by Bill Hanlon, Special to the Las Vegas Review Journal, March 19, 2022
In his State of the Schools address, Superintendent Jesus Jara clearly suggested the problems in Clark County were here before he arrived. That’s a fact. But he just as clearly will not accept the fact he has exacerbated the problems with his “no consequences” policies.
Specifically, the no-F and restorative discipline policies. Those polices are driving down achievement and driving up school safety issues.
Having said that, few might remember that three superintendents ago, under Walt Rulffes, the Clark County School District was recognized nationally as the fastest-improving district in the nation. Rulffes concentrated on the classroom.
Under Rulffes, the district initiated semester exams in academic areas so he knew where are students were in terms of learning and achievement. Those exams, based on district curriculum, drove professional development. He didn’t purchase some outside “program.” He required professional development based on what teachers taught, how they taught it, resources that support those strategies and testing what was taught. That “what works is work” mentality led the district to become the fastest-improving in the nation.
It’s worth mentioning that school trustees such as Larry Mason and Terry Janison also attended the professional development to clearly know and understand what was being required. When Rulffes retired, the semester exams and professional development slowly disappeared — and so did student achievement. The students in Clark County began to suffer when he retired.
Other superintendents — Dwight Jones, Pat Skorkowski and now Jara — took the spotlight off the classroom and academics and placed it on themselves, building their personal resumes and networking capabilities. Their ideas were always to buy a program or buy into the latest fad and sell it to groups such as the chambers of commerce that they were trying to improve education. You can hear this firsthand. When Jara speaks, he just loves talking about his “listening” tour.
But clearly these three did not understand that programs are only as good as the teachers using them. In fact, these three superintendents didn’t understand the difference between the “training” on a new program they purchased, as Jara has done, and the “professional development” based on the content teachers teach. Clearly different.
And when it comes to discipline, Jara has imposed “no consequence” policies. But your sons and daughters can’t learn when the same delinquents repeatedly disrupt instruction.
Students, teachers and staff don’t feel safe in schools because these troublemakers know there are no serious consequences for their bad behavior. But Jara feels safe. He has a guard on the first floor so people can’t get to him, and he has a board unwilling to ask questions and hold him accountable. Troublemakers feel safe, too. They know there are no real consequences for bad behavior while Jara is superintendent. School board members do not tolerate people interrupting their meetings — they have a police officer there. Shouldn’t teachers and students have the same right?
We need to provide a simple choice to young people who pose a threat or disrupt education and their parents. They should have one of five options: Conform to campus rules to attend district schools, apply to a charter school that accepts bad behavior, apply to a private school that accepts bad behavior, apply to an online school that accepts disruptions or home-school.
Just how many staff members have to be beaten up before we get rid of these no-consequence policies?
Our students and staff deserve no less than to feel as safe in school — just as Jara does in his protected office. And our students deserve to have teachers who know the content they are teaching, know how to teach that content, have resources that support instruction and achievement and have assessments that accurately measure what is being taught in our classrooms.
Bill Hanlon, a former member of the Nevada State Board of Education, previously served as the director of the Southern Nevada Regional Professional Development Program and as coordinator of the Clark County School District’s Math/Science Institute.