Nevada Board of Education Green Lights Clark County Schools Plan

By Denisa R. Superville — September 02, 2016 2 min read
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The Nevada Board of Education has given the green light to a plan to reorganize the Clark County school district—the country’s fifth-largest school system—and give more autonomy to school principals, according to local media reports.

Thursday’s unanimous vote came less than a month after an advisory committee approved the preliminary plan that will reshape the district’s future.

Critics of the Clark County school system initially wanted to break up the district, which educates about 320,000 students, into smaller school precincts. They argued that the district’s mammoth bureaucracy had made the district unresponsive to students’ needs and had failed at its core mission: improving student achievement.

The new plan for Clark County schools—crafted by Canadian educator Michael Strembitsky and refined through a series of public hearings—calls for principals to handle about 80 percent of their school funds, hire and fire staff, and create a school plan with a committee of teachers, parents, and community members. Principals will have the option of purchasing “services” from the district’s central office.

The central office, or central services, meanwhile, will only be a fraction of what it is today, with a smaller staff. Associate superintendents will be responsible for 25 schools, and they will report to the district’s superintendent.

The new plan is similar to an “empowerment” school model the district tried at a small number of schools in the mid-2000s.

The proposal to break up Clark County district originally had very strong backing from Republican legislators and from suburban communities.

Strembitsky’s proposal, though praised by many as the best opportunity in years to change how Clark County district does business, has been criticized for a lack of details, concerns about equity, and questions about whether it would deepen inequalities between poor and wealthy schools, according to the Associated Press.

The Nevada ACLU warned the state school board against voting on the plan on Thursday. The organization argued, in part, that the new regulations and the notice of the planned vote had only been posted on the agency’s website on Aug. 22—meaning that the public had fewer than 30 days to review the revised regulations and comment on them.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal noted that Attorney General Greg Ott gave the board the go-ahead to vote.

The final vote on the plan is expected Sept. 9, when it goes before the Legislative Commission, a group of a dozen legislators who meet when the full legislature is not in session and can take action on its behalf.

The new system is expected to be up and running by the start of the 2017-18 school year—a year earlier than envisioned in the state law that authorized the reorganization.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.