LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Politics and the pandemic have been a rough combination for education leaders, and voters will get a chance to set the course for the Clark County School District Board of Trustees on Nov. 8.
With three school board members up for re-election, voters will decide who will stay and who will go. School board races are nonpartisan.
Results from the June primary election have already provided a clue to who has support and who has an uphill battle. Here’s a look at the three board seats on the ballot:
Trustee, Clark County School District D
Board of Trustees President Irene Cepeda is up against challenger Brenda Zamora in District D.
Irene Cepeda: 4,542 (26.9%)
Brenda Zamora: 4,257 (25.2%)
(total votes cast: 16,865)
Zamora’s campaign website says she has called Las Vegas home for 13 years and has been active in her children’s School Organizing Team for the past five years. “I understand the desperate need for accessibility and transparency between the school board and families and dedicate time raising awareness to the importance of becoming actively involved with your children’s school.” She says part of her drive to build a bridge between families and the district stems from the challenges her oldest daughter has faced in dealing with impaired vision.
A first-time candidate, Zamora is endorsed by the Nevada Education Association, the Education Support Employees Association, the Culinary Union, SEIU and Make the Road Action Nevada. She finished a close second to Cepeda in the primary.
Cepeda was elected to the board in 2018 and took over as president in early 2022 after serving as vice president. Political infighting that started before she was president has occupied a lot of the board’s time. Her website says her priorities are good governance, decorum and civility, and student-centered outcomes. “Most importantly, school board members need to have student-centered outcomes as their focus to ensure kids stay the focus.”
She is endorsed by the Clark County Education Association, the Coalition of Independent Nevadans and the Vegas Chamber.
Cepeda’s vote was in the spotlight a year ago when the school board fired Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara. Cepeda initially voted to fire Jara, but in another vote weeks later she voted to rescind the action and Jara was brought back with an agreement that spelled out limits to how board members would interact with him.
Trustee, Clark County School District F
In the District F election, Trustee Danielle Ford is up against an experienced political opponent in Irene Bustamante Adams, a former Nevada Assemblywoman.
Irene Bustamante Adams: 6,136 (22.0%)
Danielle Ford: 5,059 (18.1%)
(total votes cast: 27,876)
Bustamante Adams currently works as Deputy Director and Chief Strategy Officer for Workforce Connections. She previously worked for 18 years at MGM, working her way up through the company before winning election to the Nevada Assembly in 2010 and serving until 2018. Among the goals listed on her campaign website: getting back to basics. “A concentration on reading and math growth ensures students are better equipped and trained for the workforce.” She also places emphasis on supporting students and staff, and increasing access to alternative career options.
Bustamante Adams is endorsed by the Clark County Education Association, the Vegas Chamber, the Latin Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and several smaller unions.
Although Ford is seeking her second four-year term, she casts herself as an outsider on her campaign website, attributing the district’s problems to outside “invaders” who are destroying school districts across the country. “I’ll keep doing everything I can to protect the school district and the children it serves.” If re-elected, she promises to continue speaking out, calling out corruption and listening to constituents. She pledges to put forward ideas and solutions while “waiting for the power dynamic on the board to shift.”
Ford has frequently drawn attention for her criticism of Jara and other board members. She frequently sought opportunities to put Jara’s performance to a board vote. The primary election for the District F seat was packed, and likely fractured the vote among several opponents who saw an opportunity to win election.
Trustee, Clark County School District G
Trustee Linda P. Cavazos and former Eureka County school superintendent Greg Wieman are competing for the District G seat.
Linda P. Cavazos: 12,470 (37.3%)
Greg Wieman: 5,789 (17.3%)
(total votes cast: 33,475)
Wieman’s campaign focuses on restoring professionalism and effective working relationships to the school board. Wieman says on his campaign website, “An experienced public school educator, Greg understands the needs of students, parents, teachers, staff and administrators. During his 38-year career, he served in the roles of teacher, coach, advisor/sponsor, athletic director, assistant principal, principal (high, middle and elementary) and district superintendent.”
His endorsements include the Clark County Education Association, the Nevada Republican Club and the Las Vegas Sun, where he has written a guest column on education.
Cavazos taught at Basic High School for 15 years and is now a part-time therapist working with children and adolescents, suicide and gun violence survivors, and veterans suffering from PTSD. She also has experience from working as an adjunct instructor at UNLV for 9 years. Cavazos doesn’t believe in “one size fits all” approaches to education, and sees statewide standardized testing as a challenge the district must deal with. “Our District needs to implement actual, effective measures that not only address the physical infrastructure of our schools, but we also must focus in on what the social emotional needs of our diverse school communities are. We can be innovative by listening to our students and educators,” Cavazos says on her campaign website.
Cavazos has endorsements from the Education Support Employees Association, Make the Road Action Nevada, the AFL-CIO, SEIU and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada Action Fund.
For a deeper look at issues in the school board races, see how each candidate responded to questions in a voter guide published by Opportunity 180, a nonprofit focused on improving schools.
The District G race wasn’t as close in the primary as the other school board races, but voters might react to the board’s decision to reward Jara with a $75,000 raise — a development that came after the primary.
Also, the Supreme Court’s decision reversing Roe v. Wade came after the primary, and Democrats are working to mobilize voters on that issue. Single-issue voters often look for names they recognize rather than researching their votes on all the races. That could work in favor of the incumbents.