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From Public Opinion to Public Policy: Local Government Turns Priorities into Integrated Plan for High-Quality Schools and Education

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Stephanie Garcia-Vause
August 25, 2017

The City of Henderson recently established the first local government led Community Education Advisory Board (CEAB) in Southern Nevada to increase local influence and leadership over schools and education. The Board was created under the authority acquired by local governments as a part of the Clark County School District (CCSD) reorganization process enacted at the state level last year.

Education is consistently identified as the top priority for Henderson residents.

City Logo_Color_MediumAs a result of the strong public desire for more local control and improved educational outcomes in Henderson, the City created and facilitates the CEAB. The diverse fifteen member group is comprised of business owners, community leaders, educators, parent and nonprofit representatives who share an interest in enhancing student outcomes and local learning environments.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Nevada ranks 49 in the nation in terms of education, young children not in school, fourth graders not proficient in reading, eighth graders not proficient in math and high school students not graduating on time among other areas in need of vast improvement. The Clark County School District (CCSD) is one the largest school district in the state of Nevada and certainly faces similar challenges.

Not surprisingly given these rankings, throughout the public engagement process for the City of Henderson’s newly adopted Comprehensive Plan, Henderson Strong, staff heard consistently from residents across all races, ethnicities and zip codes that schools and education are a top priority. Residents also expressed support for local schools.

In 2015, the State of Nevada passed Assembly Bill (AB) 394, which reorganized CCSD into localized precincts with more individual school autonomy. Henderson wanted to know what role residents thought the City should play to support schools and education and learn more about residents’ concerns and priorities, so City staff initiated outreach to residents asking parents and employers their concerns related to schools and education. Staff deployed a variety of engagement tools to collect concerns and key priorities.

Taking what was heard during the engagement process, the City advocated for the authority to allow local governments to create a Community Education Advisory Board (CEAB) to increase the Henderson community’s influence and leadership over schools and education with the ultimate goal of articulating a clear vision to improve student outcomes in Henderson.

While unveiling her 100 Day Plan, newly-elected Mayor Debra March stated, “Henderson residents value a quality public education and are proud of our Henderson schools. Our residents want the City to take a stronger role, which is why we have taken what we’ve heard and established the CEAB to bring parents, educators and community and business leaders together to improve student outcomes.”

The CEAB is specifically tasked with assessing and monitoring Henderson student and local precinct needs (including funding needs), evaluating local data and providing recommendations to City Council on potential strategies and interventions at the local level designed to catalyze the enhancement of Henderson schools and student accomplishments.

The City’s Comprehensive Plan Henderson Strong, a product of the robust community engagement effort, contains goals and strategies specifically aimed at improving student learning environments and economic development opportunities. This effort seeks to connect the principles of community development with the advancement of educational opportunities and school performance, which is often omitted in traditional planning policy. It emphasizes place making, school siting integrates schools into neighborhoods and joint use policies to reestablish schools as a community resource. The Comprehensive Plan also now encompasses the City’s Economic Development Strategic Plan, highlighting workforce development and partnerships with higher educational institutions.

The City of Henderson recognizes the critical role quality schools and education play in its effort to remain a premier community. The inclusion of goals and strategies related to enhancing educational outcomes in the Comprehensive Plan, Henderson Strong, the creation of the Henderson CEAB and the prioritization of education in the Mayor’s 100 Day Plan all contribute to ensuring Henderson residents have access to excellent educational opportunities both now and in the future.

This effort is a product of the Long Range Planning Division of the Community Development and Services Department at the City of Henderson. The Long Range Division focuses on the practices areas of land use, analytical services, regional collaboration, and community outreach. All divisions of the Community Development and Services Department work to partner with the community to plan and promote a vibrant, safe, balanced, cohesive city for today and tomorrow. For more information on initiatives like these and other community development and services happenings visit cityofhenderson.com/planning.

Author: Stephanie Garcia-Vause, AICP, serves as the City of Henderson’s Director of Community Development and Services ensuring high quality development and service standards, as well as progressive long-term city planning. She also serves as the District Council Chair of the Urban Land Institute Nevada, Vice Chair of the BLM Mojave-Southern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council and Board of Directors member for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada, among others.

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