Before the sun rises most days, Dwight D. Jones is at the office. Since becoming superintendent of the Clark County School District (CCSD) in Nevada last December, 4:30 a.m. arrivals are common. “There’s just hardly enough time in the day,” Jones says.
To be sure, the challenges facing the nation’s fifth-largest school district are great. The recession not just hit, but smacked, Nevada, and the Clark County district—which includes Las Vegas and the surrounding rural areas—has cut nearly $5oo million from its budget over four years. Couple the staggering financial woes with a dismal academic track record—roughly half the students don’t graduate—and it’s easy to understand why Jones doesn’t sleep.
The 49-year-old father of three was the commissioner of education in Colorado when the Clark County Board of Trustees hired him to run its 308,000-student district, not bothered by his thin experience as a superintendent. Jones previously served for four years as the superintendent of Colorado’s Fountain-Fort Carson School District, which has 50 times fewer students than the Clark County district.
Jones, in a note to the community after being hired, said the Clark County board brought him in to be “a game changer.” And in his first year, he has explained to the community the district’s weaknesses and immediate reforms—putting each at-risk high school senior on a personal graduation plan, starting Saturday and after-school tutorials for struggling elementary and middle school students and moving toward a system in which all students in grade 8 take algebra.