Column: How about awarding an apple to our retiring teachers?

Brian Cram officially has retired after 11 years as superintendent of the Clark County School District.

In recent weeks, Cram has been lauded from all corners of Southern Nevada society for his tireless efforts in guiding what is now the sixth-largest school district in the United States. Newspapers have devoted space to his career as an educator and administrator. Television cameras have captured Cram in an increasingly candid posture as he has held forth on the unmet needs of schoolchildren in our community. He recently accepted a position as the director of educational and community initiatives for the Greenspun Family Foundation.

I gladly stand and shout that Cram deserves great credit for keeping our public school system afloat during a most amazing period of growth. Cram's good deeds will far outlive his shortcomings.

With that said, not a single word of official appreciation has been uttered in the name of the dozens of dedicated Clark County schoolteachers who retire each June after performing one of the hardest jobs going: educating young people in a complex world.

The school district doesn't do a damn thing to celebrate the end of the careers of its sage educators, who with due respect to the departed superintendent are a helluva lot more important in the grand scheme of things than a gaggle of well-paid bureaucrats.

I'm talking about the front-line foot soldiers in the war on ignorance, the math instructors who answer calls from stumped students at all hours of the night, the English and literature teachers who solve the awful riddle of illiteracy every day of their underpaid careers.

They are the heroes of the Clark County School District. That's a fact Cram would surely verify.

So why doesn't the school district officially acknowledge its own when they close the attendance book and wipe down the chalkboard for the last time?

Is it something as appallingly shallow as the separation between management and labor?

It can't be that long since those administrators were in the classroom slogging it out day after day. Surely they can't have forgotten how difficult the job of teaching really is.

Jenny Kucan suspects that they have.

Kucan is one of those foot soldiers who devoted blood, sweat, tears and 27 years to teaching. When she retired in 1999, something strange happened.

Nothing.

She thought she might receive a letter of recognition from the superintendent, or at least a note from a member of the administration.

Instead, she received silence.

It wasn't always that way. As late as five years ago, Cram sent a brief form letter to departing educators.

The only official correspondence Kucan received was a letter informing her that her health insurance was changing because of her retired status. Written by Administrative Specialist Nancy Craft, it started out pleasant enough: "We would like to take this opportunity to express the appreciation of the Clark County School District for the years of service you are now completing in educating the youth of our district."

But it was a form letter that devoted itself to an explanation of the COBRA Law.

Nice.

It was such treatment that has motivated Kucan to start the Retiring Teachers Appreciation Committee for the purpose of recognizing those educators who have spent their careers with our children. A retirees' appreciation night at one of the local resorts is one of several good ideas Kucan and her friends have come up with.

Trouble is, no one at the School District is listening.

Not yet, anyway.

I can only hope that incoming Superintendent Carlos Garcia reads this and runs with the idea. It's a worthy one.

Like a legion of teachers before her, Kucan didn't get into education to be loved and win awards (although she was once named Role Model of the Year by the state attorney general's office). She didn't expect roses, a brass band or ticker tape parade when she retired.

A lousy post card would have been nice.

It shouldn't be too much to ask.

Don't you agree, Mr. Garcia?

John L. Smith's column appears Wednesdays in the Nevada Appeal. Reach him at (702) 383-0295 or Smith@lasvegas.com.

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