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July 3, 2015

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School District eyes 12 schools for turnaround efforts

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Dwight Jones, the Clark County School Superintendent, is photographed in his office Thursday, January 20, 2011.

The Clark County School District is considering turning around 12 low-performing schools in the coming months.

The issue: The School District is in the process of evaluating 12 schools deemed candidates for dramatic changes.

The principal and some staff could be replaced at these new "turnaround" schools. These schools will also receive additional money and support, which may include staff development, additional instructional time and social services.

These measures are being considered in an effort to boost lagging student test scores and graduation rates.

What's happening: Since early December, academic managers and an external team of administrators have been conducting extensive teacher and principal interviews, classroom observations and test data analysis at the following schools:

Basic High School, Brown Junior High School, Cimarron-Memorial High School, Del Sol High School, Desert Pines High School, Fremont Middle School, Mack Middle School, Sunrise Mountain High School, Valley High School, West Prep Elementary and Middle School, Whitney Elementary School and Wilhelm Elementary School.

A school is considered for the turnaround if: 1) it was designated one star on the district's school rating system; 2) a two-star elementary/middle school scored at or less than 45 on the 100-point school rating scale; 3) a two-star high school scored at or less than 60 on the rating scale.

Schools on the state's "priority" list — Del Sol, Sunrise Mountain and Valley — were also considered for the turnaround.

On Thursday, the School District unveiled its process for evaluating schools for the turnaround. That way, any decisions made in the coming weeks to turn around a school don't seem arbitrary to the public.

"We've defined a process that is transparent and treats teachers, parents and students with dignity," said Jeff Geihs, the academic manager of the district's "turnaround school zone."

Geihs currently oversees nine schools in the "turnaround zone:" Canyon Springs High School, Kit Carson Elementary School, Chaparral High School, Hancock Elementary School, Mojave High School, O'Callaghan Middle School, Roundy Elementary School, Sunrise Acres Elementary School and Western High School. The School District could more than double this "turnaround zone" with the addition of 12 new schools.

Why this matters: Last school year, the School District reconstituted principals and staff at Hancock Elementary School and Chaparral, Mojave and Western high schools, which all received federal School Improvement Grant money.

The measures were drastic and transformative. These schools showed some progress after the first year of the three-year turnaround process. However, the federal grant money to do more turnarounds is running out.

That's why the School District is looking to do its own turnaround at several schools. Elementary schools could receive an additional $200,000; middle schools, $300,000; and high schools, $500,000. The money — which is not yet budgeted — could come from state education grant money or from other programs in the district.

"Resources are scarce, but we're going to have to put additional resources (in these schools)," said Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones. "We cannot leave these kids in a situation where their chances for success aren't the same (as others in the district)."

The 12 schools considered for the district's turnaround efforts might not be completely overhauled. Some schools may just receive additional supports, without any staff changes. Principals and staff will be replaced only as a measure of last resort, Jones said.

What's next: Superintendent Jones is expected to announce the next round of turnaround schools by the end of this month. New principals — if necessary — may be hired by March.

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