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September 1, 2014

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Superintendent praised for boosting teacher morale

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Steve Marcus

Pat Skorkowsky, Clark County School District superintendent, speaks during an editorial board meeting at the Las Vegas Sun Tuesday Jan. 21, 2014.

During Pat Skorkowsky’s annual performance review today, the Clark County School Board commended the first-year superintendent for raising teacher morale but had mixed opinions about his communication efforts.

Skorkowsky has made several sweeping changes in the nation’s fifth-largest school system since he was unanimously appointed superintendent last May. At the time, School Board members said they sought a leader who could repair the district’s strained relationship with teachers after two years of contentious union negotiations under his predecessor, Dwight Jones.

Skorkowsky, a 25-year CCSD veteran who rose through the ranks from first-grade teacher to superintendent, reorganized his cabinet and quickly gained rapport with his 38,000 teachers and support staff. The superintendent restored pay raises frozen during the recession and has focused efforts on professional development.

As a result, teacher morale has improved under Skorkowsky, School Board members said.

“Morale has been amazing in its improvement,” School Board member Patrice Tew told Skorkowsky today. “Teachers are feeling that support. They recognize you know what it’s like to be in the classroom.”

Skorkowsky also reached out to the community, seeking input on how he could improve one of the lowest-performing school systems in the country. After more than 30 community meetings, Skorkowsky unveiled his “Pledge for Achievement,” a strategic plan that outlined several academic and operational goals for the School District.

Skorkowsky’s plan included reassessing every program’s budget annually and cutting those that didn’t demonstrate enough “return on investment.” The superintendent is expected to release specific academic benchmarks to the public in the coming months.

“(Skorkowsky) really reaches out, and I really appreciate that,” School Board Vice President Linda Young said. “This (job) is about relationships with us, staff and constituents.”

While Skorkowsky received positive remarks overall, some School Board members said he could improve in several areas.

Members said they wanted more diversity among teachers and a continued focus on English-language-learner students. They worried about how the School District could gain the public's trust.

While some School Board members praised Skorkowsky for his communication skills, others said he could do more to reach out to staff and the community.

School Board member Deanna Wright pointed to the School District’s rollout of a new student data system, which she described as “not seamless.”

“We still need to work on communication from superintendent and cabinet level down to parents,” Wright said. “People at the bottom aren’t getting the information. There’s so much about the communication plan that really frustrates me.”

Skorkowsky said he will work on communication, particularly with the School Board, staff and parents. The superintendent will receive a formal evaluation again in January, after results of a parent survey are released.

“We need to find (communication) formats that work for all of you,” Skorkowsky told board members. “Having these types of conversations is essential.”

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