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May 25, 2022

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Jesus Jara: School District’s plan turns promises into action

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Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara smiles during an editorial board meeting at the Las Vegas Sun offices Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019.

When I became superintendent of the Clark County School District, I pledged to make CCSD No. 1 for Kids. My promise to this community is reaffirmed every day I get up to work on behalf of the 320,000 children we serve. It is an honor and a responsibility I do not take lightly.

After I came onboard, I spent months listening to members of our CCSD family, parents, students, and those in the private and public sectors. Many told me they had heard promises before, and that only through actions would they believe that change was coming. I can confidently state that change is here.

Incorporating the input of our community, the school board approved the Strategic Plan, Focus: 2024. This plan establishes clear priorities and strategies that place students at the core of everything we do. This guiding document transforms promises into action with clear accountability and transparency.

One of the key elements of the plan targets instructional excellence. We can all agree that we need great teachers in our classrooms, as they have the greatest impact on our children’s academic achievement. Another key ingredient for student success is the work of our building principals. Without a strong principal leading a school site, it is difficult to find success for both teachers and students.

As a former principal, I know how tough a job it is. Principals must strive for academic excellence, holding themselves and others to the highest standards. They must foster collaboration among teachers, counselors, support professionals, and embrace parent/family engagement.

Principals need our support, and we have begun enhancing and developing much-needed tools to better assist them. CCSD is refreshing the Leadership Preparatory Academy that prepares entry-level administrator candidates to serve as instructional leaders. Through this program, they will gain knowledge of high-quality instruction, as well as an understanding of systems that support student achievement, focusing on leadership and a positive school culture and climate.

CCSD is also one of only 90 school systems across the country that is partnering with the Wallace Foundation to build our leadership pipeline, and 90 elementary and middle school administrators and teacher leaders are receiving job-embedded coaching and support through the Northwest Evaluation Association Partnership, which includes the Achievement Network and Khan Academy. We have forged these partnerships with national experts to provide the infrastructure that moves our instruction to a new level of excellence.

We have also deployed Measures of Academic Progress Growth interim assessment professional learning sessions that are available for all principals to maximize their use of data to support teachers to guide and inform student learning. This proven system allows for informed instruction that pinpoints particular areas to enhance student performance.

Additionally, the district is supporting the enrollment of approximately 100 principals in the National Institute of School Leadership, which targets components of instructional leadership through a year-long course of study. These and other development support programs will provide our team with the tools to grow and succeed.

Our principals give so much to their jobs. They are at the forefront of our efforts to prepare students for college, career and life. It is vital that we ensure they have what they need to be the strong leaders our children require and deserve.

I am proud of the work our principals do every day. In fact, this past week we honored 63 of our top principals for their inclusion on the 2019-20 Superintendent’s Honor Roll, which recognizes them for their National Blue Ribbon School nomination, achieving a 5-Star school rating, or being a Gold Star school, which is a high-performing school that serves a high percentage of students living in poverty.

I have shared with you only a few examples of the many changes that are transforming promises into action in the area of professional development and support, but there is much more to be done. We are moving in the right direction with a sense of urgency and we will continue to make improvements in all areas to give all of our students access and opportunity. The responsibility of educating more than 70% of the students in the state is immense. Our success, or failure, lends to a ripple effect that reverberates for generations.

I once again reiterate my commitment to work with this community and the almost 41,000 members of the CCSD team to put students first. It will take all of us to transform our district into the fastest-improving urban school system in the nation. I know we have the passion, the perseverance and the talent to change what is necessary to get us where we need to be and make CCSD No. 1 for Kids.

Jesus Jara is superintendent of the Clark County School District.