Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=220325
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Jason Bean/ Las Vegas Review-Journal. Used with permission.

Joann Luttrel, staffing director for the Clark County School District, sorts through applications for the district's 2,000 open teaching positions.


Las Vegas school district sending recruiters to Chicago

by Elissa Nadworny
April 18, 2013


In the midst of Chicago’s school closings, Las Vegas plans to send recruiters to claim some of Chicago’s best teachers.

Chicago’s closing of 54 schools will put approximately 1,000 teachers out of work, according to the Chicago Teachers Union. But half way across the country, in Clark County School District, the fifth largest school system that encompasses Las Vegas, they are set to hire 2,000 new teachers for the 2013-2014 school year – many positions they hope to fill with Chicago teachers.

“We see what’s happening in Chicago and we think, there is a pool of great teachers who will be out of work,” said Clark County School District spokeswoman Melinda Malone.

“If teachers are willing to come to Las Vegas, we’d love to have them,” Malone said.

 
At the National Council on Educating Black Children’s convention next week, Charity Vernado, executive director of human resources for Clark County, will be on hand to receive resumes and applications, answer questions and conduct interviews in an effort to attract Chicago teachers displaced by CPS.

Vernado, who will be at the Chicago Hyatt Regency from April 25 to April 28, said the district is prepared to offer conditional offers of employment.

Recruited from Joliet to Las Vegas 24 years ago, Vernado can explain firsthand the benefits of moving to a district like Clark County.

“Yes, Chicago is a great city,” Vernado said. “It’s a great place for culture, but Las Vegas, Nevada, is moving in the right direction. We have the culture, we have the arts and we have the museums and shopping.”

Clark County, which encompasses more than 70 percent of the state’s students, is battling low academic achievement and a growing population.

“We do have our challenges, especially in some of our struggling schools,” Vernado said.

Vernado is looking to hire passionate teachers willing to help move their students to a higher academic level.

Clark County is able to hire so many teachers this year because they recently won an arbitration case against the local teachers union – a decision that will save the district close to $38.6 million over the next two years, money the district promised would go to hiring new teachers.

Vernado also anticipates replacing 1,000 teachers who are retiring or resigning from the district.

“We are looking for highly qualified, high-performing, diverse candidates,” Vernado said. “It’s very important that our teachers be culturally proficient."

According to Vernado, starting salaries for teachers in Clark County range from $35,000 to $38,000, though teachers with experience will make a higher amount. This compares with a starting salary of $48,686 in Chicago, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. But that difference is narrower when comparing the cost of living of each city. CNN Money’s cost of living calculator estimates that $35,000 in Las Vegas is comparable to $40,000 in Chicago.

“We don’t have a state or a city tax,” Vernado said. “We have the best retirement plan there is, we have professional development and there is room for growth."

So the larger question remains: Will teachers leave Chicago?

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Derek Bridges, a fifth-grade teacher at Uptown's Stockton Elementary, one of the schools CPS plans to close.

Bridges and his wife, also a CPS teacher, have been in Chicago for the last nine years.

“We both thought we’d be in Chicago for the rest of our lives,” Bridges said. “We thought we’d be teaching in CPS for the rest of our lives.”

Many teachers attending the CPS community meetings said they had no backup plan if they lose their jobs come June.

Ronnie Reese, a spokesman for the Chicago Teachers Union said CTU is focused on preventing the loss of the more than 1,000 teachers who are at risk of losing their jobs, and not in the business of helping displaced teachers find new jobs.

According to Reese, CPS is responsible for teacher support.

“They’re the ones who are responsible for the teachers losing their jobs,” Reese said.

Teachers like Bridge, who say there is little to no support for teachers’ next steps, may need to look at alternative opportunities.

“My first choice is to stay in Chicago and it always will be,” Bridges said. “But … I may have to open my options up to other places.”

Vernado acknowledges she has a hard sell in persuading Chicagoans to give up their city, but believes Clark County offers a great opportunity to teachers.

“I too, know what it’s like to be recruited,” Vernado said. “I’m going back home to hopefully encourage others to come, because it is a great place to live, teach and raise your children.”