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October 22, 2014

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Larry Mason reflects on his tenure on School Board

Longtime School Board member saw district double in size

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Christopher DeVargas

Larry Mason

One of the best days of his life, Larry Mason says, was his first day on the Clark County School Board. So was his last, Dec. 31.

The first Hispanic board member, Mason was twice elected board president, saw enrollment double to 300,000 students and oversaw the rise of the district’s budget to $2 billion.

But Mason, 64, also saw the district’s troubles, including bottom-of-the-heap graduation rates and his personal health problems, including leukemia, worsen, then stabilize.

Mason, a Democrat and ally of Harry Reid, nonetheless sees merit in some of the conservative critique urging education reform, especially teacher accountability.

He almost voted against Dwight Jones, the new superintendent and a former education commissioner in Colorado. Mason thought the district needed a traditional superintendent, such as Michael Hinojosa of Dallas. But Jones’ reputation as an education reformer swayed Mason.

Term limits forced him from the board after 16 years. He sees why voters would want fresh perspective in public office, but regrets the loss of experience.

Mason is the chief diversity officer at College of Southern Nevada, overseeing programs for minority groups.

What did you learn as a School Board member?

School districts don’t appreciate what a school board member comes in with. So there is some resentment toward board members, who are considered a necessary evil.

What’s your advice for the new School Board members, Erin Cranor and Lorraine Alderman?

They should ask questions. There are always two sides to a story. But they should believe only half of it and find out what the other half is.

Do you have advice for Carolyn Edwards, the new board president?

People can read your body language. If your body language is not forthright or it’s drill sergeant, then that won’t work. You have got to have that face of caring and that voice of caring.

What will happen in the legislative session, now that Bill Raggio, the powerful Republican lawmaker, has resigned and a third of legislators are new?

With a very new Legislature, the learning curve is high and quick. It will be like getting a Ph.D. in working as a Legislature. If legislators are smart, they’ll use Raggio as a consultant. History always repeats itself but we don’t have a lot of people who know history.

What will happen with the teachers union?

People will say that the teachers union will have to give back more than what it’s giving. Since 2000, the unions, including the teachers, have been very cooperative with the district and worked very well because we didn’t have major budget problems until recently. But now we’ve got problems. The teachers have to give more in order for the district to continue on.

As a major figure in public schools as well as an administrator in higher education, what key problem do you see in Nevada education?

Education is not part of the common language of many households. You may not be able to park cars at Bellagio, but you could work at Wendy’s. There are jobs, but they’re 8 bucks an hour. If parents don’t emphasize education, who will? We selected a school superintendent, one of the most powerful positions in the state. We should have had an auditorium of parents. We didn’t.

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  1. While Mr. Mason has experience and a sensitivity to the issues, the results from the school board toward educational progress tells much about Mr. Mason's tenure on the shool board. The low student scores, the low or bottom gradutation rate of Las Vegas students, the low teacher performance standards, the perceived mediocrity of the Las Vegas school system, the lack of a challenging and demanding effort to push the students in the basics of science, math, reading and writing, and the arts.

    Mr. Mason stayed to long on the school board as with several other board members. The student enrollement increased by 150,000 to 300,000 during Mr. Mason's tenure on the school board, it is belived that 95,000 to 120,000 out of 150,000 increase are Hispanic. The concern by many teachers and school employees---many of the students are not legal US residents. This concern is widely discussed among many Hispanic teachers. While everyone in the US should be educated, legal or illegal, the tools that are needed are not being provided to teachers or students. The school board has a responsibility to respond to changing times and conditions to meet the demands to educate our youth and provide the teachers with the needed tools and support to teach our kids to be the best they can be.

    The school board has failed in many areas. We all wish Mr. Mason well in health and his role as chief diversity officer at College of Southern. However, Mr. Mason's tenure on the school board has many unanswered questions, as with other school board members as well.

  2. "Clark County school Trustee Larry Mason is accused of billing the school district for a holiday family gathering in Texas that District Court documents say was disguised as a business trip.
    Questions also were raised in a motion filed in a lawsuit against trustees Tuesday about whether Mason has been double-dipping, billing both the school district and Nevada's higher education system for trips he has gone on since taking office in January 1995."

    This was posted "Emmo" answering some the questions many of us have regarding Mr. Mason and the school board focus on education and the effectiveness of teaching our kids in the Las Vegas valley.

  3. We can blame the school district, the teachers, the board or anyone you want. Bottom line is the problem with Clark County schools is mostly Parents.

    Parents do not put importance on education to most of the kids in this valley. They don't see that they show up on time or at all for classes. They don't see that they do their class work or home work. They don't teach their kids to be respectful of the teachers or other students.

    They allow their kids to disrupt classes and don't want them suspended. They do not want their children to be disciplined at school.

    Until you get parents to take responsibility for their kids and teach their kids that only they can fail or succeed in life nothing is going to change.

    You can change the board, the teachers and the leaders but nothing will work until parents get involved and do the right thing.

  4. The low performance of the CCSD is NOT caused by Hispanic students. The root cause is the hostility or indifference of parents towards education. For most parents, CCSD provides free babysitting and/or athletic scholarship opportunities. Everything else flows downhill from there.

  5. Larry Mason is still looking to have his name engraved on a public school for a trustee career in which he was absent most of the time. He may have been ill during his tenure but he did not have the courage or moral strength to resign and let someone complete his term on a full time basis. Shame on you Larry Mason, you are a poor excuse of a school trustee. You were not that important to local education and you certainly never were that idispensible. Bye Bye Larry!