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Close primary pits Henry, Morales against each other for school board

Updated October 7, 2020 - 9:28 am

The road ahead for the Clark County school board includes decisions about how to reopen schools and when, as well as how, to grapple with cuts to education funding and whether to renew the contract of Superintendent Jesus Jara.

Two candidates came within 200 votes of each other in the race for the North Las Vegas-area District C seat: Tameka Henry, chair of the HeadStart program; and Evelyn Garcia Morales, the executive director of the Fulfillment Fund of Las Vegas.

Tameka Henry

Henry is a parent to four children, including one who still attends the district’s schools. She’s also a product of CCSD and began working in educational advocacy in 2007, eventually climbing the ranks to chair the HeadStart early learning program.

“We’re constantly being reminded of the data that we’re 48th in the nation. We always hear about the negative things, but there are amazing students and programs and educators who don’t get highlighted enough,” Henry said. “The question is how do we replicate and duplicate those successes.”

Henry also sees positives in the fall semester of distance learning, including parents becoming more engaged in their students’ schooling.

Still, she said she understands that virtual learning has been challenging for some students and staff, who had to learn a brand-new platform in a limited amount of time.

She said she wants schools to reopen as safely as possible, with additional funding to provide COVID-19 tests.

“I know everyone is ready for schools to reopen, but we want to make sure we’re not walking into a situation where we have an outbreak and we have to close schools again,” Henry said.

The cuts to education passed by the state Legislature this summer were unfortunate, Henry said, adding that the priority should be diversifying the state’s revenue sources to fund education.

Of the contentious July 29 meeting on Superintendent Jesus Jara’s contract, Henry said she believes any decisions should be based on data, including the superintendent’s evaluations.

Ultimately, she said the board should keep its meetings focused on students.

Leading up to the November election, Henry said she’s making phone calls and continuing her grassroots engagement efforts, including canvassing her district about their food security and technology needs. She said she hopes voters remember that local races are critical.

“People forget about the races at the bottom of the ballot, but we are the decision makers locally,” Henry said.

Evelyn Garcia Morales

Morales is a CCSD alumna and says she believes she benefitted enormously from the district.

Through her work with the Fulfillment Fund, Morales has focused on expanding college opportunities to low-income and first-generation students — work that transitioned online during the pandemic, she said.

Distance learning has been a huge learning curve for both students and educators, Morales said, and continues now with students navigating their virtual classrooms and thousands more still in need of access to technology.

“(Staff) did everything they could to be ready on day one, and I know that was a Herculean task,” she said.

Morales said she supports to plan to re-evaluate reopening schools after 90 days, with a particular focus on health and safety for all.

She said any cuts to education — like the ones passed by the state Legislature this summer — are painful, and added that she hopes that in the future, dollars will follow students.

“We have to address student achievement in all of this and stay focused on that,” Morales said.

Of the meeting on the Jara’s contract, Morales said the role of the board is to set expectations to the superintendent and then hold the superintendent accountable — not unlike the way she holds people and work accountable now, she said. While it’s too early for her to say how she would vote on the superintendent’s contract next year, she said she believes she can bring conflict management skills to the board.

To engage voters and future constituents, Morales said she’s continuing to put herself out there as safely as possible. She said she hopes voters pick up on her track record of leadership and experience as somebody who could be ready to do the work of a trustee on day one.

Contact Aleksandra Appleton at 702-383-0218 or aappleton@reviewjournal.com. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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