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July 22, 2014

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Education:

School District on the hook to pay for conference the board didn’t know about

CCSD is investigating former principal of Sunrise Mountain High School

A former principal is under investigation and taxpayers are on the hook for up to $100,000 because a local high school failed to raise enough money to host a national conference for student councils.

In spring 2012, apparently unbeknownst to the Clark County School District leadership, Sunrise Mountain High School agreed to host the 2013 national conference for the National Association of Student Councils.

More than 900 student council advisers and members from across the country are expected to attend the leadership conference June 22-24.

To host the conference, Sunrise Mountain entered into a contract with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, which oversees the student council program. The national principals organization agreed to fund about $78,500, and Sunrise Mountain agreed to raise money to cover the remaining $100,000.

Sunrise Mountain, and ultimately the School District, is responsible for costs associated with facility and classroom usage as well as meals and transportation for the students, according to the contract.

Until about a month ago, the School District's central office was unaware that Sunrise Mountain had promised to host the conference, spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said. The former principal and administration of Sunrise Mountain failed to notify the proper central office staff, she said.

The northeast valley school had a year to prepare for the conference. Now, the School District is scrambling to help Sunrise Mountain organize it — as well as find the money to host the event.

To honor Sunrise Mountain's contract, the School Board last week unanimously approved emergency funding of up to $100,000 from the district's general fund.

President Carolyn Edwards, visibly upset, said she expects the conference will end up costing the district no more than $50,000. The board approved double the projected cost to account for possible cost overruns.

"The way in which the agreement to host this organization was done in error," Edwards said Thursday. "As a trustee, that's unacceptable to me. It needs to never happen again.

Click to enlarge photo

Clark County School Board President Carolyn Edwards, left, and Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky answer questions from media.

"It's an expenditure that came about in all the wrong ways."

Newly appointed Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky acknowledged that district policy was not followed.

"We are investigating this situation," he said.

The School District is investigating John Barlow, the former principal of Sunrise Mountain High School.

In February, the School District announced Sunrise Mountain as its newest "turnaround" high school, targeted for an administrative and leadership overhaul because of its low test scores.

The district had been considering Sunrise Mountain for its turnaround program for several months, reviewing student data and conducting staff interviews since at least early December.

By mid-March, Barlow was reassigned from Sunrise Mountain principal to a position in the district's central office. Moapa Valley High School Principal Grant Hanevold became Sunrise Mountain's new principal.

Apparently during this turnaround and leadership transition, Barlow may have failed to notify the district about Sunrise Mountain's contract to host the conference.

"It's very likely (that is what happened)," said Fulkerson, who declined to name the former Sunrise Mountain principal because the investigation was a "personnel matter."

Barlow was not available for comment Friday.

Although School District leaders said they were not notified until about a month ago that one of its schools was hosting a national conference, many school districts across the country are aware that Las Vegas is hosting this year's event for student councils.

The National Association of School Councils has been actively promoting the Las Vegas conference on its website and social media accounts since at least September. More than 100 people on Facebook from across the country, including several Sunrise Mountain students and staff, have said they are attending the conference.

Schools regularly enter into contracts with outside entities, sometimes without district knowledge beforehand, Fulkerson said. In most cases, district policy is followed and the central office is notified of these contracts, she said.

Most recently, Foothill High School's marching band agreed to march in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Henderson school must raise about $500,000 over the next 18 months to send its marching band to New York City in November 2014.

Despite having less than a month to prepare for the conference, School District officials said they hope to uphold Sunrise Mountain's contract and ensure a successful event.

"We're going to show these kids a fantastic conference," Fulkerson said. "We're moving forward so we can pull it off in true Vegas style."

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  1. Good Heavens! It will be interesting to hear HOW this all came about. With all the meetings, plus the activities driven by the Jones administration, and the election cycle, plus new support staff at a new school, it would be easy for notifications to get lost in the paperwork shuffle, I suppose.

    Sunrise Mountain High School is fairly new school, located on the side of the mountain with breath-taking views of the Las Vegas Valley. At one time, this area was an early version of the west side's Summerlin, with the more affluent residing here. Now, there are pockets of high-end custom homes and ranches that have been encroached by high density and Section 8 housing, which has really driven the area down in many ways. What was the Planning Commission thinking?

    It comes as no surprise that this beautiful new high school became a "turnaround" school, not so much because of staffing, but because of the growing criminal element's presence, as evidenced with the weekly Crime Reports in the newspaper. Ask local merchants about the chronic problems they have with this particular population. Metro has maintained a presence and thankfully has kept things in check, to where one still feels safe enough so families and individuals are able to go shopping and go visit the parks without much worry or concern now.

    It is a pleasant area with many nice people there, and those who visit Sunrise Mountain High School will have a wonderful place to not only have a conference, but go for a nice picnic lunch and enjoy the view of all that makes Las Vegas so very special.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  2. Comment removed by moderator. Inappropriate

  3. First, what are the actual benefits of hosting the national conference for the National Association of Student Councils....whatever the heck that is.

    Second, who's going to be fired over this?

    There seems to be no accountability in government anymore.

  4. The guy wearing a paper hat managing the Sonic can't sign contracts that are binding to the company.
    How is it possible that a school principal can do this for a $100,000 commitment from the tax payers?
    Finally what National High School Student trip in their right minds would want to come to Vegas?
    Is it because Vegas is a Paragon of education?

  5. @ staralioflundnv (Star Ali Mistriel-Kogan)

    Other than simply tossing out building permits to fuel their never-ending thirst for tax revenue, the Planning Commission isn't at fault.

    Section 8 housing? You can blame that on the investors that continue to buy the foreclosed properties and fill them with welfare renters.

    But hey, the median home price is going up, so who cares about the quality of life in the neighborhoods, right?