Posts Tagged ‘Heath Morrison’

Gov. Brian Sandoval Names James Guthrie Of The George W. Bush Institute As New State School Chief

By Sean Whaley | 1:57 pm March 12th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today named James Guthrie, currently the senior fellow and director of education policy studies at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Texas, as Nevada’s new public schools chief.

Guthrie, who will be based in Las Vegas, will begin his job as state superintendent of public instruction on April. 2. He succeeds current Superintendent Keith Rheault, who is retiring.

Sandoval selected Guthrie from three names forwarded to him by the state Board of Education. The board interviewed five candidates last month. Guthrie received unanimous support from the board.

James Guthrie.

Sandoval’s appointment of Guthrie is a first for a Nevada governor. The state board had made the superintendent appointments until the law was changed by the 2011 Legislature as part of an education reform package sought by Sandoval.

“After the passage of education reform in the last legislative session, for Nevada to have access to a figure with a national reputation is the perfect next step,” Sandoval said. “I am honored and thrilled Dr. Guthrie has agreed to help lead Nevada as we continue strengthening education in our great state.”

In a phone interview today, Guthrie said he decided to seek the position in part because of a belief that Nevada is on the brink of significant success in the public education arena.

“There are many hopeful signs in the state, not least of which is . . .  we have two of the nation’s best superintendents and we may have more than that,” he said. “I just only know Heath Morrison in Washoe and Dwight Jones in Clark, I don’t know the other 15. But in those two, virtually any big district in the nation would be delighted to have either one of them and we have both.”

Morrison was recently named superintendent of the year.

The 2011 legislative session also made a number of positive moves in education reform that Guthrie said he is impressed with. Guthrie said he is also impressed with Sandoval and is looking forward to working with him on education reform efforts.

Guthrie said his first task will be to familiarize himself with Nevada and its public education system, although he has worked in the past for the Nevada Legislature and has made extensive visits to the state.

Guthrie said he also has experience in the political realm, which will be important as he works with the governor and state lawmakers in the 2013 legislative session.

“I’ve worked for a number of legislatures, I’ve worked in the White House, I’ve testified before Congress,” he said. “I can’t say that I know all that I need to know but I have done it before.”

Prior to his position with the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Guthrie served as a professor of education policy and leadership at the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education at Southern Methodist University.

Guthrie has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in physical anthropology, a master’s degree from Stanford in educational administration and earned his Ph.D. in educational administration from Stanford.

Guthrie has completed two postdoctoral fellowships, one at Harvard University in economics and education and one at Oxford Brooks College in Oxford, UK.

From 1999 to 2009, Guthrie served as the director of the Peabody Center for Education Policy at Vanderbilt University and as editor of the Peabody Journal of Education as well as the Peabody Education Leadership Series. From 1982 to 1983, Guthrie was the dean of the School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. After serving as a professor in the graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley, Guthrie was an education specialist in the U.S. Senate.

A published author, Guthrie has served at least 25 state governments and worked with international organizations such as The World Bank and the Organization of American States (OAS).

The state superintendent position pays about $121,785 a year plus benefits.


Audio clips:

James Guthrie says there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about Nevada’s public education system:

031212Guthrie1 :28 we have both.”

Guthrie says he has experience in dealing with legislators:

031212Guthrie2 :13 done it before.”


Washoe Schools Chief Heath Morrison A Finalist For 2012 Superintendent Of The Year

By Sean Whaley | 5:37 pm January 4th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison has been named a finalist for the 2012 National Superintendent of the Year.

The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) selected Morrison and three other superintendents as the four finalists in the national program.

“I am exceptionally honored and humbled,” Morrison said. “There are some amazing educational leaders in this country who are doing phenomenal work to improve the lives of the nation’s children.

Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison.

“Being selected as a finalist for this award is truly an acknowledgment of the amazing efforts of the educators in Washoe County and a result of hard work and effort by many people in the district and in our community,” he said. “Our reform efforts have led to improved student achievement and increased opportunities for every child’s future.”

AASA will announce the winner of the 2012 National Superintendent of the Year on Feb. 16 at the National Conference on Education in Houston, Texas. The program, which is sponsored by ARAMARK Education, ING and AASA, celebrates the contributions and leadership of public school superintendents.

“When we called for educational reform several years ago, we were looking for a superintendent who would inspire change and re-energize our community in support of education,” said Washoe County School Board President Barbara McLaury. “Heath is exactly that type of leader. He has stimulated genuine change that is making a difference in the lives of our children.”

Student achievement has continued to make significant improvements under Morrison’s leadership. Between 2009 and 2011, the district’s graduate rate jumped 14 points from 56 percent to 70 percent with increases in every student subgroup.

The Washoe County School District also has witnessed academic gains in test scores and has successfully narrowed the achievement gap in many subject areas.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid praised Morrison’s leadership and advocacy at a time of budget reductions.

“Despite the budget restrictions, Dr. Morrison has helped institute dramatic educational reforms in the district and has demonstrated his commitment to ensuring that Nevada students are able to compete in the global economy,” he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who also provided a letter of recommendation, said: “Dr. Morrison is a strategic thinker who builds string relationships in his community and policymakers in the state capital. He is respected by his peers in all of Nevada’s school districts and I know he enjoys very close relationships with members of the Nevada Legislature as well.”


In Late Night Hearing, Assembly Caught Up In Education Funding Numbers Game

By Andrew Doughman | 10:37 pm April 19th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Assembly was awash with numbers tonight.

As part of the Democratic strategy to close the budget, the Assembly as a whole discussed for four and a half hours the education budget so that all legislators could learn about the cuts.

Legislative staff presented to the Assembly more than $1 billion proposed “major reductions” to school districts. These numbers come from a variety of sources:

  • $600 million from freezing teachers’ pay increases, reducing salaries by 5 percent and making teachers contribute more to their retirement plans.
  • $238 million from the governor’s direct reductions to state support for public schools.
  • $221 million of room tax money continues to shift from supporting schools to the state general fund, as it does in the current budget.

The governor has also proposed to use $301 million in districts’ bond debt reserves for day-to-day expenses. School district representatives argue that this equates to an additional cut.

For legislators who do not sit on fiscal committees, the hearing in the Assembly chambers allowed them to ask questions about the education budget and education policy.

What ensured was a semantics game.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget director, Andrew Clinger, said that a $141 million pay freeze does not equate to a reduction and the $221 million room tax is already diverted to the state budget this year.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, contended the pay freeze was a reduction.

Clinger said shifting $301 million from debt reserves to day-to-day expenses was not a cut.

Smith said it was.

The confusion, however, did not end there.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero-Loop, D-Las Vegas, asked how much money the state would cut per student. That ever elusive “per pupil spending” number was no easier to find this evening.

“It really depends on who you ask,” Clinger said. “Depending on what your source is, you’re going to get a different answer.”

Depending how one cooks the numbers, those estimates can vary by thousands of dollars. But boiled down, the proposed budget would allot $315 less per student than it currently does.

Smith asked Washoe County Superintendent Heath Morrison whether he thought sweeping districts’ bond reserves should be called a “cut.”

“The semantics of ‘is it a cut?’ Here’s what I know: It hurts the Washoe County School District,” he said.

Republicans, however, contended that school districts could make the cuts hurt less through changes to state government.

Assemblymen Pat Hickey, R-Reno, and Mark Sherwood, R-Las Vegas, suggested that school districts suspend prevailing wage – a requirement to pay a certain wage for public works projects – in an attempt to help districts save money.

Assemblyman Mark Hammond, R-Las Vegas, who is a teacher at a Las Vegas school, said he would like to see principals have more control over funds that come to their schools.

Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite, said the Legislature should change collective bargaining rules so districts can drive a harder bargain for contracts with teachers and administrators.

Morrison contended this would not help. He said teachers and administrators have agreed to cuts in the past.

“I did not see collective bargaining as a problem,” he said. “I did not see anything but cooperation and support.”

Smith also said that reform is not the issue.

“We do need reform and we are working on reform,” she said. “But we also need to adequately fund our education system.”

Through the semantics squabbles and policy debates, a partisan bent seemed to triumph.

Democrats said there was too little in the governor’s $5.8 billion budget to help Nevada out of the recession.

“The elephant in the room is that we have a revenue problem rather than a spending problem,” said Assemblyman Joseph Hogan, D-Las Vegas.

Republicans said Sandoval’s budget is just right.

“The governor is trying to restore the economy,” said Assemblyman Pete Livermore, R-Carson City. “If you’re going to tax people out of their businesses and out of their homes, how can you restore the economy?”







Debate Over State Budget ‘End Game’ Suggests Compromise Far Off

By Andrew Doughman | 7:38 pm April 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, wanted honesty about the Legislature’s budget “end game,” and he got it.

At a legislative town hall featuring 21 lobbyists, lawmakers and business leaders, the candid comments from panelists seemed to suggest a looming budget compromise is a fool’s hope.

“You’re not going to get a tax increase through this Senate,” said Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, one of the panelists. “You’re simply not going to get it.”

He clashed again with AFL-CIO lobbyist and co-panelist Danny Thompson. Now both men have said they are “offended” by what the other has said about collective bargaining. Roberson’s bill to change collective bargaining law died in committee last week.

Hickey gave each panelist about five minutes to speak, which was enough time for each panelist to repeat a few key talking points.

“It seemed business as usual,” said Jim Cooley, lobbyist for the Nevada Libertarian Party. “It was basically, ‘this is my pitch.’”

Each speaker brought his or her own expertise to the discussion. But the debate was framed by the needs and wants of each participant.

Washoe County Superintendent Heath Morrison called for education reforms paired with more funding than Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed in his general fund budget.

“We must improve education,” Morrison said. “Only by providing an educated workforce are businesses going to want to come to Nevada and stay in Nevada.”

Chuck Muth, conservative activist for Citizen Outreach, maintained his firm stance against new taxes.

“It is no longer sufficient to say that the government needs to do more with less,” Muth said. “It is time for us to start saying that the government needs to do less with less.”

Heidi Gansert, Sandoval’s chief of staff, did her best to put a new spin on the talking points representatives from the governor’s office have used to defend the budget since its January release.

“We recognize that there are some very difficult cuts,” Gansert said. “It’s time that we have to do that.”

Hickey organized the town hall meeting to bring a diverse crowd to one place to debate, as the title of the forum suggested, “the recession, revenues and Nevada’s recovery.” He said earlier that he wanted Nevada’s political players to put their “cards on the table.”

At least one lobbyist in the audience said he was discouraged that the cards the players revealed today were the same hands they were holding two months ago.

“I think it shows how firm both sides are in their positions, which means we probably are not playing for an end game in that first week of June,” said Paul Enos, a lobbyist for the Nevada Motor Transport Association.

Former Republican Sen. Randolph Townsend spoke at the event and channeled his colleague, former Republican Sen. Bill Raggio, in calling for more respect in the legislative debate.

“Deal only with the issue in front of you,” he said. “Don’t tie the issue to the person … the day you make it personal you lose … It’s a lot harder to become vitriolic when it’s somebody you know.”

Members of the public also joined by watching online or attending the town hall at the Legislature. Robert Stransbury, 64, is a retired teacher and Carson City resident who listened to the debate from the Legislature.

“I took away that there’s some very strong opinions on opposing sides,” he said. “I hope that they can agree and come together and get a budget.”

To that end, Townsend had some advice for the current legislators struggling to do more than cobble together a budget at the last minute.

“Once in awhile you have to walk out of the [legislative] building, breathe the clean air and try to get a different perspective, and right now that is what the building needs,” he said.

The 120-day legislative session is scheduled to end during the first week of June.


Assemblyman Asks Lawmakers To Put “Cards On The Table” In Forum Today

By Andrew Doughman | 12:47 pm April 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Sparks, is asking other legislators to “lay your cards on the table.”

As the budget debate in Carson City roils to no discernible conclusion, Hickey is bringing 21 lawmakers, business leadersa and academics to the Legislature to talk taxes and government reform.

“This forum will help get out into the open things that have only been talked about behind closed doors,” Hickey said. “As moderator, I plan to press participants to speak openly about the ‘end game’ here this session.”

That end game has traditionally involved closed door meetings between legislative leadership.

Hickey will moderate the “Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery” panel today between 3 – 5 p.m. at the Legislature. Viewers online can watch here.

Hickey said he would like to have a serious discussion in public that could evolve into legislative negotiations about the budget.

At the very least, the diversity of voices at the forum should provide an interesting sideshow to the day-in, day-out legislative hearings and committees.

Speaking at the forum span nearly every position on the tax debate. Politically, Hickey’s guests span the spectrum from left to right and include representatives from unions and contractors, free-market libertarians and progressive groups, chambers of commerce and school districts.

Hickey’s forum is not the only change in the legislative end game.

This year, Democratic leaders in the Assembly and Senate have said they will conduct budget hearings in the Assembly and Senate chambers. They say the move will lead to more transparency and include more legislators in budget discussions.

As first reported in the Las Vegas Sun, the change could prompt legislators toward a budget battle over education.

The Legislature has 49 days remaining to conclude its session, pass a budget and finish the drawing of political districts as required every 10 years by the U.S. Census.


Panelists for the “Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery” include:

Heidi Gansert, the governor’s chief of staff

Speaker Pro Tempore Debbie Smith, D-Sparks

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas

Tray Abney, Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce

Carole Vilardo – Nevada Taxpayers Association

Dr. Elliott Parker – UNR economist

Clara Andriola – Associated Builders and Contractors

Geoffrey Lawrence – Nevada Policy Research Institute economist

Dr. Heath Morrison – Washoe County School District superintendent

Mary Lau – Retail Association of Nevada

Dr. Tyrus Cobb – former assistant to President Ronald Reagan

Neil Medina – Northern Nevada Contractor

Jim Pfrommer – Education Alliance of Washoe County

Former Sen. Randolph Townsend

Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks

Bob Fulkerson, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada

Chuck Muth – Citizen Outreach

Dave Humke – Washoe County Commissioner

Danny Thompson – AFL-CIO union representative

Norm Dianda – Q&D Construction

Governor’s Veto Looms As Democrats Showcase Suffering Schools

By Andrew Doughman | 3:39 pm March 29th, 2011

SUN VALLEY, NEVADA – When Sara Weatherford teaches at Sun Valley Elementary, she says frequent power outages and rattling pipes interrupt her lessons.

The 52-year-old school is a hodgepodge of a half dozen buildings erected intermittently over the past five decades. Noise bleeds through the walls between classrooms, making it difficult to concentrate, she says.

It’s schools like Sun Valley Elementary that Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, wants to fix. Smith has sponsored a bill that would allow school districts to dip into the piggy banks they keep for debt payments.

The extra money would help school districts like the Washoe County School District renovate old schools like Sun Valley Elementary.

If the state was flush with money, the plan might not be controversial. But big pots of money are scarce these days, and Gov. Brian Sandoval has another use for the same funds.

In what would be his first veto since assuming office in January, Sandoval plans to veto Smith’s bill, Assembly Bill 183. Sandoval has booked the same money into his budget for school operating costs.

Smith and the Democrats cannot override the governor’s veto since Republicans in the Legislature will not vote against the governor, who is also a Republican.

So Democrats today opted for the next best thing. They called a press conference.

Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison addresses the press at Sun Valley Elementary School, where he voiced support for Assemblywoman Debbie Smith's school renovation bill.

This morning, Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison, flanked by education advocates and a union representative, stood behind a lectern at Sun Valley Elementary and spoke in support of the bill as television cameras rolled and reporters scribbled notes.

“We’d like to welcome you to Sun Valley Elementary School, and we are here today to make sure we are raising our voices in support for Assembly Bill 183,” Morrison said. “It allows us … to have safe, inviting schools conducive for children to learn.”

Sandoval is expected to receive the bill today. His spokesperson, Mary-Sarah Kinner, said today that the press conference did not change the governor’s mind.

“Unfortunately the bill does create a $300 million hole in the budget with no plan to fund that,” Sandoval told the Nevada News Bureau last week, after the bill passed out of the Senate and Assembly on party-line votes.

Mark Stanton, chief capital projects and facilities management officer for the Washoe County School District, said Smith’s bill would let the school district take about $35 million out of its debt reserve account.

This would let the school district issue more bonds, which would raise the money necessary to renovate schools.

The governor, however, wants to sweep the debt reserves into the district’s operating fund. If he signed Smith’s bill, he would risk punching a hole in his own budget.

“It’s a philosophical decision about whether we want to use the construction dollars for operating costs,” Smith said today in her office.

She said she has not negotiated any compromise with the governor over his intent to veto her bill.

Nonetheless, the Assembly Democrats waited the maximum time permitted until they had to submit the bill to the governor.

Smith said they waited to “let things settle” and give the governor some time to think about the bill.

Smith, however, expects Sandoval to receive the bill today, meaning the governor will have until the end of next Monday, April 4, to either sign or veto the bill.

“We’ve had conversations about that and I think there was an understanding that I had a different position on that bill,” Sandoval said this past week.

The bill would be Sandoval’s first veto since he took office at the beginning of this year.

Clark and Washoe County School Districts Could Increase Class Sizes By Five Students Per Class

By Andrew Doughman | 10:49 am March 24th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s two largest school districts could increase classes sizes by five students during the upcoming school year.

Superintendents from Clark and Washoe Counties said they would put more children in classrooms to address Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget cuts.

Those budget cuts could result in hundreds of school district positions eliminated in Washoe County and 2,486 positions in Clark County.

The class-size increases were part of budget plans superintendents presented to a legislative committee this morning.

“That’s an alarming cumulative impact put together,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford. “… It really is significant.”

In Clark County, Superintendent Dwight Jones said he plans to increase class sizes by up to seven students for higher grades and by three students at the lower grades.

He said this would mean a jump from 18 students per class to 21 students per class for first-graders. For grades six through 12, the average class size could increase from 32 students per class to 39 students per class.

Jones estimated that this shift would save the district $114 million, part of a total budget reduction of $411 million.

In Washoe County, Morrison said he plans to increase class sizes by five to meet the governor’s proposed cuts. This would save the district about $30 million.

He said putting one more student in each class saves the school district $6 million.

Increasing class sizes would also mean jobs for teachers would go away. More students would be in fewer classes, meaning the district would need fewer teachers as well.

Morrison said he is having a difficult time accommodating the budget cuts.

“They’re going to stymie efforts to build capacity for our teachers to deliver the important instruction that they do on a day to day basis,” he said.

Assembly Democrats today argued that the governor’s proposed cuts to K-12 are $1.1 billion. They posted to their website an interpretation of those cuts that includes about $600 million that school districts must negotiate with their employees.

The level of actual cuts could change depending on the results of those negotiations.

The governor has earlier said the cuts would amount to about $625 million.

The announcement also comes as former governor Bob Miller asked the Legislature to not increase class sizes in a letter published in today’s Las Vegas Sun.

Miller was the architect of the class-size reduction program when he was governor.