People holding a contract with a cellular telephone company and who then break their agreement are punished with an early termination fee; individuals with a lease agreement on a house or an apartment may run the risk of losing their deposit – and possibly even having to pay additional fees – if they break the lease; and many other companies have similar charges for customers who break their contracts, leases or financial obligations.
If that is a fact of life – that contracts are made and signed with the idea that both parties are to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities – why not have that equally apply to Clark County School Superintendent Dwight Jones?
That is the question that many in the community who had nothing to do with bringing Jones to the Clark County School District are now asking.
Mr. Jones not only broke the four-year contract midstream, but he also “forgot” the 90 days notice he was supposed to give, giving instead a mere two weeks notice to his employers. And he may think he was being very nice and generous to do that.
Mr. Jones could have taken a leave of absence, an early vacation, or just spent some of that $350,000 salary in traveling to visit his supposedly ill mother wherever she is. Or he could have moved his mother here to be able to look after her.
He had many other options to choose from before he cast them all aside and decided to just end his obligation with our school district completely because of his mother’s illness.
Local attorney Ben Childs, who is very much involved with some of the schools in Clark County, shared our sentiments and expressed surprise to hear that Dwight Jones abruptly gave only two weeks’ notice on March 5, ending his four-year tenure well short of the 90 days required by his contract.
“Something doesn’t add up. Why wouldn’t he bring his mother here to care for her? I wasn’t aware that he was independently wealthy enough to simply quit working,” Childs told the Las Vegas Tribune during an interview with the newspaper.
This is the second time that, if memory serves correctly, Clark County, infatuated with out-of-towners that come here with the “grab the money and run” mentality, was allowed to hire the wrong administrator.
Clark County spent $50,000 to hire a committee to make a national search for a new superintendent, who, in most instances, did not turn out to be best for the school, and in most cases, was not beneficial to our school district.
In 2000, the committee hired Carlos Garcia out of Texas, at a previously unheard of salary in our community because “he was the perfect candidate” for the job.
Garcia knew how to talk to some of the egotistic people in our community; he had the right words before leaving office when he said in a public statement:
“My five-year tenure as superintendent of the Clark County School District has easily been one of the most challenging and rewarding periods in my professional career. In my opinion, no school district is as dynamic as CCSD. I’ve been fortunate to work with a world-class support staff, administrative team, teachers and the best school board in the country.”
Back then, Garcia says it took him several months to decide that moving on was the right choice.
And the school district did not waste any time finding his successor. They began looking for a new superintendent the following week.
Garcia went to work for the same book publishing company, McGraw-Hill, that he bought millions of dollars in books from, with Clark County School District monies.
Once again, Garcia used his speaking ability by saying, “I’m really proud that I had the honor to serve this wonderful community,” and off he went to start as Vice President of Marketing for McGraw-Hill.
Whatever the reason was for Dwight Jones to leave is immaterial; the fact is that he is leaving midstream through his contract, leaving the District after Clark County wasted another $50,000 in search of a man that cannot even fulfill his commitment to our community.
In an email sent to this newspaper, local architect, educational activist and former school district trustee candidate, Ken Small, gave us the following opinion:
“Insiders could see that Jones was in a ‘no-win’ situation from the start. Every middle school in the valley would fail no child left behind. Half the high school students fail to graduate. Between the school board wanting to make no significant changes to their system and the teachers’ union wanting none at all, Jones was left with rationalizing suspect statistics to show any improvement in education. Recently CCSD lost the tax increase vote, then Nevada Policy Research Institute widely distributed to the public ABCDF grades, identifying what the district’s new “transparent” rankings really mean. Then the State Board of Education instituted a logical ranking system that will override and disprove Jones’ ranking system. One can only imagine that the burden of these obstacles piling up would add to the considerations of departing to help an elderly parent.”
We take the opinion of Ken Small very seriously and like to share it with our readers every time we get that opportunity.
At least the hiring of Superintendant Walt Rulffes in 2005 was a promotion from within the same Clark County School District and did not waste another 50 G’s search fee, so from that standpoint that proved to be a more effective move.
Rulffes was hired in 1998 as Chief Financial Officer; after seven years with the District he took over the reigns as Superintendant. He was promoted from within and not chased after with a 50 G price tag, which gave him the impulse to ask for that astronomical salary.
Anyone in the private sector is entitled to ask for any amount of money they think they are worth. If the company is willing to pay it and they have the money, good for them; go for it. But public jobs ought to have a cap on the amount of salary they can pay to an employee.
Paying the employees more money than the elected officials are making is like opening the door to corruption, regardless of how hard those employees work and how much they deserve a good salary.
There are lots of intelligent, dedicated and responsible school district personal that could take that position and do a magnificent job at it.
It is time to stop paying political favors by throwing $50,000 away to find someone to do a job that maybe someone right under their nose here in Clark County is more than capable of doing.
Just as with choosing a partner to marry, one can make a mistake with choosing a school superintendent. It happens. And one can make a mistake the second time too. But eventually, whether because of experience and better choosing ability, or the luck of the draw, one should eventually get it right.
So what’s going on? The trustees may have been unlucky in finding one, and maybe even two, effective, loyal and dependable superintendents, but how many more will the children in Clark County have to wade through before the school trustees manage to get it right.
That’s Clark County for you, folks!
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My name is Rolando Larraz, and as always, I approved this column.