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Proposal to Restructure Clark County, Nev., District Gets First Approval Vote

The preliminary plan to reorganize Nevada's largest school district, Clark County, and give more autonomy to school principals, cleared the first critical step this week when the advisory committee tasked with overseeing the process unanimously approved the proposal, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The approval came after nearly 12 hours of testimony on Tuesday, and it included the addition of 27 revisions to an earlier version of the plan that the committee sent out for public hearings in July, local media reported.

Those who support the plan say it provides the best opportunity in years to overhaul the sprawling district, the fifth-largest in the country, which educates students in very different settings—from rural to urban areas—all with very different needs.

As we reported earlier this month, the Clark County proposal will give principals more autonomy over hiring, budget, and school operations. A team of parents and teachers will help principals develop goals for running the school. The central office will also be slimmed down and will now focus on things like legal services and payroll, while offering services that schools will have an option to purchase.

The state law that jumpstarted the Clark County reorganization process—AB 394—initially called for the district to implement the plan no later than the 2018-19 school year.  The plan approved Tuesday called for implementation to occur by the start of the 2017-18 school year, according to the paper.

Earlier this month, the Clark County School Board, which will be tasked with putting the plan into effect, called for the committee to put the brakes on the process and take more time to think things through because of the educational, financial, and legal issues that were at stake.

But the committee ploughed ahead. The Las Vegas Review-Journal noted that at public hearings, the proposal got the strongest nods from suburban, and mostly white, communities. Others worried about mechanisms to keep the most experienced teachers from leaving high-needs schools. Some had questions related to equity and how the reorganization plan would affect English-language learners.

"Without oversight, measurable outcomes and accountability, the question remains: How will (the district) effectively ensure equity in every school, processes to deal with problem schools (and) staff on issues such as disparity in discipline or lack of access to quality programs?" the Review-Journal quoted Yvette Williams, chair of the Clark County Black Caucus, as saying at one of the hearings.

The Review-Journal's Neal Morton wrote that in Tuesday's lengthy advisory council meeting, some asked for the plan's implementation to be delayed, for more money to be directed to high-needs schools and for the committee to address policies that lead to an exodus of experienced teachers to wealthy—and mostly white—neighborhoods. School support staff members also were wary that principals would be able to outsource their positions or force them out of their jobs, according to local media.

The Clark County proposal was prepared by Michael Strembitsky, a former superintendent in Edmonton, Canada, who popularized the site-based management model in his district in the 1970s.

The plan, with all its revisions, now goes to the state board of education, which will consider the proposal next month. It, too, can amend the proposal. The Nevada Legislative Commission also has to weigh in.

The advisory committee will also exist for the next two years to oversee the plan's implementation.  

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