From the Executive Director's Desk

Not that long ago, a wise American said; “The best Department of Health and Human Services is the family." I agree. As educators, we are doubly “blessed” to have to do so many things that parents simply can’t or won’t.

Below is an Op-Ed of mine recently published in The Nevada Independent.” In it, I write about the importance of parenting, but also what a successful charter school leader has done at her schools to help parents become more engaged in their children’s education.

(Link to The Nevada Independent)
By Pat Hickey

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Watching Nevada Wolfpack players Caleb and Cody Martin in the Sweet 16 in Atlanta, fans saw two striking young twins whose lives powerfully remake the point 19th century African-American social reformer, Frederick Douglass (quoted above), once made.

They didn’t make it by themselves, though.

Their single-parent mother, Jenny Bennett, raised her two young sons in a “roach-infested 900 square foot single-wide trailer in rural North Carolina. She did so by working three jobs and frequently passing on meals in order that Caleb and Cody  would have more to eat .”

Bennett also taught the twins “the value of sacrifice [and] the usefulness of integrity and humility.” Such lessons, etched in the minds of her children through her example, are exactly what Douglass meant when he spoke of good parenting and raising strong children.

At a time in America when schools and teachers are increasingly called upon to solve the societal scourges of poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, food insecurity and violence, we seem stuck in the second part of Douglass’s axiom: trying to “repair” children in the classroom.

Having been involved in the public square in Nevada for the last 30 years as a journalist, legislator, state school board member and now an executive of an educational non-profit, I’ll be the first to admit that the average U.S. household does not seem to be on the verge of reverting to the Ozzie and Harriet scenes of my childhood.

As a recent Pew Research Center study “Parenting in America” concluded: “The dramatic changes that have taken place in family living arrangements have no doubt contributed to the growing share of children living at the economic margins.” With nearly 40 percent of all Nevada children living in single-parent households, according to Kids Count 2016 figures, an ever-increasing number of young people are growing up just like Caleb and Cody Martin did.

And while it would be society’s saving grace to all have mothers (or fathers) be like Jenny Bennett, they aren’t. And so we should at least look for a fresh approach, as author Paul Tough wrote in,  How Children Succeed:   “We need to approach childhood anew, to start over with some fundamental questions about how parents affect their children; how human skills develop; and how character is formed.”

Maybe Jenny Bennett could teach the course, with sons’ Caleb and Casey being a successful case study.

With so much being asked of teachers in the classroom—and with the reality that not every parent is the model exemplar the UNR twins’ mom is—schools can take meaningful steps to increase the kind of parental engagement that helps children succeed.

Eva Moskowitz, founder of Success Academy, whose Harlem-based charter schools have produced dramatic academic results, suggests the following five things schools can do to better involve parents:

Schools must demonstrate the same level of investment that they seek from parents. Prioritize expectations for parents and communicate them clearly and regularly. Create systems to regularly inform parents about key metrics related to academic performance. Enlist parents to support expectations for children’s behavior at home as well as in the classroom. Staff your school to support parental engagement.

If we do all that and also join together to heed the advice of the Frederick Douglass (and Graham Nash) to “teach your children well,” many more may one day perform as well as Caleb and Cody Martin.

Upcoming Event Information
School Leaders Council Meeting

The next School Leaders Council will be held on Tuesday, April 17th at 9:15 am.
The meeting will take place at the Somerset Academy Losee Campus.

Additionally, you can join the meeting by following the link

If you have any questions regarding the School Leaders Council please email:
Rachelle Hulet SLC Chair at 
John Hawk the SLC Co-Chair at

Design, found & lead a charter school of uncompromising excellence in Las Vegas.
Apply today or nominate an aspiring school leader to BES! Follow the links below to apply, nominate, connect, or learn more.
Building Excellent Schools  (BES) is committed to improving academic achievement by training leaders to take on the demanding and urgent work of leading high-achieving, urban public charter schools. 
Through The Fellowship, highly motivated individuals participate in rigorous, yearlong training that prepares them to design, found, and lead a high-performing, public charter school. At the end of The Fellowship year, BES Fellows apply to establish their own independent charter school—customized to the needs of its community.
Fellows receive a stipend, benefits, extensive training and support throughout the intensive first year. After The Fellowship year, they receive additional assistance and coaching as they guide their schools through startup and early operation.
Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. BES offers a $5,000 finder's fee for nominated candidates who receive and accept an offer to join The Fellowship. 
Connect with a recruiter
Nominate a Fellow
Learn more about The Fellowship
Reminder: Charter School Applicant Training - April 19
The SPCSA is holding a new public charter school applicant training on Thursday, April 19 th  from 6 – 8 pm. The training will be held at the Dept. of Education offices in Carson City, but will also be provided at the Southern Nevada offices in  Las Vegas (9890 S. Maryland Pkwy ) via videoconference. The target audience for this training are those school teams that submitted a Letter of Intent to apply for a new charter school prior the March 15, 2018 deadline. Complete applications for the summer cycle are due to the Authority no later than July 15, 2018.
For more information, or to sign-up, please contact Mark Modrcin ( ) or Danny Peltier ( ).   Space is limited, and all individuals must register in advance.

WHEREAS , the safety of Nevada’s schoolchildren is a matter of unparalleled importance and significance;
WHEREAS , school superintendents, principals, teachers, and state and district officials should be commended on the advances which make our schools safer, and the diligence and dedication with which they have approached this issue;
WHEREAS , despite these advances, the recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida demonstrates the real danger posed by an active shooter to students, teachers and staff on a school campus;
WHEREAS , it is imperative that the State of Nevada devote its resources toward making schools as safe as possible, so that students are free to learn, grow, and excel, becoming the citizens and leaders of tomorrow; and
WHEREAS , Article 5, Section 1 of the Nevada Constitution provides that, “The supreme executive power of this State, shall be vested in a Chief Magistrate who shall be Governor of the State of Nevada.”
NOW, THEREFORE, by the authority vested in me as Governor by the Constitution and laws of the State of Nevada and the United States, it is hereby ordered as follows:
  1. The Statewide School Safety Task Force (Task Force) is hereby established.
  2. The Governor shall appoint all members of the Task Force. In selecting members, the Governor may consider the following:
  3. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction
  4. A member of the Nevada State Senate
  5. A member of the Nevada State Assembly
  6. The superintendent of the Clark County School District or his or her designee 
  7. The superintendent of the Washoe County School District or his or her designee
  8. A superintendent from a rural school district 
  9. An elementary or secondary school principal
  10. A representative from the Charter School Association of Nevada or its designee
  11. A school board trustee 
  12. An elementary or secondary school teacher
  13. A school behavioral health care professional or social worker
  14. A representative from the Department of Health and Human Services
  15. A school resource officer or a member of law enforcement
  16. A parent of a child enrolled in grades K-12
  17. An expert or professional in the field of juvenile justice
  18. The student representative to the State Board of Education
  19. Anyone else deemed necessary by the Governor
  20. The Governor shall designate the Chair of the committee. 
  21. The mission of the Task Force shall be to identify and recommend those school safety practices best suited for implementation in some or all of Nevada’s schools, recognizing that not all schools are similarly situated. 
  22. The Task Force shall deliver an initial report of its activities to the Governor on or before August 1, 2018. This report shall include:
  23. A review of current law related to school safety; and
  24. A summary of any recommended actions that can immediately be taken to improve school safety, including:
  25. Any bill draft or budgetary requests necessary to enact these recommendations 
  26. A draft of any Executive Order necessary to enact these recommendations
  27. Any proposed model policy for adoption by individual school districts
  28. Any other information deemed necessary by the Task Force 
  29. The Task Force shall deliver a final report of its activities to the Governor on or before November 30, 2018. This report shall include:
  30. A summary of not more than ten long term recommendations to improve safety in Nevada’s schools, identifying how best to enact these recommendations;
  31. Any proposed legislation necessary to enact these recommendations;
  32. Any budgetary requests necessary to enact these recommendations;
  33. A draft of any Executive Order necessary to enact these recommendations; 
  34. Any proposed model policy for adoption by individual school districts; and 
  35. Any other information deemed necessary by the Task Force
  36. Members of the Task Force shall receive no compensation for their service, and shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.
  37. The Task Force shall meet at the discretion and direction of its Chair.
  38. The Nevada Department of Education shall provide administrative support to the Task Force.
  39. The Chair will have the ability to issue guidelines for the operation of the Task Force and amend those guidelines as needed. The Chair may also form and appoint working groups or subcommittees as deemed necessary.
  40. Any meetings conducted by the Task Force or any subcommittee(s) thereof shall be subject to the Open Meeting Law, as codified in NRS Chapter 241. 
  41. All records documenting the Task Force’s activities shall be retained and transferred to the State Archives for permanent retention in accordance with the State record retention policy.
  42. The Task Force shall cease to exist on December 31, 2018, unless authorized by further Executive Order. 
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of Nevada to be affixed at the State Capitol in Carson City, this 19th day of March, in the year two thousand eighteen.
Charter School News
Despite Focus on School Shootings, Classroom Violence is on the Decline — and 5 Other Key Facts from a New Federal Report on School Safety
By  MARK KEIERLEBER  | March 29, 2018

Amid a revived, heated debate over gun violence in America’s K-12 schools — and a day after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos convened a school safety commission for the first time — a new federal report released Thursday shows classrooms are actually becoming safer.

The new  school crime and safety report , released annually by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, comes six weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida. As student homicides and suicides at schools have remained consistently low over the last two decades, the new data shows a decline in school weapons possessions and crimes reported on campus. And while districts have dramatically scaled up security measures — including a 400 percent increase in campus surveillance cameras — the latest report indicates students feel safer at school.

The report relies on the most recent school violence and safety data, which is from 2015, and does not necessarily reflect trends over the last three years. School crime and violence comes with a range of negative outcomes for student victims, including increased truancy and poor academic performance. School crime victims also more likely to drop out of school.

“While there are positive trends in the annual report on crime and school safety, we know — and have tragically been reminded in recent weeks — that there is much more we must do to keep our nation’s students and teachers safe at school,” DeVos said in a statement. “That is why the Federal Commission on School Safety is committed to working quickly to find common-sense solutions that can be implemented right away to improve school safety and ensure all of our nation’s children can learn in a safe and nurturing environment.”

From a rise in school security staff and an improved perception of student safety, here are 6 key takeaways from the new federal report:
Schools are becoming safer

During the 2015-16 school year, just 3 percent of students ages 12-18 reported being the nonfatal victim of a crime at school in the last six months. That’s a sizable decrease from 10 percent of students in 1995.
Meanwhile, fewer high school students were reportedly in physical fights, both on and off campus. In 1993, 16 percent of students reported being in a physical fight over the course of a year. By 2015, that percentage dropped to 8 percent.

During the 2015-16 school year, 79 percent of public schools recorded at least one campus crime, including violence and theft — a rate of 28 crimes per 1,000 students, lower than all previous survey years since the 1999-2000 school year.

In 2015, 4 percent of high school students reported carrying a weapon on school property during the last 30 days. That’s a sizable decrease from 1993, when 12 percent of students reported bringing a weapon to school.

Given those statistics, it’s probably not surprising that students also report feeling safer at school. In 2015, 3 percent of students said they were afraid of being attacked or harmed at school, compared to 12 percent of students who said the same in 1995.

School-related homicides and suicides remain small
Despite heightened attention on mass shootings at schools, teen deaths at school are actually quite rare. Over the last two decades, less than 3 percent of youth homicides, and less than 1 percent of youth suicides, occurred at school.
More teachers reportedly attacked by students
In a contrast to student victims, the latest data indicate an uptick in student attacks on educators. During the 2015-16 school year, 6 percent of public school teachers said they were attacked by a student from their school, and 10 percent said a student had threatened them with injury. In all other survey years except 2011-12, about 4 percent of teachers reported being physically attacked.
Additionally, nearly half of teachers say student misbehavior negatively affects the classroom environment. In 2015-16, 43 percent of educators reported that student misbehavior interfered with their ability to teach, and 38 percent said the same about student tardiness.The share of educators saying that student misbehavior interferes with their work has increased in recent years. This point was  quickly highlighted by pundits  who argue efforts to reduce student suspensions — a goal embraced by the Obama administration and by district leaders across the country — could prompt more chaos in classrooms.

Schools are more secure today than they were a decade ago

In response to the mass school shooting in Florida, President Donald Trump argued the government should take steps to “harden” schools through a variety of methods, including arming teachers. But school shootings over the last few decades have already spurred district leaders to heighten security.

The percentage of public schools reporting the use of security cameras increased from 19 percent in 1999-2000 to 81 percent in 2015-16. During that same period, the percentage of public schools reporting that they control access to school buildings increased from 75 percent to 94 percent.

Schools today are also more prepared for a school shooting. In 2015-16, 92 percent of public schools had a school shooting plan, compared to 79 percent of schools in 2003-04.
T he presence of school security staff, including armed school resource officers, has also spiked over the last decade. During the 2005-06 school year, 42 percent of public schools reported the presence of security staff at least one day a week, compared to 57 percent in 2015-16. Over the same period, the presence of sworn law enforcement officers jumped from 36 percent to 48 percent.
Among secondary schools with any sworn law enforcement officer present at least once a week, a lower percentage of schools in cities reported having an officer who carried a firearm compared with schools in suburban and rural areas.

The presence of gangs in schools has decreased
As the Trump administration takes a hard line on gang violence, with a particular focus on the presence of MS-13 in schools, the new data indicate the presence of gangs in schools is on the decline.
Between 2001 and 2015, the percentage of students ages 12-18 who reported that gangs were present at their school decreased from 20 to 11 percent.
Students from urban areas were more likely to report a gang presence in their schools than students from suburban and rural communities.

School bullying continues a downward slide
Combating bullying at schools has been a huge focus in recent years among policymakers and advocates. It’s possible that those efforts are paying off.
In 2005, 28 percent of students reported being bullied at school. By 2015, that percentage decreased to 21 percent. About a third of students who reported being bullied said they were tormented at least once or twice a month.
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Melissa Taufa