Lessons Learned - Veteran board member moving on

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By Mercy Lopez

Elaine Luna’s near decade-  long tenure on the Las Vegas City Schools Board is drawing to a close.  

“It has been an excellent time,” a soft-spoken Luna said during a recent interview. “I’ve served with about eight board members throughout this time. It has been great to absorb the knowledge that they have and the passion they all had. I hope my constituents feel that my time has been well spent, that I’ve taken care of things.”

Luna decided not to seek another term, saying she wants to pursue other interests. She has served on the board since early September 2003 after she was appointed to fill former board member Jody Stege’s vacant seat.

The district faced a number of challenges during Luna’s tenure. Including interims, the East district has had five superintendents during that period. And a recurring challenge for the district has been its late audit reports.

But those were minor compared to the scandals that rocked the district — the 2008 Robertson High School football team assaults and the news that longtime Robertson teacher and coach Jay Quintana carried on a sexual relationship with a student.

More recently, Luna voted with two other board members to move the district to a four-day week.

“I am going to miss serving on the board,” Luna said, “Yes sometimes it gets stressful … There are certain times you deal with the challenges.”

Luna said every issue and every year has been a learning experience. She said district officials learned from the challenges and move forward “all while saying ‘we don’t want a repeat.’ The district has been really good about-facing all our challenges. There were times when we had the news cameras in our boardroom.”

Luna said that as difficult as it was, the district was as transparent as possible when it came to facing its challenges.

Among the issues that Luna was passionate about was student health. It’s one of the things that connected Luna and Stege. The two worked together at the former Northeastern Regional Hospital.

“Jody (Stege) has always known that health and wellness has always been a big passion for me,” Luna said. “When making her recommendation to the board, she really knew that was something that I would work toward.”

Luna said she has worked with district staff to improve health and wellness throughout the district.

The district currently has a state-of-the-art school -based wellness center at Sierra Vista Elementary.

“I feel very proud of that,” Luna said. “… We have had physicians go through our center and say, ‘This is an amazing center that you have,’ and to be able to offer that to our students, … to see the progress that has been made over these nine years has been incredible. Our students are getting amazing care.”

Students throughout the district have received dental, health and behavioral health services.

A new school-based health center is in the works for Robertson High School.

“It is important that when our kids come to the classroom they come there being able to be open to whatever the teacher is going to deliver in that classroom,” Luna said. “And when they aren’t feeling well, that makes it very difficult for them to learn.”

Luna has made her mark in other ways. For example, one of the district’s activity buses is named after her.

Luna said she is unsure what her next adventure may be, although she is sure it will involve health issues as that is her true passion.

“An advisory board at a state level is something that I am really interested in particular to health care,” Luna said. She currently serves as director of the Area Health Education Centers based at Luna Community College.

For her a memorable moment while serving on the board was being able to hand her three children their Robertson High School diplomas.

“Can you imagine my kids are all in their 20s, and they were all little when I first started (on the board),” Luna said.

For now, she will enjoy time with her husband, David, sons Joel and Matt and daughter Amanda.

She praised those who are running for school board in Tuesday’s election.

“What they are doing is a good thing and commendable,” Luna said. “Being a board member is not an easy job, but they are willing to take it on and learn.”