Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara speaking to a U.S. House subcommittee about reopening schools in 2021.
The CCSD Board of Trustees is still negotiating with Supt. Jesus Jara about compensation for his alleged “harassment and retaliation” at the hands of Trustees Danielle Ford, Linda Cavazos and Lisa Guzman when they voted to fire him last October.
Remarkably, the majority of trustees seem willing to at least hear him out, if not pay him what may be millions of dollars.
This comes from a letter from Jara’s lawyer John Bailey to CCSD board attorney and Assistant District Attorney Nicole Malich, obtained through a public records request.*
The letter, dated May 2, 2022, references a phone conversation between Bailey and Malich on April 21, and “pending mediation that began on Feb. 28.”
Whether or not that mediation is still “pending” depends on who you ask. Bailey, clearly, still thinks it’s an open discussion. I have been told by others with knowledge of the mediation that it “failed,” and the board has no intention of going back to it.
Board attorney Malich did not answer requests to speak about this letter.
Bailey gives Malich and the trustees three options for Jara’s future.
Option 1 is blacked out. The name of the option, though, is “Stability for CCSD,” which tells me it’s about Jara’s contract. If that is so, then it’s a violation of open meeting law, which stipulates that contract negotiations or appointments of a “public officer or a chief executive or administrative officer in a comparable position of a public body” must be discussed in an open meeting, not a private mediation.
Option 2 in Bailey’s letter is to extend Jara’s contract to June 30, 2023, pay him $393,000 for the year, plus $1.5 million for the “hostile work environment” he claims, but that no lawyer I have talked to says is applicable because Jara is not in a protected class.
This meme, actually, is one of the things he claims is part of his hostile work environment. Trustee Ford retweeted it in the days after Jara’s firing, before he was rehired weeks later when Trustee Irene Cepeda changed her mind.
Funny, yes. Inappropriate for a boss to tweet after firing her employee? Maybe. Proof of a hostile work environment based on a protected class? Hardly.
It’s important to note that this option would give Jara 5 years, and would vest him in PERS.
Option 2 also includes a reference to $142,000 extra Jara would be paid. I am told that is retroactive, assuming the $393,000 proposed salary would have begun when he was reinstated back in November.
Option 3 would keep Jara employed till Jan. 15, 2023 – when his contract is set to run out. Then the district would pay him $2 million to leave. Not sure if the $142,000 retroactive payment is included.
Bailey gives a deadline in the letter of June 1, 2022. After that date, he notes, “Dr. Jara will be left with no alternative but to: (i) deem his employment agreement terminated for convenience by the Board; (ii) seek the remaining compensation under his employment agreement due to the termination for convenience; and (iii) pursue litigation based on his claims for a hostile work environment, harassment, and retaliation.”
You might notice that June 1, 2022 was more than three weeks ago, and Jara has not stopped working. In fact, he showed up at a number of public graduations, hired a new HR director, and has been showing up regularly for work at the Sahara building. A quick check of court filings finds no notice of litigation.
I am told that the trustees sent a counter offer to Jara. I have no idea what is in it, though one of the trustees who voted to fire Jara assures me he will not get a dime in hostile work environment compensation. She would not answer whether or not he would get a new contract.
Oh, the election
Whether Jara gets a new contract and the millions of dollars in extra compensation is, of course, dependent on the election. Three trustees are on the line: Linda Cavazos, Danielle Ford and Irene Cepeda. Right now, Jara has a 4-3 majority. So, in order to change that, Ford and Cavazos would have to win their elections and Cepeda would have to lose hers. A tall order. Cepeda’s challenger is anti-Jara. Ford and Cavazos’ challengers are pro-Jara.
Which means this trustee election is a referendum on keeping Jara or not. It either will or will not change the composition of the board to one that is willing to support Jara’s spin to one that wants to forge a stronger vision of CCSD without Jara.
Here are the election totals after the primary. The winner and the second place finish for each will run-off in November.
Cavazos got a majority of 37% in her primary for District G, which included six other people. She will be in a run-off against Greg Weiman, who got less than half Cavazos’ vote total.
Ford came in second to Bustamante Adams, who has ties to Jara. He sits on the board of Workforce Connections, where Bustamante Adams works. She has said she will retain Jara. District F was the most changed district after adjusting for population growth.
There were 10 people in the district F race. It’s interesting that the third place finisher was Jay (Coach) Calhoun, whose platform was about safety and communication, and who has said Jara must go. The fourth place finisher was Erica Neely, who is a right wing candidate. Together, they got 27% of the vote – higher than Bustamante Adams’ 22%. The election will rest on who can appeal best to Calhoun and Neely’s voters.
The district D primary was the most interesting. Irene Cepeda was at first losing to Steven Conger – a Power2Parent supporter and the nephew of Senator Mo Denis, who is also part of the new ABC PAC dedicated to getting better school board candidates. After a day, Cepeda pulled ahead of Conger. Then Friday, as the last batches of mail ballots came in, Conger slipped to third, as Brenda Zamora surged to overtake second place by two votes. Zamora is currently 112 votes ahead of Conger and 286 votes behind Cepeda.
Let’s prepare for some nastiness in these races. CCEA executive director John Vellardita has said he will do anything he can to get rid of Ford and Cavazos. He and Jara have a strange alliance, which I have never been able to figure out. If past is prologue, expect flyers in the mail with all sorts of nasty and untrue allegations.
*The public records request was filed on May 10. I finally got a copy of the letter on June 14, the day of the primary. After numerous exchanges with CCSD, I was finally told to get the letter directly from the DA’s office. I got it within an hour.
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