The Nevada Department of Education released CCSD's graduation rate for the Class of 2017 and it is a record 82.71 percent. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your contributions to this milestone!
Our district is filled with outstanding achievements and gains that our entire community can be proud of.
One of the moments that results in tremendous pride for me is when the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announces the list of National Blue Ribbon Schools each year. Being selected as a Blue Ribbon Schools is one of the most prestigious awards that a school can receive. Each year, the DOE only selects about 300-350 schools to receive this designation and that includes all schools in the United States – public and private.
This year, only 342 schools were selected nationally and we are thrilled to learn that two of our schools, Sandra Lee Thompson and Shirley and Bill Wallin Elementary Schools, were named Blue Ribbon Schools.
To the staff members at these schools, I congratulate you on achieving this distinction and I commend you for your hard work in helping students achieve. To the parents, I thank you for being part of the team that helps our students grow and learn. I would also like to thank our many community supporters for their assistance in providing donations and volunteering time in our schools.
This year marks the ninth consecutive year that CCSD has had at least one school selected and it marks the 26th time a CCSD school has been named a Blue Ribbon School.
These are challenging times, but with the combined efforts of our staff, parents and community, we can all work to continue to help increase student achievement and celebrate even more Blue Ribbon Schools of excellence.
Like most of you, I did not sleep much on Sunday night due to the tragic events that happened on the Strip.
But I am proud and thankful of our CCSD community for stepping up to help our town in the time of need, including counselors, nurses and psychologists who volunteered or will volunteer their services.
Click here to watch a message from Board of School Trustees President Deanna L. Wright and myself.
In the past five days, I had the opportunity to visit three of the schools that I worked in during my time with CCSD. Visiting each of these schools brought back so many memories, including stories of families, students, teachers and former principals. Click here to view the photos!
It was exciting to drive up to C.C. Ronnow Elementary School to visit the school where my career began 29 years ago. As I walked the building with Principal Chris Popek and Assistant Principal Michelee Crawford, I talked about the rooms I taught in and interacted with amazing staff and students. It was great to talk with first-grade teachers who were collaborating on math standards and pacing with their Math Learning Strategist. I also participated in a roundtable discussion with many fifth-grade students who had prepared many great questions. It forced me to really think about the past and the future at the same time. I sat with Principal Popek and talked about the SB 178 funds that he received from the legislative session. Our future is bright because we have amazing students like those fifth-graders at C.C. Ronnow.
Driving up Stewart Avenue to visit Kirk Adams Elementary School, I couldn’t help but notice how much of the open land that was there in 1991 was filled in with homes and apartments. It reminded me of the growth of the valley since 1988. Principal Mark Connors was waiting in the front of the school, and as I got out of my car, a parent drove past him and handed him a cup of coffee from a coffee shop. It made me appreciate how our schools and their employees are part of our community neighborhoods.
As I walked into the school, I felt the nostalgia sweeping over me. This was a school that I opened as a teacher. We weren’t able to move into the building until the Sunday before school started and we had so many of our teachers and families cleaning the building and setting up classrooms so we could start school the next day. In the conference room, Mr. Connors had a present for me, a quilt that my students, a grandparent and I made together as a class in 1991. We were teaching about families and traditions and each student used mathematical shapes to create their own quilt square. What a thoughtful gesture to help remind me of my time as an “All-Star!”
Doris French celebrated its 40th anniversary on Sept. 23. The event began with a welcome by the current Principal Tammy Villarreal-Crabb who also introduced a video of Lamar Terry, the first principal of Doris French. He talked about many of the programs he started. As the program went on, I looked around the room to see the current students, parents and community members, but what made me the happiest was seeing the numerous teachers with whom I worked during my five years as principal. We laughed and told stories of events that happened while we were there. We couldn’t believe that “Dynamite Dolphins” was started when the school opened and is still a tradition each Friday morning, and we celebrated how much we enjoyed our time at French. It was a true celebration of the rich heritage of not only Doris French, but of many of our schools across the valley.
Many of our employees in CCSD have the same rich history with schools in our district. As time passes, we often forget the little memories of our assignments. It is powerful to go back and remember the best parts of our past while working hard to make the future even brighter!
School rivalries can produce excitement and healthy competition. The excitement of the crowd on a Friday night builds team camaraderie and produces excitement with a rush of school pride for many of our student athletes. But our actions must always be guided, first and foremost, by safety and respect.
Maintaining school environments, both inside and outside the classroom, based on respect and good character is necessary for the overall success of our students and the community. A recent incident involving two CCSD high school football teams serves as a reminder that we must encourage positive sportsmanship. It is the responsibility of all involved to ensure students understand that they can enjoy themselves while conducting themselves honorably.
High school is about building a positive foundation for success, while having some fun along the way. Extracurricular activities are a great way to meet new friends, gain valuable skills and create great memories. Whether events take place on or off-campus, students are an extension of their school and should take pride in their role as ambassadors for the sport and community.
Healthy competition is great, but physical violence is never okay. Students who resort to physical violence are subject to disciplinary action, and teams can also be penalized with forfeiture.
Let's all remember to be safe and just have fun.
Last week, I spent time on the phone with Mr. Richard Carranza, former principal of Eldorado High School and current Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District. We talked about what he needed to open school on Sept. 11, 2017 after Hurricane Harvey.
As we talked, he noted that there was damage to some of his schools, but most importantly, that there were schools that were used as shelters. Many student families were displaced, as well as numerous employee families. He shared that there were many organizations that offered assistance, while using schools as distribution sites for supplies.
It brought to mind that schools are still centers of the community. We are constantly asked to use our schools as shelters when there are neighborhood issues. When flash floods, fires or situations that threaten the safety of people in their homes occur, we get a call. We willingly open our schools to ensure the safety of the community and provide temporary shelter to those in need.
That is the true meaning of community, people coming together to assist when there is a need. People from all over the world, including our schools and members of our community, provided goods or services to those in need after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. We step up when needed.
We must remember that the strength of our community is the willingness to help those in need. Let us continue to be a community that supports each other.
The recent events that happened in Charlottesville are difficult to process for all of us, including our students.
We encourage all educators to be culturally responsive at all times, and now is an especially important time to help your students be respectful of each other.
We have so many resources to support teachers in this effort through our Equity and Diversity Department.
Watch my discussion with CCSD's Chief Instructional Officer Greta Peay and Interim Director of Equity and Diversity Education Department Billie Rayford about the resources that are available to teachers.
What a great first day of school! I was particularly proud that 94 percent of bus routes ran on time, and we opened six new elementary schools and two replacement schools that were in great shape and ready to serve students. I want to share a video with you of comments I made a few weeks ago to our kickoff of administrators and teacher leaders. It's a fun look at our reorganization efforts and the progress we've made. Throughout this year let's remember that we might face some difficult challenges but, working together, we can ensure the success of every student in every classroom without exceptions, without excuses. I hope you enjoy the video and have a fantastic first week of school!
To all Clark County School District teachers and staff:
Thank you for another outstanding school year full of student accolades and staff accomplishments.
Please click here for a video message from myself and the Board of School Trustees.
Last week, I was able to visit the T.E.A.C.H. Academy at Clark High School to sit and talk with the juniors and seniors in the program. T.E.A.C.H. stands for Teacher Education Academy at Clark High.
These bright young women and men are on the path to entering college and becoming teachers. As I walked into the classroom, I realized that this was going to be different than most visits. The students were not only eager to talk, they had prepared numerous questions to learn more about me, my path to this position and various other topics that will impact their futures.
Let me be clear, this was probably the second most difficult interview I have participated in since I became superintendent. (The most difficult, by far, was with a class of fourth-grade students at Kay Carl Elementary School. This includes the numerous media interviews I have done over the years!) These students asked typical questions: Why did you go into teaching? What advice do you have for new teachers? Etc.
The questions that really required me to think deeply prior to answering included what did I believe teachers need to know before going into the classroom, why teachers are not looked upon more favorably in the community and what were my thoughts on school choice. These students were well prepared for the time with me and showed me what great future teachers we have in our own schools.
As I pondered the answer to what teachers needed to know, I had a flashback to having to write my personal philosophy of teaching when I was a senior in college. I truly wish I could locate that document (it was typed on a typewriter) and see how naïve I truly was before my first year of teaching. I am sure that it had all the right words and phrases and reflected the latest teaching philosophy. But it couldn’t have had the real philosophy that our fantastic teachers live by on a daily basis.
As I left the classroom at Clark High School, I shared with the students that I would be writing about this in my blog. They are the future of teaching in Clark County School District and when they are hired into our schools, they will make a significant difference (and Clark T.E.A.C.H. students – the job offer still is real) in our schools with students who are not much different than they are today. The major difference is that the passion they feel for teaching will ensure success for the students they will teach.
If I had to rewrite my personal philosophy today, it would come down to two quotes. One is the quote I have used for several years, “Every student in every classroom, without exceptions, without excuses.” The second is a quote from James Baldwin, “For these are our children, we will profit by or pay for whatever they become.”
A special thank you goes out to the staff at the T.E.A.C.H. Academy and Jill Pendleton, the principal at Clark High School. You are not only preparing our students for the future, you are preparing the teachers for our future students.