Las Vegas Sun

September 2, 2015

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OTHER VOICES:

Jones steered district on a path to progress

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Carolyn Edwards

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Last week, Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones announced that he is leaving the district to care for his elderly mother. His announcement was a shock to many in the community who worry for the district’s 311,000 students and 38,000 employees.

I want to give you my perspective as someone who helped select Jones, who supported him during his tenure and, reluctantly, now supports his decision to leave the district.

The members of the Board of Trustees are disappointed to see jones depart, despite some uninformed speculation in the media. He has shifted the status quo in his short tenure, helping the district and the community rethink what is possible for our students.

Jones showed us that we can move achievement forward for all students — regardless of their ethnicity, special needs, socioeconomic background or what language they grew up speaking.

Our test scores are up, our graduation rates are up, and the number of junior and senior dropouts is down. We have more fifth-year seniors than ever who are not giving up on earning a diploma.

One of Jones' lasting legacies in the district and throughout the state is the School Performance Framework. Jones worked with several committees of teachers, administrators and community members to create a district SPF that would best reflect a school’s ability to take students — those who are rich or poor, black or white, advanced or behind — and ensure they achieve a year’s worth of growth. This drives down to Jones' firm belief that every child can learn, regardless of his or her background. It also goes to his firm belief that we must shine light on school achievement to see where instruction is working and where it is not.

The district’s SPF was so successful that the state Department of Education and Washoe County created their own versions, using ours as a blueprint. We are now honored to work with educators from throughout Nevada to agree on one statewide SPF.

Jones also showed us that the district can be more transparent. He launched the “Open Book,” an online budget tool for the community to see where we spend every dollar. He had no “sacred cows.” He slashed the central office budget by 20 percent and found innovative ways to save funds, redirecting all money saved back into the classroom.

Now, the trustees face many questions. On Thursday, we will meet to determine how to conduct a search for a new superintendent who will not lose the momentum we’ve gained. We need a leader who builds on the progress we’ve made.

When he started the job, Jones wrote, “to reach new lands, you first must push off into the rough seas.” He helped us navigate record budget cuts, difficult contract negotiations and the typical resistance posed whenever there is major change, and this district is better for his efforts.

We have charted our course. We are on our way. I am sad to lose our captain, but it’s not about him. It’s about our shared vision that the district will serve each and every child who walks onto a CCSD campus.

We chose Jones because he held this vision and he wanted to turn the boat. We aren’t going to change our course just as we are seeing progress. If anything, we are more determined than ever to continue improving the instruction we offer to our children, working with our staff and parents.

Trustees will need your input and support over the coming months during this transition. I look forward to the conversation.

Carolyn Edwards is the president of the Clark County Board of School Trustees.

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