Sunday, March 10, 2013 | 3 a.m.
Thank you, Dwight Jones.
By now, everyone in Las Vegas has heard that Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones has resigned. He will leave in a few weeks.
Jones’ departure from Las Vegas is happening far faster than his arrival just a couple of years ago. Bringing him here took a methodical and painstaking search for the very best Clark County could attract. With all of our challenges, shortcomings and drawbacks, it was a job that many thought was impossible.
A candidate considering the job found a community unwilling to spend one more dime to educate our children; a political structure that bought into and fanned the fears of an electorate afraid to lead the nation in education; a status quo among the unions and administrators, and a community content to let the other guy do the work, even if that work didn’t get done.
And, yet, the search committee found Jones, and he found the challenge for which he had been looking.
It seemed like a perfect fit.
And for the past two years, Jones has hit his head against every brick wall the status quo could throw on the path toward educating the next generation.
No one said it would be easy, and it hasn’t been. It’s very hard to fight for change. Too many people are invested in the way things are — for a variety of reasons, most of which have something to do with money — and they were all arrayed against Jones’ singular purpose of making the Clark County School District work.
The really good news? As frustrating as it has been for Jones and his team of professionals, the past two years have seen tremendous progress. The politicians who like to say “no” because “no” gets them elected and re-elected are learning to say “yes” to Jones. The teachers couldn’t wait to say “yes,” even when their unions thought “no” was a better answer, because teachers just want to teach. Jones knew that teachers also need respect, and they were getting far too little of it from parents and taxpayers. He has started to fix that.
And the taxpayers? Slowly but surely, the progress the School District was making toward a far better and more successful future was being noticed. And when the public realizes that quality education creates a better quality of life and more good-paying jobs in the future, things start to change.
And that is where we have found ourselves just two years since Jones took on this challenge. And, now, he has a much greater challenge. It is said that life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. Well, life has happened to Jones.
While he was planning to make the Clark County School District one of the best in the country, real life jumped up and bit him. That same love and commitment he has for the future of the children in the greater Clark County family has called him to focus on his own family. The choice was no choice at all. And so he must go.
But, we have a choice.
In choosing his successor, we can continue moving forward along the difficult but far more rewarding path that Jones has blazed for us, or we can choose the easier path, the one with little resistance and, of course, minimal to no upside.
We can choose to be the petty people we had become — worrying about how much we had to pay a top professional game-changing superintendent or about all the feathers he would have to ruffle in getting the difficult job done — or we can follow the better angels in education and do whatever is necessary to give the next generation of students the very best education possible, whatever the community or personal costs.
We are already hearing education leaders like CCSD Trustee Carolyn Edwards and others talking about national searches; that’s a good sign. We will also hear from others, the naysayers who almost always bet against Las Vegas, who will say not very good is good enough.
That will be our choice. Jones did what very few people could do in just two years. He challenged the status quo and was on his way to making this school district the envy of the nation instead of just another asterisk denoting failure. We need to continue his work and the work of so many other educators who signed up for the ride.
Now is the time to look forward, not back. Now is the time to find the very best person for the job of fixing what is still broken and leading Clark County students to a place of promise and success. Now is the time for saying “yes.”
And now is also the time for this entire community to wish the man who gave us so much in such a short time the very best as he tackles a personal challenge that we all face at one time or another. And, finally, now is the time to end this column the same way it began. From a grateful community:
Thank you, Dwight Jones.
Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.