School board chooses new chief

Nevada will look to Berkeley for its next state superintendent.

Members of the state board of education voted 8-3 to offer Berkeley Unified School District superintendent Jack McLaughlin the job on Saturday.

Concerns over McLaughlin's lack of state school experience and the fact that he is the superintendent of a school district of fewer than 10,000 students fueled debate over his selection.

The second choice was Joseph Lutejehams, former state school superintendent in Nebraska.

Board member Lilliam Hickey said McLaughlin brought a lot of experience in dealing with a diverse student population. The Berkely school district is 38 percent black, according to its Web site.

Hickey, who is leaving the board, said the decision was her most important.

Board member Doris Femenella said she liked McLaughlin's style.

"The legislators we are dealing with are getting younger and younger," she said. "The older people are moving out. It is time for a change. Mr. McLaughlin has the drive. He will bring new life to Nevada and that's what we need."

Board member Peggy Lee Bowen pointed out to board members there are bill drafts before the Legislature to eliminate an elected board of education.

"McLaughlin said the things that I wanted to hear," she said.

McLaughlin immediately accepted the board's offer to replace Mary Peterson, who steps down Dec. 31 after holding the post for six years.

The other final candidates for the position were Skip Wenda, administrator of the Southern Nevada office of the Department of Education, and Richard LaPoint, former state superintendent of Virginia and former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

Board members said Wenda was too valuable to the district in his present position.

Board member Jan Biggerstaff expressed concern that McLaughlin's arrival might be delayed in negotiations.

She said she felt a new superintendent would have to be in place in time to deal with the Legislature.

Member Dave Cook said he felt the board should give McLaughlin a reasonable amount of time to take the position.

Board president Dave Scheffield said he thought the new person should also meet with the governor and other state officials.

The state school board is in danger of being dissolved by the Legislature, which has created at least one panel to supersede the board's authority.


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