LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — As the school year starts for Las Vegas-area students, Clark County School District Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara discussed many issues at the forefront of many parents’ minds heading into the new sessions.

School Safety

School safety, top of mind for many parents as the 2023 school year begins, was also discussed. Jara said that while evaluated by district staff, clear backpacks were deemed not a viable option. Types of weapon detection, like metal detectors, will not be ready for the first day of school, Jara said, adding that they were still “piloting” that option.

Jara said, if implemented, a weapon detection system would be standard across Clark County School District, not individual pockets.

“There are pockets […] where we see more cases, but this is an entire Clark County community — across the board,” Jara said.

One issue Jara said he was focused on was cell phones in schools.

“The message is going to be; come to school to learn, come to school focused,” said Jara. “There was some misunderstanding because, within our discipline code of conduct, we have the ability to confiscate [cell phones] if they’re not being used appropriately.”

Jara also said campus security monitors received a pay raise and new standard training, including de-escalation training. The superintendent said that in his view, school safety starts at home.

“Parents, check your kids book bags. Talk to your kids,” he said. “If you’re finding that there’s a reason why kids don’t want to go to school, there’s something going on. Call the school and let us know so that we can help to address it.”

Absenteeism at Clark County Schools

Jara said that absenteeism is a huge issue for the school district. He said, although unhappy with last year’s attendance numbers, he believes enacted policies have not yet been implemented effectively. The superintendent said that students who have missed 10 days per semester will not receive credit for their classes. He also emphasized the importance of communication with parents, adding that absenteeism is not necessarily the students’ fault.

“When we started doing home visits — I was doing home visits on Saturday with my team — we learned that if a kid misses […] the bus, then that’s the only vehicle or avenue to get to school, so they just stay home,” said Jara.

Teachers Pay

About the dispute between the union representing Clark County teachers and the school district, Jara said that the organizations aren’t far apart on terms, disputing the $250 million figure suggested by the union.

“One of the things that is so important for me and for this board is that our educators, that are working hard every single day, get compensated for the years of experience, for their degrees, and their time in the district,” said Jara. “And I think that is also a philosophical difference that needs to be addressed at the bargaining table — not on the public airways.”

Jara said one of his focal points in negotiation is a salary schedule for educators.

“How is it fair when you have a schedule that pays a two or three-year teacher more money than somebody that has been in the district?”

Academic Achievement

The superintendent addressed academic achievement at Clark County schools, saying that the district was performing on par with other urban school districts in the US. He said

“I’m concerned because our teachers are working hard every single day with a lack of resources. Now we have them,” Jara said, adding that he expects higher achievement moving forward. “We’re gonna see some great rebound.”