Nevada’s Clark County Struggling to Address Teacher Shortage


Clark County School District in Nevada is suffering from a long-term teacher shortage that has prompted officials to consider splitting the fifth-largest school system in the country into several local precincts.

Neal Morton of the Las Vegas Review-Journal says substitutes have been filling in for almost 800 classroom teacher vacancies for quite a while. But a committee made up of state lawmakers, business leaders, education officials, and local politicians have agreed to look at their options beyond the reorganization of the district.

A recent law does require that the restructuring plan be used to increase student achievement, minimize costs, and enhance local control. And just that could happen within the next three years. But members of the committee want to study the reorganization and subsequently solve some of the larger problems that have hindered student achievement in the county, putting Nevada’s education system in the position of being one of the worst nationwide.

Sen. Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) is part of the group that is charged with developing a plan to divide the district into precincts before Jan. 1, 2017. The precincts would be in place by the 2018-2019 school year.

A 24-member technical advisory committee (TAC) will be part of the team that will meet once a month over the next year. Allison Serafin, vice-president of the State Board of Education and a TAC member, wanted to know who was accountable for the thousands of students, the majority of whom were from at-risk schools, who entered their classrooms and found long-term substitutes instead of fully-licensed teachers on the first day of school.

Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said he planned to move instructional coaches and project facilitators into classrooms beginning early next year after winter break. After that, he will create seven “instructional precincts” modeled after the electoral maps of the Clark County School Board.

He plans to appoint sub-superintendents to the precincts to guide the schools and to create layers of local advisory councils to offer feedback. Moapa Valley residents, however, want to take power away from Skorkowsky and the school board.

“The Clark County School District is now divided into seven large politically driven districts, which do not recognize natural, cultural or physical boundaries,” said Larry Moses, a TAC member and retired principal of the Moapa Valley High School.

“In essence, diverse cultures and communities have been lost and disenfranchised without any unique representation at the altar of the whole,” he said.

Moses would like to create stand-alone precincts for Moapa Valley and other rural cities.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joyce Woodhouse (D-Henderson) is asking lawmakers to begin revising Nevada’s teacher licensing process to address the severe shortage of teachers in Clark County. A more modern approach, she advises, might include offering reciprocity to teachers licensed in other states. She also suggested expediting the application process for attaining certification.

Woodhouse was an employee of the Clark County District for 40 years and served on legislative education committees over four sessions. She is now running for re-election against Republican charter school principal Carrie Buck, according to The Associated Press.

Nevada Succeeds, a bipartisan nonprofit pushing for improvement to Nevada’s schools, will also begin a project called “What’s Next Nevada?” The topics the group will focus on include training and acquiring more principals and improving school operations to keep teachers in the profession as well as in the state, writes Neal Morton of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.