Jara discusses current issues in CCSD

Jara addresses low academic proficiency rates and school violence in State of Schools Speech

Landen Munns, Co-Editor In Chief

Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivered his yearly State of the Schools address, saying there’s a need to boost student academic proficiency. The theme of the speech was “Emerging Stronger Together.” The approximately hour long event was held at Caesars Palace and live streamed. 

Jara said national reports rank Clark County — the nation’s fifth-largest district, with more than 300,00 students and 40,000 employees — and Nevada poorly for educational outcomes.

“Unfortunately, this is not new,” he said, and he knew the data when he accepted the job as superintendent in 2018.

Low academic proficiency rates didn’t happen overnight or just during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jara said, but result from years of systemic issues that have gone unaddressed.

“Who bears this responsibility?” he asked. “Every single one of us.”

Jara provided some data points, including that approximately 2 in 3 third graders aren’t reading proficiently. Experts say that is a key indicator of future academic performance and success, including graduating from high school. He said that the student outcomes are unacceptable to him and “I hope they are unacceptable to you as well.”

Jan Jones Blackhurst, chairwoman of the Public Education Foundation’s board, said during her remarks she wanted to thank everyone in the room — and particularly, educators for what they’ve endured over the last two years during the pandemic.

In the months and years ahead, there’s a need for a lengthy period of consistency and stability to allow time for recouping and healing, she said. Public schools and educators, Jones Blackhurst added, need complete support. There must also be a concentrated state effort in addressing the teacher shortage and large class sizes, which have a direct negative impact on student achievement and cause additional and unnecessary stress for teachers.

She also praised Jara, saying the superintendent has demonstrated his courage and commitment, and chose to stay when many superintendents across the country have departed.

In late October, the School Board decided in a split vote to terminate Jara’s contract “for convenience,” meaning it didn’t need to provide a reason. But a few weeks later in November, it reversed its decision and the superintendent announced in December he planned to stay on the job.

Academic outcomes

In 2019, the district unveiled its five-year strategic plan, Focus: 2024. Jara said it’s an ambitious plan to close learning gaps for students. But in March 2020, there was a scramble to pivot to distance education — which lasted for a year until school buildings reopened for at least some in-person classes in spring 2021 — because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. Two years later, some of the plan remains on hold, Jara said. 

The school district and parents alone can’t improve results, he said, noting it’s a monumental task that requires everyone to focus like never before. It starts as a community with seeing every child as worthy and capable of educational excellence, he said.

If we don’t, he noted, academic outcomes will continue to decline, and children won’t be prepared to succeed and compete for jobs being created by local companies and in the global economy.

The district has systems and strategies in its strategic plan in order to do the work, Jara said, but noted it does need more classroom teachers. At the end of the address, Jara asked the community to constructively hold the district accountable and take other steps such as thank and support educators, adopt a school, mentor a student and provide paid internships for students. “Be part of the solution,” he said.

School violence

Topics related to school violence have made headlines throughout the community and nation, Jara said. Aggressive actions in schools mirror violence in the community, he said, adding that the pandemic has exacerbated tensions and increased anxieties.

“We cannot allow anything other than kindness and understanding to guide our interactions with one another,” Jara said. “We cannot allow violence and violent acts in our schools, we will hold children accountable to keep our staff safe.”

Supporting employees

Jara also had a message directly for the district’s employees, saying he recognizes them and thanks them for opening schools safely for students. “It hasn’t been easy,” he said. “It hasn’t been perfect.” Over the next few weeks and months, the district will continue its efforts to support employees through programs, incentives and opportunities, he said. 

Jara said the district will also continue to incentivize substitute teachers, increase school bus driver pay, pay the remainder of retention bonuses this spring for full-time employees and offer a relocation sign-on bonus for educators who relocate to Clark County.

Silverado’s Rankings

Despite low rankings throughout the district Silverado has been ranked higher than the average school. Silverado is among the top schools in CCSD and the State of Nevada. US News states that there are 72 high schools in CCSD (this include CCSD sponsored charters, etc) Silverado is ranked 15th. Of those schools above us, 10 of them are magnet. So of the comprehensive schools, we are 5th. We are just behind Coronado (8th), Palo Verde (12th), Rancho (13th) and Green Valley (14th). All other comprehensive high schools fall below us.