LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Students returned to the classroom on Monday amid tough contract negotiations between the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) and Clark County School District (CCSD).

During a press conference, CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara said he’s focused on student achievement and teacher compensation.

The superintendent is facing pressure from the CCEA to increase pay for educators.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to negotiate a recruitment bonus this year. Last year we did,” Dr. Jara said. “We lost 150 educators that were hoping that that would happen again. So that all happens at the bargaining table.”

Leaders from CCEA dispute that, saying low pay is leading to an exodus of teachers and a high number of vacancies.

“They’re angry that our colleagues are leaving. They’re not leaving because they’re not getting one-time bonuses as Dr. Jara is alluding to. Our educators are fed up with one-time bonuses. They want something that’s on their base,” CCEA President Marie Neisess said.

Dr. Jara said they currently have more than 1,100 openings, which is fewer than the previous school year.

CCSD teachers have scheduled rallies this week in front of schools.

One happened at LIED Stem Academy on Monday morning located near Tropical and Decatur.

Dr. Jara said he won’t infringe on teachers’ rights to protest.

“Bargaining and the negotiations don’t happen in the picket line. They happen at the bargaining table, and I welcome the leadership of CCEA to get to the bargaining table, so we can get this job done so our teachers can get compensated as they deserve,” Dr. Jara said.

Some of CCEA’s demands are a 10% increase in teacher pay the first year and 8% the following year.

This past legislative session, Nevada lawmakers invested $2 billion more into public education.

“This is the most CCSD has ever received, and from the get-go, even though they could see it coming the amount of money they were going to get, they’re already crying poverty,” Neisess said.

Dr. Jara declined to get into the specifics of the raises he’s proposing for teachers behind closed doors, saying he won’t negotiate in public.

CCEA and CCSD are scheduled to meet next Thursday, Aug. 17 for contract negotiations.

On Monday, CCSD announced that Dr. Jara was named Nevada Superintendent of the Year in an award ceremony held in June.

In a statement announcing the award, the Nevada Association of School Superintendents said in part, “Dr. Jara maintains a focus on ensuring that children are at the center of every decision.”