TUESDAY TIDBITS for 12/10/19

Rael reassigned

Less than 24 hours after Clark HS principal Antonio Rael sent a letter to that school community explaining a litany of changes in response to public complaints, he is no longer leading Clark HS.

Late today, we learned that Rael, along with assistant principal Christina Bentheim, were reassigned to the home, according to a District spokesman to FOX-5. Details are still sketchy at this hour.

The leadership switch came after parents and students protested operational changes during last week’s Board of Trustees meeting (see https://clarkcountyschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2019/12/09/clark-parents-make-complaints-at-trustee-meeting-principal-responds/). 🍎

Bracken parents plan revolt

Inspired by a large group of parents from Clark HS who publicly aired complaints last week, an organized group from Walter Bracken STEAM Academy are prepared to do the same thing at this week’s CCSD Board of Trustees meeting.

Bracken, located near Eastern and Washington, has a new principal, Stanica Stretenovic, who was a former AP at Gehring ES. But it appears a highly organized parents group is objecting to a number of changes school officials are instituting.

This from a Facebook group yesterday:

Clark County School Watch reached out to school officials for comments, we’ll let you know if they respond. 🍎

Jesus looked to the Sun

Reflecting on an okay evaluation last week (not bad, but not great), Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara wrote an op-ed for the Las Vegas Sun this past Sunday.

“We should acknowledge the hardships, but we should not forget to celebrate all we have accomplished thus far,” Dr. Jara said. 🍎

UNLV sponsored a teacher forum–where were the teachers?

Detect a pattern? Noticing I’m calling folks out?

Especially UNLV’s College of Education, after I participated some months ago in some in-person surveys about retention of black teachers.

Yesterday, they sponsored a “summit” on Nevada Education. Held during a work day while educators were educating. They acknowledged we do have a problem with teacher retention and thousands of kids statewide are being taught by subs. Did they talk about funding? Did they talk about how to get more funding? Did they talk about CCEA’s plan to lobby for $1 billion in funding?

UNLV’s College of Education only took in 100 new students this semester. There are 800 CCSD teaching vacancies. You do the math.

When you have teachers participating in conversations about teachers, an amazing dynamic occurs. Folks oughta try it sometime.🍎

E.C. 😉

Clark parents make complaints at Trustee meeting, principal responds

Parent groups aligned with the magnet program at Clark HS took a series of complaints to the CCSD Board of Trustees meeting this past Thursday during public comments.

The parents vociferously charged that principal Antonio Rael was making “unnecessary changes in rules and policy.” Some parents even publicly demanded his resignation.

Parents expressed their frustration to board members, alleging that counselors and even some administrators were already planning their exits from Clark.

Clark’s magnet programs include a STEM offering, a teacher education academy and a finance academy.

Rael was appointed principal of Clark earlier this year following the departure of Jill Pendleton. Before serving as a one time area superintendent, Rael was a former principal of Mojave HS.

There are many facets to this developing story.

1. Student achievement

2. Allegations of body shaming

3. Allegations of Rael’s interactions and activities while previously serving as Area Superintendent prior to his current principalship at Clark.

4. Clark’s SOT not consulted on Rael’s appointment

First, student achievement.

It appears likely that Rael was trying to iron out disparities between zoned and magnet students and that action may have somehow come to a head.

ACT data shows that the comprehensive students were only at 8 percent math proficiency compared to 83 percent for the magnet students. He may have been trying to improve the equity at Clark for the 2,400 students that are in the magnet program.

Body shaming briefly came into focus. Parents and students objected to Rael “policing girls bodies” and routinely calling them “baby” and “princess.” Parents objected to language used while advertising an upcoming dance.

Rael was a former area superintendent. One teacher sent this to Clark County School Watch over the weekend: “Stanford Elementary was 5 stars. Then principal [Ryan] Merritt took over. And Stanford Elementary has been low performing ever since. Under the direction of Rael.”

And then the issue of the SOT not being consulted.

This comment from a Facebook forum: “School SOTs should be allowed to interview and make strong recommendations for new principal positions. The district is making a habit of just placing them themselves instead. That goes against the intention of the teamwork approach AB 469 was designed to create. By just placing Rael at Clark, bypassing the SOT process that started this whole mess. They did the same thing at my last school and it really hurts the climate.”

Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara planned on sending staff to the school today to interview students and teachers.

Late this afternoon, Rael sent CCSW a copy of a letter sent out today to the Clark Community addressing the allegations and complaints without further comment.

E.C. 😉

SCHOOL SHOWCASE: Cram MS Gives Case Study in Restorative Justice

(ALIANTE)–Brian and Teri Cram would be proud.

Folks once referred to Cram MS as the Crown Jewel of North Las Vegas.

Sitting on the south end of Aliante anchoring Upper North Las Vegas, what exactly makes it the crown Jewel?

Is it the recent rebranding as Cram Academy of Technology and the Arts? Is it the new technology and fine arts offerings? Or is it the new Student Success Center that offers a new approach to discipline incorporating restorative justice principles?

Or maybe all of the above?

On a walk-and-talk field trip to Cram last week, Principal Gary Bugash showed Clark County School Watch his 8th grade class, who, on this rainy morning, was taking a panoramic class picture. All 565 of them.

“This is what Las Vegas really is,” Bugash said, proudly.

This coming February will start his seventh year at Cram, a 4-star school. And even that, these days, is rare.

“It’s hard to find principals who are in their buildings for more than two or three years. The lack of consistency is hurting us,” Bugash explained.

He’s been in the District for 22 years with previous stints at Monaco MS and Fremont MS.

What makes Cram different?

“No cell phones,” Bugash said, firmly. “Literally, we’ve had to take them. Now, it’s a cultural norm.”

And even though his school has been rebranded as a technology academy, he said this about technology: “We aren’t a 1:1 [Chromebook] school. I don’t want a Chromebook to teach kids. I want teachers to teach kids. Technology should enhance the learning experience, but it doesn’t replace a teacher.”

Student Success Center replaced deans

The deans fiasco over the summer provided an opportunity for Cram, a title 1 school with about 65 percent free-reduced lunch.

“We take kids who have been expelled from [nearby] Findlay, Johnston and Swainston Middle Schools. We put them in an advisory class, gender-separated. We teach them how to interact with others. These are 12, 13, 14-year-olds with anger issues. They are angry. We have to work with them with dealing with their anger,” Bugash explained.

Anger comes from trauma. Such trauma, he said, can be from homelessness. Cram has 75 homeless families on campus.

The school replaced its Deans office with a new Student Success Center, which Bugash calls “a calming environment.”

The SSC replaced In-house Suspension. Hans Shannon, Cram’s Student Success Advocate, works with these students directly.

“This is a relaxed environment, we have calming music to settle them down,” Shannon said.

The revamped office includes new supports, including social workers mental health and additional wraparound services. The office focuses on social-emotional learning, self management and social management, which all factor in both home and peer relationships at school.

It has helped in the entire discipline process. The school has only expelled one student since the school year began.

This is restorative justice

“This is really being proactive,” Bugash explained. “It has little to do with adults and much to do with students. The key word in restorative justice is Restore. Whatever is broken needs fixed. If you’re going to restore a deficiency, the student has to take ownership.”

He has piloted a program to conduct peer mediation and 8th grade students conduct those mediations.

“We train 8th grade students to do the mediation. They use a script. They talk. As a result, both sides will be heard.”

Bugash said they’ve done about 75 successful mediations so far.

“That’s restoring something that’s wrong.”

Cram has gone to a three AP model, each one supervises a grade level. In lieu of offices, each AP is housed in each grade level hallway. Bugash said it’s not necessarily a “house model” but it’s pretty similar to running three small schools in one.

From RTI to a Tech Academy

“I care about our kids enough that I started RTI here six years ago. They thought I was crazy,” Bugash, a former elementary school principal, surmised. “I wanted the data from AIMSWeb and now, it’s a cultural norm. Thirty percent of our kids are in some form of RTI.”

He compared it to a “Check Engine” light in a car and the process of getting it diagnosed. “Our job is to get them ready for high school.”

And that, he has. Cram, Bugash said, is the only 4-star middle school in the North Valley. Not Escobedo, not Cadwallader, he said.

“If you look at the Performance Framework, more points are given for growth than proficiency. I’d rather show high growth,” Bugash acknowledged.

And when nearby Lied MS created a new STEM magnet academy, Bugash spun into action, creating a technology and fine arts focus, all with no additional monies.

“I put up banners and flyers in Walmart at the 215 and Decatur,” he said. For his Fine Arts students, he explained “music motivates. For some of these students, it’s the only reason they come to school.”

With an enrollment of 1,650 (compared to 1,100 for Johnston and 1,200 for Findlay), Bugash said Cram is now a top feeder for the Las Vegas Academy for the Arts.

The academy also includes 120 students taking classes in robotics, coding and advanced computer technology. Cram has open enrollment, thereby giving access to whomever wants to take advantage of this.

“To me, it comes down to growing students. I’m proud that our growth rate is so high. And teachers are proud of this school,” Bugash said.

E.C. 😉

A symposium about how to recruit/retain teachers–so why aren’t the teachers invited? (COMMENTARY)

This should be a no-brainer, but then again, this is Clark County, Nevada. Things tend to be a little unorthodox here.

The Public Education Foundation is holding an upcoming symposium on Tuesday, Dec. 17 titled “Diversity Matters: A New Nevada” as part of the 10th annual Southern Nevada Leadership Summit.

“This year, we will dive into our shared work to recruit and retain educators who better reflect the diversity of our community,” the PEF flyer says.

This can be summed up in three items (I can name that tune in three notes):

1. Pay teachers better
2. Treat teachers better
3. Include teachers in conversations about teachers

No, seriously. It’s not quantum physics, guys.

Tuesday, Dec. 17 is a regular workday for Clark County’s teaching staff. For our secondary educators, it is finals week before wrapping up for the semester and Christmas break. The PEF could not hold this on a Saturday? Nor hold a late afternoon “happy hour” so that educators can participate? After all, it does say in the subhead “convenes educators…”

Educators are actually working that day, you know, educating…

I may go to this event. After all, since it mentions “convening educators” and the symposium is about educators, then at least one educator in the room should report back to the other 17,999 educators who couldn’t take the workday off to go to this event.

At the Caesars Palace.

With complimentary breakfast and lunch provided.

Here is the link for more info: https://thepef.org/summitinfo2019/

And by the way, did the NAACP get an invite? No Racism in Schools #1865? How about the Clark County Black Caucus? My Brother’s Keeper? After all, they’re just as concerned about the problem of the lack of diversity among our teaching ranks. They’re the ones that keep bringing it to the forefront of those who need to know.

It’s the 10th annual Southern Nevada Leadership Summit. Tenth annual…have we not gotten this right in 10 years?

Alright, in fairness (and I’m not knocking the PEF), you cannot solve this dilemma without asking the ones doing the grunt work. A bank president nor a gambling hall boss is not going to understand why a title 1 school teacher is having a breakdown nor how to diagnose and treat that.

These events need to be diverse first. Start inviting the teachers to the table. They know the problems, they know the solutions. You do not need a symposium with a fancy lunch for this.

E.C. 😉

SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT: Canyon Springs students focus on hunger, homelessness in annual expo

(UPPER NORTH LAS VEGAS)–A group of very well-dressed students showed off and proved what they knew about homelessness and hunger Friday morning.

They took part in the 4th annual Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Expo in the library at Canyon Springs HS.

The students presenting their knowledge at small booths scattered around the library were from Jamie Tadrzynski’s AP Human Geography (freshmen magnet) and Media/Policy Studies (senior magnet-Global Leadership) classes.

It is the first year that the entirely-student-led and student-run expo was presented at Canyon Springs. In previous years, the expo was featured at Valley HS.

Groups of classes were traversing through the library visiting various booths, taking in student-led presentations.

For Canyon Springs, it was a brief opportunity for this campus community to come together in the wake of recent tragedies. Sergio Guajardo, a recent CS graduate, was killed in a traffic accident late last month at the corner of Losee and Cheyenne in North Las Vegas. And just days ago, 17-year-old Kevin Soriano was killed and his father was seriously wounded while recovering the family’s stolen truck.

Tadrzynski’s students showed there was still much good coming out of the school.

“I want students to know what organizations are out there,” Tadrzynski said. “It is an opportunity for them to learn how they can help.”

She added that her students will begin participating in service projects with some of these organizations by the end of the third quarter. Some are involved in various food and clothing drives through the remainder of the holidays.

E.C. 😉

SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT: New option available for credit-deficient students seeking to graduate

(UPPER NORTH LAS VEGAS)–For Byron Mendez-Contreras, this was his true second chance.

“I wasn’t in the greatest place about a year ago, I was in the wrong place. This gave me a way to bounce back,” Mendez-Contreras recalled.

For Kylie Phelps, it’s all about the staff.

“The coaches are great,” Phelps said. “I think it’s good that they expect a certain amount of [committed] time, at our own time.”

These students are enrolled in Acceleration Academy, a new standalone off-site high school credit-recovery option recently unveiled in the Valley. The Academy is part of a unique public-private partnership with the District’s Education Services Division (ESD).

With its two locations (4250 E. Bonanza in East Las Vegas and 2020 W. Craig in North Las Vegas, http://www.lasvegasdiploma.com), Acceleration Academy is designed to offer disenfranchised students (called graduation candidates, or GCs) a unique independent study program tailored specifically for them.


If a credit-deficient student has already withdrawn from a comprehensive high school, they can enroll with the Academy to obtain those missing credits for graduation. For credit-deficient students already enrolled in a District school, they need to meet with their counselor to have a referral submitted and any withdrawls are subject to principal discretion.

The option is similar to other credit-recovery programs the District offers, including Desert Rose Adult HS, CCSD Adult Education, Nevada Learning Academy and offerings on APEX, CCSD’s traditional online credit recovery model.

At Acceleration Academy, GCs are required to commit 12 hours of in-center, on-site work per week, along with 12 hours of the same coursework completed from home. GCs can recover their credits in core subjects and electives and they come in on their own time and create their own schedule.


Each location is open Monday-Thursday, 8am-6pm and Fridays 8am-3pm and learning coaches are available in each core subject.

Food and snacks are available at each academy location and transportation assistance in the form of RTC bus passes is provided. And while most administrative functions for the Academy are based in Chicago, local staff makeup includes many ex- and retired CCSDers with several combined years of live classroom experience.

“This is important to my mom, because when I dropped out, it was very tough on her. Acceleration Academy gave me the way to make her proud again and make me feel like I did a little more,” Mendez-Contreras added.

District Director Randy Pagel tells CCSW the program is effective for students who may not have been successful in the traditional school setting.

“The Acceleration Academy computer-based learning model allows GCs to learn at their pace–not the class as a whole pace. If they don’t understand something, they can go back to materials and go over them again,” Pagel said. “Further, GCs can seek teachers, called ‘content coaches’ to explain material not understood. If GCs were not successful on a quiz, they can go back to the learning materials until mastered. It is useful because the model is set up for success–not failure–as long as the GC is willing to put in the time and effort into the classes.”

The Academy didn’t emerge in Clark County without controversy. Trustee Danielle Ford cast a “nay” vote when the Academy’s creation was voted on this past summer, in part due to wanting more information from District officials about what the model was about. Acceleration Academy partners with other school districts around the country, including in Central and south Florida, South Carolina and Washington state.

Separately, community members and various speakers from the floor have told Board members that the Academy’s role could easily be absorbed by CCSD AdultEd.

Pagel, a former CCSD administrator at West Prep and Morris Sunset East HS, said the blended learning model is boldly changing the narrative. During a recent site visit to Desert Pines HS, school officials there showed off their Teaching/Learning Center, which is physically set up and structured in a similar fashion (see https://clarkcountyschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2019/11/23/school-showcase-new-offerings-at-desert-pines-boosts-graduation-rate/).

“I see Acceleration Academies growing to 5 school sites throughout Clark County within 3 years. With online learning, along with teachers on site to help the students, Acceleration Academies will be an integral part of the Clark County School District. This blended learning model will be what you will predominantly see at schools in the next 20 years,” Pagel added.

E.C. 😉


Not the way to start the day

Building issues plagued Rancho HS overnight, causing a bit of havoc. This from an inside source:

It’s important to note Rancho’s building is only 13 years old.

Stability returning to West Prep front office

Monica Lang was named the new principal of West Prep today. The announcement was made during an impromptu staff meeting this morning, according to an inside source.

Lang’s new principalship is significant because up until this morning, former Washoe County superintendent Traci Davis was the likely choice to take over West Prep after long-time principal Danny Eichelberger was reassigned earlier this school year. The reassignment caused controversy and upset both staff and community members.

Davis, who has ties to Clark County, was fired by the Washoe County Board of Education this past summer after allegations of wrongdoing. Staff learned this morning that Davis pulled her name out of contention for unexplained reasons.

Lang is the former principal of Canarelli MS in the Southwest Valley.

DeVos visit causes eyebrows to raise

No matter your allegiance on the political spectrum, you must admit it is troubling that this education secretary refuses to visit a public school and advocate for those schools. Literally, that is her job.

Yet, Betsy DeVos today came into town and visited Pinecrest Cadence to discuss student loans and to tout enhancements to the College Scorecard (see https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/politics-and-government/betsy-devos-touts-new-college-scorecard-in-henderson-1905967/amp/?__twitter_impression=true).

DeVos, who has never worked/taught in a public school, visited this Henderson area charter school system run by Carrie Buck, who ironically is a Republican candidate for State Senate. Coincidence?

I know Pinecrest Cadence all too well…sadly (see https://clarkcountyschoolwatch.wordpress.com/2018/10/17/exclusive-from-pops-to-dad-a-retrospect-of-a-teaching-career-chapter-8/).

E.C. 😉