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July 29, 2014

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From the Editor:

Venturing into the classroom

We are going to provide one of the most in-depth community-interest projects we have ever done

Image

Leila Navidi

Literacy specialist coach Valerie Griffiths, left, and kindergarten teacher Nadeen Warren get ready for the first day of school at Hancock Elementary School in Las Vegas Thursday, August 25, 2011.

It’s all about the public interest.

Barbara and Hank Greenspun, my parents, started the Las Vegas Sun just over 61 years ago because my father believed that Las Vegas was a community worth fighting for, and the best way he could do that was to publish a newspaper.

For nearly 40 years Hank battled every bad guy, every bad decision and every example of government excess that he could find. He also tilted at more than his share of windmills. He believed that the people of Las Vegas not only deserved but needed a newspaper committed to providing the best and most credible information so that decisions made by voters, elected officials and community leaders would be made with the best information available.

That was then. And nothing has changed — except that newspapers are challenged beyond comprehension; the public is scared to its wits’ end because of the economic stress under which we are all living; and partisan politics has reached a point that, when coupled with the fear of unknown tomorrows, creates a paralysis that prevents logic and sanity from ruling our everyday decisions.

What really hasn’t changed is the commitment by the Las Vegas Sun, and by extension all of our products at Greenspun Media Group, to provide the best and most credible information so citizens and voters can make the most informed decisions possible.

Why am I writing all this? Because, once again, the Las Vegas Sun and her sister media are going to provide, starting today, one of the best and most in-depth community-interest projects we have ever done.

For the next year, our reporters, photographers, videographers, editors and whoever else we can assemble to bring to bear on this subject, will follow the progress of what arguably is the most important undertaking of a free society: its public school system.

Every legislative battle, every street corner discussion and every chat room worth its salt has as one of its main discussion areas the issue of public education — how much does it cost, does it work, are we getting our money’s worth, should it exist, and on and on. It was the bone of contention at the 2011 Legislature, and I predict it will hold the same place of honor in the 2013 get-together.

As my colleague in this effort has written in the adjoining column, the Clark County School District and the Las Vegas Sun have entered into an unprecedented arrangement in which our news folks are allowed full access to report on the effort to turn around some of the lowest performing schools in the district.

Dwight Jones, the new School District superintendent, is committed to candor and accountability; we are committed to be fair in how we report on the progress of these yearlong turnaround efforts. Together, we are partners in providing transparency to the process of reforming and improving education. By making this project available in print, online, on mobile devices and on television through our news partners at News 3, the citizens who pay the bill for public education will get the information and accountability they so richly deserve.

In the end, voters will be far better informed about our public schools and the hard work it takes to graduate young men and women who have a real chance to succeed. They will also learn about the failures, however few we hope there are.

What we will learn, mostly, is how public institutions and the news organizations whose job it is to keep them accountable can work together to keep the public better informed. We all join Dwight Jones in hoping that the last of our installments tells a great story of success. In any case, the Sun’s commitment to a better Las Vegas continues.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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  1. "What really hasn't changed is the commitment by the Las Vegas Sun, and by extension all of our products at Greenspun Media Group, to provide the best and most credible information so citizens and voters can make the most informed decisions possible."

    Brian:

    Seriously, I don't see how the Sun can simultaneously "report" and "partner" with the CCSD. Actually, it looks more like a partnership with the administration of the CCSD (see interviews with administrators in today's edition).

    This just lacks any credibility. There appears to be no independence in this process for the LV Sun. It all starts with the administration. How is the independence of information secured? This looks like a CCSD dog and pony show to puff the new administration.

    I just don't see how the Sun facilitate its stated to goal
    of aiding and fostering the most informed decisions possible by citizens and the public without this approach.

    T.

  2. Turrialba,

    You are misunderstanding what the Sun is doing. The Sun is enjoying absolute independence. Our writers will be reporting what they see, hear and experience.

    The partnership allows us unprecedented access to the campuses, getting us inside the effort to turn around these five schools. The alternative -- to not have access to the campuses -- further removes us from the action.

    The School District is not reading our stories before they are published. This is not unlike reporters in war who were embedded with combat units so they could get as close as possible to the action when they reported and wrote their stories.

  3. Tom--

    I think you are misunderstanding my point. You should know that the CCSD only needs to control what the reporters see, hear and experience to control the content of information. The CCSD controls the dialog--see the roundtable discussion. No need to read the stories in advance if you control the flow of information.

    Right now the flow of information seems to be a bit weighted toward the top of administrative hierarchy and less toward those who pay for the service and those who use these services.

    T.

  4. Tom--the use of the word "partnership" means an alliance. It implies common goals and purposes. I don't see how independence flows from this.

  5. Turrialba,

    Yes, this is an alliance because both the School District and the Sun are seeking the same outcome: Transparency, so the public can better understand the challenges facing the School District and how it is going about trying to turn around these schools.

    I am going to ask you to be less cynical and read the stories coming out this week. Then let me know what you think. Don't be so quick to judge what you haven't even yet read. Fair enough?

  6. Mr. Greenspun,

    I hope you look into the whole picture; not just schools and students, but the erosion of family values. When I was in school the vast majority had 2 parents, one of which was a stay at home parent.

    Children today lack guidance. They are rushed to school without a proper breakfast, usually because a parent has to get to work on time. The children come home to an empty house and are left on their own for several hours. When parents get home they are usually tired and rush to prepare a meal. The parents are not involved with their child's school and education and blame teachers for THEIR own lack of involvement.

  7. If you really want to do an in depth analysis of this district begin with the central office administration and the extreme overload of administrative positions. Thee has to be something wrong with a school district need a phone directory, mini volume, of names and phone numbers. Why do we have to have so many make work, paper shufflers in our district and schools? Why do schools need more than 1 principal and 1-2 vice principals on 6 figure salaries. EXAMPLE Why do secondary schools need an administrator, 6 figure salaried nerd in charge of activities and sports,i.e athletic director. In the old days the head coach of FB or BB was the athletic director PERIOD!

  8. Mr. Gorman:

    Since we are talking transparency, would you also publish interviews with teachers? You see, there are a few sides to every issue. We need to hear from all sides.

    I wrote a rebuttal to the Governor's and the superintendent's columns, from a teacher's perspective, but they were never published.

    Leadership efficacy is predicated by input from the 'peons.' Any changes any one wishes to make have a greater chance of success when those who will implement them are involved. It is that simple. Otherwise you will only have compliance, no buy-in, and it does not always succeed.

    Thank you.

  9. ASadTeacher,

    Absolutely we will be interviewing teachers! Please call me this coming week at 259-2310.

    Tom

  10. If this project is like most of the other projects the Sun has embarked upon, it will be a major success. Not a whitewash or a hose job...

    The Sun is left (union)leaning and makes no bones about it's viewpoint on day to day topics and articles.

    But the Sun is also known for and awarded for its ability to do in-depth research and reporting a fairly unbiased viewpoint on the larger issues like this.

    Looking forward to seeing what they uncover.

  11. It might also be useful to speak to some of us who teach at the college level here in the Valley. We're involved in the same struggle for transparency and quality in public education, and a great many of our students (and not a few of the grad students who teach entry-level classes at UNLV) come straight out of CCSD. How CCSD students fare once they move into higher education and the work force should be a part of this story.