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September 2, 2014

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Education:

Back to school: CCSD to hire 2,000 new teachers

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Mona Shield Payne

Kindergarten teacher Julie Cohen teaches her students how to ask questions with a raise of hands on their first day of class Monday, August 27, 2012, at Cambeiro Elementary School in Las Vegas.

Updated Thursday, March 7, 2013 | 6:30 p.m.

Attracting educators

Attracting 2,000 new teachers to the Clark County School District is no easy task.

That's why the School District is kickstarting a new recruiting campaign called "Teach Vegas: Teach, Live Grow." The initiative will use a mix of online and traditional recruiting methods to get the word out about job openings and entice quality teachers to Southern Nevada, said chief human resources officer Staci Vesneske.

"Our human resources department is already working to attract applicants so we can recruit the best teachers into our classrooms and reduce our class sizes, which are among the highest in the nation," Deputy Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said in a statement.

As part of its campaign, the district's HR department launched new Facebook and Twitter pages and is in the process of streamlining its online application process to make it easier for candidates to apply online.

Realizing it will take a personal touch to persuade candidates to relocate, Vesneske hopes to offer current teachers additional pay to call potential candidates, cultivating relationships that could translate to actual hires.

The district also hopes to establish a hiring presence at teaching colleges around the nation, sending principals and recruiters to campus job fairs. The district will target cities with quality teaching colleges and those with school systems that are currently laying off teachers.

It wasn't too long ago that Clark County was considering layoffs of its own. The School District's ability to hire more teachers — partially as a result of an arbitration decision — is a welcome change that bodes well for Southern Nevada, Vesneske said.

"It's a sign of our recovery," she said. "(Las Vegas) is turning around."

Over the next several months, the Clark County School District plans to hire about 2,000 new teachers, bringing average class sizes down by an estimated one to two students next school year.

The additional hires would boost the total number of teachers in the nation's fifth-largest school district to a record 18,868 licensed personnel.

The hiring announcement comes exactly a month after an arbitrator ruled in favor of the School District in a bitter contract dispute with the local teachers union — a decision that saved the district about $38.6 million over the next two years.

All of that money will be used to hire 700 teachers from across the nation to fill new positions in all subject areas and grade levels. There will be a focus on hiring elementary schoolteachers and those specializing in science, technology, math and special education.

In addition, the School District plans to replace about 1,000 teachers anticipated to retire or resign from the district this school year.

Pending legislative approval, the district also anticipates hiring about 300 teachers to expand preschool and full-day kindergarten programs.

Counting the 1,300 new teachers hired since August, this hiring season will be the largest in School District history, said Staci Vesneske, the district's chief human resources officer.

"It's a really exciting time for us," Vesneske said. "If we hire right, it will have a great impact on student achievement."

During the boom years, the School District hired thousands of new teachers annually to keep up with skyrocketing student enrollment. However, when the recession hit, the district was forced to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from its budget, resulting in program cuts and staff reductions.

To stop the hemorrhaging, Superintendent Dwight Jones sought a salary freeze from the district’s four employee unions representing administrators, police officers, support staff and teachers. The teachers union refused.

Contract talks soon broke down, and the two sides went to arbitration.

Last year, an arbitrator ruled in favor of the teachers union. Jones said the decision forced the district to not replace about 1,015 teachers who left the district last year because of attrition.

As a result, the district's teacher pool dropped to 17,568, causing average class sizes to jump by three students.

(Currently, middle and high schools have average class sizes of 34 and 35 students. Elementary schools have average class sizes of 20 to 21 in the first to third grades, and average class sizes of 33 and 34 in the fourth and fifth grades.)

This year, however, the School District prevailed in arbitration. On Feb. 25, the district began lowering salaries for nearly 9,000 teachers to 2011-12 levels.

In its arbitration testimony, the district promised it would use any award money to hire new teachers.

"The district's top priority has consistently been to lower class sizes and hire additional teachers," Deputy Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said in a statement.

Teachers union president Ruben Murillo welcomed the district's announcement to hire more educators.

However, the hiring announcement is a "double-edged sword," because the lower class sizes were achieved on the backs of hardworking teachers, many of whom recently took a pay cut, he said.

"(The hiring) masks the problem that led to the situation in the first place: the lack of funding for education," Murillo said. "As long as Nevada underfunds these schools, it will be a challenge to attract teachers here."

It will be difficult for the district to recruit candidates given the low teacher morale and higher-than-average class sizes, Murillo added. The recent departure of Superintendent Jones might not help either.

Vesneske said she is confident in the district's ability to attract high quality candidates despite these challenges. The district is launching a new recruiting campaign called "Teach Vegas," to market the district to potential hires.

"Teachers want to work in a place where reforms are taking place, the community believes in schools and the graduation rate is going up," Vesneske said. "Whether it's a young new teacher or a more experienced teacher, they want to go somewhere where they can make a difference."

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  1. Nice of the CURRENT CCSD TEACHERS...

    to pay the dough to hire NEW TEACHERS, ostensibly to lower class sizes!

    What WILL HAPPEN:

    Many teachers who lost their raises and helped pay for the new teachers WILL NOT get ANY relief from these alleged 'reduced' class sizes.

    What a racket!!!

  2. The district uses very creative (b.s) ways to make it look ON PAPER that class sizes have been 'reduced'...

    what you read in the Sun and hear from the CCSD mouthpieces, when compared to REALITY, can be fantasy-land.

    Smoke & Mirrors!

  3. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    The cause of the real problem still exists: Nevada Lawmakers REFUSE to adequately and appropriate fund education in Nevada. Until such a time, industries as MINING will exploit the nonrewable wealth buried within Nevada soils, remove it paying a pittance in return. They (MINING) should pay at least an average of what they (MINING) pays in the other 49 states! Here in Nevada, virtually nothing has changed since MINING dictated MINING LAWS into the Nevada State Constitution over a 100 years ago, when the Nevada Constitution was first being written. Go figure!

    Year after year, Nevada's infrastructure has LACKED revenue to keep it functioning properly.

    Here in Nevada, Las Vegas specifically, a REPEAT of the same, tired, worn out, vicious cycle will soon begin. Recently, the school district cried broke, forced compensation freezes on staff across the board, conditions and morale at schools at an all time low, reduced community support, hundreds of good people leaving their positions due to their "reasons", and surprise, surprise, the district has suddenly come up with TWO YEARS worth of funding to hire to fill positions and TEMPORARILY reduce classroom size and expand PRE-K and Kindergarten...once again!!!!

    Confessed, "To stop the hemorrhaging, Superintendent Dwight Jones sought a salary freeze from the district's four employee unions representing administrators, police officers, support staff and teachers." And as we experienced with the temporary "Stimulus" money a few years back, as soon as that money runs out, teachers will be CUT again (assorted tactics used to achieve this), programs will be cut, and classroom size will again increase. No need for a crystal ball here!

    The following statement puts the nails in the prediction coffin, "The hiring announcement comes exactly a month after an arbitrator ruled in favor of the School District in a bitter contract dispute with the local teachers union -- a decision that saved the district about $38.6 million over the next two years."

    You need consistent money coming in to properly run infrastructure, and with all the massive overhaul changes Superintendent Jones had planned and going, the handwriting was on the wall in regards to Nevada Lawmakers putting EDUCATION AS A PRIORITY in this state. There is no way these changes could be SUSTAINED reliably here in Nevada. Really, Superintendent Jones should have done his homework on the way Nevada Lawmakers work before taking his position, as should the next superintendent candidate and any NEW teachers!

    Nevada Lawmakers will NOT adequately fund education, now or ever. History attests to this fact. Good luck to all who apply for positions with the school district!

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  4. Let us hope that these 2,000 ARE NEW teachers and not those fleeing from other districts or schools where they were ineffective. Class sizes don't need to be reduced, but class sizes need to be adjusted--K-4 has much too small class size while higher grades are a bit heavy. LEGISLATURE: STOP micro managing the SD's by DICTATING class size in K-4 and allow the SD's to operate. END CSR. Put that funding into COST-EFFECTIVE programs.

  5. We need to change the hiring & certification criteria to expand the pool of potential hires, and then reward classroom performance over longevity & academic block checking.

    For elementary, we should lower the requirement to an AA degree, passing score on a standardized test (like the SAT or ACT, rank in the top 50%), and concurrent enrollment and completion in a couple of night courses on classroom management & elementary curriculum during the first year. Assign an experienced mentor (who gets a bonus for it), with frequent classroom observations the first few years. There are plenty of veterans here locally who would jump at the opportunity, as well as a number of locals enrolled at CSN.

    MS & HS would be a little harder, as we need teachers who have degrees in fields related to what they'd be teaching or extensive real world experience (especially when it comes to STEML subjects). But again, an acceptable score on a standardized test and a couple of night courses should suffice to get them qualified for the classroom, and a more aggressive effort to hire local veterans could fill the need faster than trying to lure people from out-of-state.

    Educational degrees shouldn't be rewarded per se, but instead could become a pre-requisite for staff/adminstrative jobs. Classroom teachers should be rewarded for performance (though I would boost starting pay by 10%, and another 10% for degreed or professionally certified in the field MS & HS teachers), with incentives for mentoring other teachers and school sponsored after hours activities. I would leave in some reward for longevity -- maybe a 10% bump every five years, topping off after 20.

    Just some ideas. The school board really needs to get to work. They're relying way too much on a Super to save their a**, and the community is losing out as consequence.

  6. @NLV. The requirements for licensing teachers are set by the state department of education, not by local school districts.

  7. If we don't identify the problem,we can't fix it.
    Kids aren't graduating because they don't like coming to school. If you were in 7th grade, would you want to write an analytical essay, a business letter or close read the constitution? Would you want to feel like you could never be successful if you are unable do math like a rocket scientist? We need a curriculum that doesn't set kids up for failure. Stop the insantity of standards gone wild and let the teachers have more control. Kids say school is boring; maybe they're right.

  8. Murillo, it should be EASY to hire teachers even at low salaries in schools that are falling apart--there must be thousands of education grads who are desperate to pay off their student loans.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzZx5eSHK...

    http://occupystudentdebt.com/

  9. A parent is a child's first and lifelong teacher.

    The most important years of a child are from birth (and IF we really want to be accurate, from conception) through elementary school years. This is the vital time that a child DEVELOPS in every way imaginable.

    Commenter NLV-INDEP13 suggested, "For elementary, we should lower the requirement to an AA degree, passing score on a standardized test (like the SAT or ACT, rank in the top 50%), and concurrent enrollment and completion in a couple of night courses on classroom management & elementary curriculum during the first year."

    So why, as some Commenters here suggest, would we LESSEN the educational requirements and licensing requirements of elementary teachers? It is obvious that some have not been involved with children in an educational setting, nor involved with children at all.

    We can make children's learning experiences BETTER, first by mandating parent involvement at school and at home. Certain guidelines for involvement must be set and enforced. Attendance and participation are absolutely vital. For children, coming to school PREPARED to learn (food, clothing, shelter, sleep, medical attention/needs addressed) has to happen, and usually some part is missing, thereby distracting the child from doing their very best while at school.

    It is up to the parent/guardian/caregiver, to attend to the basic needs of the child, not the school and its employees, as it is evolving into. If a parent is having difficulty understanding what is being taught in the classroom, teachers are more than willing to assist them. If a child is struggling with an assignment, both parent and child need to be helped TOGETHER, to gain an understanding on what to do. Precious few parents will take that step, and hence, the perpetually struggling student, and all that child's siblings.

    It has been a practice by school administration and Lawmakers, to try and FIX lack luster education by circumventing the very pillar of that child's life and education: the parent/guardian/caregiver's participation and accountability. Until such a time we include accountability with the main, supporting structure of a child's life, we will be spinning our wheels and throwing money at education in our attempts to fix it.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star