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April 20, 2014

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Education:

CCSD board chooses state BOE member to fill vacancy

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Stavan Corbett is the newest member of the Clark County School District’s school board.

Updated Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 | 8:20 p.m.

The Clark County School Board today unanimously appointed Stavan Corbett to fill a vacancy on the seven-member board.

Corbett, who has served on the Nevada Board of Education since 2010, said he plans to resign from his post to represent District D, which encompasses the central Las Vegas Valley and has nearly 49,000 students feeding into Clark, Desert Pines, Rancho, Silverado and Valley high schools.

Corbett said he decided to step down from the state school board to run for the local board because the Nevada Board of Education is largely a policy-setting body. The local board is charged with implementing those policies, and Corbett said he wants to work with teachers, students and community members see them through properly.

“My background is a people person,” Corbett said. “People are your primary resources. This (Clark County School Board position) will provide that avenue.”

After a 20-minute interview and some deliberation, the School Board chose Corbett, 6-0, to replace Lorraine Alderman, who stepped down in October. Corbett, who identifies as Hispanic, was appointed to the position amid widespread support from the Hispanic community.

Hispanic political and community leaders speaking at Thursday’s meeting pointed to Corbett’s experience as an education consultant and state school board president, but they also said his experience as a longtime Hispanic Las Vegan qualified him to represent District D, which counts about 45 percent of its population as Hispanic — the most of the seven School Board districts.

The lack of a Hispanic member has become a sore point for the public image of the School Board, which prior to Corbett’s appointment consisted of six white women and one black woman. Clark County — the nation’s fifth-largest school system — is a majority-minority school district that counts 44 percent of its students as Hispanic. Hispanics represent the largest student group in Nevada.

“As a board we do not reflect the diversity of our district,” School Board President Carolyn Edwards said before casting her vote. “Improving that ratio on this board is important.”

In recent years, the School Board has favored appointing a Hispanic member to represent District D when there has been a vacancy. Corbett is the third Hispanic School Board member appointed to the board since the early 1990s, following the appointment of Hispanic activist Jose Solorio in 1993 and Latin Chamber of Commerce Foundation director Rene Cantu in 2012. Both Solorio and Cantu were among the 13 Hispanic community leaders who expressed their support for Corbett on Thursday.

Despite heavy lobbying from Hispanic community leaders, School Board members said they appointed the best-qualified candidate among a field of four diverse applicants: William Lucas, a retired postal worker; Tara Raines, a UNLV assistant professor of psychology; and Charles Ware, owner of a private health education consulting firm.

Corbett brings a wealth of education knowledge to the School Board, members said. In addition to his experience on the state school board, Corbett serves on the board of WestEd, an education consulting firm, and currently serves as vice president of programs for the Nevada Parent Teachers Association, supporting parent programs at more than 100 schools. Corbett also has experience as an elementary schoolteacher, an education advocate at UNLV and an administrator at Nevada State College.

“He brings a lot of skills,” Edwards said. “He has experience as an elected official who served in leadership roles and he’s connected to the community. I was pleased with the caliber and diversity of the candidates.”

"I appreciate that our trustees chose a candidate who spoke today about representing the diverse needs of families and the community in District D," Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said in a statement. "I look forward to working with Stavan Corbett to hear his perspective on how we can work together to increase student achievement for every student in every classroom."

Growing up in Las Vegas, Corbett said he didn’t do well in school. As a newly minted School Board member, Corbett hopes to support English-language learners and struggling students — like he once was.

“I got a late start in life,” Corbett said. “I wasn’t the only one then, and I’m sure I’m not the only one now.”

Corbett plans to focus on alleviating classroom overcrowding, raising the graduation rate and working with families to boost parent engagement. He identified these top issues from personal experience as a father of three children in the district; his son, for example, is in a 40-student Advanced Placement class at Desert Pines High School.

“My responsibility will be to serve all students,” Corbett said. “Regardless of your background, we all deserve an opportunity to be educated.”

Corbett, who will represent many impoverished and English-language learner students, said his students may be disadvantaged, but they should not be considered “challenging.” Corbett's district includes 14 “Zoom” Schools that are receiving $39.4 million over the next biennium for resources such as pre-kindergarten programs, expanded full-day kindergarten programs with smaller class sizes, summer school offerings and special literacy tutoring centers to help English-language learners.

“It’s a population that wants to see their kids succeed as anyone else does,” Corbett said.

Corbett said he will formally resign from the state school board within two days and be sworn in by the next local School Board meeting on Dec. 12. Corbett’s replacement on the Nevada Board of Education will be appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Corbett will serve out the remainder of Alderman’s term ending December 2014, and intends to run for the District D position on the local School Board in November 2014. Raines and Ware also plan to run against Corbett in 2014.

“It’s exciting to me that there are so many qualified people willing to commit to public service,” Edwards said, addressing the candidates. “We really appreciate you.”

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