Las Vegas Sun

February 21, 2019

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District identifies four new ‘turnaround’ schools for 2012-13

By the Numbers

  • First round (2010-11): Nevada received $22.4 million, of which CCSD received $5.3 million to implement the “transformation model” at Kit Carson Elementary School and Rancho High School.
  • Second round (2011-12: Nevada received $4.5 million but had carried over $4.9 in funding from the first round. CCSD received $8.7 million in funding to put the “turnaround model” in place at Chaparral, Mojave and Western high schools and Hancock Elementary School.
  • Third round: Nevada received $3.5 million. Applications still are pending for school district awards. CCSD applied for funding for Canyon Springs High School.

The Clark County School District announced the designation of four new “turnaround” schools Friday afternoon, hours after Nevada received $3.5 million in federal School Improvement Grant funding.

Since 2009, President Barack Obama has infused more than $4.6 billion into the School Improvement Grant program, commonly known as the school “turnaround” initiative. The program represents one of the largest investments in public education in the nation’s history.

In total, Nevada has received $30.4 million in SIG funding since 2009 to begin turning around 14 schools in Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City.

To receive SIG funding, schools must be considered among the bottom 5 percent of a district’s schools. As a stipulation of the grant, these “persistently lowest-performing” schools had to undergo one of four dramatic recipes for improvement:

• Turnaround model: Where a principal is replaced and at least half of the staff.

• Transformational model: Where just the principal is replaced

• Charter model: Where a school is reopened as a charter school, overseen by the district but managed by an outside group

• Closure: Where a school is closed for good.

The new “turnaround” schools announced Friday include two elementary schools, Owen Roundy and Sunrise Acres; one middle school, Mike O’Callaghan; and one high school, Canyon Springs.

All of these schools will undergo the “transformational model,” meaning they will have new principals next year. However, unlike the “turnaround model” schools this year, no teachers will be replaced.

The new principal at Canyon Springs High School is Ron Guerzon, a former assistant principal at Chaparral High School, a “turnaround” school.

The new principal at Mike O’Callaghan Middle School is Belinda Jones, formerly principal of J.M. Ullom Elementary School.

The new principal at Sunrise Acres Elementary School is Margarita Gamboa, former principal of Carolyn Reedom Elementary School.

The new principal at Owen Roundy Elementary School is John Haynal, former principal of Helen Smith Elementary School.

Only Canyon Springs is applying for a portion of the $3.5 million in SIG funding the state was awarded Friday. The North Las Vegas high school is just two miles away from Mojave High School, a “turnaround” high school this past school year.

If awarded, the SIG money will help fund the hire of 10 new staff members at Canyon Springs. The School District’s SIG application with the state is still pending.

The other elementary and middle schools’ “transformations” will be funded by the School District. Each elementary school will receive $250,000 to hire five new staff members, and the middle school will receive $500,000 to hire eight new staff.

These schools join seven existing “turnaround” schools in Clark County: Kit Carson and Elizondo elementary schools, and high schools: Chaparral, Mojave, Rancho and Western. All of these schools, except for Elizondo, have received SIG funding – up to $2.5 million each over three years.

Ten of these 11 “turnaround” schools will be placed in a special “turnaround zone,” overseen by Academic Manager Jeff Geihs, formerly the principal of Liberty High School and the incoming president of the administrators union.

Rancho High School, a four-star school, which underwent a “transformation model” two years ago, has shown enough progress to remain in its feeder alignment, Geihs said.

However, the other “turnaround” schools in the new “turnaround zone” will be given more autonomy over their budgets and staffing in exchange for a greater accountability – similar to those top-performing five-star schools in the district’s recently-created “autonomous zone.”

“The shackles have been removed,” Geihs said. “These schools have been given great latitude.”

Schools in the newly created “turnaround zone” will be under greater scrutiny, however, than those in the “autonomous zone,” Geihs said. If these “turnaround” schools do not demonstrate immediate improvements, these schools might lose their federal funding or be reconstituted, he said.

“There has been a paradigm shift in this district,” Geihs said. “Failure is not an option.”

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