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April 21, 2014

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Education:

Chaparral High School one year later: Did the ‘turnaround’ work?

Seniors reflect and share their opinions about the effort

This is another in a yearlong series of stories tracking Clark County School District's efforts to turn around five failing schools.

A lot has changed at Chaparral High School this year — new leadership, new teachers and a new attitude about discipline and academics.

Not everyone liked the changes at first. Hundreds of students and parents protested last year when Chaparral was deemed a “turnaround” school, meaning more than half the teachers had to be replaced.

But with the staffing upheaval came a new Chap. The campus was cleaned and order was restored. A renewed focus on academics prevailed.

In the fall, 10 Chap seniors were asked about the turnaround efforts and their goals for the school year. Nearly 180 school days later, we reached out to the same students to see if they’ll walk this weekend and their plans for the future.

Of the 10 interviewed in September, nine are on track to graduate this month. We were able to speak with seven of them.

    • Anthony Sipes, 18, Green Valley High School senior

      Then: I want to start at CSN and then go to college in Missouri — St. Louis or Northwest Missouri State. It’s quiet there. I’ve always liked Midwest living. It’s slower; it’s more laid back.

      Now: My family had some struggles, so we pretty much up and left Green Valley and moved (to Chaparral’s district). We’re back on our feet now, so I came back to Green Valley High School in January. I was scared when I went to Chaparral. I wasn’t used to that neighborhood. I learned to stay away from (certain) streets. Honestly, the turnaround was a good thing for the school to get back on its feet. I can’t wait to get done with high school. It’s been a long four years, but it was all worth it. I just wanted to make my parents proud. I’m proud of myself.

    • Melissa Ruiz, 18, Chaparral senior

      Then: First, I’m going to go into nursing, and then I’m going to become an OB. I love the body, the woman’s body, how they’re able to develop and carry life. Plus, I’ll have a secure job.

      Now: My mom and I protested the changes at the flagpole last year. Our voices had to be heard. I’m happy now that we did the turnaround. The new changes are for the best of the school and for the kids. I applied to Nevada State, but I’m going to the Air Force first. I’ve always wanted to serve my country. I want to be a nurse. Right now, Nevada is not such a good place to be for work. I’m not going to stay in Nevada. I want to travel around and see the world.

    • Jessica Quiroz, 18, Chaparral senior

      Then: I’ve applied so many places for work: the Fashion Show, Burger King, McDonald’s, the Boulevard Mall. I never get any calls. If I don’t find work right now, I’m not going to have a job that says I’ve worked and know how to work.

      Now: I’m the first one from my family to graduate high school. Being the first one, it’s a big thing for me and my whole family. I feel really proud of myself. My dream is to become a lawyer and help my sister become better than what I am now — have her graduate with an advanced honor degree. I want to work to be able to help my family out. Chap is way better than what it was. Hopefully it stays this way and keeps growing.

    • Juan Lopez, 17, Chaparral senior

      Then: I want to actually learn something this year. Most people just want to graduate, just want to get out of school. I want to learn the basics for life.

      Now: I didn’t approve of the turnaround at first because I was so used to the old Chaparral, but I feel like it made Chaparral so much better. My dad does construction and landscaping in the morning and works as a janitor at night. There would be times I wouldn’t see him for a week because I had dance and rehearsals. But my dad is always there, listening to me talk about my week at school. He didn’t finish his high school education; neither did my mom. He wants us to have a future.

    • Crystal Carter, 18, Chaparral senior

      Then: Right now I don’t feel like I’m getting the education I need. They want to turn around the school. They want to help people who are struggling, but I want to be brought up to a higher level, too. I feel like I can be challenged, but they look at me and they think, “She’s already smart. She doesn’t need more help.”

      Now: There were a few teachers who helped me prepare for college, but other than that, I don’t feel like I was given the best preparation for the future. People who cared about education were hurt the most because they focused more on the bad kids and we, the good kids, fell to the wayside. People who failed proficiencies or don’t go to class, they get in drawings for iPads. That wasn’t fair in the turnaround. I’m happy to be graduating. I’m going to go to UNR and major in education and psychology. I want to be a second-grade teacher and work with kids. I want to eventually get my Ph.D. and become a children’s psychiatrist. I don’t want to regret anything.

    • Guadalupe Espinoza, 18, Chaparral senior

      Then: I would really like a job so that I can have money to go to college. It’s just hard sometimes. Only my dad works. My mom is at home raising two younger sisters.

      Now: I haven’t been able to find a job yet. I want to go to college next year. I’ll probably work at a nail salon. I want to be a pediatrician. I really like kids, and I want to be able to help them.

    • Oscar Estrada, 18, Chaparral senior

      Then: In science, I never got the teaching I needed. It was kind of hard, but I want to be a psychologist. I’ve always had people confide in me. You’ve got to do something you’re good at, something you enjoy.

      Now: I was feeling a little worried about whether or not I was going to get through my math and science proficiencies. But fortunately, I passed both of them. My teachers helped us. I’m excited to graduate. You know, it’s one of your biggest life achievements, getting through high school. I got that done, and I can proceed to the next chapter in my life. Before I was interested in psychology, but I’d like to go to CSN and get into writing. I’m not quite sure yet, just see where life takes me.

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    1. Very good. I know it's not easy, but go to college. Get a degree or go to trade school. It's the first step towards finicial security. It's baby steps for the Las Vegas school system and that's fine. They won't solve the problems overnight.

      The mindset has to change in this town. An education is a must.

    2. One year is a long time for the student, not so long to do a good turnaround. At the very least, CCSD leadership is trying to do something and are addressing the most severe problems. Let's get a longer school day and a longer school year. Rather than a 20% cut to teacher pay, lets go with a 10% cut BUT at least a 200 day work schedule as a minimum. And let's get them on an 8-hour day in the classroom. The Legislature needs to address the unconscionable PERS and additional credits for teachers in poor schools. With the teachers association having UNDUE INFLUENCE on negotiations, their contracts can be declared void. Some of us remember the pre-union proliferation when judges "routinely" ruled that PUBLIC EMPLOYEES CANNOT STRIKE because they have undue influence.