The idea that educational reform is desperately needed in the state of Nevada; and more especially in Clark County; is not really a point of debate for anyone firmly rooted in the ‘real world’. Rather it is a simple fact. Unfortunately the workings of the central Clark County School District (CCSD), and more specifically its Board of Trustees, seem to have become sadly disconnected from ‘real world’ facts.
The urgent need of reform has been recognized and reinforced by the repeated actions of the Nevada State Legislature. In the 2015 legislative session, for example, there were numerous bills presented and passed, with bipartisan support, to clean up education in the state. One of the most sweeping of these was AB394 to reorganize the CCSD. This bill, aiming to decentralize power away from the CCSD bureaucracy and bring it down to a more local level, was supported by a broad base of the public, including legislators on both sides of the aisle, the teachers’ and school administrators’ unions, southern Nevada city leaders, and a broad coalition of parents and business leaders in the CCSD communities.
While the final result of the effort fell far short of original expectations, it did launch an important regional discussion on the subject. The process ended with a step in the right direction, albeit small, for school kids in the CCSD. At the very least, the AB394 process built an early foundation upon which future reform might be built.
Ironically, the only ones who were NOT on board the School Reform Express when it left the station in 2015, were the very same people who should have been driving the train all along. Since passage of AB394, the CCSD Trustees have done all they could to trip it up and obstruct its progress. Like misbehaving children in a classroom, they have kicked, screamed, shouted and fought against the new state law at every turn. They willfully withdrew themselves from the public process of implementation of the bill, withholding their valuable input. They even forbade the CCSD Superintendent to attend meetings meant to seek public input on the reforms. When none of this was successful, they became openly defiant toward AB 394; even to the point of miring it down with legal action in opposition to it. In their hostility toward what everyone else can see as desperately needed reform, the Trustees have clearly put politics, and the pride of their positions, above pupils. Consequently, the ones who should have been acting like adults at the head of the class have instead behaved like spoiled children.
In all of their temper tantrums, though, the Trustees seem to have lost sight of the fact that there is still an authority in charge of the classroom. They have forgotten that the State Legislature, and indeed state law itself, is still the boss of them. So last week the Legislature moved on an interesting bill designed to haul the insubordinate trustees to the principal’s office for discipline. Assembly Bill 451 received an overwhelming 41-0 vote in the State Assembly last Tuesday and is expected to be passed in the Senate and sent on to the Governor’s desk.
In essence, this bill sends the misbehaving Trustees to the corner donning a dunce cap of shame. The bill would require trustees to undergo at least six hours of “professional development” training during the first and third years of their four year terms. This detention work is, of course, more than just a requirement to write an admission of their guilt 100 times on the chalkboard — but it’s not MUCH more.
It includes lessons in open meeting laws, financial management of public funds, ethics, and perhaps most importantly, a refresher on the state laws relating to K-12 education to which they are subject.
Trustees who ignore the new detention requirement will receive even more public shame. The bill requires that the names of non-complying trustees be posted “in a conspicuous manner” on the board’s website and that written notice of such to be provided to the other trustees.
If nothing else, AB451 is a clear message to CCSD trustees of who still stands at the head of the class: the State Legislature. It is a reminder that school board trustees in Nevada, even the high-and-mighty ones from Clark County, are still subject to Nevada state law.
We can only hope that the message sinks in!