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October 25, 2014

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Looking in on: Education:

Candidates for board include insiders

Three district employees, retiree are running — so far

With the Friday filing deadline still days away, the field of candidates in year’s School Board race is shaping up as the most interesting in recent memory.

Take, for example, the candidacy of Mike Noland, who is challenging three-term board member Ruth Johnson in District B.

Noland retired from the School District last year after 26 years in building maintenance. He started as a custodian at Kenny Guinn Middle School, working his way up to building engineer.

With the exception of District C’s Shirley Barber, a retired principal who has decided not to run for a third term, there is no current School Board member who can offer the perspective of a district employee, Noland said.

Noland also can offer another perspective on top of that: He is a dropout who earned his GED at age 28. He wants to see more efforts to reduce the district’s dropout rate.

He has other ties to the district as well. His mother taught in Clark County schools from 1962 to 1983, his three children attended district schools, and all but three of his 11 grandchildren are current students.

Noland didn’t offer any specific concerns about Johnson’s job performance that motivated him to run.

“I’m not sure that the board hasn’t done the best they can,” Noland said Friday. “But it’s time for a change.”

Three district employees who are expected to retire if elected have also filed for School Board seats. Linda Young, director of equity and diversity education, and Ronan Matthew, principal of Canyon Springs High School, are seeking to replace Barber. Edward Goldman, the district’s associate superintendent of education services, is challenging School Board President Mary Beth Scow for the District A seat.

•••

Nevada’s newest virtual charter school, which will serve at-risk high school students across the state, is expected to launch in August.

Insight School of Nevada is sponsored by the State Board of Education. At their May 2 meeting, board members voted 7-1 to allow the new charter school to move forward.

The computer-based school will offer in-person counseling services at its administrative office, as well as daily online contact with a mentor. The school hopes to enroll 350 students for the 2008-09 academic year. They will be provided with home computers and high-speed Internet service.

One of the school’s organizers is Gary Waters, who retired from the education board in 2006 after three terms. For now, Waters’ involvement is limited to a volunteer position with the charter school’s organizing committee. Waters, a licensed therapist, said if he ends up working for the school he will not serve on the governing body.

The charter school’s partner, Oregon-based Insight Schools Inc., is an online learning company with eight high schools in eight states.

Nevada law does not allow for-profit charter schools. However, governing bodies may hire outside companies to provide services.

Two other state-sponsored virtual charter schools opened last fall — Nevada Virtual Academy and Nevada Connections Academy. Both are affiliated with national curriculum providers. Insight School is unique because of its focus on at-risk students, Waters noted.

•••

The State Board on May 2 unanimously rejected an application from Imagine Schools Inc. for a third charter school in Clark County. Imagine Schools operates the 100 Academy of Excellence in North Las Vegas and plans to open Imagine School in the Valle, in Durango Hills, this fall.

State board members expressed dismay that although Imagine Schools representatives attended the meeting, no members of the local organizing committee showed up.

The level of involvement by the out-of-state company in its charter schools has been a continual issue for state officials. At the 100 Academy, Imagine Schools provides everything from the textbooks to the teachers. The academy, sponsored by the Clark County School Board, also pays its rent to an affiliate of the Virginia-based company.

After the 8-0 vote, Imagine Schools withdrew its application for sponsorship of a fourth charter school, although it may be brought back for consideration.

In November, the State Board put a moratorium on review of new charter school applications, which did not apply to applications in the pipeline.

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