Answers to a number of questions from Las Vegas City School’s board candidates were in stark contrast to their counterparts running for office in the West Las Vegas district.
The biggest difference came with the often-asked question about administrative consolidation of the two districts. Most West candidates in a forum Tuesday said they do not support the idea, but East candidates said it was worth consideration. If it ever happened, it would most likely be the voters who would decide, most said.
Another question about armed officers (called resource officers) was dismissed as not a good idea by most candidates in front of an audience at West Las Vegas Middle School, while the audience at Sininger Hall on the Highland campus heard the opposite response from some candidates there.
The candidates running for Position 1 in Tuesday’s election are incumbent Philip Leger, Gabriel Lucero and Matt Martinez. Running for Position 2 are incumbent Elaine Luna and Pamela Daves.
Imagine if you were presented with facts about districts around the state operating under one administration and found that Las Vegas could put more money into the classrooms by combining the two administrations into one and in turn hire more teachers and buy more books. Everything else remains the same, so the culture isn’t affected and the Cardinals and the Dons will last forever and jobs are created. Presented with those facts, would you be for consolidation?
Gabriel Lucero — “I would definitely be for consolidation. This argument took place in the 1960s, and I would be for the consolidation of the administration only... A statement made by the superintendent said that 45 percent of our budget reaches the classroom; it said the national average is 65 percent, so if we could save that on administrative costs and put money into the classroom, it would be great.”
Matt Martinez — “I think I’ve seen every side of that issue for the past number of years. A lot of research has to be put into it to come up with some good data so we can make a comprehensive decision. But, at the end of the day the school board itself will never make that decision, so if the data is out there and the community has the information in front of them, it will probably have to come to a vote... Another thing I find quite interesting is, why haven’t we had an opportunity to share resources, consolidate Head Starts and put some other things together we can share? Maybe a classroom on the other side of the river has a great teacher that would teach an elective or a maybe we could consolidate a classroom, so we need to better use the resources that we have within our community and work at it now, even before we look at consolidation.”
Leger — “I am definitely in favor of consolidation if it’s done properly, we would need extensive research. If citizens from both districts are in agreement. One way we might be able to consolidate is by going from a five-member board to a seven-member board and voted in like the city councilors, by districts. That way constituents won’t say more money isn’t going to one district over another. But I would definitely want to keep both high schools.”
Elaine Luna — “It is a complex issue when we talk about consolidation on various levels, not only from the pride that exists at both schools, which is beautiful, and it brings pride to our entire community. But we have to look at those complex issues and not take them lightly, and I’m sure we don’t, that’s why it’s taken so long to have these conversations on a continual basis...”
Pamela Daves — “I do not disagree with what any of the candidates have said, and I think your scenario would lead me to consider consolidation if the constituents that I represented so indicated that’s what they desired. I like the idea of Matt (Martinez) saying we should start early and do some consolidating things now.”
What lessons have you taken from the the alleged assaults that happened at a Robertson High School football camp and what lessons should we as a community take from this incident and how to prevent this from happening again?
Pamela Daves — “My understanding is that these kinds of camps were not held regularly, so one thing we can do is not hold this type of camp. Some people have said that they used to hold day camps for football practice, another thing the school district has just finished doing sexual harassment training from the high school down to the grade schools and I think that should be something that should be continued on a regular basis. Finally it is important that the coaches that are involved with our children have been licensed before we permit them to work with our children.”
Elaine Luna — “I do not want to compromise the integrity of that we are dealing with, but I will definitely address the issue with regard to lessons learned. Lessons learned from a rural community perspective are there are a lot of families hurting at this time; it has affected the entire community at different levels. No one wanted for this incident to happen to them or their family member, on either side, and my compassion extends to everyone affected by the situation. As a school district, we have put in place protective measures we will need moving forward so an incident like this never happens again.”
Matt Martinez — “Unfortunately, we are on a reactive stance now and we should have been on a proactive stance all along. This has really hit our community hard.”
Gabriel Lucero — “I agree we should be proactive, and I cannot say a lot either because I have been investigated by the legal counsel. But I will say that I think there were signs that were neglected by the administration. There were definitely some flags raised by people involved in previous incidents that could have led and should have led to disciplinary action that could have deterred what happened.”
Phil Leger — “I was shocked with what happened. The last couple of years, things were going so great, especially in our football program. Maybe we were a little lax in screening out the applicants for the (coaching) positions, and I feel bad for all the families involved. As a former coach, I know it is very hard to watch a group of students 24 hours a day. When I was coaching, my assistant and I wouldn’t even sleep nights because we’d take turns supervising, and hopefully we will learn from this. In fact, the whole state is aware of the incident and everyone is taking steps to prevent similar situations from happening in their areas.”
How do you feel about having an armed resource officer at the Las Vegas City Schools?
Gabriel Lucero — “I am very much in favor of an armed officer in the schools. I believe the last time we had one was seven years ago, an armed city police officer who worked at Robertson. I graduated from college 30 years ago, and Albuquerque Public Schools had a police officer back then, not an APD officer, but one hired by the school district and if you were speeding, he would ticket you, or if you were out drinking in your car, you would be cited and have to go to court...”
Philip Leger — “This is a touchy question. There could be a lot of negative developments if a security officer has a firearm and heaven forbid a student got a hold of it, which would develop into a real crisis. We had an officer that lived on campus a while back. It didn’t pan out too well because it wasn’t very effective. I would have to study this in more detail before I would accept armed police or not.”
Matt Martinez — “It’s really unfortunate that we live in times where we even talk about stuff like this, since Columbine everyone has been concerned with the safety of children. We live in a community that’s right next to an interstate, and we never know whether or not someone’s going to exit the highway with bad intentions.We’ve got two elementary schools right off the interstate and should be cognizant that anyone could drive into our town and something could happen. But I think at the end of the day, if we have well-qualified, well-trained individuals, and the policy of the board is to have armed officers at our schools, I hope we have the foresight to make sure that we have enough money for training and the resources to protect our children.”
Elaine Luna — “Really what we’re exploring here is how to keep our children safe, not only in the school setting, but in the community. I think Las Vegas is a safe community, and that’s why I have chosen to have my children here and where we choose to live. There are realities that we deal with on a day-to-day basis, and unfortunately, we have to see this played out on television night after night. Yes, we have the security personnel at Las Vegas City Schools and rely on them heavily, but to say at this point we would need armed officers, we would need to further investigate why that would be necessary in our schools at this point.”
Pamela Daves — “I agree whole heartily with Elaine. I would explore every other alternative before I would put a person with a gun in the high school. I would even hire an expert in the field to come in and give advice on any other alternatives besides putting someone with a gun in the hallways.”
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Other topics centered around important issues like the budget and possible budget shortfalls. Candidates said they support field trips and considered them an essential part of the educational process, but had different ideas about how to fund them.