Wednesday, March 6, 2013 | 3:03 p.m.
Outgoing Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones maintained Wednesday that his sudden decision to leave the nation's fifth-largest district was personal – nothing else.
"I want to be crystal clear," Jones said. "My decision has nothing to do with any other factors outside of just wanting to do what I think is right for my family."
Jones abruptly announced his resignation from the nation' fifth-largest school district Tuesday night to take care of his ailing mother in Dallas.
Jones said he planned to move back to Denver, where his wife will return to work as a public schoolteacher. The move, Jones said, would allow him to fly to Dallas on a regular basis to care for his mother, who has been ill for some time.
Asked why he didn't take a leave of absence, as afforded to him in his contract, or relocate his mother to Las Vegas or a myriad of other options, Jones said he considered them all.
"I get that folks will say, 'You could do this, you could do that,'" Jones said. "I certainly weighed all of those options … (but) I have to make a decision that's best for my family,"
Jones said he considered his family obligations and the demands of his position when he made his ultimate decision to leave the district, halfway into a four-year contract.
"Whether it's this job or my family, I do it 100 percent," Jones said. "Right now, my mother needs my full attention.
"(Being superintendent) isn't a part-time job," Jones continued. "The Clark County School district job is a difficult job, and the kids deserve our full attention and our best effort.
"I just didn't feel like I could take a leave of absence." Jones said. "And that's a personal decision and I'm asking the community to respect that decision. It was a difficult decision. I care deeply about this community and the children of his community."
Jones – who was hired in October 2010 – tendered his resignation Tuesday night but said he planned to stay on as superintendent until March 22 to ensure a smooth transition.
Jones' contract stipulates a 90-day notice before leaving the district; however, Jones said he asked School Board members to grant him an exemption because of his ailing mother.
Under his contract, Jones is entitled to receive all pay and benefits up until March 22. Jones receives a salary of $396,000, including benefits, according to TransparentNevada.com.
Jones said his greatest accomplishment during his two years in Las Vegas has been to create a "high sense of urgency" about the state of education in Nevada to spur community action. He didn't identify any specific "failures" from his tenure.
Jones, who doesn't have any immediate plans for employment while his mother is ill, said he was confident the School District would finish the reform efforts he has started. Jones added he believed the district was better off now than when he arrived two years ago.
"When you're reforming a school district, it's hard work. Sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back," Jones said. "I hope the community insists that the work moves forward. We have to expect more out of the system to deliver more for our kids."
Nevada leaders on Wednesday lamented Jones' decision to leave the district.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman called Jones' departure "a huge loss for our community."
"In his brief tenure with the School District, (Jones) has made huge strides to improve education in Southern Nevada," Goodman said in a statement. "We wish his mother a speedy and strong recovery."
Gov. Brian Sandoval said he spoke with Jones on Tuesday night, shortly after Jones announced his resignation. Sandoval had worked closely with Jones over the past two years on various reform efforts in Clark County and across the state.
"Dwight has been a reformer, a partner and a friend and while I am sad to see him leave the Clark County School District, there is nothing nobler than putting one's family ahead of one's career," Sandoval said in a statement. "Under Dwight’s leadership, graduation rates in Clark County rose, test scores improved and the district took steps toward more transparency and better accountability. I am confident that the school district will continue to improve the delivery of education for our state’s children and I wish Dwight and his family the very best."
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Jones made "huge strides to improve education in Southern Nevada," despite the "challenging economic times and deep state budget cuts in education."
Reid, who urged Nevada legislators three weeks ago to increase funding for public schools, added – with clarification from a spokeswoman – that "it is unfortunate that Nevada continues to lose leaders of Dwight’s caliber because of lack of (financial) support (to implement his reforms)."
Jones' resignation comes on the heels of another major superintendent departure last school year.
Heath Morrison, who was named a national superintendent of the year, left the Washoe County School District, the Silver State's second-largest district, to lead the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina.
Soon thereafter, Jones' then-deputy superintendent Pedro Martinez became Washoe County superintendent. Patrick Skorkowsky, a longtime Clark County school administrator, assumed Martinez's role in CCSD.
The Clark County School Board will meet March 14 to discuss plans to find Jones' successor. In a meeting this morning, the board declined to name any potential candidates it would consider.
The seven-member board, which has the authority to hire and fire superintendents, can choose to appoint an interim superintendent immediately or to hire a search firm to conduct a local or national search for a new superintendent. Last time the superintendent’s position was being filled, the board paid about $50,000 to a search firm.
If the board takes no action, Deputy Superintendent Skorkowsky will assume the role of acting superintendent on March 22.