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Clark County School Board to discuss superintendent’s evaluation

One year after the firing and subsequent rehiring of Superintendent Jesus Jara, the Clark County School Board is set to evaluate his performance as leader of the fifth-largest district in the country.

Jara, who joined the district in 2018, has seen his tenure marked by several challenges: school closures amid the pandemic, allegations of a hostile work environment and a tense relationship with board members that ultimately led to his ouster.

At its meeting Thursday, the School Board will review how the superintendent has performed in improving students’ reading and math proficiency, lowering suspensions among Black students, hiring more teachers and other areas.

The review comes four months before Jara’s contract is set to expire in January.

Timeline moved up

At a board work session this month, Trustee Lola Brooks made a motion to move up the superintendent’s evaluation so that the board could complete it by Oct. 1.

Brooks pointed to a “misalignment” in the board’s current process that has the superintendent’s evaluation fall in the middle of the school year. Jara’s contract stipulates that the evaluation be completed by Dec. 15.

“In my brain, if you’re going to improve academic outcomes, I don’t think adopting goals in January works because wouldn’t you want to do that at the beginning of the school year so that you can strive for it by the end of the school year?” she asked. “I feel like because this is happening midyear every time, it’s creating this disconnect.”

Trustee Linda Cavazos expressed concerns about rushing the superintendent’s evaluation, saying it was not conducive to the board’s duties.

“We come in here, we have one thing on the agenda, and all of a sudden it turns into something else, and then we have this expedited thing that seems to have been maybe predetermined or certain people have talked about it, but the other people are not included,” she said.

The board ultimately voted 4-3 to complete the evaluation by Saturday, with Cavazos, Danielle Ford and Lisa Guzman voting against the motion.

Under the motion, the board’s governance consultant, Deb Darby-Dudley, will facilitate the district’s evaluation of Jara.

Three board members’ seats are up for grabs in November’s general election, and new board members will be seated in January.

‘Political football’

Cavazos, who was one of the three board members to vote to fire Jara in the fall and vote against reinstating him, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal she wasn’t sure why the contract was being rushed through at this time.

“The optics are that this is being rushed through for political reasons,” she said. “I really dislike those optics that this is being used as a political football.”

In a review of the evaluation process that accompanies Thursday’s agenda item, Darby-Dudley wrote that the board has the opportunity to “put differences aside and focus on the progress toward goals that will make a difference in children’s lives.”

In February, the board agreed upon three primary goals that it would use to evaluate Jara’s performance:

■ Increase the proficiency of students in all racial/ethnic student groups by 7 percentage points in reading by third grade and by 5 percentage points in mathematics in grades six through eight.

■ Decrease the overrepresentation of Black/African American student suspensions and expulsions by 5 percentage points from 2021 to 2022.

■ Hire 1,655 classroom teachers, representing a 25 percent increase from the most recent three-year average, before Nov. 1.

But at least one trustee has questions about how those goals were derived.

Ford told the Review-Journal that the goals — specifically the metric about hiring teachers — were prepared and modified by the superintendent and his staff earlier this year.

“I feel like this whole evaluation process has been orchestrated to set the superintendent up to get his contract extended or a new contract approved,” she said.

The board could take action on Jara’s evaluation at Thursday’s meeting.

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow her at @lolonghi on Twitter.

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