Clark County School Board attracts a crowd of candidates

By: - April 8, 2024 6:01 am

Clark County School Board President Evelyn Garcia Morales (center) is the running for reelection this year. (Photo: April Corbin Girnus/Nevada Current)

It is a time of transition for the Clark County School District and its school board, with a new top leader and several new trustees expected to be decided this year.

The Clark County School Board technically oversees just one employee, the superintendent, who they hire (and sometimes fire and sometimes rehire). CCSD is currently without a superintendent, but the process for finding Jesus Jara’s permanent successor has already begun. Trustees at a meeting last week expressed their desire to have a new superintendent in place by Nov. 1.

The School Board has seven voting members who are elected to four-year terms. Those terms are staggered, which means four of the seven seats are up this election cycle. (The School Board also has four non-voting appointed members representing Clark County and the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Henderson.) With only one incumbent running, the races will bring three, possibly four, fresh faces to the board.

School Board races are nonpartisan. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote during the primary, they automatically win the general election. If no candidate receives more than 50%, then the top two finishers advance to the general election ballot in November.

District A

Trustee Lisa Guzmán currently represents District A, which includes Henderson, Boulder City, Laughlin and Searchlight. Guzmán, a former paraprofessional and teacher who now works at a statewide education union, is in her first term but announced earlier this year that she would not seek reelection. Five people are seeking to replace her:

  • Anna Marie Binder is an education advocate and mother of six — four of them CCSD students. Binder, a staple within the public comment period of school board meetings, currently serves on the CCSD Audit Advisory Board and has served on other public advisory committees, including ones related to autism and special education. For more info:
  • Karl Catarata is Nevada State Director for the Human Rights Campaign and has previously worked at the local and federal government levels. On his website he notes his mother is a CCSD teacher and he is a graduate of Valley High School. In 2022, Catarata ran for the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents but came in third during the primary. For more info:
  • Mercedes McKinley describes herself as an educator, mom, CCSD alumni and community organizer. She taught third grade at CCSD for three years, from 2019 to 2022. McKinley, who says she spoke no English when she entered public school, graduated from El Dorado High School in 1997 and graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. For more info:
  • Rachel A. Puaina is a licensed educator. She worked for a CCSD middle school for two years but now works at a charter school. (CCSD employees are barred from serving on the Clark County School Board, but employment by a charter school is allowed.) On her website, Puaina says her priorities include safer schools, teacher retention and higher academic standards. For more info:
  • Emily Stevens works in business development for a credit union. She serves on boards at Mission and Clark high schools (both are CCSD schools), as well as on an advisory committee for Communities in Schools, a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged K-12 students. She is the mother of two teenagers, both are current CCSD students. For more info:

District B

In District B, Trustee Katie Williams, who was elected to the School Board in 2020, is not running for reelection. District B includes the northwestern part of the Las Vegas Valley, as well as Indian Springs and Moapa Valley.

  • Lydia Dominguez served a decade in the United States Air Force. She currently serves on the Attendance Zone Advisory Committee and is a mother of two CCSD students. For more info:
  • Eileen Eady was an educator for 15 years, ending in 2012. In more recent years, she has worked as a consultant for political campaigns. For more info:
  • Robert J. Plummer worked for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for 28 years. He is a graduate of Valley High School and a parent to CCSD graduates, according to his website. For more info:
  • Samuel “Russ” Burns does not have a campaign presence online. According to his candidate disclosure forms, he works for the library.
  • Two additional candidates–Doug Self and Deven Singh–filed to run but have no online campaign presence. Neither filed candidate disclosure paperwork with the state.

District C

School Board President Evelyn Garcia Morales, who represents District C, is the only incumbent trustee running for reelection this year, despite her three peers all being eligible for an additional term.

Garcia Morales was first elected in 2020 and was elected president of the board at the start of this year. She (along with Trustees Katie Williams, Lola Brooks and Irene Bustamante Adams) has been criticized for supporting former Superintendent Jesus Jara, who recently resigned with a $250,000 payout approved by the board.

In addition to her trustee salary of $9,000 a year, Garcia Morales is currently self-employed, according to her campaign finance disclosure and professional social media accounts. She previously worked in nonprofits.

Tameka Henry, a community advocate, is challenging Garcia Morales. (For more info on Henry: Henry ran for the seat in 2020. She received the most votes during that year’s seven-person primary, but in the general election she lost with 47% of the vote to Garcia Morales’s 53%.

Three additional candidates filed for the office but have no online campaign presence — Frank Friends, Christopher P. Teacher and Dante T. Thompson. In addition to having no online campaign presence, Friends and Teacher appear to have not filed candidate financial disclosure forms with the state.

District C includes North Las Vegas.

District E

Trustee Lola Brooks has represented District E since being elected in 2016. She did not file to run for reelection in the district, which includes Summerlin. But nine others did.

  • Lorena Biassotti is a mom and vice chair of the Clark County chapter of Moms for Liberty. “CCSD’s failure to keep our children safe is the first thing that needs to be addressed,” she notes on her campaign website. For more info:
  • Kamilah Bywaters is a licensed special education teacher, community activist and doctoral student in the field of special education. She taught for several years within CCSD, as well as one year at a charter school. For more info:
  • Ryan Kissling is a licensed chiropractor and father. According to his website, he wants to “empower parents to make the best decisions for their family and will aim to increase transparency and parental involvement within the school system.” For more info:
  • Leonard Lither has been a teacher for nearly 20 years, according to his website. Seven of those years have been at CCSD, according to state records. Lither says his goal is to focus on students and not “outside interests that profit from struggling public education.” For more info:
  • Joshua Logie is a 20-year veteran of the USAF who still works as an instructor pilot at Creech Air Force Base. He is married to a third grade teacher at a CCSD school and serves on two CCSD school organizational teams. For more info:
  • Jeremy Setters is a licensed clinical social worker with his own practice. A Sierra Vista High School alumnus, Setters is a father of three, two current CCSD students and one future student. For more info:
  • Matthew Tramp works in the food and beverage industry at an off-Strip casino and has served on public boards, including CCSD’s Attendance Zone Advisory Commission. According to his website, he moved to Las Vegas in 2002 and is a former youth softball umpire and basketball referee. For more info:
  • Two additional candidates–Carlo Meguerian and Paula Salsman–filed for the seat but have no campaign presence online.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include information on Lorena Cardenas Biassotti 

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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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