The Mesquite City Council heard its quarterly update about the status of schools in the valley from Grant Hanevold, Associate Superintendent of Clark County School District, at its Tuesday, Nov. 13, meeting.
Just prior to the meeting, City Clerk Tracy Beck presented the results of the local city council general election, making it official that Annie Black, George Gault and Sandra Ramaker won their respective seats on the council. The new councilors will be sworn into office at the next council meeting on Nov. 27.
Hanevold updated the council about the drinking water problem at the Hughes Middle School that made the water undrinkable saying that repairs had been made. He said the health department had tested the water and students were now able to drink it. “It was a lengthy process,” Hanevold said about the repairs.
He also said that local Mesquite residents Dr. Ann Rice and Jim Wilson were recently honored by the CCSD Community Partnership office with a Blue-Ribbon award. The honor recognized Rice and Wilson for their philanthropy with hundreds of thousands of dollars committed to the local Virgin Valley schools. “The community of Mesquite should be very proud to have these two people as members because they are doing great things for the schools in Mesquite and Moapa Valley,” Hanevold said.
Hanevold gave a demographic make-up of the four schools in the area with a total enrollment of approximately 2,500 students.
Two schools, Virgin Valley Elementary and Virgin Valley High, received a four-star ranking according to state standards. It’s the first time any school in the area had received that high of a rank. “We’re very proud of these two schools,” he said.
Hughes Middle School earned the four-star status but because a couple sub-groups of students did not meet the state standards the school was capped at the three-star status.
J.L. Bowler Elementary School received a one-star status according to state standards. It missed the two-star mark by one point. “We know we have work to do. Our kids are better than that. We have some very specific school ideas that we are sharing with the staff,” Hanevold said.
Councilman George Rapson questioned Hanevold about the discrepancy between the high school’s 44 percent academic achievement and a 96 percent graduation rate. “Does that mean that if you’re breathing, you graduate,” Rapson asked.
Hanevold explained that the achievement rate includes students in grades 9, 10 and 11 who are not performing to standards and reduces the scores. He added that “when students come into the high school, there’s work to be done. The graduation rate shows that the school is doing that work.”
The continuing issue of per pupil, per school funding arose again when Councilman Brian Wursten asked Hanevold about the loss of money rural schools in Mesquite have experienced. Hanevold responded that he thinks there is an effort to push more money into the schools rather than hold a significant amount of it at the district level. However, a large part of funding, Wursten claimed it was 25 percent, is withheld by the district to pay for non-academic maintenance and operations.
Hanevold contended that school principals should concentrate on academic issues rather than maintenance. Principals are “experts at teaching and learning. They are not experts at something others should be doing who have that expertise,” he said.
Councilman Geno Withelder continued his line of questioning over the past year, once again asking where the money is from state-wide marijuana sales that was supposed to be given to schools. Hanevold once again said he had no idea nor did anyone else.
City Attorney Bob Sweetin said the enabling marijuana sales legislation was changed at the last minute and the provision for any sales tax receipts going to schools was deleted.