Both of the women in the running for the District C seat on the Clark County School Board are products of the community they hope to oversee.
Evelyn Garcia Morales graduated from Mojave High School, and Tameka Henry from Cheyenne High School. Both alumnae have spent their adult lives focused on improving educational outcomes.
Garcia Morales is executive director of The Fulfillment Fund, a nonprofit focused on college access that operates out of Chaparral High School. She spent 11 years living in the Washington D.C. area, where she earned a master’s degree in organizational development and spent years managing national leadership programs for Latino youth.
“My son started school in a district in Virginia,” recalls Garcia Morales. “The per-pupil (funding) rate there was three times as much as it is here in Nevada. When I decided to move back, it was very intentional. I wanted to take an active role in our community.”
Henry is a lifelong resident of North Las Vegas and has been a longtime advocate for Head Start, a federal program focused on early childhood education for children in low-income families. She has years of experience on several community boards and school organizational teams within the district.
“I’ve seen the quality in our schools,” says Henry, “and the not-so-quality.”
Garcia Morales and Henry are in agreement on several educational issues. Chief among them is their belief that K-12 public education is severely underfunded. Both say they want to advocate for new revenue solutions.
“We know a lot (of issues) come back to funding,” says Henry. “We know where the need is. We need to look at additional funding. Be it a lottery or mining, anything.”
“We have to look at potential solutions,” says Garcia Morales. “It will take the moral courage of every single individual who lives in Nevada. Not just legislators. Not just the governor. Every single individual who contributes to this economy, to the success of our community. It really is a question: What is really a priority for us here?”
Both candidates also place an emphasis on addressing equity issues, which have long been documented within the district and more recently have been exacerbated and highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. District C has the greatest concentration of low-performing schools.
Garcia Morales says CCSD has been moving in the right direction and needs to continue keeping the lens on equity issues. She points to an equity report released in January, which she feels has gotten overshadowed by the pandemic.
“What is very clear is that students in District C have been the hardest hit,” she says. “We can’t look away. Equity in education is really what it comes down to. Our success is in how we treat the most vulnerable.”
Garcia Morales believes the school board and CCSD should focus on using existing data to find solutions.
Henry said addressing equity involves myriad factors. One is teacher recruitment and retention, which low-performing schools often struggle with. Henry said she has gone to schools across the valley to try and pin down why some schools don’t have more tenured teachers. She’d also like the board to build partnerships that can build skills among substitute teachers, particularly long-term “guest teachers” who in practice are teaching students for entire academic years.
When asked about their policy priorities, Garcia Morales said the pandemic had refocused hers to be “100 percent” on inequities such as the digital divide. Henry said she would like to improve family engagement across the district and increase access to early childhood education.
According to campaign finance reports filed with the state, Garcia Morales raised $29,437 from January through June. She has been endorsed by Democratic state Sen. Yvanna Cancela and Assemblywoman Selena Torres, who is a teacher.
Henry raised $19,640 in that same time period. She has been endorsed by the Clark County Education Association and the Education Support Employees Association.
In the June primary, Henry edged out a win, capturing 21.08 percent of votes. Garcia Morales placed second with 20.34 percent of votes. Five additional candidates also ran.
Whoever wins the November runoff will replace outgoing Trustee Linda Young, who was term limited and unable to run for reelection.