Published Saturday, Aug. 9, 2008 | 8:48 p.m.
Updated Monday, Aug. 11, 2008 | 4:40 p.m.
A recent Nevada Supreme Court ruling guarantees some fresh faces on the Clark County School Board, including the District B (see map) seat now held by Ruth L. Johnson.
Four candidates will be seeking the seat held for 12 years by Johnson, who is reluctantly leaving the board after the court ruling term-limited her out of the running.
Johnson, who first took office in 1996, is throwing her support to Gaya Guymon.
"Gaya Guymon … knows the schools, she knows the community, she knows the growth challenges that we are facing," Johnson said in a statement.
Guymon said she entered the race after it was clear that Johnson, who is a friend of hers, might be forced out. The two discussed their options and Guymon ultimately agreed to put her name on the ballot “as a favor to Ruth.”
Still, she maintains that she is running for the students. “We need somebody on there that cares more about the kids than their own issues,” she said.
The 49-year-old florist has volunteered with county schools for 15 years, serving on the attendance zone advisory commission every year since 1996, except for one when she served on the bond oversight committee instead.
Her challengers are Ron Taylor, Mike Noland and Chris Garvey.
Taylor is a 57-year-old middle school teacher with 20 years of teaching experience who says he’s “a classroom teacher that knows what goes on in the classroom.” If elected, he promises to be an advocate for district teachers.
“I’m not afraid to do what needs to be done,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult, but it needs to be done.”
After teaching at the state prison for the past two years, he will engage seventh and eighth grade students at Levitt Middle School this fall.
His opponent, former custodian and building engineer Noland, retired last year after 27 years with the Clark County School District. He said he believes his first-hand experience with the school system would be an asset if he is elected trustee.
“The main issues are to get more money for the teaching staff so they can do a better job with the kids,” he said. “If you have 30 or 35 kids in a classroom it’s difficult to give them everything you need to.”
Although Garvey has yet to collect a paycheck from the district, she has been involved in the county’s school system for nearly two decades, serving on a variety of committees and working to build coalitions, improve zoning, and on the district’s bond issue, he said.
The mother of three says she has the devotion, efficiency and fresh ideas the position requires, and vows to be accessible to parents, teacher, and the public.
“We need to be proactive in making sure we have clean, safe, well equipped schools so that our children have a place to learn,” she said.
Taylor would like to see existing truancy laws, which apply to students who miss three consecutive days of classes, enforced.
“If a kid isn’t in the classroom, you can’t teach it,” he said. “If a kid is truant for three days, they’re cited and sent to court.”
In terms of budget cuts and money-saving measures, Taylor said the district should sell its plush office building on West Sahara Avenue, which was purchased for $14 million and has undergone $6 million in additional improvements.
He also sees potential savings in the district’s $30 million consulting budget and would like to look at the current out-of-classroom specialists program at elementary schools.
Noland said millions of dollars could be saved if the district made an effort to spend its money wisely. He point to lighting as one example and suggests each elementary school could save $10,000 per year if it used more efficient light bulbs. These savings, Noland said, would translate into between $1.8 to $2.1 million in savings per year.
Guymon seems to agree with Noland’s position, suggesting “every aspect of education” should be looked at in order to find savings, especially bus routes, lighting, and administration.
“I’m sure there’s different ways that we can save money,” she said. “If we talk to the maintenance crews, … they know where the waste is. … The people who are actually running the things could show us where to save money.”
When asked about budget cuts, Garvey pointed to the district’s large administration, and inefficiencies across the system. “We need to get our house in order (and) look at how we’re using our money,” she said.
Garvey cited financial reasons, such as the duplication of services and infrastructure, as reason for not dividing the school division, which some have proposed.
“I oppose breaking up the school district at this point,” she said. “I don’t think we have the financial flexibility to do it … We need to focus on streamlining and making our existing system better.”
Noland also opposes breaking up the school district, suggesting, “It makes no sense.”
“(I) don’t see any savings there. In fact, I see a big loss there … If you look at it, you’re adding 35 more board members and then you’re looking at five more superintendents and maybe 40 more administrators at the upper level per district … And some of the areas would be in big trouble because there’s not the tax base there for them.”
Guymon disagrees and is not against the idea of splitting it up. Before that, however, she said a sound analysis would be needed to ensure subdividing the district would make financial sense.
Taylor said it is simply a matter of time before the Clark County School District is split up.
“We’ve already got regions right now … Now it’s just a matter of saying, OK, we need to get rid of this top-heavy administration and split it up,” Taylor said.
In the meantime, however, he would like to see outlying cities in Division B be better served. “They’re 80 miles away and they’re treated like stepchildren,” he said. “At the very least, Mesquite and Moapa need to have their own trustee.”
Guymon and Taylor also support the notion of education vouchers for private schools. “I’m not opposed to it as long as private schools are held to the same standards as public schools,” Taylor said, “(but) there’s no empty seats in private schools so it’s really not an issue.”
Their opponents, meanwhile, do not support the idea. “With the school district the way that it is, we really don’t need to take any money away from it,” Noland said.
Garvey shares his position: “I don’t support vouchers,” she said, suggesting the district’s current empowerment programs, magnet schools and charter schools are adequate means of enhanced, publicly-funded education.
None of the District B candidates have previously sought public office, with the exception of Taylor, who launched an unsuccessful campaign in the early 90s for District 4 State Assembly.