Las Vegas Sun

May 6, 2015

Currently: 70° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

School District eyes 12 schools for turnaround efforts

Click to enlarge photo

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.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 12 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Part 1 of 2:
    At the very heart of the problem for low performing schools is the involvement and active participation factor of parents of low performing students. We continue to do everything BUT address a comprehensive program to route both parent and their low performing child for focused, intensive help. Without this component, all that happens is spending money and not getting the desired results. What do you think the Taxpayer, footing the financial bill, wants to see?

    Nevada Lawmakers need to legislate ENFORCEMENT teeth in the yearly signed PARENT/TEACHER/STUDENT INVOLVEMENT ACCORD, just for starters. Additionally, they need to address the Nevada Constitution in regards to tax/revenue generation, especially with our relationship with MINING. Currently, the mining industry pays a pittance to Nevada (we are the lowest paid compared to what other states receive from mining). Mining should be required to pay, at the very least, an average percentage of what the other 49 states pay, to be FAIR.

    Children who consistently have behavioral problems need to be routed to an alternative education classroom until they demonstrate compliance and nondisruptive behaviors. A great deal of a teacher's time is spent with dealing with these problem students, from dealing with the immediate issue, to writing it up, to going to conferences, to, in all likelihood, repeating the same process with the same problem student(s) until the year's end.

    The funding numbers cited in this article, are really novel: "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."

    These amounts are mere drops in the bucket. If you consider each administrator is paid annually at a start of $100,000 (Transparent Nevada will verify these numbers), does this mean that the district plans to reduce administrative positions? Also, they infer robbing Peter to pay Paul with, "...or from other programs in the district."

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. Interesting. Fremont was a turn-around school only a few years ago. How come the turn-around takeover did not turn it around??????????

    Interesting. The former principal of West Prep, Dr. Barton, was promoted a couple of years ago, and has since been promoted again. Even the anti-school RJ was singing his praises not long ago.

    Here's an excerpt from that story:
    "At $12,962, per-pupil funding for West Prep's middle school and high school students is about twice the district's average of $6,913, according to 2006-07 figures, the most recent numbers available."

    "Obviously I'm biased, but I think spending more in education can make a difference when the money is used appropriately," Barton said."

    But the school hasn't been making AYP all along, or at least very often (if ever) as far as I know, and now it needs a turnaround. Make that ANOTHER turnaround. Because what "the state" did obviously didn't work. Interesting.

    See, this is the sort of story where we need a little more journalism. That's not an insult to the reporter, about whom I know little, but this newspaper seems to be in love with Jones and anything he does, probably because it is in love with the "reform" movement.

    If you are so interested in education, perhaps you would hire me as a reporter. (But it seems you don't want real reporting on these issues. ) I need a new job. What is going on is scary - and I'm not a "bad" teacher.

    In fact, I'd say the majority of good teachers I know are looking to either retire or escape somehow. If I had kids in this system now, I'd be trying to get them out.

  3. Thanks, as always, to star for her comments. What I am seeing is the increased scapegoating of teachers. It is getting worse by the week.

    Not only mining, but also other businesses, need to pay taxes comparable to what they pay in other states. This should be a priority of our legislators, but they seem more interested in
    - blaming teachers
    - creating an environment where the standard work week for teachers is 70 to 80 hours during the school year
    - being able to fire teachers easily, and
    - kissing the behinds of the businesses that need to pay higher taxes

    Legislators, ever hear that saying about being careful what you wish for? That giant sucking sound you will hear from the CCSD is good teachers leaving.

    But it won't affect you, of course. People will still vote for you because they don't know, don't care, or don't have other choices. Maybe that's a place teachers need to put their energies - if they had any energy to do anything outside of their jobs. So there we lose again - we are too exhausted to fight for ourselves.

    It is only parents who see the schools get worse and worse and care who will make a difference.

  4. Part 2 of 2:

    Currently, most schools are top heavy, increasingly, the teachers having to do more with less. The last round of "school improvements" went towards hiring Learning/Instructional Strategists and Coaches, who are being used by district Principals to do administrative tasks instead of being available to help in the needy classrooms. So teachers wonder, "Where are they, these Coaches and Learning/Instructional Strategists (who are paid MORE and are supposed to be there at the school to help/support them--towards benefitting for the students, yet are most always out attending trainings and meetings)?" That is the reality of how it is all working out so far. Will the Taxpayers be satisfied with this once they learn of it?

    We need students coming to school ready to learn, having a goal/purpose to work towards, and the cooperation and support of their home family in doing so. Until that happens, little else CAN happen. The analogy is leading a horse to water, but you cannot MAKE him drink. So it is with our students. The school district cannot continue to cut school psychologists and counselors, who are vital in servicing students. Instead of another vice pricipal, let's assure the school is receiving adequate support in these areas (and please don't use these professionals to perform non-related duties).

    There has to be a balance in the use of the district's human resources. Any imbalance only creates deficiencies in needed and necessary services for our students.

    Again, preventive medicine for potential "Turnaround Schools" has to include treatment at the root, "the very heart of the problem for low performing schools is the involvement and active participation factor of parents of low performing students. We continue to do everything BUT address this need with a comprehensive program to route both parent and their low performing child for focused, intensive help." Every good gardener knows that you must attack the roots of problem weeds in order to erradicate the problem. To see positive change, we must be willing to go there (and do that!).

    Blessings and Peace,

  5. It seems to me that we may be addressing the problems incorrectly. Yes, the students may be disruptive and inattentive. Is that the parents problem? Maybe, but remember, the parent (parents) have to work for a living these days.

    I try to help students with ADD and ADHD 3 days a week. It's a challenge, because giving the children an amphetamine, namely Adderal, to cope with their problems may or may not work. Usually not, many end up in the slammer. Changing teachers or blaming the parent(s)is wasteful. The only answer is reaching maturity, in my case age 25. Most don't make it, they end up knocked up or in prison, usually for drugs. Think about it...

  6. Star and Teacher you are absolutely correct. Even if they throw money at these schools its never used properly, and Teachers are constantly being asked to do more with less. All the inservices and b.s. trainings are not helping!! We need to create accountabilty amongst students and parents. People are so concerned about accountabilty when it comes to Teachers but, why not hold the people directly impacted by their education accoutable...the students/parents? It's a disgusting problem in this town, and that's why I like other Teachers will be looking to leave the district. Let's touch on the suppossed progress being paraded around town by Western H.S., all they did to increase their rating and numbers was discretely eliminate AYP from their rating formula. So it went from one star to four, when in reality they changed the formula!Lastly, how about breaking up the district into four seperate districts? Just like the National Government it's too big to function appropriatley.

  7. Money will not help. Hiring different teachers will not help. This problem of abhorrent graduation rates lies right at the feet of parents. If parents took the time to instill in their kids the importance of an education and took an active role in making sure their work was done properly, these graduation rates would increase 20%.

    You can hire all the life coaches, assistants, tutors in the world. Nothing gets better until the parents get involved. This city is rife with one parent households.

    Even Oprah Winfrey has given up trying to help city schools because all she got from the students was they wanted IPods, the latest Jordan sneakers and grilles like their favorite rap stars. She was disgusted by the attitudes and took her money to places where kids appreciate an education....namely Africa of all places.

    It's heading in the wrong direction. We will be building more prisons.

  8. "Maybe, but remember, the parent (parents) have to work for a living these days"
    Parents didn't have to work in the "old days"? If you can't work and tend to your kids educational needs then maybe you need to re-up your birth control pills for the time being.

    Too many single moms, pregnant at 18-20 by an unemployed boyfriend who is soon to be gone, no skills, no job and little prospect for a financially secure future. Maybe we should start identifying the root causes before we start firing and hiring teachers.

  9. Amazing what you can do with more money.....considering that the "reformers" policy studies state clearly that money, class size, facilities, etc. have nothing to do with quality education. The only factor is bad union teachers.

    BTW...see the latest data on grad rates...all new and neatly correlated so that each state's data is equivalent to others. Vermont and Wisconsin lead at 91%. Washington DC beats Nevada for last place @57% to 58%. It is not just CCSD bringing the rate. Many rural schools have even worse performance...even where there is no teacher union.

  10. Instead of just dressing up a few schools as "turnaround", why don't we get someone to admit that the entire system is led by corrupt and incompetent management?

    Maybe then we can put the money they already have in the classrooms where it belongs and try to improve ALL of the schools.

  11. When you say, "the only factor is bad union teachers." please define what a "bad union teacher" is.

    I know many teachers who are part of a teacher's union, and not one of them is "bad", or are you going by the "reformers" definition of a "bad teacher"?

    Please provide links to those studies that say class size, etc don't matter.

  12. This is the latest scam du jour. Trust me, this nonsense doesn't work, and whoever brainstormed it is a bureaucrat that never taught a day in a classroom. The failing schools are full of kids and parents that don't care and don't want an education. You can replace the principals and teachers all you want, it won't change a thing! What we're seeing here is a clash of two cultures. One assumes that the children in the other's school district all value an education like theirs do, but are somehow being denied it because of a bad school. That is just not the case! I've been in these classrooms. The kids won't do their work. They want to be professional athletes and rappers. They're too stupid to understand what odds are. If they did, they would know that it's smarter to study in school than to risk your future trying to do something like that. I think the kids in the bad areas need to be at work instead of wasting our money and resources doing nothing in school. Time to end the liberal socialist delusion of equality for all. It isn't realistic.