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Clark County, Nev., Taps Florida Educator to Lead District

UPDATED

The top deputy in Florida's Orange County school system is heading to Las Vegas to run the school system there.

Jesus Jara was selected Wednesday by a 4-2 vote to lead the Clark County school system. The district, with about 320,000 students, is the country's fifth-largest.

Jara has been the deputy superintendent in Orange County for the last six years. Before that, he served a stint as superintendent of the Monroe County school system in Florida, after Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to the position.

Jara pic 2018.jpg

In Clark County, Jara will enter a school system that's undergoing a massive governance change after years of rapid-fire student growth. The district started a reorganization last August, which will give more decisionmaking and authority to school sites and principals and scale back the role of the central office. 

Jara will replace Pat Skorkowsky, who served as superintendent for nearly five years and spent close to 30 years with the school district. Skorkowsky is retiring when his contract expires next month.

Jara beat out the district's current chief academic officer, Mike Barton, for the job, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The other finalists were Don Haddad, superintendent of the St. Vrain Valley school district in Colorado; Shonda Huery Hardman, a former chief school support officer in the Houston school district and former assistant chief academic officer in Boston's public schools; Jesse Welsh, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and professional development in Clark County; and Eva White, a former chief financial officer for the district.

John Deasy, the former superintendent of the Los Angeles school district, was also among the original list of external finalists, but he withdrew his name from consideration before candidates were interviewed. (UPDATE: Deasy has since been named the finalist to lead California's Stockton Unified school district, about 50 miles from Sacramento.)

The board later added three candidates who are current or former Clark County district employees.

Jara is expected to start next month. His salary has not yet been finalized.

"Education changed my life; it gave me opportunity," Jara said in a statement from the district. "Ensuring that every single student gets that same opportunity is why I first became a teacher and what drives my work every day.

"I could not be more eager to get to work alongside CCSD's incredible teachers, principals, and staff to build on and accelerate the district's progress, and I look forward to starting by listening to the entire Clark County community about what has been working and where we can continue to improve."

Jara is the most recent member of Chiefs for Change's "Future Chiefs" program to land the top job.  

Part of the Washington, D.C.-based organization's mission is to create a pipeline of school leaders to run local systems; its "Future Chiefs" program provides mentors, guidance, and support, by among other things, matching those in the program with sitting superintendents to help prepare them for the superintendency.

"Jesus is a skilled, visionary leader with the experience and the determination to close long-standing achievement gaps for kids," said Mike Magee, the group's CEO, in a statement. "As a Future Chief, he has had the opportunity to learn from the country's boldest, most innovative education leaders, and he will continue to collaborate with them as he transitions into his new role as Superintendent."

Photo caption: Jesus Jara, the deputy superintendent in Orange County, Fla., was selected to lead the Clark County school system, which includes Las Vegas, Nev. Photo courtesy the Orange County School District.

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