Representatives of Las Vegas business community had kind words for Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, who announced Thursday he planned to retire.

Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of public policy and corporate responsibility for Caesars Entertainment Corp., said she wasn’t surprised by Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky’s decision to step down from the Clark County School District.

“Pat has been 30 years in the district, he’s worked tirelessly as a principal and as head of the district, and this last two years has been very stressful in trying to implement empowerment schools, so I’m not sure I’m entirely surprised,” Blackhurst said in a telephone interview.

Skorkowsky announced Thursday he will step down when his current contract concludes at the end of June 2018.

Blackhurst, who also serves as chair of the Public Education Foundation, noted that Skorkowsky is retiring, not leaving, and that the district should tap his expertise before his departure.

“Everybody needs to take a deep breath and we need to download from Pat his wisdom,” Blackhurst said. “It’s incumbent upon all of us who care about public education that we take some time and really look at what we need to do to make sure that this grand experiment is successful.”

Representatives of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce said they’ve appreciated Skorkowsky seeking out the business community as a resource.

“The chamber has really valued our working relationship with Superintendent Skorkowsky,” Cara Clarke, associate vice president of the chamber, said in a telephone interview. “He went out of his way to reach out and partner with the business community. We’ve certainly enjoyed working with him on some of the reforms passed during the 2015 legislative session that we believe are helping to improve the quality of education and education outcomes.”

Clarke said Skorkowsky worked with the chamber’s government affairs chairman, Hugh Anderson, on return-on-investment committees that “put some business best practices in place and brought business know-how into the equation.”

Clarke said it’s important that the business community be a part of the public education structure.

“There’s no greater stakeholder or customer of the school district than the business community,” Clarke said. “The school district is developing our future workforce. The business community not only is inherently interested in the education system, but is very eager to step up and work with the future superintendent to do what we can to insure that we’re graduating students who are workforce- or higher-education-ready.”

Clarke said chamber officials hope Skorkowsky’s successor will continue to work closely with the business community and that the school district considers recommendations from the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission and the Return-on-Investment Committee as well as seeking out solutions from other school districts around the country, “not only to meet immediate school district needs, but to improve the long-term outlook.”

Clarke said the district should consider a national search for a replacement for Skorkowsky.

Elaine Wynn, who serves as chair of the national Communities in Education board and is president of the state’s Board of Education, said the community owes a debt of gratitude to Skorkowsky.

“Being the leader of the fifth-largest school district in the country, under normal circumstances, is an enormous challenge; to oversee its affairs during contentious times is particularly daunting,” Wynn said in an emailed statement.

“Superintendent Skorkowsky has tried to accommodate a wide variety of constituencies, many of whom have been in conflict with one another for quite some time. Added to his job has been the state mandate to reorganize the district, during a time that his immediate supervisors created obstructions to the process.

“I appreciate all educators who try to do the best thing for our students and I believe that Pat has tried to do that. Whatever reason has prompted the announcement of his retirement, people should understand Pat has endured very challenging times. He deserves our gratitude for his hard work.”

A representative of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance could not be reached for comment.


Las Vegas Review-Journal