Former CCSD trustee among candidates seeking to join State Board of Education 

By: - May 6, 2024 4:59 am

(Clark County School District photo)

Eleven people sit on the Nevada State Board of Education. Four are elected by voters — one from each congressional district. The other seven are appointed by the governor or various public bodies.

Terms for all four elected board members are up this year, but only three elections will be held, and only two will appear on the June primary ballot.

For District 4, only current board member Tim Hughes filed to run, meaning he will automatically secure a second term. Hughes, who works for a national education nonprofit called TNTP (The New Teacher Project), was first elected to the board in 2020 to represent District 1. The political redistricting process, which occurred in 2021 after the last state board of education election cycle, shifted Hughes into a new district, which is why the district anomaly is happening.

For District 1, no primary will be held because only two candidates filed, meaning they will both advance and face off on the general election ballot in November. Those candidates are Tim Underwood and Tricia Braxton. Underwood told the Current he expects to launch his campaign website this week.

For Districts 2 and 3, five candidates are seeking to defeat two current board members. If any candidate receives more than 50% of the votes during the June primary, they will be declared the winner. If nobody receives a majority of votes, the top two finishers in each race will advance to the general election in November.

District 3

René Cantú currently represents District 4 on the state board of education but because of the political redistricting process is now running in District 3. His campaign website is not currently live.

Cantú is the founding executive director of Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates (also known as J4NG and JAG Nevada), which helps vulnerable youth finish high school. It’s a mission that hits close to home as a former vulnerable youth who graduated toward the bottom of his high school class but went on to earn a doctorate in higher education.

Cantú defeated a sitting board member to secure his seat in 2020. This year, he will have to worry about two other challengers seeking to do the same to him.

Danielle Ford is a former Clark County School Board trustee, serving one term from 2018 to 2022, when she was unseated by Irene Bustamante Adams. When she was on the school board, Ford was one of the most outspoken trustees against then-Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara. She has remained outspoken and involved in education since leaving office. She now runs a podcast called “Unraveling Education.”

On her podcast, Ford made it clear her intent was not to challenge Cantú, whom she called “a solid board member.” She said filed to run because it was supposed to be an open seat. Felicia Ortiz, the current elected board member representing District 3, was term-limited and could not run for reelection.

Ford added that she is nevertheless happy about the opportunity to serve on the state board. In response to an Opportunity 180 candidate survey, Ford emphasized how her experience and knowledge as a trustee would offer much-needed insight at the state level.

“There are many disconnects between the Nevada Board of Education and the local school districts which it writes policy and mandates for, and I learned exactly what those are,” she wrote. “I would first address the unnecessary and arbitrary reporting requirements from the State Board that puts extra workloads on teachers and administrators, and has contributed to the teacher shortage.”

Jasmine Kurys is a first-time candidate for public office. She told Veterans in Politics she is running because she wants “to start addressing the root of the problems we’re having as a country.”

Kurys told Opportunity 180 her vision of success is “ensuring children have access to nutritionally dense food, comprehensive nutrition/health education, and a curriculum that prioritizes practical life skills. This includes classes and programs focused on mental health, sewing, cooking, basic carpentry, breathing, gardening, mechanics, and utilizing technology as a tool, for examples.”

She continued, “STEM education is not the sole path to success, nor does proficiency in STEM subjects adequately prepare students for real-world challenges.”

Kurys’s candidate financial disclosure report states she works for a grocery store chain and farmers markets, and her professional website highlights past work in stage productions.

District 2

Angela Orr was appointed by Gov. Joe Lombardo to the board of education to represent District 2 in October 2023. That vacancy was created by the resignation of Katie Coombs in July. Coombs won the seat in 2020 by default when she was the only candidate to file for the office. 

Orr is the principal of Doral Academy Northern Nevada, a charter school, and has previously taught social studies and leadership. In an Opportunity 180 candidate survey, she calls education “a lifelong commitment and passion.”

“My vision for success in this role centers on elevating Nevada’s students and transforming our state’s education system into a model of excellence,” she wrote. “I’m determined to shift the narrative from Nevada consistently ranking at the bottom in educational standings to becoming a beacon of educational success.”

On her campaign website, Orr states that one of the three pillars of her campaign is fighting for equity of resources in schools and advocating “against blanket policies and practices that may be necessary in Southern Nevada but which do not serve the students and families in Northern Nevada.”

Dorzell King, Jr. is a former early childhood educator and permanent substitute teacher now working in business. He lists classroom ratios, student and teacher safety, career development and administrative efficiency as the top issues of his campaign.

Paul “Doc” Davis does not have a campaign website and his candidate disclosure statement lists no source of income.

“My reason for running for this position is my great passion for all types of education,” wrote Davis in response to an Opportunity 180 candidate survey, “and, more certainly, the need to elevate the literacy rate of our students in the State of Nevada.”

Matthew R. Buehler does not have a website for his Board of Education race but has previously publicly identified himself as a career Air Force veteran with two master’s degrees in business administration and biology. In 2022, Buehler ran for State Senate District 13 as a Republican and lost to Democrat Skip Daly. In 2020 and 2018, Buehler ran for Washoe County treasurer as a Democrat; he lost both times to Republican Tammi Davis.

The Current will update this story with campaign links and additional info on state board of education candidates as they become available.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist and deputy editor of Nevada Current. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.

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