July 22, 2024 12:01 pm
Close this search box.

Local News

Teachers union says Jara’s resignation timed to dodge a scandal, calls on board to fire him 

Credit: Camalot Todd/Nevada Current

April Corbin Girnus, Nevada Current
February 2, 2024

Oh how quickly things can change.

Three months ago, Clark County School District released a statement saying its embattled leader, Jesus Jara, would “remain in his position as superintendent as long as the Board of Trustees desires him to do so.”

This week, on Wednesday, CCSD announced Jara now seeks to leave his position. He submitted a letter of resignation saying he would depart — but only if the Clark County School Board amended his existing contract to allow him to depart with just seven days notice. His current contract requires 90 days.

If approved, Jara will receive a lump sum equivalent to one year’s salary — $395,000 — and benefits. His last day would be Feb. 21.

According to an agenda of the Wednesday meeting, the School Board will also consider the option of terminating his contract under its existing terms. That would lead to a larger buyout for the embattled school leader, who in five years has steered the fifth largest school district in the nation through a pandemic, been terminated, been reinstated, accused the trustees of creating a hostile work environment, been maligned publicly by legislative leaders and — most recently — is being accused of anonymously berating on social media those who criticize him.

A statement released on Wednesday by CCSD and attributed to the School Board said the decision is being considered “due to the mutual benefit of both parties.” Jara has not publicly given a reason for wanting to leave.

However, the Clark County Education Association — the teachers union with whom Jara and the district had contentious bargaining negotiations for most of 2023 — has a theory. And they are now publicly calling on the four trustees to reject Jara’s resignation and instead fire him outright, a difference that would result in no payout and put an end to a volatile era for the district.

CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita and President Marie Neisess at a press conference Thursday suggested Jara may have strategically timed his resignation around a deadline set in a lawsuit the union filed against the district over the release of information related to his social media accounts.

On Jan. 11, CCEA filed a motion in Clark County District Court to force the release of records related to two social media accounts believed to be affiliated with the superintendent or his chief communications officer, Tod Story. The district agreed to comply with the union’s records request by Feb. 5 — two days before the trustees meet and consider approving Jara’s contract buyout.

The union believes the findings of their case will be grounds for firing Jara, though they have been calling for new leadership at the district for just over a year.

That belief stems from a disparaging comment made in November by an account affiliated with Jara on X, the social website formally known as Twitter.

A burner account burn?

On Nov. 7, CCEA executive board member Kenny Belknap on X posted a screenshot that appears to show the account @SuptJaraCCSD responding to a tweet of Belknap’s that praised the leadership of Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager, who had publicly called for Jara to resign.

The @SuptJaraCCSD account, which has since been deleted or deactivated but at the time was mostly inactive, replied to Belknap: “What leadership? Corruption and bought by Crooked JV and his mistress Neisses [sic]?”

Belknap posted the screenshot of the tweet to his account. The tweet itself appears to have been up for only about half an hour around 5:30 to 6:15 a.m. before being deleted.

The union says the district told them Jara’s account had been hacked.

One theory among union members and internet sleuths is that the tweet was intended to be posted to a “burner account” — a social media account that includes no identifying information connecting it to the real person behind it.

Posts meant for burner accounts but accidentally posted to primary accounts aren’t unheard of. They have caused embarrassment for professional athletes and led to resignations. In 2020, a straight, white congressional candidate in Pennsylvania replied to himself with a tweet that began “I’m a black gay guy…” (In that instance, the man in question said he was quoting a private email received by an actual gay black guy.)

CCEA in their court case identified the suspected burner account — @Luis54681428, which like @SuptJaraCCSD has since been deactivated on the platform.

CCSD observers have speculated the account in question was Jara’s — or alternatively somebody like Story who is close enough to Jara to have access to his social media accounts — because that user on previous occasions had misspelled Neisess’s name the same way as the Jara tweet did, had used the specific nickname “crooked JV” before, and had previously interacted with Belknap and other CCEA-affiliated people.

Neisess during the press conference Thursday referenced “the Luis account” and said the School Board should wait for a complete story to emerge before greenlighting a generous payout.

“The timing is very suspicious,” she said. “I believe there is a scandal brewing.”

Vellardita described  the School Board as controlled by four trustees who protect Jara — Evelyn Garcia Morales, Lola Brooks, Irene Bustamante Adams and Katie Williams.

“They’re on the eve of cutting a deal — a deal that’s going to pay this guy a lot of money and not going to hold him accountable for things that we think are grounds for his discharge,” said Vellardita. “The public should be alarmed.”

The union also expressed concern about CCSD Deputy Superintendent Brenda Larsen-Mitchell, who according to the School Board’s Wednesday agenda may be voted in as the new head of the district. Vellardita said the replacement would be a continuation of the same problems, though he declined to say if the union has anyone in mind for an interim or permanent replacement.

Several education groups, including the union representing CCSD administrators, issued statements opposing the immediate appointment of a permanent superintendent.

Trustee Linda Cavazos in a social media post said she had “NO knowledge” of that agenda item until the agenda had been publicly posted.

Cavazos also noted that the district’s current policy is that trustees are not supposed to speak to the media about pending agenda items. That policy, among others adopted by the board, have come under fire recently for being potentially unconstitutional and designed to stifle voices of the board’s duly elected or appointed members.

Vellardita said trustees need to hear from the community about what qualities and qualifications they want from its next superintendent. A similar process was done in 2018 prior to the nationwide search that ended with the hiring of Jara.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.