By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
The Legislative Advisory Committee tasked with reorganizing the Clark County School District (CCSD) voted to hire a strategic firm to assist in the administrative changes needed to implement the reorganization plan. The CCSD will pay nearly $1.2 million for the firm’s services which will be under the direction of a volunteer group made up of regional business leaders and community experts.
In a hearing held Tuesday, October 18, CCSD Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky testifed of the difficulties he and his staff face in implementing the reorganization plan by the 2017-18 school year, the time mandated by the plan. The administrative shift brought about by this model has been a major undertaking for CCSD officials, Skorkowsky said.
“I don’t think that I fully anticipated the scope of work needed to do all of this,” Skorkowsky told the committee. “As we keep getting into each step of the process, there are things that keep popping up that we hadn’t thought about.”
As an example, Skorkowsky said that the district’s antiquated financial reporting systems are not designed to generate the funding formulas needed in making the funding shift from central control to the school operational teams. The process must be done by hand. Department heads must be consulted on one line item at a time, Skorkowsky said.
Even more difficult is the paradigm shift required by central administration in transitioning from a service delivery model to more of a customer service model, Skorkowsky said.
“Currently our service delivery model is that schools put in a work order and the service is provided on a first come, first serve basis,” Skorkowsky said. “We have to move to a model where the schools can purchase those services from the district. But we are not set up on any kind of system to be able to do that. It is changing that mindset over that is the challenge.”
Connected to this is establishing a mechanism where schools would have the option of going outside and using certified private sector providers to do the work needed, Skorkowsky added. This would required a pool of pre-approved contractors to do work at a guaranteed level from which the schools could choose. The myriad details involved with that had still not been addressed, Skorkowsky said.
“If we don’t change the system – if we just give the schools the money and then require them to buy back all their services from us – that’s not really local control,” Skorkowsky said. But we have never run things like this before.”
Skorkowsky admitted that the task was overwhelming in the timeframe expected. He said that any expert help in implementing the plan would be welcome at this point.
“We don’t have the business acumen to shift as quickly as we need to make this change,” Skorkowsky said. “We could try to do it on our own, but we really need to do this right. We have just one shot at this.”
To address these issues, the establishment of a Community Implementation Council was proposed at the meeting. Committee chairman Senator Michael Roberson (R-Las Vegas) said that the regulations passed by the committee had contemplated a transition team and consultant to be funded by the CCSD.
“Subject to this committee’s approval, I have asked Glenn Christenson to chair the transition committee,” Roberson said.
Christenson, a former Station Casinos Chief Financial Officer then testified laying out a plan for implementing the reorganization.
“This is an incredibly daunting task with a lot of work to be done,” Christenson said. “Ultimately the only reason to go through all of this is if we end up with dramatically improved student outcomes for our kids.”
The proposed Community Implementation Council would be made up of community leaders and influential business executives in the region who would serve on a volunteer basis. This group would oversee the work of a consultant group TSC2, led by former Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance CEO Tom Skancke.
The scope of work for TSC2 would include transition services, financial consults and education policy development. The cost of those services would be $1,188,000 for one year of implementation.
During committee discussion on the matter, Senator Joe Hardy (R-Boulder City) asked for feedback from CCSD officials on whether the district was in agreement with paying the costs of the consultant. Roberson reiterated that the plan’s regulations had provided that the costs for consultants be bourne by the CCSD.
“Well, I guess that is still my question, then,” Hardy said. “Does the school district have an opinion on this? Do they want to accept all of this ‘free work’ on behalf of a small investment?”
No one from the CCSD was willing to come forward to respond to this question.
Finally, Roberson broke the silence saying, “Whether anyone comes up or not, it is the law.”
Democrats on the committee expressed concerns about spending money for an outside firm to do the transition work.
Senator Aaron Ford (D-Las Vegas) felt that it was the committee’s job to oversee the reorganization, not to fund a private sector committee to do it.
“I am a little concerned about the bureaucracy that it adds,” Ford said. “One of the purposes of this was to remove bureaucracy and allow more money to flow toward students and not to consultants.”
In addition, Ford was concerned that no formal Request for Proposal (RFP) had been issued for the consulting work.
“We are already behind schedule on this,” Roberson responded. “We have to get this right. We cannot wait weeks and months for an RFP.”
Assemblyman Mo Denis (D-Las Vegas) was concerned that there were no parents on the Implementation Council to guide the process.
“I don’t see this succeeding without having parent input,” Denis said.
But Christenson said that the Council would not be chiefly focused down at the school team level. Rather it would be to facilitate key changes needed in the central administration functions.
“Our purpose is the management and operation of the organization,” Christenson said. “The education piece – the interaction with parents and teachers and principals – that is a different situation. We don’t mean to get involved in that interaction.”
Motions to establish the council and enter into a contract with TSC2 were approved with a 5-2 vote of the committee.