Las Vegas Sun

August 19, 2017

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District announces three new empowerment schools

Competitive program offers additional money, flexibility

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Map: Clark County School District Empowerment Schools

Three New Empowerment Schools

From left, principals Kevin McPartlin, Martha Gardner and Brenda McKinney of Chaparral High, Ethel Staton Elementary and Wendell Williams Elementary schools, react with smiles as they receive accolades for their accomplishments from Dana Lee, president of the Nevada Women's Philanthropy, not pictured. It was announced Monday that a grant from Nevada Women's Philanthropy was providing funding for three schools -- Chaparral High, Wendell Williams Elementary and Ethel Staton Elementary -- to be added to the empowerment schools roster. Launch slideshow »

The principal at Ethel W. Staton Elementary School already had an idea of how she would spend an extra $50,000 each year: improving science and technology at her school.

Now, she can make that a reality.

Staton Elementary, Chaparral High School and Wendell Williams Elementary School were announced this morning as the latest additions to the empowerment school program.

As empowerment schools, the three newest will share in benefits 14 schools already receive: flexibility in governance, budget, staffing, instruction and time.

In addition, empowerment schools are partnered with community organizations and promised three years of extra money.

"We all have challenges," Staton Principal Marty Gardner said. "This gives us a chance to think outside the box."

A $450,000 grant from Nevada Women's Philanthropy allowed the Clark County School District to expand the program this year in the face of budget cuts. The money will be distributed to the three schools during the next three years.

The philanthropy group had a hand in choosing the three schools from 14 applicants. The group was looking for three schools that provided it a variety of grade levels and various levels of success, President Dana Lee said. Mostly, though, members wanted to see dynamic principals and positive leaders, she said.

"It really starts with the leadership," Lee said.

In touring the schools, Lee was impressed with how well each school had already done with what it had, she said, whether that was top-of-the-line equipment and a modern building, as Staton does, or minimal equipment and an older building, like Chaparral.

"When you see what can be done … it fills us with so much hope," she said.

After the three-year commitment, additional funds will be considered based on the school's success rate.

In 2007, eight of the 14 existing empowerment schools made adequate yearly progress as required by the No Child Left Behind Act, and three were on the watch list, meaning they made adequate yearly progress in 2006 but failed to do so the following year. Three have failed to do so for at least two years.

Standards were raised to make adequate yearly progress in 2007 by up to 11 percent.

School Superintendent Walt Rulffes noted test scores are only one part of determining if a school is successful in the empowerment program. Other factors they look at include parent satisfaction, student performance, student attendance and discipline.

Frances Vanderploeg can be reached at 990-2660 or [email protected].

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