Las Vegas Sun

April 23, 2017

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School Board postpones decision about using Caesars exec as mentor

Amid an avalanche of criticism from community members and passionate objections of some trustees, the Clark County School Board decided to hold off on a controversial decision to bring on Caesars’ executive Jan Jones Blackhurst as a “mentor.”

Trustees voted 4-3 on Monday to postpone the idea until January, when incoming Trustee Lola Brooks is scheduled to formally take office after winning the District E general election against incumbent Patrice Tew.

The vote brought to a temporary conclusion a hectic, contentious few weeks for the School Board. The proposal to hire an outside “agent” to assist the board on policy and government affairs was brought up two weeks ago and was quickly met with confusion and skepticism from some trustees as well as Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky.

Trustees last week agreed to wait on discussing the idea until January, but the surprise scheduling of today’s meeting caught many off guard and prompted concerns that some trustees, namely board President Linda Young and Trustee Chris Garvey, were taking advantage of the winter break to push the plan through.

Those concerns were aired publicly at Monday's meeting. Trustees Deanna Wright and Carolyn Edwards lambasted Young, who scheduled the surprise meeting knowing that Skorkowsky would be out of town, suggesting that it was an attempt to push through Blackhurst’s appointment before Tew’s term expires this month.

“This should and could have waited,” Wright said, to applause from the audience. “This has the feel of urgency because you need Patrice’s vote.”

Reiterating comments they made when the board discussed the issue last week, Edwards and Wright said they were open to the idea of an outside mentor but were flatly against the way the meeting was conducted.

“We are no longer trusted leaders,” Edwards said. “Right now I don’t even trust half of my board.”

Community members who spoke at the meeting were, without exception, opposed to the board voting on the issue before January.

“The word for this is shenanigans,” said Robert Cowles, a teacher at Rancho High School. “It’s shady, and it makes you look bad.”

The public’s comments appeared to be crucial in convincing Tew to swing her vote in favor of postponing. Young, Garvey and Kevin Child voted against postponing. The votes for it were Tew, Edwards, Wright and Erin Cranor.

Blackhurst, who didn’t attend the meeting but spoke by phone, declined to take sides in the matter.

“I’m not looking for any kind of controversy,” she said. “The stakes are too high.”

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