Pat, Personally

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Celebrating American Education Week

On Thanksgiving, I always reflect on how thankful I am for every Clark County School District (CCSD) staff member who works so hard on behalf of our students.

So it works out well that this week is American Education Week, a week that honors the teachers who spend innumerable hours working with our children, and also the staff who keep our students safe, transport our students, prepare their food, keep their school clean – and so much more.

CCSD hosted several events this week aimed at highlighting the hard work and accomplishments of our students and staff:

  • We recognized our 62 National Merit Scholar semifinalists with a reception at Green Valley High School, presenting certificates to students who are among the less than one percent of high school seniors nationwide to be chosen for this prestigious honor.
  • Spread the Word Nevada presented free books to all students and their families at Gordon McCaw Elementary School.
  • We celebrated the achievements of 200 Advanced Placement students at Cheyenne High School as part of a celebration of the growing number of CCSD students taking AP classes and exams.
  • Seven outstanding support staff from throughout CCSD were honored during a special surprise ceremony at West Career and Technical Academy. Each of the employees, who were nominated by the Board of School Trustees, received a personalized gift from WCTA students.
  • Shirley and Bill Wallin Elementary School held an open house to celebrate its selection as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School, along with Sandra Lee Thompson Elementary School.
  • Culinary Arts students from five CCSD high schools will showcase their cooking talents during the fourth-annual "Diced!" culinary competition at Southwest Career and Technical Academy.

I want to thank everyone who plays a role – and they are big roles – in educating and supporting our students.

Let us all take the time to celebrate what makes our district great: Our teachers, our support staff, our administrators, our students, our parents, and our communities. I am thankful for you all.

Enjoy your break next week!


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Protecting Our Kids

We know the vast majority of our Clark County School District (CCSD) employees and volunteers are dedicated to our students and act appropriately around them. We also know that parents and members of the community are understandably concerned about news reports in recent years on arrests involving sexual misconduct allegations against CCSD employees or volunteers.

Over the past few months, CCSD has been working to set appropriate boundaries and methods of communication for employees/volunteers and students. We worked to strike the right balance between allowing employees/volunteers to develop trusting relationships while also protecting students from the rare person who wants to take advantage of that trust.

In August, the Board of School Trustees approved Policy and Regulation 4100, which was the result of input from numerous working groups and public meetings. The regulation and policy outline appropriate interaction and communication between adults and CCSD students:

  • Communication with students should be through “logable” online platforms that track conversations such as Google Classroom or remind.com. This is for the protection of students and employees/volunteers.
  • Employees and volunteers should only text students in a group message with other students or staff/volunteers, and electronic communication should be avoided during the hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., unless there is an exigent – or urgent – situation.
  • If an urgent situation occurs and employees/volunteers text one-on-one with a student, or communicate with a student during off hours, the communication should be reported to a supervisor within 24 hours.

The regulation and policy also incorporate a new state law, Senate Bill 287, which now requires volunteers with unsupervised OR regular contact with students to be fingerprinted. CCSD staff worked with other districts in Nevada to define “regular” contact as someone who volunteers at least four times a month.

I’ve heard concerns from employees and the community that this new law may deter parents and family members from volunteering in our schools because of the cost or inconvenience of fingerprinting. I share these concerns. Parent and family engagement is one of the top priorities outlined in the Pledge of Achievement and it is my sincere hope that families will continue to participate in their child’s education while understanding the need to keep all students safe. A short survey regarding these new fingerprinting requirements can be found at ccsd.net/protectourkids. We will share the input we receive with legislators during the 2019 Legislative session.

Ultimately, we all must work together to protect our kids. CCSD is developing videos so employees, volunteers, parents and students are able to better understand regulation and policy 4100 to ensure students, employees and volunteers are protected. To learn more about the new regulation and policy, visit: ccsd.net/protectourkids. I appreciate each one of you working to keep our students safe.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Family steps up

Last week, during my weekly visits to schools, I made a special unscheduled stop.  I checked in with the office manager (the principal was out at a meeting) and was escorted out to a portable classroom.  I knocked on the door and waited, not completely sure what I was going to say to this young teacher.  He opened the door and I introduced myself and instantly we fell into an easy conversation that lasted about 30 minutes, as he was on his prep period.

The uncertainty about the conversation came from the fact that we had spoken on the phone one time and sent texts back for about three weeks.  You see, this young teacher was at the Route 91 Harvest Festival with his girlfriend and was hit by a ricocheting bullet in the back of his leg.  The conversation was comfortable, but at times emotional.  He wasn’t sure if any other employee were wounded (he was the only one, as far as I know), wasn’t sure if any students were wounded (one current and a few former students were injured), or if there was any loss of life (a recent CCSD graduate of Basic High School did pass away, as did several current parents).  There were so many employees, families and friends who were there at the event and so many who were fortunate enough to live.

As I sat there, I realized that there is no way to truly comprehend what he had been through, no way to try to relate to his own personal experience during this traumatic event.  I could talk about the numerous employees that were helping in our schools and across the valley with the victims, victims’ families and with employees in casinos in the immediate area of the event.  I could ask about his healing process, both physically and emotionally, but I couldn’t truly understand the emotions that he must have been feeling.

In the Review-Journal, there was an article about a high school English persuasive/argumentative writing prompt completed by one of our students who was at the event.  As I read the article, I couldn’t help but think about my conversation with the teacher – how similar their experiences were, and how they were both struggling to make sense of a senseless act.

We are all still quite emotional about this incident, but if I have learned one thing about our community in the past 29 years, we rally when we need to!  We may not know our neighbors on our street, or have had more than a 3-minute conversation with them if we know their names,  but when we are faced with a tragic event, we pull together.

As we leave October and head into the next few months where family is the focus, we need to remember that in the worst of times, we are all one family.  And family takes care of each other.  Family steps up with those less fortunate and those who are hurting.  Family helps us keep going every day, even when tragedy strikes our community.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

An update on the reorganization of CCSD

Colleagues,

On Thursday, we are bringing two action items to the Board of School Trustees to help the Clark County School District comply with Assembly Bill 469, the bill that requires the reorganization of the Clark County School District.

AB 469 requires CCSD to provide more autonomy and flexibility to each school -- and to put more decisions in the hands of people who are closest to students. In an effort to increase the autonomy of schools, CCSD has started a process to transfer some responsibilities to local school precincts for the 2018-19 school year.

How did we go about this work? Over the past few months, we have polled principals three times to ask if they want more control over some services provided centrally.

In total, 10 principals said they wanted to take control over some services - specifically, custodial services and school technology support. Therefore, we decided to propose pilot programs for those principals in the 2018-19 school year. If passed by the Board Thursday, here’s how the pilot programs would work:

  • The District would pilot a program with several schools interested in taking responsibility for their own custodial services. The District would run a request for proposals from companies interested in providing custodial services. Our goal would be to provide those principals with choices of several outside companies they could choose from to provide some or all of their custodial services in 2018-19. We believe we will be able to absorb any custodial positions involved in this pilot process into other positions within CCSD.
     
  • The District also would pilot a program with several schools interested in taking responsibility for their own school technology support. Those schools would transfer their IT positions to open positions at central services, and they would receive credit for the cost of those positions in their school strategic budget. Then, the schools will buy back services from central when they need technology support. No positions will be eliminated in this pilot program.

These actions are outlined in items 5.01-5.03 on the Oct. 26, 2017 agenda.

The vast majority of our principals tell us they instead want better, more responsive customer service from central services, which we have been working to provide. We value all of our employees, and CCSD believes that these pilots will help show that our own employees can provide the best, most efficient services to schools. Ultimately, it is our goal that each school precinct will choose CCSD services.



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Blue Ribbon Schools

Our district is filled with outstanding achievements and gains that our entire community can be proud of.

One of the moments that results in tremendous pride for me is when the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announces the list of National Blue Ribbon Schools each year. Being selected as a Blue Ribbon Schools is one of the most prestigious awards that a school can receive. Each year, the DOE only selects about 300-350 schools to receive this designation and that includes all schools in the United States – public and private.

This year, only 342 schools were selected nationally and we are thrilled to learn that two of our schools, Sandra Lee Thompson and Shirley and Bill Wallin Elementary Schools, were named Blue Ribbon Schools.

To the staff members at these schools, I congratulate you on achieving this distinction and I commend you for your hard work in helping students achieve. To the parents, I thank you for being part of the team that helps our students grow and learn. I would also like to thank our many community supporters for their assistance in providing donations and volunteering time in our schools.

This year marks the ninth consecutive year that CCSD has had at least one school selected and it marks the 26th time a CCSD school has been named a Blue Ribbon School.

These are challenging times, but with the combined efforts of our staff, parents and community, we can all work to continue to help increase student achievement and celebrate even more Blue Ribbon Schools of excellence.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Vegas Strong

Like most of you, I did not sleep much on Sunday night due to the tragic events that happened on the Strip.

But I am proud and thankful of our CCSD community for stepping up to help our town in the time of need, including counselors, nurses and psychologists who volunteered or will volunteer their services.

Click here to watch a message from Board of School Trustees President Deanna L. Wright and myself.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A trip down memory lane

In the past five days, I had the opportunity to visit three of the schools that I worked in during my time with CCSD. Visiting each of these schools brought back so many memories, including stories of families, students, teachers and former principals. Click here to view the photos!

It was exciting to drive up to C.C. Ronnow Elementary School to visit the school where my career began 29 years ago. As I walked the building with Principal Chris Popek and Assistant Principal Michelee Crawford, I talked about the rooms I taught in and interacted with amazing staff and students. It was great to talk with first-grade teachers who were collaborating on math standards and pacing with their Math Learning Strategist. I also participated in a roundtable discussion with many fifth-grade students who had prepared many great questions. It forced me to really think about the past and the future at the same time.  I sat with Principal Popek and talked about the SB 178 funds that he received from the legislative session. Our future is bright because we have amazing students like those fifth-graders at C.C. Ronnow.

Driving up Stewart Avenue to visit Kirk Adams Elementary School, I couldn’t help but notice how much of the open land that was there in 1991 was filled in with homes and apartments. It reminded me of the growth of the valley since 1988. Principal Mark Connors was waiting in the front of the school, and as I got out of my car, a parent drove past him and handed him a cup of coffee from a coffee shop. It made me appreciate how our schools and their employees are part of our community neighborhoods.

As I walked into the school, I felt the nostalgia sweeping over me. This was a school that I opened as a teacher. We weren’t able to move into the building until the Sunday before school started and we had so many of our teachers and families cleaning the building and setting up classrooms so we could start school the next day. In the conference room, Mr. Connors had a present for me, a quilt that my students, a grandparent and I made together as a class in 1991.  We were teaching about families and traditions and each student used mathematical shapes to create their own quilt square. What a thoughtful gesture to help remind me of my time as an “All-Star!”

Doris French celebrated its 40th anniversary on Sept. 23. The event began with a welcome by the current Principal Tammy Villarreal-Crabb who also introduced a video of Lamar Terry, the first principal of Doris French. He talked about many of the programs he started. As the program went on, I looked around the room to see the current students, parents and community members, but what made me the happiest was seeing the numerous teachers with whom I worked during my five years as principal. We laughed and told stories of events that happened while we were there. We couldn’t believe that “Dynamite Dolphins” was started when the school opened and is still a tradition each Friday morning, and we celebrated how much we enjoyed our time at French. It was a true celebration of the rich heritage of not only Doris French, but of many of our schools across the valley.

Many of our employees in CCSD have the same rich history with schools in our district. As time passes, we often forget the little memories of our assignments. It is powerful to go back and remember the best parts of our past while working hard to make the future even brighter!


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.