Las Vegas Sun

December 18, 2014

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Ad points to accomplishments of high school seniors

Ex-first lady collects stats, donations for a full page of good news

Sandy Miller

Sandy Miller

Walt Rulffes

Walt Rulffes

Ross Miller

Ross Miller

Opening up the newspaper a few weeks ago, an advertisement caught the eye of Sandy Miller, former first lady of Nevada and namesake of an elementary school.

The Meadows School, the private nonprofit campus in Summerlin, used the space to congratulate its graduating seniors on their accomplishments.

Miller thought it was a great idea and wondered why there wasn’t a similar announcement praising the Clark County School District’s class of 2010.

The full-page ad she organized (with the district’s blessing) ran Sunday.

There’s been plenty of disheartening news this year about education in Southern Nevada. The district is struggling with massive budgets cuts. The graduation rate, reported at 68 percent for 2009, will probably take a hit when the state switches to a new formula required by the U.S. Education Department. And next month it’s expected that hundreds of local schools will fall short when the federal “No Child Left Behind” report cards are issued, partly because of increases in the minimum percentage of students who must demonstrate proficiency on standardized tests.

But amid those clouds there are bright spots of sunshine.

Consider this — the district has 16,350 graduates this year, including 162 valedictorians, 3,017 honors diplomas, 164 Advanced Placement scholars, 31 National Merit finalists, nine National Merit scholars and 24 service academy appointments.

Additionally, Clark County seniors were awarded more than $176 million in scholarships and will attend a wide range of colleges and universities, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ohio State, Notre Dame, the University of Chicago, Brigham Young, UC-Berkeley, UNR and UNLV.

“I’m just so frustrated that people don’t realize if you want a good quality public education in Clark County, stay in our public high schools,” Miller said Tuesday. “I do believe, from the bottom of my heart, the district does a great job. If only more people knew that.”

Miller sought private donations to help pay for the page, which cost about $9,500. She didn’t have much trouble finding willing donors, including Clark County Schools Superintendent Walt Rulffes, Secretary of State Ross Miller, the Public Education Foundation, Glenn and Ande Christenson, Tim and Kathy Harney and HSBC Bank Nevada, among others.

The first check came from Candy Schneider, director of education and outreach for the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

“I go into the schools and see the dedication of the teachers and the administrators, the students and the parents,” said Schneider, who spent more than three decades as an arts educator in the district. “The commitment they have is amazing. I’m not sure that story is told as often as it should be.”

The intent was to shine a spotlight on the deserving seniors, not to gloss over the district’s myriad challenges, said Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero-Loop, D-Las Vegas, who made a contribution to help pay for the ad.

“Even with all the things we do need to work on, there are wonderful things we need to acknowledge,” said Dondero-Loop, whose three daughters graduated from local high schools. “It’s important to celebrate the triumphs.”

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