (school organizational teams) know what their individual school communities need most. This new direction will give them the ability to make those decisions.”

But administrators don’t believe Jara has the authority to restrict how they reshape their budgets.

“It was made abundantly clear that we were not allowed to cut teachers,” Tam Larnerd, principal at Spring Valley High School, wrote in a text message. “However, that absolutely contradicts the autonomy afforded to schools and their organizational teams by AB469.”

He’s referring to Assembly Bill 469 from the 2017 legislative session, which passed overwhelmingly. It gave school principals substantial authority, including the ability to create budgets. It also allowed the school district to reject a school’s budget only if it “violates any federal or state law or policy of the large school district.”

There’s a good reason for that. “We are currently about 100 students below where we expected, so it makes no sense why I wouldn’t be able to cut vacant teaching positions that I’m not going to be filling anyways,” Larnerd wrote.

Stephen Augspurger, CCASA executive director, believes Jara “has violated the law” by limiting how principals may reduce spending. He said his organization is currently “exploring” a lawsuit. “Just because you’re the superintendent doesn’t give you the right to violate the law,” Augspurger said. “There’s a pattern of that.”

Augspurger believes that Jara is kowtowing to the Clark County Education Association, which said it would strike if the district cut one teaching position to pay for its 5 percent raises. The school district has many legal tools available to stop or curtail a strike, but the district hasn’t sought a legal injunction.

“Why would the superintendent allow himself to be bullied by a union when the law gives him every ability to stop a strike?” Augspurger said. “He needs to lead in this matter and he’s not led.”

With the start of the school year just two weeks away, the district remains in disarray.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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