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November 27, 2014

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EDUCATION:

Budget might put teachers in game of musical chairs

The Clark County School District is preparing for a process euphemistically known as “reduction in force.”

Though it’s not yet known how deep the budget cuts in education will be, next month principals will be required to submit plans for trimming campus budgets, including a list of positions that could be eliminated. Employees will be notified by April 1 if their jobs are on the list, said Martha Tittle, the district’s chief human resources officer.

As in past years, teachers will have the month of April to voluntarily transfer to open positions at another school. Any teachers without a position by May will be put in a surplus pool, and the district’s central office will do its best to find them a spot.

If there are employees in the surplus pool by the middle of May, the district would shift into “reduction in force” mode, Tittle said. That could result in teachers with less seniority being bumped from their positions by more senior personnel.

John Jasonek, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, said it’s “way too early” to discuss such measures, a worst-case scenario he’s not convinced will be necessary.

He thinks principals will submit budgets that trim about 500 campus positions, but most of those teachers will find alternative assignments. The influx of federal stimulus dollars will help protect jobs and additional vacancies will come up over the summer as teachers retire or quit, Jasonek said.

Ultimately, the most significant factor will be “the job the Legislature does,” Jasonek said.

•••

The hard work of Cheyenne High School special education students hasn’t gone unnoticed by Goodwill of Southern Nevada.

Cheyenne will be honored as Goodwill’s “Work Experience School of the Year” at its annual recognition luncheon March 11 at Texas Station.

Special ed students from throughout Clark County are invited to gain real-world job training at Goodwill’s retail stores and processing center. Cheyenne nabbed the top spot by providing “extraordinary customer service” at the retail store at Craig Road and Decatur Boulevard, where students have volunteered every Friday for two years, a Goodwill spokeswoman said. The students help staff sort, stock and organize items, and greet customers.

About 300 special ed students from six high schools participate in the Goodwill program, with two more campuses joining up next month. The goal is to help the developmentally disabled students to complete high school and transition into a postsecondary vocational program, Cheyenne teacher Diana Walla said.

Working in the store has been a tremendous boost to the students’ self-confidence and skills, Walla said.

“These kids see themselves as superstars,” she said. “And a good part of that is what Goodwill has done for them.”

•••

The Clark County School Board voted unanimously Thursday to test an alternative format for public comment, but the approval came with a warning.

“I just want to put the public on notice,” said School Board Vice President Carolyn Edwards, who proposed the trial run. “This isn’t an opportunity to go haywire.”

Since 1996, the School Board has relegated public comment to before the start of the meeting’s business. For the March 26 and April 11 meetings, the board will allow public comment as each agenda item is considered, the format used by most elected boards in Southern Nevada.

Edwards said she believes members of the public will be able to provide more valuable comment on agenda items if they have the benefit of first hearing the School Board discussion and gauging members’ positions.

There was concern among some School Board members that the revised format could mean significantly longer meetings, because people would be able to sign up for multiple agenda items and comment for two minutes on each item. The current policy limits speakers to a maximum of three minutes at the microphone no matter how many items they wish to address.

“We need to be aware there are those out there who might take advantage” of the revised format, School Board member Deanna Wright said. But the School Board could set limits on how many times people return to the podium and how long they speak, Wright said.

If the trial run goes well it could be extended, or become a permanent policy.

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