May 15, 2022 - 9:49 am
Seven candidates will run for a seat representing District G on the Clark County School District Board of Trustees, encompassing the east valley.
District G has 48 schools serving approximately 41,000 students, according to numbers from the district.
Incumbent Linda Cavazos, who was elected in 2018, is running against six challengers, including two parents and a retired administrator.
The school board race is nonpartisan and open to all voters. The two candidates with the most votes will advance to the general election in November, unless one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, in which case that person will be elected outright.
Cavazos was first appointed to the board in 2017 and was elected to her first four-year term in 2018. She’s lived in the district she represents for more than 30 years, the same district where her children went to school.
“I’ve had a very diverse experience as a parent, as an educator.” she said. “I know the neighborhoods, I know the different needs of the schools, and I just felt that I really had some really good experience to offer.
A former district teacher who taught at Basic High School for 15 years, Cavazos now runs a private counseling practice. She says she is running for re-election armed with the knowledge of the role of trustee, as opposed to the superintendent.
“We only have one employee, that’s the superintendent,” she said. “We have to be able to exercise informed oversight over the budget and over what the superintendent does operationally. We have to be given that information.”
Cavazos was one of three board members who voted to fire Jara as superintendent and vote against reinstating him.
“It’s part of our job to support the superintendent, he is our employee,” she said. “But just like in any other business, if you feel that there is somewhere where maybe it’s not a good path forward for the good of the students in the district, our job is to work toward higher achievement for our students.”
Cavazos is running on a platform of raising student achievement, addressing the holistic needs of each child and improving the culture at each school.
“If we do not take care of our educators, our children are not going to rise to a higher level of literacy and achievement,” she said. “If they’re falling off the cliff, and they are, then the kids are going to be following off the cliff.”
On the issue of school safety, Cavazos said the district has been too reactive when situations arise, as opposed to being more proactive about preventing violence. Cavazos also said she believes restorative justice could still be meaningfully implemented in the district — if it’s done correctly — but that it shouldn’t be held up as a scapegoat for the outbreak of school violence currently occurring in the district.
In the next four years, Cavazos says she hopes to see the board become a highly functioning, cohesive body.
“As an elected official, we do not represent the other trustees, we do not represent the superintendent,” she said. “We represent our constituents who elected us, and we have to find a way to keep that communication going.”
John Carlo has lived in Las Vegas since 2018 when he says he was called by God to be a minister at the Las Vegas Japanese Community Church.
A fixture at school board meetings over the past year, Carlo says he is running for the seat in order to lead children and schools away from being “Sin City.”
“We can’t live in that shadow anymore,” he said. “We’ve got to bring our kids out of that and show them that there’s something better.”
Carlo said he is running to show more appreciation for teachers, to improve school safety and to overhaul the curriculum used in the district. “Our education should not be politically motivated. Math should not be politically motivated. They are now coming up with math that is social justice math,” Carlo said.
Carlo said he wasn’t sure if the curriculum he was referencing was being used in Clark County.
Carlo also said the district was failing when it came to addressing the issue of school safety.
“When we say restorative justice, it sounds good. I believe in justice. That’s a founding principle of our country and a founding principle and fundamental of who God is,” he said. “But I believe that the communist agenda has become more radical in attacking our freedoms … I believe in disciplining these children, that’s what I believe. Disciplining them with love.”
Carlo said he did not support Jara after he reached out to the superintendent several times to meet and talk about different issues, only to be ignored. Carlo said he had not seen anything from Jara that would earn a vote from him to renew the superintendent’s contract in January.
Carlo referenced the $2 million Jara sought from the district last fall to settle accusations of a hostile work environment, retaliation, breach of contract and violation of due process. “Trying to take money away from the school district when that money could be going to the kids, that money could be going to teachers … that does not merit my grace,” Carlo said.
Ultimately, Carlo said he would be a board member who listens to the community.
“If I can’t do anything else, I will listen,” he said. “That’s where the power and the strength lies, is with the community and what they want.”
Kenneth ‘KC’ Freels
District parent and IT specialist Kenneth “KC” Freels said he is running for school board because there is a crisis of quality in the district. “We want better for our kids,” he said.
Freels, who moved to Las Vegas in 2018, said his primary motivation in running is his 7-year-old son, who struggled as he entered kindergarten in isolation during the pandemic.
Freels decided to run after seeing safety in district schools decline over the past year. “There has to be reason and order,” he said. “We have to have order in the classrooms, because if the classrooms aren’t safe, the kids can’t learn.”
Freels said the violence is not occurring in a vacuum and the district should partner with school district police and Child Protective Services to try to investigate the root cause of what’s driving the spike in violence.
He said the best disciplinary approach for students lies somewhere between the restorative justice policies that weren’t meaningfully implemented in the district and a zero-tolerance discipline policy.
“We’ve got to be reasonable; we’ve got to look at every case individually,” he said. “We can’t just apply this zero tolerance, and we can’t just say, ‘Well they’ll be better next time.’ Neither of those are answers.”
Freels called the literacy and math scores in the district unacceptable and said the recent exodus of classified staff was a direct reflection of Jara’s leadership.
“They’re leaving because they don’t like the job anymore, because they don’t feel safe, and because the administration is giving them garbage instructions to work with,” he said.
Freels also said there was a crisis of leadership in the district and called attention to the bickering and lack of decisiveness on the board. “I think the board could use some dad energy,” he said. “There’s no men on the board, and that’s not very diverse.”
Ultimately, Freels says his main priority is to ensure that kids feel safe at school, parents feel safe sending their children to school and for teachers and staff to feel safe going to work.
“We wonder why only a third of our kids can do math at grade level? Maybe it’s because two-thirds of them are just scared,” he said. “If we’re not providing safety, it’s no surprise we can’t teach them to read.”
A retired electrician who has lived in Vegas for the past 30 years, Dominick Giovanni decided to run for office after attending meetings with fellow conservatives who were concerned with what was going on in the school system.
“I feel I could do some good with the knowledge I have about how schools have changed since I was in them,” he said.
Giovanni, who attended a vocational trade school to become an electrician, said schools had gone “off the rails” when it came to what they were teaching students. Kids are not coming out of schools prepared to go into the workplace, he said.
Giovanni said the district had done a poor job of handling the issue of school safety. He said he’d like to see the school district implement more sports or extracurricular programs to bring students together and bridge the divide between them.
He also wants to see more school monitor positions created and filled so that more adults are keeping an eye on what is happening in between classes and in the hallways, similar to the Dads in Schools program that was recently approved by the district.
Giovanni said he doesn’t fully support Jara and wouldn’t give him a passing grade. He called the superintendent’s ouster and subsequent rehiring a bad look for the school district. “I think there really should be some more thought to what goes on there,” he said. “That should never have happened.”
He favors more of a zero-tolerance disciplinary policy. “If you can’t function in a school society, you shouldn’t really be there,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you don’t get an education.”
Giovanni said the main priority of his campaign would be to set up a vocational school for students who don’t plan to go to college.
“When they get out, they have a trade that they can use to make a good living,” he said. “I made a very good living with mine.”
Adam A. LaRosa
Adam LaRosa says he was inspired to run for school board after seeing how COVID-19 was utilized against the citizenry to unilaterally shut down schools, despite leaders knowing full well that children were least affected by the virus.
“That was wrong,” LaRosa said. “The writing was on the wall that we just have the wrong people representing us on a local level.”
LaRosa moved to Las Vegas in 1994 and was in one of the first classes of students to go to the new Las Vegas High School. A retired trade show foreman who is currently homeschooling his children, LaRosa said he is running because he has the time to focus all of his energy toward what he believes is wrong with the system.
He said there is no transparency on the current board of trustees, and there is little interaction between trustees and the community in an attempt to understand where constituents are coming from. He called the current board inefficient and said there was too much bureaucracy on the board.
“We’re not dumb,” LaRosa said. “At least take the time to answer questions and find out what the community is up in arms about. It just seems like they don’t care. That’s an inherent problem.”
On the issue of school violence, LaRosa said the best way to address it is to build up more community functions and have curriculum in the district that is community-oriented. “Where are the morals within our society?” LaRosa asked. “We have become so disconnected as a community that we’re not even treating each other like neighbors.”
He said he doesn’t support the idea of restorative justice and called the premise “completely off the mark.”
LaRosa said Jara was a direct reflection of the board and that it was using him as a scapegoat. “If he was in any other job field and he was an insubordinate worker, he would be removed,” LaRosa said. “I believe that the board didn’t find that, which is why he was reinstated.”
He said his main priority in the district would be to improve the literacy rate and develop a curriculum that children throughout the district would get the most benefit from.
“The kids have so much potential, and they are the next generation,” he said. “All children deserve the best possibilities available by the public.”
A longtime former educator, Greg Wieman says he is hurt by mistakes being made in the district.
“I know we can do better,” he said. “I don’t want to run the district, but I want to make sure that district leadership runs it appropriately or we get somebody who will run it appropriately.
Wieman was a teacher for 21 years and an administrator for 17 years in Michigan, Colorado and Nevada, including his time as a district superintendent in Eureka.
Despite being retired, Wieman said he considered going back to teach in the district because of the yearslong teacher shortage the district is currently facing. “I don’t need a job; I don’t want a job,” Wieman said. “This would not be for the money.”
He is running on a platform of improving student outcomes but said every issue comes second to addressing the crisis of school safety. Wieman called the district’s failure to address safety issues an “embarrassment.”
“Nothing good is going to happen until we get control of the educational environment in every building,” he said. “You’re talking about physical, mental, emotional safety for every individual in the building: students, teachers, staff, even administrators.”
Related to discipline, Wieman said there may be district policies that are inappropriate, ineffective and limit teachers’ management of their classrooms.
The implementation of restorative justice clearly hasn’t worked, otherwise the district wouldn’t be in its current situation, he said.
“Everybody should have been trained a long time ago,” Wieman said. “Educators get what they accept. If you accept aggressive, bullying behavior, inappropriate behavior, non-achieving behavior from day one, that’s what you’re going to get.”
Of the board’s dynamic over the past two years, Wieman said board members don’t understand aspects of governance like the budget, contract negotiations, collective bargaining with teachers, or curriculum instruction.
“We need better oversight,” he said. “I understand those things … that’s part of being successful in education. You find those people who are good resources within your building, within the district and you combine forces.”
Charles R. “Chuck” Summers, a 46-year resident whose wife has been a Clark County teacher for 50 years, didn’t return calls for comment. But in information submitted to the Review-Journal for an online voter guide, he said did not support reinstating Jara and that he supports replacing the superintendent, along with some board members.