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Students protest district’s plan to reorganize schools

Teachers will have to reapply to keep the same position next year

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Justin M. Bowen

Students rally outside Chaparral High School on Wednesday, March 9, 2011, in protest of the district’s plans to reorganize the school.

Updated Wednesday, March 9, 2011 | 5:22 p.m.

School protest

KSNV coverage of protest over reorganization at Chaparral High School, March 9, 2011.

Chaparral High School Rally

Students rally outside Chaparral High School on Wednesday, March 9, 2011, in protest of the district's plans to reorganize the school. Launch slideshow »

Map of Chaparral

Chaparral

3850 Annie Oakley Dr., Las Vegas

A Clark County School District plan to reorganize five schools drew the ire of hundreds of students Wednesday at Chaparral High School.

The students held a protest in front of the school shortly after classes ended on the day they learned the school’s principal and many of its teachers would leave the school after the current year.

Chaparral is one of five schools the district has decided to reorganize using a federal stimulus grant aimed at improving the lowest performing schools.

District officials Wednesday morning outlined the plan to reorganize Chaparral, Mojave High School, Hancock Elementary and two other schools where staff had yet to be notified. Late Wednesday afternoon the district said Western High School was also part of the grant program and an announcement on a fifth school was expected soon.

As part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, Nevada received $9 million to improve schools. The state identified schools that were eligible for the School Improvement Grants, and the district chose the five schools that would participate.

The district will apply for the $7 million it is eligible for from the state, with the other $2 million going to other districts.

The federal grant requires the district to transform the school in one of four ways. The district chose a method that includes removing all of the school’s staff members and making them reapply for their jobs, with a maximum of 50 percent being rehired.

The remaining staff will be able to apply for positions at other schools, School Board President Carolyn Edwards said.

“Nobody is losing their job and nobody is being fired,” she said.

Three of the five Clark County schools will also get new principals, Edwards said. The program allows principals to be retained if he or she has been at the school for less than three years. Chaparral’s principal will be replaced, but Western’s principal will not.

The idea is to create a fresh start at the schools and to allow principals to build a united team to focus on improvement, Edwards said. The principals will then decide how to use the grant money for programs at the school.

“It’s the right thing to do. It’s time to recognize that some of the schools need more support than they are getting,” Edwards said. “I think it’s going to be a benefit for the whole school and it’s certainly going to be a benefit for the students.”

But many students at Chaparral were opposed to the idea of losing their principal and favorite teachers.

“I don’t think it’s fair that they want to punish our teachers and our principal for something that’s not the teacher’s fault,” 16-year-old junior Brittoni King said.

The protest “shows how much we support our teachers and administrators, and how much we want them to stay,” she added.

King’s mother, Brenda Roney, agreed: “I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think you should grade teachers on their students’ test scores, and that’s basically what they’re doing. They are punishing the teachers because the students have low test scores.”

Much of the Chaparral protest was focused on supporting Principal Kevin McPartlin. Students credited him with improving the school and increasing spirit at Chaparral.

“I like the principal,” Roney said. “Every time I’ve had a problem, he’s handled it for me.”

But not everyone agreed the changes are the wrong approach to improvement.

Senior Erick Rodriguez, 17, watched the protest from a distance with friends. He said the protest was bringing negative attention to Chaparral.

“How come they can’t show it on their test scores or on their grades?” Rodriquez said. “I think it’s right that they are going to get rid of some of the teachers. I find it dumb that (protesters) are doing this … I know half of the students and they ditch classes and everything, but they come to this.”

Junior Tiara Smith worried that if certain teachers leave, so will some of the students.

“I think it’s going the wrong way because some of the students like their teachers, and if they’re gone they won’t come,” she said.

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