When it comes to the process the Las Vegas City Schools District used to find a superintendent, it was a disaster. And now, with the impending hiring of interim superintendent Sheryl McNellis-Martinez to the permanent position, East’s school board has opted to dump the process and go strictly with the results it likes.
Let’s hope it pays off in the long run.
When then-superintendent Rick Romero resigned abruptly in late 2010, LeeEtte Quintana, associate superintendent at the time, stepped in for a few days while the school board tried to get a handle on the deeply troubled district. Romero and his administration had come under fire for an astronomically high property tax levy while, behind the scenes, another possible scandal, this one involving Romero and his computer, lingered. Morale — among teachers, parents and patrons — was pitifully low.
Then, when the school board chose not to stick with Quintana (who had her own history of troubles in the district), instead naming special services director Sheryl McNellis-Martinez as interim superintendent, a bitter Quintana publicly protested and eventually left the district altogether. Needless to say, McNellis-Martinez came into office under tense circumstances.
In a well-intended effort to restore public confidence, the school board named a volunteer search committee to screen the superintendent applicants. The committee narrowed the field to five candidates, but the school board ended up rejecting four of them (while a fifth candidate withdrew his name voluntarily) and gave McNellis-Martinez — who had not made the committee’s cut — a one-year contract to continue in her interim role.
And, now, as the end of that year approaches, the school board has decided to enter into negotiations with McNellis-Martinez for a new contract, this time giving her the permanent job.
We recognize that sometimes it’s best to vacate a labored process for the desired results, so in that regard it’s understandable that the school board is ready to hand over the reins to McNellis-Martinez. In her first year on the job, she’s had some successes, including the hiring of a strong high school principal in Darlene Ulibarri; Robertson High was undoubtedly one of the more troubled schools in the district and Ulibarri is turning it around. But McNellis-Martinez has also hit some bumps in the road, such as her handling of the staff “shakeups” last summer.
As for the district’s finances, long in disarray, we tend to credit most of the progress made on that to the board’s newest member, Ernesto Salazar. In our mind at least, the verdict is still out as to McNellis-Martinez’s capability to clean up, once and for all, that mess.
Of course, her greatest and most practical success has been in winning the confidence of the school board itself.
“We feel good that the district is moving in the right direction,” school board President Felix Alderete said in defending the board’s interest in sticking with McNellis-Martinez. We hope he’s right, and that she is indeed the best person for the job.
As for the process, it’s a train wreck. Let’s just hope, for the good of the district, that the end result fares better.