By DR. LARRY MOSES
No one asked me but… The problem of the Clark County School District is not an incompetent superintendent. The problem is not the possible 80-million-dollar shortfall in the budget. The problem is not poor test scores. The problem is not the fact that at the end of the 2017-18 school year 6,000 to 7,000 more youngsters will not have a diploma after spending 12 years in the CCSD. The problem is not that the district cannot fill classrooms without picking up 81 migrant teachers from the Philippines. The problem is not the fact that the district cannot settle salary disputes with any of its employee groups without going to binding arbitration. The problem is not even the fact that Central Office officials see the teachers as “non-essential personnel”. These are all symptoms of the real sickness of the CCSD.
Treating these symptoms is like the little boy who put his finger in the dike to hold back the sea. Plug one hole and another hole inherent in the organizational structure CCSD will appear. Eventually the sea won. Superintendent Skorkowsky ran out of fingers.
After the 2015 legislative session; a committee was established with the task of changing the CCSD structure. What started out as a move to break the CCSD into smaller manageable school districts quickly changed course to a reorganization of the basic structure of the management of the fifth largest school district in the United States. By the time the committee completed its task the issue became: ‘How do we protect the status quo in CCSD?’. Led by Senator Aaron Ford and the rest of the Democrats on the committee, all meaningful reform was removed from the legislation designed to restructure CCSD.
There is within the CCSD a management system that could be adapted to break CCSD into a manageable organization while keeping a central base. The District is presently divided into 16 Performance Zones, each under a School Associate Superintendent. One of those zones is a rural school zone. The Central Office could become a service agency for the 16 independent performance zones of approximately 20,000 students.
Eighty percent of the operational funding would go to directly to the independent performance zone. Twenty percent would go to the Central Service Zone. The local performance zones would buy services, i.e. transportation, special education, human resources, and other services that the performance zones feel would best be provided by central services. The decisions for the day to day operation would be made by a board of citizens, teachers, and local administrators in the performance zone. This would allow for diversity within a district that is made up of over 320,000 unique students.
Teachers would be thought of as the most important individuals, next to the parent, in the formal educational progress of the children, rather than “non-essential” personnel. No Superintendent would ever again see himself as a “benevolent dictator” doing the parents a favor by ensuring an equitable education for their children.
No one asked me but… The Superintendent of the Clark County School District, Pat Skorkowsky, announced his retirement as of June 2018. Mr. Skorkowsky’s educational career is truly remarkable. He began his teaching career in a first-grade classroom in the CCSD and worked his way through the huge bureaucracy to become the CCSD Superintendent. Mr. Skorkowsky has spent his entire career as an educator in the CCSD. I can only commend Mr. Skorkowsky for his 30-year career in the Clark County School District. Only 27 of my 31-year career in education was with CCSD. I believe Mr. Skorkowsky has learned that running a corporation with 40,000 employees is not the same as running a classroom of first graders or being the principal of a school. The fact that he has survived as the superintendent for five years is an accomplishment in itself.
While people are quick to attack Mr. Skorkowsky for the district’s 50 to 80-million-dollar budget shortfall, the shortfall is not his fault. His fault lies in the fact that he hired the people who allow this to happen. While it is not his fault, it was his responsibility. As a manager at any level you have to have people you can trust to do the various task that make up the mission of your organization. This was a lesson I learned very early as a corporal in the Marine Corps. I had to trust fire team leaders under my command, my sergeants had to trust me, and so forth up the chain of command.
While you can transfer the authority, you cannot transfer the responsibility. I was fortunate as a principal to have a staff that took the authority I transferred to them and did an outstanding job carrying out the goals of our school. So, I will again say thanks to Gary Bachelor, my athletic director; Kay Bachelor, Office Manager; Lynn Bowler, a counselor and advisor; and all the teachers, coaches, and support staff who served with me at MVHS. It is important for a leader to have people that will let you know when they recognize a problem in their area of authority.
All that being said, Mr. Skorkowsky’s retirement statement sounded much like a jilted lover’s rant. He stated “…my retirement now will allow me to speak more clearly and address some key problems – and problem makers – head on, without holding back. So, listen up…some vocal critics of mine have made the current budget situation into a referendum on my leadership. That is not the case! This decision allows me greater freedom to deal with those attacks…and you can be guaranteed that I will.” Later, he stated “I will be dealing with people who are in it for personal gain and not for our students.” He further took a shot at the Teacher union by saying he will be calling for a forensic audit of the Teacher’s Health Trust. This may well be a good idea, but it smacks of retaliation as the three employee unions and two Trustees have called for a forensic audit of CCSD.
If Mr. Skorkowsky plans to spend the next 10 months carrying out a vendetta against those he perceives wronged him, it is imperative that the Board of Trustees call for his retirement to take effect immediately. Like any good employee of the District, the superintendent has probably accumulated enough vacation and sick days to leave the district immediately with full credit for thirty years of service. No good can come from an internal blood bath.
Thought of the week… I know it was you, Fredo. You’ve broken my heart.