Pat, Personally

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The importance of safety and respect

School rivalries can produce excitement and healthy competition. The excitement of the crowd on a Friday night builds team camaraderie and produces excitement with a rush of school pride for many of our student athletes. But our actions must always be guided, first and foremost, by safety and respect.

Maintaining school environments, both inside and outside the classroom, based on respect and good character is necessary for the overall success of our students and the community. A recent incident involving two CCSD high school football teams serves as a reminder that we must encourage positive sportsmanship. It is the responsibility of all involved to ensure students understand that they can enjoy themselves while conducting themselves honorably.

High school is about building a positive foundation for success, while having some fun along the way. Extracurricular activities are a great way to meet new friends, gain valuable skills and create great memories. Whether events take place on or off-campus, students are an extension of their school and should take pride in their role as ambassadors for the sport and community.

Healthy competition is great, but physical violence is never okay. Students who resort to physical violence are subject to disciplinary action, and teams can also be penalized with forfeiture.

Let's all remember to be safe and just have fun.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The meaning of community

Last week, I spent time on the phone with Mr. Richard Carranza, former principal of Eldorado High School and current Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District. We talked about what he needed to open school on Sept. 11, 2017 after Hurricane Harvey.

As we talked, he noted that there was damage to some of his schools, but most importantly, that there were schools that were used as shelters. Many student families were displaced, as well as numerous employee families. He shared that there were many organizations that offered assistance, while using schools as distribution sites for supplies.

It brought to mind that schools are still centers of the community. We are constantly asked to use our schools as shelters when there are neighborhood issues. When flash floods, fires or situations that threaten the safety of people in their homes occur, we get a call. We willingly open our schools to ensure the safety of the community and provide temporary shelter to those in need.

That is the true meaning of community, people coming together to assist when there is a need. People from all over the world, including our schools and members of our community, provided goods or services to those in need after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. We step up when needed.

We must remember that the strength of our community is the willingness to help those in need. Let us continue to be a community that supports each other. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The importance of being respectful

The recent events that happened in Charlottesville are difficult to process for all of us, including our students.

We encourage all educators to be culturally responsive at all times, and now is an especially important time to help your students be respectful of each other.

We have so many resources to support teachers in this effort through our Equity and Diversity Department.

Watch my discussion with CCSD's Chief Instructional Officer Greta Peay and Interim Director of Equity and Diversity Education Department Billie Rayford about the resources that are available to teachers.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Welcome back to school!

What a great first day of school! I was particularly proud that 94 percent of bus routes ran on time, and we opened six new elementary schools and two replacement schools that were in great shape and ready to serve students.  I want to share a video with you of comments I made a few weeks ago to our kickoff of administrators and teacher leaders. It's a fun look at our reorganization efforts and the progress we've made. Throughout this year let's remember that we might face some difficult challenges but, working together, we can ensure the success of every student in every classroom without exceptions, without excuses. I hope you enjoy the video and have a fantastic first week of school!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Thank You message from myself and the trustees

To all Clark County School District teachers and staff:

Thank you for another outstanding school year full of student accolades and staff accomplishments.

Please click here for a video message from myself and the Board of School Trustees.

Monday, May 29, 2017

T.E.A.C.H. Academy

Last week, I was able to visit the T.E.A.C.H. Academy at Clark High School to sit and talk with the juniors and seniors in the program. T.E.A.C.H. stands for Teacher Education Academy at Clark High.

These bright young women and men are on the path to entering college and becoming teachers.  As I walked into the classroom, I realized that this was going to be different than most visits.  The students were not only eager to talk, they had prepared numerous questions to learn more about me, my path to this position and various other topics that will impact their futures.

Let me be clear, this was probably the second most difficult interview I have participated in since I became superintendent. (The most difficult, by far, was with a class of fourth-grade students at Kay Carl Elementary School. This includes the numerous media interviews I have done over the years!) These students asked typical questions: Why did you go into teaching? What advice do you have for new teachers? Etc.

The questions that really required me to think deeply prior to answering included what did I believe teachers need to know before going into the classroom, why teachers are not looked upon more favorably in the community and what were my thoughts on school choice.  These students were well prepared for the time with me and showed me what great future teachers we have in our own schools.

As I pondered the answer to what teachers needed to know, I had a flashback to having to write my personal philosophy of teaching when I was a senior in college. I truly wish I could locate that document (it was typed on a typewriter) and see how naïve I truly was before my first year of teaching. I am sure that it had all the right words and phrases and reflected the latest teaching philosophy. But it couldn’t have had the real philosophy that our fantastic teachers live by on a daily basis.

As I left the classroom at Clark High School, I shared with the students that I would be writing about this in my blog. They are the future of teaching in Clark County School District and when they are hired into our schools, they will make a significant difference (and Clark T.E.A.C.H. students – the job offer still is real) in our schools with students who are not much different than they are today. The major difference is that the passion they feel for teaching will ensure success for the students they will teach.

If I had to rewrite my personal philosophy today, it would come down to two quotes. One is the quote I have used for several years, “Every student in every classroom, without exceptions, without excuses.” The second is a quote from James Baldwin, “For these are our children, we will profit by or pay for whatever they become.”

A special thank you goes out to the staff at the T.E.A.C.H. Academy and Jill Pendleton, the principal at Clark High School. You are not only preparing our students for the future, you are preparing the teachers for our future students.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Graduation season

Graduation season is upon us, and this means many exciting changes for our students, staff and their families. The stories of our students undergo a very significant change when they graduate from high school, but let’s not forget there are other graduations that take place every year in the Clark County School District. Elementary school students graduate into middle school, and middle school students graduate into high school. These represent big changes for our students that can be scary and exciting at the same time.

Let’s be sure and support our students as they finish elementary school or middle school and look ahead to the next phase of their education. Let’s assure them that we will be there for them, to help and guide them through the transition into something different and something bigger.

As part of the celebration of Eighth Grade Week, eighth-grade students and staff at Harney Middle School hosted a "Battle of the High Schools" event on May 22. They invited student representatives from their future high schools – Chaparral, East Career and Technical Academy and Las Vegas – to establish connections and take part in a variety of exciting competitions. Click here to watch a video of the celebration and friendly competition.

So, while we celebrate the big step that our graduating seniors are making, let’s also celebrate the other transitions that are happening in our schools as thousands of our students move from one level to the next. Thank you to all staff and teachers who make these exciting moments possible for our students. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Celebrating the sixth annual "Reclaim Your Future"

On May 12, it was my pleasure to be part of the sixth annual “Reclaim Your Future” senior celebration, at which approximately 700 students from Clark County School District (CCSD) high schools were recognized for their achievements.

The celebration put the spotlight on the Reclaim Your Future initiatives of CCSD, Jobs for Nevada's Graduates and the Family Engagement Resource Center. With the support of community partners, volunteers and staff, students whose attendance, credits or proficiency exam results put them at risk of not graduating, are getting the help they need.

Students are also given additional resources including mentors, online credit retrieval and proficiency exam "boot camps" to earn a high school diploma.

The Reclaim Your Future senior celebration supports CCSD's Pledge of Achievement goal of College and Career Readiness.

At the celebration, there were giveaways courtesy of the NBA Summer League and the School-Community Partnership Program. Plus, four outstanding students were surprised with scholarships from the College of Southern Nevada.

I also want to thank our wonderful staff and sponsors who made this celebration happen. None of this would be possible without the hard work of our staff and students who go above and beyond everyday.

Click here to watch a video of this very special event.

Congratulations to these terrific, hardworking students, and we look forward to seeing you walk across the stage and receive your diploma!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Reorganization and AB469

For the past six months we have been implementing a massive reorganization of the Clark County School District. Please watch my video regarding this and AB469.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! So far, we’ve had some terrific events to honor our wonderful teachers, starting with the Heart of Education Awards at The Smith Center on April 29.

We also had a great event at Helen Jydstrup Elementary School, with Station Casinos donating free buffet vouchers to more than 18,000 CCSD teachers.

In addition, WGU Nevada, Lyft and Dunkin’ Donuts Las Vegas donated donuts to CCSD teachers.

Check out the links below for highlights of these great events, plus my latest Superintendent’s Update.

Highlights of Teacher Appreciation Week

Superintendent’s Update