You might be able to distill one of the Clark County School Board races down to t-shirts.
The one donned by District B candidate Katie Williams on her official campaign website is bright blue and reads “Socialism Sucks” in a style riffing off the logo of former presidential candidate and self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. The t-shirt worn by candidate Jeff Proffitt on his official campaign website is red and reads “kids before politics” — a not-at-all subtle nod to the partisan trumpeting that characterizes his outspoken opponent’s social media presence.
Trustees are non-partisan elected positions, but Williams has been outspoken about her national views. She is a virulent supporter of President Trump who claims she was stripped of her Ms. Nevada pageant crown over her conservative political views. She went viral locally when she bragged in a tweet aimed at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about dining at a crowded restaurant in mid-March just before the statewide shutdown. And she believes conservative values are under attack in America.
Williams acknowledges that her outspokenness might be viewed as a hindrance but she sees the prospect of toning it down as being dishonest: “I don’t pander for votes. I am who I am — a Christian, a conservative, a veteran, a mom.”
Proffitt is far more measured about expressing his political views. He describes himself as a moderate who is registered as a Democrat. He says he prides himself in building a coalition of people and organizations regardless of differing political agendas. Clark County Education Association and Nevada State Education Association, two unions constantly in disagreement with one another, have both endorsed him. Former Republican U.S. Rep. Crescent Hardy and the conservative group Power2Parent have endorsed him, but so has the liberal Culinary Union.
“You have to do business with the other side or you don’t get business done,” says Proffitt. “(Williams) likes to say it’s pandering. It’s allowing everyone to be at the table and giving input. … There’s good to be found in everyone.”
Proffitt is the business manager of Sheet Metal Workers Local 88 and has a background in running apprenticeship programs and teaching college-level trade courses as an adjunct instructor at the College of Southern Nevada. He’d like to see a greater emphasis on magnet and career training programs within the Clark County School District, as well as more buy-in from the business community.
A Moapa Valley resident, he is also hoping to bring a rural voice to the board.
Williams is a former military recruiter who now works at an accounting firm. She wants to bring financial accountability to the district through a forensic audit, which she believes would expose waste. She says she believes the district is appropriately funded, a position not shared by any other candidate in any of the school board races.
“There are people who believe more money equals better education and that’s just not true,” says Williams.
Williams also wants to increase family and student engagement, perhaps through the creation of a new board that empowers them. Williams emphasizes freedom and choice in much of her messaging. She supports independent charter schools, school voucher programs and breaking up the school district.
She knows many of those are policies beyond the purview of the school board, but for her “the whole thing is about getting the change started.”
In the more immediate future, Williams is pushing for the reopening of schools. The wife of a paramedic, Williams says she isn’t trying to discredit Covid: “It’s a very real virus but it’s about choice.”
Williams criticizes the board for not listening to parents, who said overwhelmingly in a survey conducted by the district that they wanted schools to physically reopen. Before pivoting to fully online in the days before the beginning of the academic year, CCSD originally announced a hybrid model where groups of students would alternate between in-person and remote instruction in order to maintain social distancing requirements within buildings. Students who wanted to be fully remote would have also had that option.
“They wanted hybrid,” she recalls.“I am fine with that. (The school board) took the choice away from kids.”
Proffitt by contrast believes the school board made the right decision when they pivoted to fully remote based on worsening case numbers, but he believes the state and district are now in the position to plan for safe reopenings. He believes the board should prioritize the return of students with individualized education plans first, then elementary school students, and then middle and high school students.
He says schools can learn from Moapa, where seven schools were granted waivers from mandatory remote learning due to their rural status: “We have to prove safety. I think we can, with protocols in place.”
Whoever wins the District B race will replace outgoing Trustee Chris Garvey, who was term limited and could not run for reelection.
Williams received the most votes during the June primary — 23.9 percent. Proffitt received the second most votes — 18.7 percent. Six additional candidates ran during the primary.
Proffitt raised $38,472 from January through June, according to his campaign finance reports. Williams raised only $963 during that time frame. At least two of the candidates she defeated during the primary had raised significantly more money than she did.