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December 22, 2014

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Record 1,925 new teachers start work Aug. 30

There were recruiting trips to 39 states. More than 6,200 applications to be processed. And since March, eight hours of interviews every weekday.

The result -- a record 1,925 new teachers have been hired by the Clark County School District for the start of the 2004-05 academic year Aug. 30.

That's a vastly different picture from a year ago when the district had 200 teacher vacancies to fill with just 10 days until the start of school. A stalemate over education funding during the 2003 legislative session led to a five-week hiring freeze by Clark County Schools Superintendent Carlos Garcia.

Compared to last year's late-summer mad rush to fill the open spots, this time around has been "a breeze," said George Ann Rice, associate superintendent of human resources for the district.

"It makes last summer look like a bad dream," Rice said.

Half of the new teachers attended orientation activities and a welcome luncheon Thursday at the Cox Pavilion with the second half to follow today.

Brenda Tischendorf, who spent a year substituting for a small district in Wisconsin, said she knew as a less-experienced teacher she would have a better chance of getting a full-time job in Clark County than just about anywhere else. Of the district's 15,000 teachers about 50 percent have five years or fewer experience.

"In my old district they hire maybe five or six people a year," the 23-year-old Tischendorf said. "I tried to describe what's going on here to my friends from college and they're stunned, they just can't believe it."

This year the district expects more than 280,000 students to enroll for classes at 187 elementary schools, 50 middle schools, 38 high schools, 23 alternative schools and six special education schools.

New teacher Richard Edler, 52, got some tips from reliable sources on how to handle his first day at Las Vegas High School. His advisers are his children.

Edler's son, Erik, will be a freshman at the same campus where his father will be teaching upper-level business classes. His daughter, Ariel, is enrolled at K.O. Knudson Middle School where his wife teaches English and reading.

"My kids told me, 'Come in firm right at the start -- you can lighten up later on,' " said Edler, who spent 33 years in casino management before retiring from that career and returning to school for his teaching credential. "They know first impressions are important."

While new teachers have been culled from nearly every state in the nation more than a few of the hires were grown locally.

Kevin Finney, 28, graduated from Green Valley High School in 1994 and was studying criminal justice at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He changed career paths after realizing how much he had gotten out of volunteering as a "big brother" to a local boy.

Finney will teach kindergarten at Walter Long Elementary School, an at-risk campus where two-thirds of the students qualify for free and reduced-price meals.

"Most male teachers gravitate toward the older grades," said Finney, explaining why he chose to teach kindergarten. "The school (Walter Long) is in a lower-income area and there's a real need for positive male role models,"

Special guests at the luncheon included Gov. Kenny Guinn, First Lady Dema Guinn and Rep. Shelly Berkeley, D-Nev., Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev. and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The governor, who served as the district's superintendent from 1969 to 1978, urged the new teachers to look at every student as an opportunity.

"No matter where they come from, no matter what their color, no matter what their ability, they are our children and we must -- we must -- work to prepare them for the future," Guinn said. "Without education, this great state will not continue to grow."

Guinn said he knows teachers aren't in the job for the money. The starting salary for recent graduates is $28,491 with a $2,000 signing bonus approved by the Legislature.

Clark County Schools Superintendent Carlos Garcia had some final advice Thursday for the new arrivals planning to familiarize themselves with the parts of the Las Vegas Valley not on the district's map.

"Remember, the Strip wasn't built by winners and we aren't paying you that much," Garcia said, drawing chuckles from the audience.

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