Community Conversations

Sandi Herrera - 05/30/2017


Got Core Values? Founder Sandi Herrera has worked as a business executive for Colliers International, Delivering Happiness and The Hunter Group In this week’s Tuesday Conversation, Herrera discusses how Core Values can define the climate and culture of any organization, including a school.

Q: Explain the concept of core values.

Herrera: They’re those guiding principles that help us make decisions in life. My number one core value is gratitude. The way that I articulate gratitude as my number one core value is that I believe that gratitude is the core of true happiness. Whether you’re at the highest of high or the lowest of low, no matter what’s going on in life it’s fabulous…there’s a lot of neuroscience behind gratitude, that just the act of trying to think of something you’re grateful for shifts your brain to a more positive state.

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Traci Davis - 05/23/2017

As we work with Nevada’s school districts and educators in the embrace of the collaborative classroom experience, in this week’s Tuesday Conversation we ask Washoe County School District Superintendent Traci Davis a single question: What does collaboration mean to you?

Davis: “It means so many things when you think about collaboration. It happens outside of the classroom, when you get into the classroom, when teachers do work and look at best practices and look at analyzing things and how well you may have taught something and how the kids did. So, you share those practices because maybe I’m new or maybe using something that’s old and you’re new.

I think the richness of collaboration is how we learn from each other when we teach and learn to move kids forward. I think when you get into the classroom piece around collaboration I as a teacher would always collaborate with my kids…

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Lisa Burkhead - 05/16/2017

Principal Lisa Burkhead is coming to the end of her first year leading Foothill High School, which sits across Interstate 515 from Nevada State College. An award-winning principal at Fertitta Middle School, where she successfully transformed the academic experience, Burkhead has focused much of her work on overhauling the academic climate and culture at Foothill. In this week’s Tuesday Conversation we speak with Burkhead about those changes.

Q: What does it mean to transform a school’s climate and culture?

Burkhead: It takes time, and I think it takes building trust and relationships with all of your stakeholders. It certainly was not easy at the beginning of the year. There was definitely pushback, but I think it improved as the school year progressed and students got to know me, and I was visible. I think the main thing is if you explain the “why” you’re doing things, people understand, and if they know that it’s coming from a good place in your heart and it’s in their best interest, while they may not agree they do accept it. I think that we’ve come a long way from the beginning of the school year.

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Ray Specht - 05/09/2017

Toyota Financial Savings Bank Vice Chairman Ray Specht is based in Henderson and has worked with the Clark County School District to develop a bilingual financial literacy curriculum for students within the nation’s fifth-largest school district. It has since spread nationally.

Q: What prompted you to develop the program?

Specht: We just went through not just a severe recession; we went through basically a depression, economically. We were the foreclosure capital for awhile, unfortunately, and a lot of families suffered through that, and it makes me wonder, “Had they had those financial literacy skills how many would not have ended up in the situation they were in?”

We owe it to every child to give them the financial skill set, so they can have a successful career; so they can be financially successful; so they can plan for their retirement, their family’s future..."

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Anna Aberle - 05/02/2017


Anna Aberle was an elementary school student when she arrived in the United States 20 years ago. Adopted by a Las Vegas family from an uncertain future in Russia, Aberle attended school in the Clark County School District.

Now married and the mother of a 7-year-old boy, Aberle and her business partner operate a web design firm, Aberlewest Design & Marketing.

In this week’s Tuesday Conversation, the Palo Verde High School graduate who later earned a college degree recalls how dedicated teachers played a significant role in her becoming a successful citizen in what had been a foreign country.

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Linda Alterwitz-Mizrahi - 04/11/2017

For 12 years, Walker Furniture has sponsored a program that promotes reading among Clark County School District students, particularly those in some of the region’s most economically challenged neighborhoods.

Walker co-owners Linda Alterwitz-Mizrahi and her brother, Larry Alterwitz, have provided numerous schools, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, with furniture and bookshelves to create spaces that encourage youngsters to sit, think and read.

In addition to co-managing the longtime family business, Alterwitz-Mizrahi is a visual artist, whose work studies the “intersection of art and science. Her inspiration, the inner workings of the human body and external environment.” She has had solo and joint exhibitions in the United States and England.

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Owen Carver - 03/21/2017

Las Vegas businessman Owen Carver lost his 2016 bid for the Nevada Legislature, but the owner of All in Web Pro and Café do Paraiso remains committed to helping support the transformation of Nevada’s K-12 system.

Q: If you could make one fix for the K-12 system that would transform the employee pipeline, what would it be?

Carver: We need to have a comprehensive communication system that helps connect students and parents and teachers to the local business environment and to local leaders so that students can be empowered and so that schools are not isolated in their efforts to try to create a unified pathway for students. This will also  empower students to be able to have a vision and a road map for what they can do in terms of their education as it relates to getting a job and getting a career and having that in the context of what’s going on in Las Vegas. I think having a platform like that to connect that information, to connect people, to empower students and businesses to communicate would be a game changer.

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Nicolette Smith - 03/14/2017

Nicolette Smith is an advocate for National Board Certification, a high-level teacher-training program that provides educators with the foundational and procedural tools to think systematically about their classroom practices, drawing upon personal experience to boost student success.
Labeled the “gold standard for the teaching profession,” the certification process is designed to provide teachers with a stronger knowledge and appreciation for:
*Every student’s emotional, physical, academic, economic and social health and well-being.
*Classroom content and best teaching practices.
*Student assessment techniques.
*Best classroom practices and a greater ability to learn from personal experience.
*The recognition that every teacher is a member of Professional Learning Communities.


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Spencer Stewart - 03/07/2017


Western Governors University Nevada Chancellor Spencer Stewart argues that technology is changing the most basic assumptions of classroom learning, as it transforms the group learning experience into one that is individualized.

Stewart, a former vice president of Nevada State College, is a proponent of Assembly Bill 110, which was introduced in the Assembly Education Committee on Feb. 7.

The measure focuses on competency-based learning (CBL) and would permit students to receive credit for a course of study without attending the classes if students are determined to be competent within that subject matter.

The WGU model is a competency-based model that’s dependent upon subject mastery, and Stewart argues that CBL and tech are a perfect match for how students learn in today’s world.

Stewart began our discussion citing some of the fundamental questions that underlie competency-based learning.

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Mary Jean Gallagher - 02/21/2017


Mary Jean Gallagher is a former Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Student Achievement Officer for The Ministry of Education in Ontario, Canada, who travels much of the world explaining the transformational nature of shared instructional experiences in K-12 classrooms.

Gallagher appeared last week at a Nevada Succeeds’ Legislative Academy in Carson City to speak with state lawmakers and educators, where she discussed the power of collaborative teaching initiatives that find educators throughout school buildings working together and employing best practices to develop Professional Learning Communities. We spoke with her about the work she’s embraced, click the links to view portions of our conversation.

Question: What is the role of school principals in developing and nurturing Professional Learning Communities? 

Gallagher: It’s the most important work a principal can do, and it’s not one size fits all. It’s collaboration between principals and teachers to look at what students need and sort out how, as a group, you’re going to be able to meet those needs so a student can be successful.

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Adnan Khawaja - 02/07/2017


He was a shy young man who knew little about the social and cultural norms of life in the United States; just 15 years old, Adnan Khawaja and his family moved to Las Vegas 23 years ago from Pakistan.

Las Vegas was a natural destination for a family in pursuit of The American Dream. His mother’s extended Filipino-American relatives had lived here since the 1970s. So when young Adnan arrived there was some familiarity to be found, but a new language and culture, particularly one as high-powered as the Las Vegas version, all provided an existential shock to a teen-age boy trying to find his way in a foreign country.

Twenty-three years later, Khawaja, owner of Sky Vista Consulting, a Henderson marketing firm, has a perspective on the experience of immigrant students within our public education system, a perspective that’s particularly relevant in today’s diverse Clark County School District.

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Allison Smith - 01/31/2017


The question hung there for Dr. Allison Smith. Why don’t young students of color go into the teaching profession? The career choice may get ripped in some quarters, but it’s important, professionally challenging work just like any other profession.

And yet, when you look at the national, state and local demographics for students enrolled in college education programs, a disproportionate percentage (when measured against national census figures), tend to be white.

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Pat Hickey - 01/24/2017

“You can’t craft a solution to a major challenge with one ideology ramming through a solution without the participation of the other.”

Pat Hickey has worked as a reporter, newspaper columnist, editor and college journalism instructor. A fourth-generation Nevadan whose roots stretch back to the 1870s in the Carson Valley-Lake Tahoe region, he has served in the Nevada State Assembly and on the State Board of Education.

Hickey was recently hired as Executive Director of the Charter School Association of Nevada, and in this week’s Tuesday Conversation we talk about what he views as the underlying socioeconomic challenges that Nevadans must confront to improve the state’s entire education system.

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Rick Crawford - 01/10/2017


Rick Crawford arrived in Southern Nevada in the 1970’s as a regional manager for the 7-11 convenience store chain, and in 1978 the Southern California native saw economic opportunity in the growing region and opened his first Green Valley Grocery store at the corner of Sunset Avenue and Green Valley Parkway. Today, he has more than 400 employees working in 53 stores.

Crawford and his wife, Jeri, are involved in a wide range of projects to help with the educational and cultural growth of Southern Nevadans. The Crawfords served as members of the founding board of The Smith Center for The Performing Arts, and for nearly a decade Jeri Crawford has been president of the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

Crawford estimates that about a third of his workforce was educated in Clark County, most of them by the Clark County School District, and we spoke with him earlier this week about business and what it takes to educate employees in today’s ever-changing workplace.

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Dwayne Miller - 01/03/2017


Dwayne Miller embraces the power of questioning, so much so that it defines every aspect of his work.  He’s Chairman of the Board of JBA Consulting Engineers, a global engineering firm which has designed key operational aspects of multiple Las Vegas Strip megaresorts – from acoustics to telecommunications, plumbing and surveillance.
graduate of the Virginia Military Institute with a BSEE in Electrical Engineering, Miller says his future was apparently set in stone when he just five years old. Young Dwayne’s father noticed that his son had buttoned his pajama top all the way up to his collar. His dad told him he did not have to button that fifth button.
“Then, why does the shirt have one?” the youngster asked quite sincerely.
“My dad says he knew that I’d be an engineer.”
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Kim Metcalf - 12/13/2017


UNLV College of Education Dean Kim Metcalf’s writing and research has focused on the success and failure of school voucher programs and the creative push to address the needs of the nation’s school districts. Metcalf accepted the College of Education’s top job in 2013 after having served as the Director of Institutional Research & Planning at the University of West Georgia.
Click the links in each answer to see a video clip of our discussion.
Question: How will the approach to education change in the coming years, and will we need more money to meet those changes?

Metcalf: We do need more money, but we’re also going to have to be more strategic about where we invest that money.  If we’re wise and we’re willing to collect data about the effectiveness of what we’re doing whatever the initiative may be and acknowledge what works and doesn’t work for those kids, in particular those most likely to fail or to struggle, and we can target resources in those areas, then I think, yes, more money strategically used does become important based on data.

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Tech Impact - 12/06/2017


Cami Lewis and Meishach Moore sit in The Historic Westside School in West Las Vegas, where they discuss the role of the Las Vegas office of the Philadelphia-based non-profit, Tech Impact in providing workforce training for men and women who lack the skills to work in today’s office setting.

With significant support from Barclays Bank, Tech Impact’s CXWorks trains young adults to become proficient in the use of office technology that boosts their employability.

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John Delikanakis - 11/29/2017


John Delikanakis is a commercial litigator and a former associate general counsel for a Fortune 500 company. The partner in the Las Vegas offices of Snell & Wilmer has played an active role in the transformation of the state’s public education system and economic development efforts, serving as Vice Chairman of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance.

A former New York stockbroker, Delikanakis speaks of meeting the educational needs of Nevada’s students, the needs of current and future employers, and building a workforce development pipeline that creates a more prosperous state for all Nevadans.

Delikanakis: I believe you can’t have economic development in Southern Nevada unless you have an educated workforce.  We’re kind of building things from whole-cloth here, so to the extent that I as someone in the business community, the legal community that’s lived here for over 20 years, can help principals do their job and serve as a resource, I’m happy to do so.

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Owen Carver - 11/15/2017


The founder of and Café do Paraiso LLC, Owen Carver speaks of his recent bid for the Nevada Legislature and continuing to play an active role in the development of public policy throughout the region and state, drawing upon his concerns about the ability of our K-12 and higher education systems to meet the needs of the changing economy.


We spoke with Carver, a member of the Nevada Succeeds’ Board of Directors, earlier today about lessons learned along the campaign trail.

Carver: I talked to a ton of people -- teachers, parents, thousands of people who are passionate about education, people who work in ZOOM Schools, people who have their kids in public or private schools, and school funding was a major issue, but I think a lot of people are just concerned about the quality of our education system...

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Bob Anderson - 11/08/2017


Bob Anderson is a partner with the Las Vegas office of the Phoenix-based law firm Snell & Wilmer and a member of the Nevada Succeeds' Board of Directors. The University of Florida Law School graduate earned an undergraduate degree in accounting and routinely works with businesses seeking to move to the Las Vegas Valley. The quality of the region’s K-12 system invariably becomes a part of conversations with executives considering a move to Southern Nevada.

Q: Why are you involved in the discussion about public education in Nevada, particularly Southern Nevada?

Anderson: Education is so key that if we don’t have an educated workforce then it hurts businesses here, and if we don’t have great educational institutions here starting with Kindergarten, we’re not going to attract the kinds of businesses this community needs to grow.

It’s easy to get people to look at possibly relocating here because of the presumed tax advantages, but the next questions are probably about education and crime, and I think we need to be prepared to answer those questions and have some good answers.

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Valerie Glenn - 10/25/2017


The Glenn Group is a 47+ year-old advertising and public relations firm with offices in Las Vegas and Reno. The company, through its then-DRGM Advertising arm, was involved in the marketing of such newly opened Strip giants as MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay. The company’s clients also have included businesses in health care, financial services, home building, insurance and retail.
Valerie Glenn, the company’s chief executive officer, described her business approach in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun: “We take a lot of time to really understand (the) consumer because we always want to make sure we are representing the consumer’s point of view. I really believe that it’s not so much about what someone is trying to sell. It has everything to do with what somebody wants to buy, and if you are selling something that nobody wants to buy then everybody is in trouble.”
Glenn is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in journalism. She is a member of the Nevada Succeeds Board of Directors and holds a deep interest in the transformation of Nevada’s K-12 and higher education systems. This week we talk with Glenn about her dedication to the ongoing transformation of Nevada’s public school and higher education systems.

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Wade Simpson - 10/18/2017


Wade Simpson looks at the needs of today’s K-12 students, and the Las Vegas-born architect speaks the language of professional educators. He talks of collaborative, highly wired spaces in which students work in groups or singularly on projects that draw together multiple academic subjects.
An architect for 25 years, the Valley High School graduate who studied his craft at the University of Utah has worked on the design and redesign of dozens of schools within the Clark County School District.
He’s watched as academic initiatives have come and gone, saw the construction boom of the 1990s and early-‘00s, and the economic collapse that devastated Southern Nevada’s economy and much of the region’s architecture community.
His firm, Simpson Coulter Studio: Architecture & Planning, has turned to the next phase of the school design narrative, and he’s convinced that the push for a more open, accessible classroom design is an extension of the philosophy that drives the reorganization of the Clark County School District.

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Denette Suddeth - 10/11/2017


Denette Suddeth teaches financial literacy to students in Southern Nevada middle and high schools, and what the banking executive often discovers is a generation of youngsters who have failed to draw links between a good education and economic security.
Junior Achievement’s “JA Finance Park” program is taught through 13 in-class lessons that provide students with the basics of banking, budgeting, credit, debt, expenses and wages.
The goal is to provide “experiential learning that… impacts them the rest of their lives,” says Suddeth, a Wells Fargo Senior Vice President and Loan Team Leader for Southern Nevada.

Read the full conversation.

Michael Newman – 10/04/2016


Michael Newman moved to Las Vegas 23 years ago with his wife, Deborah, putting three children through the Clark County School District, and the Texas-born Newman speaks positively about that experience. 

The Southwest Regional Managing Director for the global commercial real estate firm CBRE touts the educational experience of his children, as well as other Green Valley High School graduates who have gone on to matriculate from top universities in the country, becoming doctors, lawyers, engineers, electricians, artists, chefs, architects, accountants, filling any of hundreds of professions and trades.

In a sense, Newman, a member of the Nevada Succeeds’ Board of Directors, is on the front line of the state’s public education debate, routinely talking with global business executives seeking to expand or move their operations to Nevada. One of the first questions they ask Newman and his team: how good are the schools within the Clark County School District?

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