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School report card

School report card

By Darcy Spears. CREATED Oct 3, 2011

Clark County, NV (KTNV) - There's a saying that you've got to spend money to save money.

That's what the Clark County School District has done with a controversial new study on how to better serve students and be more efficient.

Chief Investigator Darcy Spears sat down with the superintendent's right hand man to ask tough questions about whether the study delivered a true bang for the buck.

We may have iPads, but we don't have educated kids.

We don't spend enough money, don't have enough teachers, and have too many administrators.

So says the Gibson Report... an $800,000 privately funded study performed by a Texas-based consultant who in many cases states the obvious.

"In reading the study, some might say there's a lot of the "duh" factor, like tell me something we don't already know," Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears pointed out.  "A lot of the information is stuff that we know are our shortcomings."

"Well, that's maybe true," said Special Adviser to the superintendent Dr. Ken Turner, who commissioned the study.  "There are other things that emerged from the study that are really very revealing on the academic side."

The Gibson Report compared our school district to three others: Houston, Broward County, Florida and Miami-Dade.

"And what was revealed--and I think we were unaware of it," Turner says, "was how wildly different our ratio of students to teachers is when compared to other districts that have more challenging populations and achieve more highly than we do."
Darcy: "That we don't have enough teachers to teach our kids and our class sizes are too big."
Ken Turner: "That's exactly right."
Darcy: "And we didn't know this before?"
Ken Turner: "We didn't know how significantly different we were from the rest of the nation and from districts that achieve more highly."

The report found our kids don't perform as well in math, reading and science.

We're close to rock bottom in per pupil spending across the country.

Our ESL students don't do as well.

And 44-percent of our schools have the lowest possible rating for Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind.

"If we really cared about the essential goal, and that's students' education and our children's future, you would look at areas where you're wasting money," says Education Support Employees Association President John Carr.

Carr has been pointing out waste to district leaders for years.

When the Gibson Report said there were too many supervisors in the Transportation department, Carr had deja vu because he said that himself nearly a year ago when CCSD created 13 new positions.

"And they called these positions office managers who supervise the supervisors."

The Gibson Report says reducing supervisory transportation staff will save half a million dollars a year.

Darcy: "How do you address the concern that maybe you could have saved a bunch of money if you'd have listened when this was brought up a year ago?"
Ken Turner: "Actually, I think it's a good concern.  I wasn't here when that was first raised, and I think something you started with is accurate.  Some of these things really resonate with people because they're real. So I don't disagree with it.  I think that we're looking hard at that and we're pledged to evaluating whether every dollar spent is being applied toward the top priority."

How's this for making sure we've got our priorities straight?

In January, the school board approved a contract to spend $12 million dollars having pizza delivered to our schools.

"This is great if we expect our students to eat their way to a higher education," Carr said.

Darcy: "Really?  Why are we spending $12 million dollars having pizza delivered to schools?  $12 million dollars could pay for a lot of teachers."
Ken Turner: "Well I think, and Gibson makes this point in the study, that we don't claim to be perfect. But we do think we're moving in the right direction, which is to say that taxpayers should have a return on their investment."

The pizza investment comes from our kids' lunch money because Food Services is self-funded. 

But the new district administration says that and other expenditures still deserve to be looked at through a magnifying glass.

Even though this school year is barely underway, the district begins budgeting for the next school year in November, so we'll soon be able to see how much change is on the way.

Darcy Spears

Darcy Spears

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Darcy Spears is currently the Chief Investigative Reporter for Action News.