Challengers critical of incumbent’s record compete for School Board District F seat

Two teachers are counting their political inexperience as an advantage in the nonpartisan race against seasoned Clark County School Board member Carolyn Edwards, who seeks a third term representing District F in the southwest valley.

Reputations of current school district leaders have been bruised by bad choices, contends candidate and elementary school teacher Ileetha Groom, referring to how the district overstated its 2013 graduation rate by omitting struggling students placed in adult education.

There also is the cheating scandal at Las Vegas’ Kelly Elementary School, which the district didn’t properly investigate, according to the Nevada Department of Education. Groom also said the district was “lazy” in vetting a teacher charged with kidnapping a 16-year-old girl in November, shortly after being hired by the district.

Groom referred to leadership as running the district in a “general culture that lacks certain standards” and “cuts corners.”

“That needs to change. Policies need to change,” said Groom, who holds a doctorate in educational research and policy analysis from North Carolina State University and a master’s degree in elementary education.

The community needs school leaders who will “address the problems instead of hiding them, even if it’s uncomfortable,” said Ralph Krauss, the third candidate.

“I know what these teachers go through. I know what parents and administrators go through,” said Krauss, who also is an elementary school teacher.

Edwards acknowledges that “there is some mistrust of the school district. I don’t think we’re as transparent as we could be.”

But progress is being made, Edwards said, referencing the improving graduation rate and changes to the system, including the use of more data in understanding student learning and then using that to drive teaching practices.

Edwards contends that a vote for her is not a vote for the status quo.

“As a term-limited trustee, I have nothing to lose, just push for good things in this school district,” said Edwards, who is finishing her eighth year in office and is asking for four more.

The district is facing some difficult times as its growing elementary school population overflows into portable classrooms. The School Board decided not to ask voters in 2014 for a bond to fund new schools and repair existing buildings because it wasn’t expected to pass.

District officials have suggested year-round schools, double-session schools, housing fifth-graders in middle schools, and rezoning as possible ways to mitigate the crowding, which led to 13 elementary schools being placed on year-round schedules.

More schools will likely be made year-round if student enrollment continues to grow, said Edwards, who also called for the School Board to discuss districtwide rezoning.

A year-round school, however, costs about $300,000 more annually to operate, said Krauss, who taught at a year-round school and advocates searching for other actions.

No matter what changes are made, “we need to give families options,” such as attending other schools or opening portable campuses, which consist of portable buildings, Krauss said.

Groom described all these possible responses to crowding as “valid,” but said they should be thoroughly researched before anything is done.

“We shouldn’t just throw fifth-graders into middle schools,” she said. “And we can’t just rezone and move students all over the place. It has to be done wisely. That requires leadership, and I want to be a part of that.”

Contact Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @TrevonMilliard.

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