The Mesquite City Council gave a homework assignment to all four school principals in the Virgin Valley. According to a consensus of all five councilmen at the Tuesday, May 8 meeting, Virgin Valley Elementary School (VVES) principal Kathy Davis passed with flying colors. Virgin Valley High School (VVHS) principal Cliff Hughes got a ‘B’ on the assignment. Principal Maury Perkins at Hughes Middle School (HMS) and Principal Chris Jenkins at Bowler Elementary School (BES) flunked.
Last fall local school officials, teachers, students and members of the Community Education Advisory Board (CEAB) descended upon a council meeting beseeching the elected officials to allocate to the schools thousands of dollars of marijuana tax money the city was receiving from local medical and recreational cannabis sales.
Only one person associated with any of the educational organizations in the valley attended the council meeting Tuesday night when the council was voting to approve distribution of the tax money: VVES Principal Davis.
While the councilors agreed in principle last fall to distribute some of the tax money, they asked the schools and the CEAB to provide them a list of projects, supplies, or activities the schools would use the money for as a means of accountability. The councilors were adamant that the money be targeted towards educational endeavors and not extracurricular activities like football or basketball teams.
CEAB was given a deadline of the first council meeting in February to provide the council a spending plan for $60,000 of tax money and a policy for distributing it to the four schools. The deadline passed without either.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the four schools submitted plans for spending the money on a pro rata share based on the number of students enrolled at each school.
VVES requested $16,175 to “provide 6 aides that could work with all students who are non-proficient readers on a consistent and regular basis. The aide assistance time would be used to provide progress monitoring and remediation of specific skills like letter and sound identification, phonics development, sight word practice, vocabulary development, etc. “ Principal Davis pegged the cost of six aides at $10.87 per hour for 248 hours.
All of the councilmen praised Davis for providing very detailed statistics about the demographics of the students at her school and how the money would directly benefit the academic progress of students.
Councilman Brian Wursten said “VVES put together a wonderful proposal. I really liked a lot of what the high school had in their proposal. I lean towards approving both of those right now. I don’t think the middle school had the vision of what we were looking for. I don’t think spending $10,000 for teachers to go to a drug intervention seminar in Logan, Utah, is what we wanted. We also weren’t looking to do landscaping at Bowler Elementary.”
All of the councilmen, at one point or another, agreed with Wursten with some minor variations.
The high school’s proposal included Chrome Book and Computer/Printer Repairs: $2500; FFA: $2500; Culinary: $2500; Choir: $2500; Scantron: $1000; Band $4500; Math Kuta software: $500; DECA: $330; and PE and CrossFit: $1000.
The Hughes Middle School proposal requested $10,000 for a drug prevention and leadership seminar at Utah State University for teachers; $2,362 for a 6th grade field trip to Hoover Dam; and $2,362 for a 7th grade field trip to Smith Center or other location in Las Vegas.
Bowler Elementary School requested $11,812 to “expand our outdoor garden area to include an outdoor classroom with seating and a whiteboard for classroom lessons. This will be a benefit to all students Pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade.”
Councilman Rich Green expressed his disappointment in the lack of oversight by the CEAB board in the process of reviewing all four requests and ensuring the schools’ requests met the board policy guidelines.
“I was hoping CEAB would understand what we were looking for and screen these requests,” Green said. “They missed the message too. Perhaps the discussion tonight will guide the CEAB to what we are looking for. None of us up here want to micromanage this program. My advice is for the CEAB to take heed of how the VVES proposal was done and encourage the others to follow the example. The CEAB should not send these proposals to us unless they meet the guidelines.”
The council voted 5-0 to fully approve the VVES and VVHS proposals and immediately award the funds. Additionally, the motion directed the HMS and BES proposals not be approved, returned to the schools and have them immediately submit new proposals so their portion of the money can be distributed by June 30.