STEPHEN R. SYLVANIE / HOME NEWS
Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008 | 2 a.m.
The crowd of cars in the parking lot of Bob Miller Middle School the night of a political forum last week suggested the event would be well attended.
But the gymnasium’s bleachers were sparsely populated, the crowd about the size of the Green Valley school’s average social studies class (32 students).
So, what was with all the cars?
Overflow parking for a local soccer tournament, explained Miller Principal Tam Larnerd, who organized the forum.
The forum focused on races within the school’s attendance zone boundaries: Associate Superintendent Edward Goldman and school volunteer Deanna Wright for the Clark County School Board District A seat; Jon Ozark and Ellen Spiegel for the District 21 Assembly race; and incumbent state Sen. Joe Heck, the District 5 Republican. His Democratic challenger, recently retired district administrator Shirley Breeden, did not attend.
Most of the audience was either family of the candidates, School District employees or both (Goldman’s wife works in the district’s outreach program for homeless students).
The five candidates appeared undaunted by the small turnout, and made full use of the opportunity to share their views on tax policy and education issues such as school safety.
When asked what would be at the top of his “to do” list if elected, Goldman said he would want to “straighten out this math problem,” referring to the staggeringly high failure rate last year by students on a new in-house assessment. He would also want the board to look at the prototype designs for new school construction, with an eye toward student safety.
Goldman also said he was in favor of breaking up the nation’s fifth-largest district along geographic lines, which would give the city of Henderson control of its own schools.
Heck also supported deconsolidation.
“Don’t look at this as a cost-saving issue but as an accountability issue,” Heck said.
But Wright said she wasn’t convinced a breakup would be the best move, particularly for schools in less affluent areas. And figuring out who would foot the bill for facilities might also be problematic given the tough economic times, Wright said.
Communities would have to come up with “an enormous outlay of dollars for buildings,” Wright said. “That’s not an option right now.”
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Skip Rapoport, the father of two district graduates, rarely misses an education-related event, be it a town-hall meeting on budget cuts or the bi-weekly School Board meetings.
So naturally he was one of the voters at Miller for Tuesday’s forum.
He was particularly eager to hear from Breeden, who has kept a fairly low profile for someone seeking public office. But with Breeden a no-show, and Rapoport said he will likely end up voting for Heck by default.
That doesn’t mean he’s firmly in Heck’s camp, however. Rapoport said he isn’t convinced that Heck had made supporting public education a priority in the 2007 legislative session, or that he would do so when lawmakers return to Carson City in February.
“Had Shirley Breeden debated him and I like what she said, I probably would vote for her, and not him,” Rapoport said.
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Nearly two months into the academic year, the School District will showcase its new and replacement campuses at the annual “Celebration of Progress.”
Sponsored by the architectural firms that built the schools, the event will be at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Cashman Center. People the schools were named after will be on hand, as well as architects showing off scale models of the finished products.
The School District opened 10 campuses this year. Nine schools — three new and three replacement elementary schools and replacement campuses for Roy Martin Middle School, Desert Oasis High School and the East Career & Technical Academy — were finished in time for the first day of school Aug. 25. The start of classes was delayed three weeks at Jesse D. Scott Elementary in North Las Vegas while off-site drainage, utilities and road work were finished.