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October 25, 2014

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Success of 2014 graduates is example of CCSD excellence

Too often we find ourselves apologizing for our students and our schools when we ought to be celebrating them. I see examples every day that the Clark County School District offers tremendous opportunities to our students — opportunities comparable to or even better than those offered by charter schools or private schools.

Take the graduates of the Class of 2014, who earned a CCSD record $269 million in scholarships this year.

This class is full of hard-working students who showed determination and strength every day to meet the increasingly difficult requirements to graduate with a diploma. With a growing childhood poverty rate in our county, a large number of our students overcame tremendous obstacles to succeed.

I had the chance to attend the graduation ceremony at Valley High School — one of the “priority” schools identified for academic improvement by the Nevada Department of Education. I was amazed by the success of the Class of 2014. Two of its students are going to Harvard University; several more were accepted into schools that include Brown University, Georgetown University, University of Southern California, Tulane University, Johns Hopkins University and the Air Force Academy. Valley High is seeing improvements and expects to have 120 additional students in the Class of 2015.

Other CCSD graduates are attending top-tier universities such as Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Stanford, Princeton, Berkeley, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania, California State Polytechnic University, The Juilliard School and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Many more of our students will enroll in our local colleges and universities.

All of this success highlights the excellence in our district that often goes unrecognized in our community.

I ask that you visit ccsd.net and look at our homepage, where you can access individual stories about some of our graduates, many who share their unique stories of overcoming obstacles to graduate on time.

For many of these students, it was no small feat to earn that diploma. It took a team of parents, teachers, mentors, community members and more. All of the students I talked to in the 17 graduation ceremonies I attended over the past few weeks named an adult to whom they attribute their success. Thank you to all the adults and teachers in our community who make a difference in the lives of our students.

I said it during my first State of the District address in April: We need the entire community to help our students succeed and to improve our national education rankings. We cannot do this by ourselves. Just as we pledge to work every day to help our students succeed, we need a pledge of support from our community.

Moving forward, we have many challenges as we work to get every student in a cap and gown. We must change the fact that we can predict the success of our students by their zip code.

This summer, the CCSD Board of School Trustees will consider a set of performance goals that outline where we want to be in five years. My evaluation will be based on whether we meet those benchmarks. We will be open and transparent with the community about our progress. All this is available at pledgeofachievement.com. You can take the pledge online and receive regular updates on our progress and how you can help.

As a community, we must work together to build the public school system we all want to see. We also must celebrate the excellence and hard work in our district, exemplified by the success of the Class of 2014. To our more than 14,500 graduates, you make us proud and we can’t wait to see what you do next.

Pat Skorkowsky is Clark County schools superintendent.

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