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EXCLUSIVE: Ousted Clark High School principal describes issues within school, resistance to change

CCSD Police outside Ed W. Clark High School
A kindergarten to college approach to education
Posted at 10:13 PM, Jan 27, 2020

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — There are new details surrounding the removal of a principal and vice-principal from their positions at Clark High School following a public outcry for their dismissal.

According to former Ed. W. Clark High School Principal Antonio Rael, it's a tale of two schools under one roof.

"There was a great imbalance within the walls of Clark High School in terms of how the magnet population was performing versus the children of the community. I don't think that message has been out there at this point and I think it's important to get that message out, today," Rael tells 13 Investigates.

Rael, who used to be the principal at Mojave High School, says he was forced out in early December from Clark High School

RELATED: Parents and students pack CCSD board meeting to complain about Clark High School principal

Rael spent 9 months at the school, at first assessing and analyzing what he described as the structures and policies in place.

“When I joined Clark High School in the spring, I started to look deeper into the data," said Rael

"On the surface, it looks great, but when you put the population together is when I started to dig deeper, I really started to realize there was a bigger conversation inside of this," said Rael.

According to a letter obtained by 13 Investigates, Rael describes the achievement disparity among the school's magnet program and the students who live within the boundaries of the school near Arville Street and Pennwood Avenue.

The letter is dated Dec. 9, 2019, and reveals the magnet program is achieving success with better than 9 in 10 students in both math and ELA are deemed college and career ready based on the Nevada Department of Education's standard.

Conversely, less than 2 out of 10 students who attend the school by proximity are considered college and career ready by the same standard.

Ethnicity demographics provided from the Nevada Department of Education reveal the majority of the school population is Black or Hispanic and data shows zip code 89102, the one Clark High School's serves is one of the poorest in Nevada with a median household income of under $37,000 per year.

"The fact is, we cannot wait a year, we cannot wait two or three years to try and get the systems right, they have to be fixed right now so that every child can succeed at the level they are capable of rising to, bottom line," said Rael.

Rael and his assistant Principal Christina Bentheim enacted change within the walls of Clark High School, some of the changes included:

  • Increased security, including reduced access points, and hall monitors
  • Tardy and absence policies for students and staff enforced
  • Dress code enforced
  • Lesson plans required from staff
  • Staff coaching and administrative classroom visits

Rael and insiders say the changes were much different than in previous years and did not go over well with some staff, students and parents.

On Dec. 5, 13 Action News reported a Clark County School District School Board meeting had several parents and students voicing their frustration.

Days later, Rael and Bentheim were removed from their positions.

“It was certainly unexpected and certainly disappointing, how things played out," said Rael

"I would clarify that what we saw was a representation of one of the communities of Clark High School, we didn’t see the larger community represented in that conversation," said Rael.

"There’s not one thing that I would do different and the reality is there is an urgent need for change," said former Assistant Principal Christina Bentheim.

Bentheim says the ousted administration was making a difference up until the moment they were removed from the school in December.

"I rest very well knowing one other thing. The very last business item that Antonio and I were able to do that day before all of this kind of went down. We were able to secure housing for one of our 18-year-old seniors who is homeless. We worked with our social worker to get that done at roughly 4:30 that afternoon," said Bentheim.

The urgency and immediacy of change, Bentheim and Rael emphasize, came from school district leader and point to a recent report by the Clark County School District Superintendent’s Student Equity and Access Commission report which underscored that “The action steps cannot take years to implement. Real action and shift in behavior must be prioritized immediately.”

Insiders tell 13 Investigates the removal of Bentheim and Rael caught them by surprise.

“When we found out that they actually removed him, it was the hardest day of my work life going to work the next day. If it wasn’t for my students I don’t know how I would’ve gone to work but he really did mean that much this was the first administrator that I’ve ever had that actually poured into me and believed in me and I felt supported," said Clark High School math teacher Mary Walizer.

Rael and Bentheim were assigned to home after their removal from Clark High School, both want to be back inside a school at some point in the near future.

13 Investigates received a message from the Clark County School District regarding the removal of the administation on December 10, 2019:

Good evening Ed W. Clark High School families,

We are sending this message to inform you that School Associate Superintendent Sam Scavella will be supporting the students and staff at Clark High School for the remainder of the semester in the absence of Principal Antonio Rael and Assistant Principal Christina Bentheim. New leadership will be selected for Clark High School at the beginning of next semester following the CCSD selection process.

Please know that we are unable to discuss individual employee matters, but want to make you aware of the leadership changes occurring at your child’s school.

Thank you.
Clark County School District

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