By Jackie Valley

Nevada Independent

The first town hall meeting regarding the hunt for the Clark County School District’s next superintendent started rather inauspiciously Tuesday evening.

The search firm associate moderating the event asked attendees to describe the significant strengths of the nation’s fifth-largest school district. The question was supposed to lay the groundwork for a conversation that would help mold the forthcoming candidate profile — or, in other words, the qualities and characteristics being sought in the next leader.

Instead, silence ensued. Robert Mata, who works for Ray and Associates, the Iowa-based search firm hired by the district, prodded for a response.

“Any thoughts?” he said. “Obviously this is a wonderful, terrific school district.”

A young woman named Deborah Gruner — a graduate of Clark High School, where the event was held — stood up and headed to the podium. Her perception of a strength: “It’s very united and very diverse,” she said.

The response kicked off another hour of commentary from the roughly dozen community members who attended the town hall, which ended a half hour earlier than planned. It was the first of five town halls scheduled this week as an opportunity for the community to get involved in the search process. The meager turnout wasn’t wholly unexpected: Search firm officials had warned the School Board of Trustees that online surveys typically draw a better response.

Still, trustees deemed community input a vital part of the search for a new superintendent — a position some have called one of the most important jobs in Nevada. The board will choose a successor for Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, who’s retiring in June.

The attendees described the ideal next superintendent as a team player who focuses on student achievement, engages with the community, invests in teacher development, addresses the district’s budget woes and is committed to the job beyond just a short stint.

Gruner said one of her teachers spent hours after school helping her with algebra. She’d like to see the new district leader recognize the importance of educators who go above and beyond to ensure their students’ success.

“Teachers are and should always be the most important inside of the school,” she said. “When the teachers are the priority, then the students are the priority.”

Yvette Bell, whose four grandchildren attend school in the district, said the next superintendent should figure out what’s working well at schools here and across the country and model those practices.

“It’s always OK to ask questions and ask for help,” she said.

The district’s recent struggles — both financially and organizationally — also didn’t go unnoticed during the town hall.

Duncan Lee, who’s on the board of the Council for a Better Nevada, fears the district’s budget isn’t growing to meet its needs, so he said the next superintendent must either figure out how to operate more efficiently or find more money. On top of that, he said the district needs someone who is committed to the reorganization effort that’s underway.

“The community as a whole really cares about students,” he said. “I think we’re in it as a whole. We just have to move that needle.”

The district is also collecting input via an online survey available in English and Spanish. The four remaining town halls will be at the following times and locations:

Wednesday, Jan. 24

3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Veterans Tribute Career and Technical Academy Gym

2531 Vegas Drive

Las Vegas, NV 89106


Thursday, Jan. 25

10 a.m. to noon

Northwest Career and Technical Academy Banquet Facility

8200 W. Tropical Parkway

Las Vegas, NV 89149


Friday, Jan. 26

1 p.m. to  3 p.m.

Southwest Career and Technical Academy Coyote Ballroom

7050 W. Shelbourne Ave.

Las Vegas, NV 89113


Saturday, Jan. 27

10 a.m. to noon

Silverado College Preparatory and Career Technical High School Gym

1650 Silver Hawk Ave.

Las Vegas, NV 89123