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JUNE 2011

Get smart Now u: This issue will help yo a) grow a kid genius reer b) kick-start your ca d c) sharpen your min d) all of the above

Kids these days

They fly planes and study DNA at magnet schools Brains!

find your perfect school

New school boss

Will Dwight Jones deliver a slap upside the ed? Here’s $5,000

Now go save the world

Plus.. Barbecued meat on wheels Driving into a mouth near you

P O W E R . P E R F O R M A N C E . R E F I N E M E N T. A s t h e d e f i n i t i v e l u x u r y s p o r t s to u r e r, Ra n g e Ro v e r S p o r t i s t h e p l a c e to b e fo r b o t h d r i v e r a n d p a s s e n g e r s a l i ke. T h e d y n a m i c c o c k p i t i n te r i o r i s d e s i g n e d to c o s s e t a n d c o c o o n , w h i l e t h e c o m m a n d d r i v i n g p o s i t i o n o ffe r s a c l e a r v i e w o f t h e s u r r o u n d i n g e n v i r o n m e n t a n d h e l p s to p u t t h e d r i v e r i n c o m p l e te c o n t r o l . Te s t d r i v e o n e to d a y a t L a n d Ro v e r L a s Ve g a s.

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editor’s note

Learning curves ahead

W Next Month in Desert Companion

Feast on the cheap with our DEALicious Meals issue

Well, this certainly doesn’t feel like school. It’s a Friday midmorning and the children are, well, everywhere. In one corner, they’re splay-legged on the floor, scribbling meditatively on worksheets, learning to write poems. In another cluster at a small table, they’re using pencils, paper and iPads to write fables using basic narrative elements. Outside, they’re making desert dioramas with handfuls of sandbox dirt, paint and that timeless classroom staple (and, if I’m remembering my own elementary schooling correctly, occasional food item), white glue. Every once in a while, a child will wander off. Maybe he’ll go over to the desktop computer to slip on headphones to try a learning module, or she’ll go sniff at the shakers of cumin and curry sitting out as part of a study section on the Silk Road. Wandering off? Just like that? No big deal. It doesn’t trigger any scolding from the four adults minding this whole operation. In fact, it’s by design. That’s the way this program, Co-Op Elementary Homeschool Group, works. The kids’ curiosity is in charge at this two-yearold elementary alternative that blends the intimacy and focus of homeschooling with a village approach. It’s held in a rented church room off Rancho Drive, but the only religious element is the fervent focus on the kids, who represent first grade and second grade and third grade all at once. “We want school to be more relevant, meaningful — and just fun,” says founder Gina Morrello. Sure, she can drop phrases such as “whole-childoriented” and “parent-involved” like a true edu-wonk, but at her core she’s a mom who cares about her kids’ education. (Read more about Morrello on

2 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J U N E 2 0 1 1

page 14.) Call Co-Op Homeschool Group a modern-day educational mashup or a one-room schoolhouse 2.0. Whatever you call it, though, CoOp Elementary is an interesting educational alternative in a city that, after all, is supposed to be about choice and freedom, right? Before I go all infomercial on you, that’s my point: Alternatives. Nevada is once again stuck in that glacier of déjà vu that locks us up every other year: the battle over education funding. In the best of times, we’ve barely kept up. In the worst of times — well, just scan the latest headlines about the prospect of teacher layoffs, ballooning class sizes and entire college departments disappearing. At this point, the best-case scenario is that we’re spared the deepest cuts by keeping in place a handful of sales and business taxes that were set to expire. Worst case? I’m not the kind of guy to make grave pronouncements about this setting our cultural, intellectual and economic life back a generation but, yeah, wouldn’t be surprised. Gov. Sandoval’s leadership seems to involve cupping his hands protectively around a tiny, delicate, guttering flame of possible economic recovery to the exclusion of all else. The message to us in the meantime: Fend for yourselves. Bring it. We’re a pioneering and resourceful people, and our “Get Smart Now” guide will open your eyes to options for schooling your kids, improving your career prospects and expanding your skills. You don’t have to start your own homeschool group like Gina did. But you do have to start something.


Congratulations! To us! We took home a Maggie Award April 29 in Los Angeles, where the Western Publish-

ing Association gathers every year to honor excellence in an event dubbed “the Oscars of publishing.” Desert Companion won a Maggie for Best News Story, for T.R. Witcher’s article, “Spread the Health Around.” The article, published in our November/ December 2010 issue, is about an innovative nonprofit discount medical care plan started in Reno that’s aiming to expand to Southern Nevada in July. This win is particularly meaningful for three reasons. One, because of our now more frequent publication schedule, we vied for the award with a mix of other monthly magazines and even alt-weeklies, including the respected Westword in Denver and the SF Weekly in San Francisco. Two, it’s an important story that jibes with Desert Companion’s focus on constructive journalism. Third, it was, amazingly, overlooked by the local press, and T.R. Witcher sensed a scoop. We hope to bring you many more. Andrew Kiraly, Editor


The Caesars Foundation recognizes the sacrifices our service men and women make every day. It is their will to protect, and their dedication to our country, which strengthens the fabric of our community. Show your appreciation by supporting the organizations that look after them. We do.


desert companion magazine //



All Things to All People

A museum with brains on the move



Teens learn philanthropy — with real money By Gregan Wingert




Cool new kicks for kids By Joseph Langdon



Sharpen your kid’s mind — and your own — with our “Get Smart Now” guide on page 47.

The evils of avoiding the evils of online poker By Steven and Monera Mason




The best barbecue in the valley is mobile By Brock Radke




Attracting talent

The dedicated teachers and driven kids of magnet schools




Can he bring his reform agenda to a troubled school system?

Our school guide for smart kids, bright teens and career-minded adults

How tough is Dwight Jones?

Get Smart Now


Educational paradise lost By Timothy Pratt

on the cover Model: Alexa Photography: Christopher Smith

4 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J u n e 2 0 1 1

S t u d e n t: C h r i s to p h e r S m i t h


From rock to theater to dance, your guide to culture

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Mission statement

Desert Companion is the premier city magazine that celebrates the pursuits, passions and aspirations of Southern Nevadans. With award-winning lifestyle journalism and design, Desert Companion does more than inform and entertain. We spark dialogue, engage people and define the spirit of the Las Vegas Valley. Editorial & Art Andrew Kiraly Editor CHRISTOPHER SMITH Art Director Advertising CHRISTINE KIELY Corporate Support Manager laura alcaraz National Account Manager Sharon Clifton Senior Account Executive allen grant Senior Account Executive Markus Van’t Hul Senior Account Executive Marketing Catherine Kim Marketing Manager Subscriptions Chris Bitonti Subscription Manager

SENIOR STAFF Florence M.E. Rogers President / General Manager Melanie Cannon Director of Development Cynthia M. Dobek Director of Business, Finance & Human Resources Phil Burger Director of Broadcast Operations Contributing WRiters Cybele, John Curtas, Jarret Keene, Heidi Kyser, Joseph Langdon, Monera Mason, Steve Mason, David McKee, Sara Nunn, Timothy Pratt, Brock Radke, T.R. Witcher, Gregan Wingert

Contributing Artists Aaron McKinney, Sabin Orr

OnLine Danielle Branton Web Administrator

To submit your organization’s event listings for the Desert Companion events guide, send complete information to Feedback and story ideas are always welcome, too. Office: (702) 258-9895 (outside Clark County 1-888-258-9895) Fax: (702) 258-5646 Advertising: Christine Kiely, (702) 258-9895; Subscriptions: Chris Bitonti, (702) 259-7810; KNPR’s “State of Nevada” call-in line: (702) 258-3552 Pledge: (702) 258-0505 (toll free 1-866-895-5677) Websites:,, Desert Companion is published 12 times a year by Nevada Public Radio, 1289 S. Torrey Pines Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89146. It is available by subscription at, or as part of Nevada Public Radio membership. It is also distributed free of charge at select locations in the Las Vegas Valley. All photographs, artwork and ad designs printed are the sole property of Desert Companion and may not be duplicated or reproduced without the express written permission of the publisher. The views of Desert Companion contributing writers are not necessarily the views of Desert Companion or Nevada Public Radio.

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My li’l headliner



A museum with smarts — on the move

Watch for Lied Discovery Children’s Museum to step up its profile in the community in coming months. Why? A move. The 20-year-old institution hopes to raise $12 million to move into its new digs in Symphony Park, next to the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. When it reopens there in late 2012, it’ll be a big change for the nonprofit museum, literally: At 58,000 square feet, the new site — freshly christened the Discovery Children’s Museum — will be nearly twice the size of its current home. But one of the most important changes has already happened. In recent years, Lied has quietly been making a subtle but crucial shift, honing its mission to focus on doing much more than giving kids a chance to smoosh some Play-Doh and blow a few bubbles. “We’ve focused on exhibits that are socially relevant and highly educational, while also meeting community needs,” says Linda Quinn, CEO of the museum.



Hear More

If you thought children’s museums were about colorful, outsized, interactive “edugames,” you’d be right. But in recent years, Lied has sharpened its curatorial instincts even more, meticulously tying exhibits to state educational standards and school curricula. It’s also stocked its staff with pros boasting education resumes, and pumped up both its community outreach and relationship with schools, nearly doubling its 2010 visitorship in the process. And then there are some of its exhibits that have some surprising social heft, such as its current traveling feature, “Torn From Home: My Life as a Refugee.” No wonder Lied execs joke that they’ve come a long way from Clifford the Big Red Dog and Curious George. Indeed, you might call Lied less a children’s museum these days and more a sort of educational fourth estate. To get more information on the museum’s move, visit For more ways to smarten up your kid — and yourself — check out “Get Smart Now” on page 51. — Andrew Kiraly

This summer, Vegas’s soon-to-be stars will have a chance to work with performers from a bevy of the Strip’s biggest shows, including “O,” “Le Rêve” and “The Lion King.” This is no summer camp. It’s four full-time weeks of dance in the mornings and singing, acting and drumming in the afternoons at the direction of dedicated pros, many of them attuned to two-aday bouts of demanding (sometimes death-defying) shows. “An intensive is a better word for it,” says Naomi Stikeman, a ballerina and Celine Dion veteran who will run the new program, the Las Vegas Performing Arts Intensive, with her husband, one of the Blue Men. Between the core faculty and guests who continued on pg. 12

Visit Desert Companion Daily for a merciless flurry of daily links to all things Las Vegas at

How healthy are our kids? Hear a discussion on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 11

N ews

continued from page 11


You U


Feed your brain on the cheap with these free local and global ed websites. (No exams!) by jarret keene

For those of us who toil in offices, the idea of actually, you know, learning about a subject or

Naomi Stikeman in “Çaturn”

will drop in to conduct master’s classes, Stikeman has corralled 17 instructors (and that’s even counting the three Blue Men as a single entity). With a total of 35 kids split into age groups of 9 to 11 and 12 to 14, that’s a heck of a student-teacher ratio. Stikeman hopes this close contact will encourage lasting connections. “If you really love hip-hop and your hip-hop teacher resonates with you, at end of the intensive you’ll have their contact info,” says Stikeman. “My hope is that (students) will be able to communicate with teachers and get guidance in later years.” As it stands, many homegrown artists of the Entertainment Capital of the World are forced to leave town to hone the skills they need for a local gig. Stikeman predicts that with programs like hers and a growing performing-arts infrastructure (like the brand-new Summerlin studio her students will use), Vegas might soon be as big a magnet for developing stars as it is for worldclass headliners. The Las Vegas Performing Arts Intensive runs July 5-29. Info: — Joseph Langdon 12 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J u n e 2 0 1 1

• Created and completely taught (along with cousin Nadia) by MIT grad and former financial analyst Salman Khan, Khan Academy is a not-for-profit educational YouTube-stored video website that will make your traditional college experience, for which you’re still paying off the debt, seem like a sham. Heavy on math and science — you can learn about mean value theorems and weak acid titrations — Khan also offers very strong analyses of economic theory and financial investing, as well as compelling overviews of U.S. history and foreign policy and European history. ( • The single most important online educational project in the state of the Nevada is the UNLV Libraries Digital Collections. This collection of images, audio and video interviews and documents provides a crash course in Vegas and Nevada history. The Nevada Test Site Oral History Project is a definitive account — combining interviews with military officers, test site workers, protesters and native people — of the Cold War facility that employed more than 125,000 people. ( • Make is a quarterly print magazine (and e-zine) with an online presence at that is second to none — podcasts, blogs, forums and videos. The latter teach you how to homebrew beer, fashion reflective pocket flaps for your pants for nighttime bicycling, and build a junction box stash spot to hide valuables in your house. Basically, all the really cool things your high school shop teacher never bothered to show you can be found here. ( • Las Vegas Springs Preserve’s YouTube channel is mostly enjoyable propaganda. But there’s one series called Springs Cuisine wherein Springs Café chefs offer cooking tips and recipes that are easy to follow. Whether you’re learning the secret behind braised lamb (osso bucco) or how to prepare a quick, easy, healthy meal of seared halibut with a tomato and fennel vinaigrette, this free culinary resource is a must-see. ( • As I write this, I’m also watching a fascinating lecture by Harvard prof Michael Sandel discuss “The Moral Side of Murder” and “The Case for Cannibalism” courtesy of iTunes U. Stanford, Yale, Oxford and UC Berkeley along with 800 other universities now distribute their vast and powerful course lectures free to the public via iTunes. While the production quality varies, every single, crystal-clear video I’ve seen has great audio and, more significantly, outstanding content. What’s the point of actually enrolling in a university again? To get a piece of paper called a diploma and join a frat? ( • MIT OpenCourseWare is an amazing, intellect-fortifying resource, offering all MIT course content for free. This means you can download syllabi, lecture notes, assignment and selected video lectures. You can’t get a virtual diploma after absorbing and processing all this info, but you’re guaranteed to be a hell of a lot smarter. (

L a s V e g a s P er f ormin g Arts I ntensive : C hris R a ndle

figuring out how to actually do something other than Facebook or Minesweeper becomes increasingly intimidating and remote the more time we spend in our cubicles. Thank goodness for all the new online educational opportunities that don’t cost a dime — and require only a little time.

Do you have what it takes to be the yard of the month? So, you think you’ve got the best looking spread in town. Care to put it to a vote? Every month, we’re selecting one yard to be featured as SNWA’s yard of the month.Think you’ve got the best yard on the block? Don’t be shy. Nominate yourself. Like that good-looker down the lane? Nominate them. Go online at and submit your entry photo. But don’t pop the cork on the champagne yet. Only one winner will be chosen by our top secret yard-of-the-month committee. Let the drama begin. Questions? Call 702-258-3836.


Gina Morrello is on a mission to make learning relevant and fun again.

“It’s tapping into their interests and their passion.” Booooring! That much-loathed byword is what propels Co-Op Elementary Homeschool Group, founded three years ago by Gina Morrello. “Growing up, school was boring for me,” says Morrello, 31, who didn’t become interested in learning until she discovered the practical applications of physics. “Regular school is so separated from normal life and it doesn’t look like anything else you encounter,” she says. When her own children were approaching school age, the CSN alumna didn’t want them to repeat her alienating grade-school experience, but instead have something “joyful and playful and meaningful” instead. Inspiration struck. It happened when she was introduced to an open-enrollment program in Santa Clara, Calif. She found “a very rich, flexible environment” for kids. In addition to drawing upon Montessori schooling, which disregards traditional age segmentation, Morrello is influenced by the writings of John Holt. You mean the radical ’60s theorist who contended that traditional, compulsory education actually hinders learning? Yes, that guy. Co-Op Elementary also incorporates the Reggio Emilia method, in which parents are essential, regular participants in their children’s educational experience. Also essential: Critical thinking, gardening and … yoga? Indeed, they’re all integral to the Co-Op curriculum, as are math, history and science. Students can move between activities at will or opt out altogether in order to read, think or converse. “Kids don’t have that independent time to interact with each other” in traditional schools, explains Morrello, which shortchanges their personal development. Hands-on coursework is another key element. Morrello wants her pupils to learn through the real-world applications of what they’re studying. In standard grade school, “they’re going to get certain pieces of information at certain times when they may or may not be relevant. Relevance is everything,” says Morrello. For example, her way of teaching language is to turn kids loose on, say, Star Wars novels. It’s more important, Morrello argues, to get them interested in literature they’ll enjoy, “not ‘See Dick run’ kind of reading programs,” she says. “Just let it flow,” she says. “Then you start working on the mechanics.” Public service is emphasized, too. Morrello would like to see her pupils eventually enter internships and community service. “What good is it to know a bunch of abstract facts,” she says, “if you’re not able to talk to your neighbor and solve things peaceably?” She’s reaching out to her own neighbors, too, in decidedly modern manner. Recruiting via social networking, Co-Op Elementary ( is up to 25 full- and part-time instructors. “And it’s been magical,” Morrello says. She hopes to expand that magic into advanced coursework, such as the study of Leonardo da Vinci. At Co-Op, you can bet that class will involve paint — lots of paint. — David McKee

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PHOTOGRAPHY By Christopher Smith

ask an expert


Made in the shade Jim McMichael, senior marketing

shiny new things


Something new, something old, something charitable No, Dinosaurs & Roses is not the name of the next Cirque show (though we’d totally go see that). The quirkily named Dinosaurs & Roses (6029 W. Charleston Blvd., 258-1187) is here to put a new spin on resale shopping by bumping up the quality of merchandise and offering an upstairs art gallery devoted to more than 40 local artists, as well as donating part of their proceeds to a variety of local charities. “The store has a mix of eclectic, vintage, refurbished, new and used products,” owner Michele Morgan-Devore explains. “We have everything from menswear, childrenswear, amazing jewelry, household items, magnificent china, purses, a real mix of everything.” That everything spans both styles and eras. “We have gowns from the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s. We also have things that people have been hoarding in their closets for years, and vintage antique jewelry. We have quite a few things scattered around that you can find. Really, something for everybody in every era.”

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The shop’s “something for everyone” ethos translates as well to the shop’s take on charity. “We support everyone,” Morgan-Devore says. “We like to partner with other charities — not only charities, but the Hyde Park Middle School needed some new instruments, so we partnered with them and got them some instruments.” The store has also partnered with the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Poker Gives and cancer support group The Caring Place. “We do fundraisers as well — we reach and touch one life at a time, which is really the whole idea behind why we opened the shop,” Morgan-Devore says. She also hopes to touch the art scene. Inspired by First Friday, she also created Second Sunday, a family-friendly art festival that takes place at the store on the second Sunday of every month. The event features food, music, and local artists. Info: — Sara Nunn

Jim McMichael

PHOTOGRAPHY By Christopher Smith

J im M cmich a el courtesy o f fa shion sho w m a ll

Dinosaurs & Roses offers secondhand goods — and first-rate local art.

manager for the Fashion Show Mall, knows all and sees all when it comes to the trends that make it into stores. Here’s the best of his summer style advice. What are some summer essentials that men and women need to survive the summer? “Sunglasses continue to take center stage this season. We are seeing everything from Ray Bans to Aviators to Jackie O styles. Barneys New York, Tory Burch, Oakley and Michael Kors are some of the standouts at our three centers (Fashion Show, The Shoppes at The Palazzo and The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian) that offer a diverse variety at any price point.” What are your favorite summer trends for men and women? “For women, coral is huge this season. We’re seeing it on everything — home decor, fashion, accessories and even cosmetic lines are focusing on this bright hue. For men, deep V-neck sweaters. In breathable fabrics like silk, cotton knits and linen, they’re lightweight and provide a trendy look for dressing up or down.” How can guys dress to look good and stay cool in the summer heat? “It’s all about the footwear. I’m very into the ‘no shows’ or loafer socks. These clever foot covers protect shoes from sweat, and make going sockless more comfortable. For the guy who likes fashion a little edgy, they look great with shorts, khaki pants and dress slacks. Another way to look stylish this season is to wear a tie. Skinny ties in traditional solid colors and mini prints are the perfect way to add a splash of summery style to your business ensemble.” — S.N.

Travel Around the World with the Henderson Libraries at the Galleria at Sunset

at the Henderson Libraries Galleria Branch Located on the Lower Level in Kohl’s Court

June 16 - August 4 Every Thursday 9:30 am - 10:00 am Stories • Songs • Activities • Special Surprise Guests Bring this ad to the Galleria at Sunset to receive Summer Fun Coupons valued at $50 in savings

June 16 Simple Signing Candace Thompson from Vegas PBS will share some simple sign language while exploring the colors of the rainbow.

June 23

City Lights Music Together Join special guest Melanie Ron for an exploration of rhythm and movement. This program is appropriate for toddlers through age 6.

June 30

One World, Many Stories Lakeshore® Learning and Henderson Libraries combine forces to bring you stories and crafts.

Visit for more details


Give it away now “Here’s $5,000, kid. Now go save the world.” That’s how this teen philanthropy program works by gregan wingert

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Somebody gave students at Desert Oasis High School $5,000 and they went on an epic spending spree. Typical teens. Or maybe not so typical: The students spent the money on preventing teen pregnancy, fighting youth homelessness and raising awareness about drug abuse and alcoholism. That’s because they’re part of an educational program that’s anything but typical, too. It’s called We R Community, put together by the Public Education Foundation. The program is added on to classes at participating schools — in the case of Desert Oasis, Tina Fulks’ marketing class. “The lessons that they learn through the process is nothing they can learn from a textbook,” Fulks says of her 25 students involved in the We R Community program at Desert Oasis. They’ve collectively completed more than 1,000 hours of community service this school year. Hers is one of 13 high school classes in the Clark County School District that partici-

Students in the We R Community program learn a lot about giving — and a lot about themselves.

pated in the program this academic year. All the classes are different subjects and at different high schools, but they all receive the same challenge: A philanthropy guidebook — and the responsibility of giving $5,000 away to charities and nonprofits serving their community. “We’re teaching students the business of philanthropy and the value of community service,” says Leslie DeVore, We R Community’s program manager. And they’ve taught a lot: Since the program’s launch in 2008, We R Community students have awarded $130,000 to more than 50 local nonprofit organizations and in-school clubs. This year’s awards total $65,000, which will go to 31 local nonprofit organizations. The program spreads the wealth in two ways. It offers a chance for students to engage in service learning while also distributing money — which comes from private and corporate donors — to programs that help their peers.

education “It’s very heart-warming and uplifting,” says Savannah Henry, a 16-year-old sophomore at Sierra Vista High School. “You wish you could do so much more to help them.” Students in the Sierra Vista journalism class this year have been able to write about their experiences visiting local nonprofits. Students also volunteer two to four hours each month with a nonprofit organization. “It’s made me realize I have a better life than some people,” says Henry, who volunteered at Three Square, a charity dedicated to feeding the hungry. “It makes you realize you’re really lucky.”

The giving teens Providing meals to hungry youth and saving teens from couch-surfing are just surface-level issues the program addresses. The deeper issue We R Community works to defeat lies at the root the community. “We as a community don’t give much,” says Carolyn Edwards, Clark County School Board president. Indeed, Las Vegas has a wellearned reputation for not being a very charitable city. We R Community aims to change that as well — by getting a head start on the next generation. The program gives high school students the opportunity to witness how their efforts make a difference, Edwards says. “Sometimes teenagers are so wrapped up in themselves they don’t take the time to focus on the things outside themselves.” Public Education Foundation President Judi Steele adds, “We’re hoping this program will inspire a new generation of philanthropists.” Giving away $5,000 to good causes may sound simple, but acting as a professional foundation takes a toll on students taking it to heart. Milynda Walters, 17, is a senior at Chaparral High School and considers We R Community a perspective-changing experience. Walters and her classmates directed their funds towards organizations focused on preventing teen pregnancy and helping teen moms graduate. “You do get nerves,” says Walters, who was concerned whether the money would truly make a difference. Visiting sites and volunteering eased her worry. During site visits, students engage with area nonprofits to see for themselves the operations asking for their assistance. One We R Community grant recipient is the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, a nonprofit that works to get homeless teens off the streets. Throughout the years, Executive Director Tim Mulin has had students of We R Community visit different drop-off locations.

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The deeper issue We R Community works to address lies at the root of the community. “I think they really get a lot out of it and saw firsthand what they were funding,” Mulin says. They liked what they saw. This year, Northwest Career and Technical Academy’s We R Community students awarded Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth $1,000.

Save the world Who gets the money isn’t an easy decision. Once a school is sponsored, students set off to identify and address the critical community needs that matter most to them and write a mission statement. Classes focus on everything from mental health to teen pregnancy. “We encourage them to follow their hearts,” Devore says. “I want this to be student-run, student-led. I want their buy-in.” Students survey their schools to find out the pressing issues — which often gives them a window of insight into their peers. For example, this year, nine of the 13 mission statements had to do with forms of abuse. DeVore attributes this to drug and alcohol abuse at home. “Unfortunately, this is what the schools are seeing,” she says. When picking what issue to tackle, students complete project assignments weekly, such as inviting charitable organizations to send in grant requests. These organizations submit proposals outlining how they’ll use the funds. After reviewing the applications, students select the recipients. Dry erase markers may not have been flung in bursts of protest, but arguments over which nonprofits are most deserving do happen. Walters says her peers debated on how to split up the money among organizations they chose. By then, teachers like Fulks see how much student attitudes have changed. After going through the program, that stereotypical teen self-absorption melts away, she says. “(We R Community) taught them a huge lesson about human compassion and the concept of community.” For more information, visit

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Dedicated to Hope, Healing and Recovery



Young kicks be free Minimal footwear is all the rage. Pediped is turning the trend into kids’ stuff

T by joseph langdon

The human foot is a marvel of Darwinian engineering — 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments of one-of-a-kind ambulatory innovation, the very advancement that enabled Homo erectus to erectus and stand head and shoulders above primate peers. Only recently, though, has the lowly foot gotten some respect. We’ve spent centuries trying to “fix” it with all manner of shoes and boots, but now many experts argue that footwear isn’t the solution to our problems. Footwear is the problem. Barefoot and minimalist-footwear movements are taking off. You’ve probably heard of the 2009 bestseller “Born to Run,” which extols the unshod sole. These days, on just about any jaunt through Red Rock, you can expect to see a hiker with those strange toe-glove things that look like alien feet. Even shoe giants like Nike are trying to co-opt the anti-shoe mantle with purportedly minimalist lines. Barely-there options exist for running, walking, hiking and climbing — but what about taking your first steps? Angela Edgeworth heard about the benefits



Hear More

Pediped’s Angela Edgeworth wants to give kids’ footwear a swift kick.

of barefooting it back in 2004 and sought a forgiving first pair of shoes for her baby, Caroline. Even with Santa Monica boutiques at her disposal (not to mention the Internet), she came up empty-footed. “There was nothing,” she recalls. “Everything was very rigid, very hard. A lot of the styles were basically adult styles that were taken down and shrunk.” Into that void steps Pediped footwear. The start-up that Angela launched with her hus-

band, Brian, to provide minimalist footwear for the most minimal of feet has quickly become the second-largest kids’ shoe brand in the country. Last year, they shipped more than a million pairs.

Ex-shoes me Years before the birth of Pediped, Rudy Glocker, the avid hiker who would become the company’s COO, commemorated his graduation from business school by tackling Mount

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22 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J U N E 2 0 1 1

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business Pediped partnered with the Harvard Medical School to ensure their shoes had the right stuff for children’s feet.

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24 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J U N E 2 0 1 1

Kilimanjaro. He ascended in top-shelf stiff and sturdy hiking boots, only to be outpaced by local guides in five-dollar drugstore flip-flops. Perhaps they were on to something. New research suggests that maybe we should blame our aching insteps, trick ankles and gimpy knees not on the ravages of time, but on the shoes of our youth. “(The guides) didn’t wear shoes, so their feet had developed — their feet are wider, their toes are so much stronger, they’re much more athletic,” Glocker says. “The science is basically that if you let your feet grow naturally, they’ll be great.” Feet can be molded into adulthood and are particularly malleable in the first five years. “If you squeeze a baby’s foot, it feels very similar to your ear, because all those bones are still cartilage and can be shaped,” Brian explains. That’s why you can’t cram a kid’s toes into an adult-style shoe, and why most foot problems are a fait accompli by age 18. Pediped partnered with researchers at Harvard Medical School to make sure their ergonomic designs are breathable, flexible, adjustable and roomy. These kicks retail in the $50 range, but they’ll mold to your kid’s feet, not the other way around. And just because Pediped earned a stamp of approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association doesn’t mean they look like orthopedics for babies. Nor do they fea-

ture the cutesy cats and dogs typical of baby brands. Under Angela’s creative direction, Pediped issues two versatile collections a year and keeps pace with fashion — martial touches are out this season, indulgent bows and appliqués are in.

No mean ‘feet’ Coupling science and style with adult-sized durability (“they use this material in the U.S. military for desert boots,” Angela notes, dangling a pair of pink shoesies) is a straightforward concept. Making it happen, however, was no mean feat. Angela was just 31 when she decided to launch into a industry dominated by multibillion-dollar multinationals. She had some entrepreneurial moxie — she started a cosmetics company in Taiwan right out college that was a valuable learning experience (“It failed miserably,” she says) — but had zero background in clothing or footwear. “Starting up a company is an immense amount of work. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” she says, jokingly. Maybe half-jokingly. She and her husband still remember when — after 18 months of designing, producing, and pitching their teeny prototypes — the first batch revealed a critical weakness in the soft-sole stitching. “We had to mulch them,” Angela recalls. “We couldn’t even save them, it was that bad.

And then we had to start over again, and that was a very painful decision.” “We thought the company was over,” Brian adds. “It was devastating.” Angela immediately hopped a flight to the factory in China; Brian sat down with a heap of fabrics and threads. They tried every kind of material they could think of, even fishing line. In the end, the solution turned out to be in keeping with their ambitious little enterprise: They overruled the old wisdom, chucked out the patterns, and simply invented a whole new method of stitching things together (the patent is pending). They were off and running. By 2006, the need for space and the desire for a better quality of life for themselves and their employees lured the Edgeworths from Los Angeles to Southern Nevada. Many of their workers happily made the trip with them. (Take that, L.A.) The nearly all-female staff of more than 40 (it’s a mom-oriented company, Angela explains) does just about everything in-house and under one roof. Their Henderson headquarters handles everything from shipping and service to design and marketing, and now retail, with the opening of what they hope will be the first of many company stores. The Edgeworths credit this close-knit culture with allowing their company to be nimble enough to expand rapidly and then endure the downturn that doomed many independent shoe stores that carried their product. At the end of their first year, Pedipeds were sold in 350 retail stores, the next year it was 1,200, then 2,500 … and then still 2,500. Even amid tough times, they’ve managed to donate more than $1 million in products and cash in their company’s young history, and they celebrated the grand opening of their company store by awarding the first contribution from their recently established Pediped foundation to a local charity, the Children’s Heart Association of Nevada. Meanwhile, Pediped keeps growing in step, quite literally, with the Edgeworths’ daughters, Caroline and Lauren — after starting with only baby shoes, the range of sizes and styles has expanded to accommodate their feet. “We couldn’t have started with shoes any bigger because we didn’t have kids that big,” Angela says. “Who would we test them on?”

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We read the news today, oh boy / About the DOJ who froze our cards …

by steven and monera mason

“Day,” that is, as in April 15, appropriately tax day; and “cards” as in online poker, which shall be no more. But we are not people to take things lying down — or to do anything deemed illegal. Oh, no sir! After digesting the news of online poker’s freshly illegalized status, we two former degenerate online poker players solemnly vowed to change our ways — and spend the day doing absolutely nothing deemed illegal. 6 a.m.: We immediately downed two shots of whiskey mixed with this new super juice we’re pushing at work. It’s made out of physalis peruviana, Golden Incan Berries, specially harvested from the protein-rich guano of Peruvian monkeys. At only $48 a bottle, it will make you feel positively feral! And it comes with a helluva plus side, as you can enjoy all the great health benefits while building your multi-level marketing downline. Go ahead and laugh at the people who call this a Ponzi scheme: We like to consider ourselves versed in the ancient art of “architecturally-based Egyptian sales techniques.” Who needs online poker when you can feel younger and get rich? By the way, our personal numbers are on the back of our business card. Just don’t call it if it’s daytime, because we’re likely out on a bender while our kids are … well, we know exactly where they are: At home, ’cause they want their MTV. And we are happy to indulge. We mean oblige. Being on the straight and narrow feels so right! 9 a.m.: Had this weed problem in our garden, but took care of it in no time with our homemade flamethrower. This little gadget is absolutely legal and we got the plans on There’s nothing like the searing heat from a ball of flame to make those nasty weeds cower! Now there’s plenty of room for the salvia divinorum we’re harvesting. This tasty sister of the sage plant should be just the trick to give our home-brewed absinthe a bit more kick. Besides, if it’s good for Miley Cyrus, well, then, it’s good for America! (The other thing our hydroponic hands are cultivating is mushroom spores. Happy to give you some if you promise you won’t make them grow into mushrooms — because as long as there’s no such intent, it’s 100 percent legal!) Most importantly, we’re still not playing online poker! Noon: With two nascent businesses ready to thrive, it’s time for some fun — like mount-

26 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J u n e 2 0 1 1

Illustration By AARON MCKINNEY

A day in the life of two law-abiding, upstanding, non-online poker-playing citizens




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W A T S O N R O U N D S . C O M

777 N. Rainbow Blvd. Ste. 350 • Las Vegas, NV 89107 [ P ] 702.636.4902 • [ F ] 702.636.4904

28 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J u n e 2 0 1 1

ing our minigun to our turret-inspired freestanding shed! Now, if you think minigun means diminutive firepower, think again. The M134 is capable of firing 100 rounds per second. Goodbye, Zombie Apocalypse, hello, Second Amendment! Our neighbors are in a tizzy over this home improvement, but we called it an “art project” and city hall rubber-stamped it in no time. 2 p.m.: Our thoughts turn to God. It is time to give thanks for the tax-exempt status of our Holy Coupling Church For Misogynists and Misanthropes, where both men and women can legally beat the living crap out of their partners. This is a non-discriminatory church, and whether you are straight or GLBT, here is an environment where untrammeled violence can be unleashed upon your significant other in an atmosphere free of government intimidation! Best of all, we haven’t even been remotely tempted to play online poker. 7:30 p.m.: Not sure what happened to the last few hours, but we weren’t driving, so it must have been legal! Anyway, now we’re at a benefit that will enable us to premiere the minigun turret “art project” and sign up members for our church — and our multilevel marketing downline. The way it works is we’re going to tie women up and beat them up in an act of “performance art” for an audience of 3,000 males. But we believe in equal opportunity, so next month, it’ll be the men’s turn and the women will be watching. Everyone, consenting adults all, will be getting feral on our berries while indulging in the sweet succor of legalized torture. You see how it all comes together? 11:59 p.m.: We’re reviewing the best-looking 18-year-old models we can find. Thanks to the United States Supreme Court, we can legally use our computer to regress their bodies to their prepubescent selves and sell the pics to our highest-paying customers, the sickest pedophiles in the country. We’ll sleep soundly knowing we’ve walked the straight and narrow while eschewing that devil’s brew of online poker! Phew! To think we were upset when the Department of Justice froze our online poker accounts, when what they really did was prevent us from making an immoral living. They have shown us the light, and driven us to diversify in ways we as a couple never would have thought possible. For example, did you know that bestiality is legal in most states as long as the animal weighs less than 40 pounds? True! Stay tuned for Cha-ching!

My Life. My Choice. My Doctor. My health and wellness is important to me and my family. I choose my current doctor because he understands who I am and what treatments work best for me.

An Important Personal Relationship

My expectations are simple: I expect my doctor to be my health care advocate. I expect my doctor to know and understand my patient history. And, I expect to have the right to keep my doctor.

Quality Care Starts Here.

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Khoury’s Mediterranean


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Khoury’s prides itself on excellence in the preparation of food, presentation and quality of service. Serving some of the finest Lebanese cuisine available in Las Vegas, Khoury’s restaurant will stimulate and delight your senses. Close your eyes as you savour this fantastic food and drink, and you’ll feel you’ve stepped into the heart of Beirut.

Award-winning Smashburger serves 100-percent Certified Angus Beef cooked-to-order Smashburgers, as well as Smashchicken sandwiches, Smashdogs, Smashsalads, Häagen-Dazs shakes, and sides like veggie frites and rosemary and garlic-seasoned Smashfries, daily from 10am-10pm.

A favorite for locals and tourists alike for breakfast and lunch. these award winning restaurants are Zagat rated and have been featured on the Food network’s rachael’s Vacation. their menu is huge, featuring an amazing array of egg creations, home soups, salads, burgers and Cincinnati style chili. the famous homemade banana nut muffin is a must try!!!

6115 S. Fort Apache #100, Las Vegas, NV (702) 671-0005

7541 W. Lake Mead Blvd. 9101 W. Sahara Ave. 5655 Centennial Center Blvd. 4725 S. Maryland Pkwy.

(702) 982-0009 (702) 462-5500 (702) 462-5503 (702) 385-0043

4533 W. Sahara Ave. 9355 W. Flamingo Rd. 2490 e. Sunset Rd.

(702) 364-9686 (702) 368-3447 (702) 873-3447

DiNe iN StyLe.

Sambalatte torrefazione

Ferraro’s italian Restaurant

Sambalatte is the most exclusive and unique Caffè Lounge & espresso Bar offering Las Vegas fresh roasted and sustainable coffee beans from around the globe. Sambalatte offers healthy options while providing a hip and trendy place to sip, savor, and socialize.

experience fine Italian dining at its best! Celebrate this summer with the Locals Advantage and receive 50% off dinner menu from June 1st through September 30th, 4pm – 11pm. Locals Advantage is available only to nevada residents; beverages, tax, and gratuity not included. maximum party size of 8. mangi, Bevi, Divertiti – eat, Drink, enjoy Yourself!

750 S. Rampart Blvd. Ste. 9, Las Vegas, NV (702) 272-2333

4480 Paradise Rd., Las Vegas, NV (702) 364-5300

Siena italian Authentic trattoria Celebrating more than 30 years of serving authentic Italian cuisine to Las Vegas, try our new Summerlin location! Siena Italian Authentic features authentic Italian cuisine made from fresh ingredients. enjoy the atmosphere including live entertainment tuesday through Saturday and a daily happy hour. thursday is Ladies night. new restaurant. Same great Italian food. 9500 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas, NV (702) 360-3358


News Reviews In t e rv i e w s

dining Well done The best barbecue in Las Vegas is served out of a truck in front of a plant store. We staged a taste-along to steal some secrets

T by brock radke

This is for the people

Jimmy Cole serves up some of the valley’s best barbecue — from a truck, no less.


who have been to my house for a barbecue. I know it was fun, I know it was good, and I know that once I write this, you might not want my ribs anymore. I’ve been cheating. It’s been going on for a long time, and I knew it was wrong, but it was fun and I couldn’t resist. See, years ago, someone taught me a trick: how to get perfectly tender ribs without long hours of slow smoking. It’s not much of a trick, actually; it’s just steaming the meat. After grilling the seasoned ribs, I cut them into smaller sections and wrap them in airtight aluminum foil packets with a generous splash of sweet, spicy barbecue sauce. Some indirect heat, an hour and a half later, the perfect fraud is complete. I feel guilty now. I feel dirty. I’ve wronged you, Friend Who Eats My Ribs, and you deserve better. I’m ready to atone, but I need help: barbecue therapy. I need you to know I take our cookout relationship seriously, and I take this cuisine seriously. This is

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 31

Love brunch? Love buffets? Love gourmet cuisine? Love to be served? ...

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one of the most American things you can eat. There is wild variation in what we identify as barbecue, from Texas to Memphis to the Carolinas. Barbecue causes great arguments and it brings people together. To sauce or not to sauce? Pork or beef ribs? These are serious questions, and serious people spend time and resources perfecting this, their craft. And I’m just gonna throw some ribs in foil with sauce and say I’m giving it to you right? Never again.

The ’cue guru

Nora’s Wine Bar & Osteria now offers Las Vegas Valley’s newest and most innovative dining experience — Tableside Sunday Brunch Buffet offering unique and authentic dishes including Wild Boar Bacon, Italian French Toast and Semolina Biscuits and Gravy. Open Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call for reservations.


1031 S. rampart blvd. at CharleSton

Jimmy Cole’s secret? Paprika, black pepper, garlic — the rest is a secret.

To prove my dedication, I’ve found a guru. His name is Jimmy Cole and he comes from Cincinnati. I’ve never been there and I wouldn’t know if it’s a serious barbecue city, but I have been to Top Notch Barbeque. That’s where Jimmy cooks, and he cooks serious barbecue. “Just the other day, a dude came through and he ordered a bunch of stuff, some chicken and ribs and a pulled pork sandwich,” he says. “He was eating it so fast, and he dropped his sandwich on the street. And then he picked it up and kept eating it! And then he got in a Benz and drove away.” As the old saying goes, you know you’ve found great barbecue when a rich man eats pulled pork off the ground. Or something like that. You probably haven’t been to Top Notch, but you will go now and try the ribs. It’s a mobile kitchen, a food truck, a catering business, and it’s usually stationed at Plant World on West Charleston Boulevard. I don’t think you should necessarily listen to what food critics or restaurant writers say or write, but you should know the majority of these guys in your city believe Top Notch smokes the best ribs in Vegas. Considering Jimmy has been up and running for less than a year, that’s pretty impressive. Not as impressive, however, as the ribs.

Meat up

First things first: Get good meat. No more baby backs. From now on we’re getting giant, meaty spareribs. And we’re not leaning on the sauce — always too sugary — to bring the flavor. At Top Notch, the meat is the star of the show, followed closely by the spicy, rustic seasonings in the secret dry rub. Just like me, Jimmy has tried every barbecue joint in Vegas. And he found good stuff, too, but it could be better. 32 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J U N E 2 0 1 1

“The one in particular I like is H&H, which has a really strong following,” he says. “People told me I could be just like H&H. But I want to be different. When I moved out here 11 years ago, I fell in love with the desert. I love the Southwest and the scenery and the history, and I want to bring a little of that Wild West vibe to my barbecue.” I examine his dry rub, stick my face in the big bucket of seasonings for a nice whiff, but he won’t share the recipe. He shouldn’t. There’s definitely paprika in there, black pepper, garlic, a little sugar— “That’s all you get,” he says. Fair enough.

Pow in your mouth

The ribs are prepped — which includes tearing off the membrane underneath, since it prevents seasoning from sinking in — and then rubbed deeply with spices, and left to marinate for at least a day. Then, early in the morning, they go on the grill in the hot smoker. Jimmy likes to use apple or pecan woods, sometimes a little hickory. The initial heat seals in the juices and starts to build a spice crust; then the temperature comes down to around 250 degrees. The ribs will cook for at least three hours. “Anything more than 300 degrees and you’re gonna burn ’em up,” he says. Don’t worry, I won’t do that. The ribs are Jimmy’s favorite thing on the Top Notch menu. Mine, too. They really are huge, so much meat on each bone, and unbelievably tender and juicy. Sometimes “falling off the bone” can mean overcooked and dried out, and that never happens here. You can really taste the pork, but those spices are just a wonderful punch in the mouth. A little smoky,

Eat this now! Our favorite recent dishes that have us coming back for seconds Whole steamed blue crabs at Crab Corner Flown straight from the Chesapeake Bay to our humble burg, these beauties are priced between $45-$85 a dozen (depending on size), and six of them are about perfect for two people to get crabby with. They come coated with the Old Bay Seasoning in which they’re also steamed, along with a mallet, a nutcracker and a two-pronged tiny fork for picking out the good stuff from the legs, claws and under the carapace. The secret, according a Maryland crab aficionado friend, is to “separate the shell from the meat, not the meat from the shell.” Easy for him to say. But the staff here will gladly give you lessons in crab anatomy and every crack, poke and dig is worth it once the sweetest shellfish meat on earth hits your lips. — John Curtas (4161 S. Eastern Ave., 489-4646)

Simple, UniqUe, modern, elegant...

Vintner Grill Cobb salad A perfectly arranged platter of tender filet mignon, properly hardcooked eggs, lightly dressed greens, pungent chunks of blue cheese, hearts of palm and bacon is much more than the sum of its parts. This composed salad is the perfect midday meal — satisfying all of your veggie and carnivore cravings at once, and leaving you ready to attack the afternoon after your power-lunch meeting at this northwest gastronomic mainstay. If you can stay away from the addictive bread plate with seasoned butters they serve here, you can (almost) feel as if you’re remaining faithful to Dr. Atkins. (10100 W. Charleston Blvd. #150, 214-5590) — J.C.

Got a fave menu item you’d like to share? Dish us the full details at or plate it up on our Facebook page at

Creating the finishing touch for your home interior decorating at any budget. www.


7770 Dean Martin Dr.,Ste. 301 Las Vegas, NV 89139

702 492 3444 d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 33

a little salty, a powerful zing. It’s a new taste for barbecue in Las Vegas. Of course, I’m not going to completely steal it for my next cookout, and I couldn’t if I wanted to. But I will take some of these new tricks, and I will give you the real thing next time you come over to my house. I swear, I’m a changed man. The cheating is over. For more information on Top Notch Barbeque, visit

FROM THE ARCHIVES Read these related stories at May/June 2010: “All up in your grill.” Secret summer recipes from top chefs February 2011: “Best of the city.” Read about all the other best dishes in the valley

On the plate dining events

Brews and Blues Festival June 4, 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Fill — and refill — your commemorative tasting mug at this brewfest featuring local and regional craft beers, plus live bands on two stages. Chug, rinse, repeat. $25-$30. Must be 21+, Springs Preserve, 822-7700

Edible Vegas: The Language of Food June 7, 7 p.m. Local dining critics and food bloggers, including Desert Companion writers Brock Radke, Al Mancini and John Curtas, discuss Vegas culinary culture and the impact of the Internet on the art of culinary criticism. This lively bunch is sure to give new meaning to the phrase “food fight.” Free. Clark County Library

Great Vegas Festival of Beer June 18, 5 p.m.-9 p.m. A festival featuring the best suds from more than 30 breweries, taking place at the new dining and retail hotspot Tivoli Village. $27-$37.

Project Dinner Table June 25, 6:30 p.m. The latest dinner in this series that brings together local chefs, philanthropy and great conversation over one long table takes place at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Orchard. $140. WP_Lifetime_DC_June2011.indd 34 D e s e r t C o m pa n1 i o n J U N E 2 0 1 1

4/25/11 12:43 PM


Challenger School—an American Private School In 1960, while teaching in a public school, Challenger School founder and CEO Barbara Baker became alarmed that her first grade students had received no academics in kindergarten, wasting the best years for establishing a foundation for learning.

by integrating concrete facts into concepts through their shared essential similarities among apparent differences. It is our emphasis on independent reasoning skills so rarely practiced in today’s world that results in our students’ extraordinary academic performance. Essential Curriculum Challenger’s curriculum and philosophy embrace the value of life. We teach students

Breathtaking Results Challenger’s curriculum and proven teaching methods help each student gain the skills needed to excel. As students learn foundational concepts and apply reasoning skills, the results are spectacular. Challenger students achieve scores that average above the 90th percentile on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS). This means that our average student outperforms nine out of ten students who take this test.

OUR MISSION is to prepare children to become self-reliant, productive individuals; Barbara decided to leave the comfort of the public schools to start her own preschool where she could teach phonics to children before they went to public school. “I figured that if they learned phonics in preschool, no one could take that away from them.” In Barbara’s first class, there were only six paying students. Two years later, as fascinated parents witnessed their children singing songs and bubbling with excitement about learning, the tiny preschool had grown to 100 half-day preschool students with 100 more waiting for admission. Today, Challenger School educates more than 10,000 students annually. Traditional Methods Challenger School teaches students early on that they are responsible for their own learning and success. Our students become independent, conceptual thinkers

to teach them to think, speak, and write with clarity, precision, and independence; to lead them to recognize and value their individuality and unalienable rights; and to inspire them to embrace challenge and find joy and self-worth through achievement. to respect and protect the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness expressed so brilliantly by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. From preschool on, Challenger students regularly speak and perform before their peers, teachers, and parents. This invaluable experience helps them gain the confidence necessary to communicate effectively and with purpose. Challenger graduates often point to these experiences as the basis for success in college and the workplace. Advertorial

Education is much more than a good classroom environment, adequate school supplies, fun playgrounds, and a nice teacher. Challenger School’s educational philosophy (why we do what we do) and methods (how we do what we do) are what set us apart from other schools.

Challenger School offers preschool through eighth grade programs. There are three campuses in the Las Vegas area: Summerlin, Los Prados, and Silverado. To find one near you, visit

Biomedicine teacher Kurt Studer, left, instructs students Adriz Calvo and Maria Espinoza on the finer points of gel electrophoresis at the Academy of Math, Science and Technology at Jim Bridger Middle School.

36 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J u n e 2 0 1 1


What’s the big draw of magnet schools? A day in the life of two acclaimed programs reveals dedicated teachers, tough classes, the right tools — and very driven kids

By Heidi Kyser Portraits by Christopher Smith


hile you’re hitting the snooze button between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m., hundreds of Las Vegas kids are hopping on buses and piling into cars for the big commute to school. While you’re staggering to the shower, these kids are arriving at school for an earlybird class some call “zero hour.” While you’re pouring your first cup of coffee, they’re learning to sing opera, speak Japanese and splice genes. Why so eager? Because they’re in a magnet school, an oasis of inspiration in the desert of public education. Originally designed to promote diversity among public school districts, magnet school

programs offer themed curricula that attract kids (and parents of kids) looking to spike the standard required education with specialties such as hospitality management, information technology and international studies. Of its 357 schools, 17 in the Clark County School District have magnet programs. They were singled out because they needed a boost. “The intent was to reduce racial isolation and allow the demographics on all school campuses to be similar,” says Dr. Christine Gross, director of magnet schools for the district, “but the philosophy behind that is, if there’s one that’s unbalanced, but successful, leave it alone. But if there’s a community that’s struggling, then the magnet program can help.” Is it working? Yes … at least at Bridger. From

2005 to 2010, the school’s state standardized test scores rose from 47 percent to 63.5 percent in literacy, and from 38 percent to 60.3 percent in math. Magnet schools cropped up in the 1960s as a way to make public schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods so attractive to people in betteroff areas that they’d drive across town to get their kids there. The U.S. Department of Education’s Magnet Schools Assistance Program offers grants to get them up and running. Clark County School District didn’t get its first magnet school, Mabel Hoggard Math & Science Magnet Elementary School, until 1993, but apparently the district is a quick study. For the 2010-2011 school year, 14 Clark County schools took honors in Magnet Schools of

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Capstone, Bridger Middle School

“So, I have two sets of numbers. That’s not a lot of data, but we can make a decent set of charts from it. If I select them, then go to the insert tab, then charts, and click … here. There it is.” “Ohhh,” say the 16 students watching Steve Woytowish demonstrate a chart wizard in

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Above: “Super 6 News” at Gilbert Elementary. Right: Gilbert kids get dramatic in theater class.

PowerPoint. The wiry technology teacher is snatching statistics from a report on American workout habits and plugging them into a hypothetical presentation on health and fitness trends. Actual topics being developed for the class, Capstone, include breakthroughs in cancer research, accomplishments of space shuttle missions and applications of genetic engineering. “Does it get any easier than that?” Woytowish bursts. “Visually, does that have more impact than just words? Do you think something like this might be useful for some of your statistics?” “Yeah,” a lone spokesman exclaims. Everybody else is already busy scanning their notes for numbers they can use to generate the multi-colored slices of pie. With their final Capstone presentations just weeks away, the students are keenly interested in ways to fill the onerous 35 to 40 minutes of presentation time in front of their parents and peers. “We went to the high school programs and asked the teachers what they wanted us to teach them,” Jan Sherry, magnet program coordinator at Bridger, explains. “They said, ‘Can you teach them how to write?’” Capstone was born. Like a senior thesis project for eighth graders, the independent study walks students through the process of researching, writing and presenting an indepth report on a math or science topic. In

addition to mastering American Psychological Association style, students must incorporate a variety of media into their presentations. “Really, this is the key to succeeding in college and beyond,” Woytowish says. “Once you’ve nailed the writing process, you can use it to do anything you want.”

Super 6 News, Gilbert Elementary School

It’s 30 minutes until the start of “Super 6 News,” Gilbert Elementary School’s daily announcements, and time for the first read-through of today’s script. Forget the disembodied wonk over a loudspeaker that constituted daily announcements of yore. This is a live video broadcast — 8 News Now-style. Gilbert teachers oversee script-writing for the daily 15-minute segments, and Theater Manager Don Korkow oversees production, but a team of 16 fourth and fifth grade kids

C l a s s p h oto s : M i c h e l e N e l s o n , C C S D P h oto g r a p h e r

America’s annual awards. One — the Academy of Math, Science and Technology at Jim Bridger Middle School — received an Excellence Award, the highest category of recognition. This puts Bridger in the running to win the prize for best magnet school in the country, the Dr. Ronald P. Simpson Distinguished Merit Award — which a local school just happens to already have hanging on its walls. Gilbert Magnet School for Communication and Creative Arts in North Las Vegas received the Simpson Award in 20092010. While Bridger attracts kids who may someday cure cancer or design a better space shuttle, Gilbert is for the next host of CNN’s “360” or headliner on Broadway. But the vision of a stellar future for their kids is one thing these two standout schools have in common: They’re incubators for youngsters who opt for studying or rehearsing over, say, playing video games. As Nicole Molineri, mother of one former and two current Gilbert students, puts it, “At a magnet school, you can be around people who are like you, and avoid being frustrated by slackers throwing spit-wads.” It’s the faculty’s job to create an optimal environment for the students. Many magnet program teachers receive special training for their programs, yet they get no additional compensation for it, and any costs come out of the school’s budget or the teacher’s pocket — unless they’re lucky enough to bag a grant. So what’s in it for them? It’s as rewarding a teaching gig as you can get. In the days of dwindling public education budgets — and thus teacher salaries and benefits — that’s more important than ever. “I love the freedom to be able to teach through the arts and to see the children learn that way,” says Wendy Payer, a first-grade teacher at Gilbert. “If I had to go to a school now where I was given a stack of books and told I had to be at lesson one on Monday, and lesson two on Tuesday, I honestly don’t think I could do the job.” Magnet program teachers are so into their job that they show up an hour earlier than their non-magnet colleagues. They’re there to offer the extra daily class that magnet programs require … starting at around 7 a.m.

Magnetic minds

Angelo Molineri

“I wouldn’t be where I am today otherwise.” Angelo Molineri, now a seventh grader at Cadwallader Middle School, is a graduate of Gilbert Magnet School for Communication and Creative Arts, where he discovered and nurtured his talent for singing — a talent that may have remained dormant otherwise. “I don’t think I ever would’ve discovered singing if I hadn’t gone to Gilbert,” Molineri says. “I wouldn’t be where I am today otherwise.” If he’s talking like he’s a star, well, that’s because he’s coming close. He’s certainly got a leg up on countless waiters in Hollywood. “I’m learning to read music and play an instrument (guitar), and I have gone to L.A. to audition for different things: movies, TV shows, commercials, an ‘American Idol’-type thing for kids. … I did a Cici’s Pizza commercial, and I’ve performed at the Suncoast and Sam’s Town. I have a great new manager who’s really promoting me.” It makes a big difference when you want to be at school. That’s one of the most crucial dynamics of magnet schools — they’re places where the students want to be. “The kids that go to Gilbert are there because they want to sing and act, not because they have to be there. Other schools, kids are there because they have to be. “It’s very special,” he continues. “The teachers are more focused, more fun, they want to do more with you. I wish everyone could have that — whether it’s acting, engineering or whatever that they love to do.” — H.K.

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Magnetic minds

Courtney Sunden “It totally opened my eyes.”

Courtney Sunden is an eighth grader at Bridger and has been accepted to the Ed W. Clark High School Academy of Math, Science and Applied Technology, where she plans to continue studying biomedicine. It’s a long way from where she was in fifth grade — struggling with math textbooks. “On my CRTs (standardized tests) in math in fifth grade, I got a very low score. Gradually, from sixth to seventh grade at Bridger, it increased. I almost got a perfect 500 in math on my CRTs in seventh grade. So, there was a dramatic increase in my ability to learn.”

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It’s perhaps a counterintuitive notion in this age when teens are plugged into iPods and obsessively texting friends, but Sunden says — surprise — she values learning. “I have a good friend who’s not in a magnet. Between fifth grade and now, from what I’ve seen, I focused more on academics, while she’s still focusing on her social life.” Besides, she’ll have time for that later, right? Okay, maybe not. “My main career choice is becoming a general doctor in the ER. My other choice is medical examiner. Once I got to sixth grade and got into Mr. Studer’s (biomedicine) class, it totally opened my eyes. I realized I want to do this for the rest of my life.” — H.K.

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do the heavy lifting both on and off the set. They run the cameras, floor monitors and teleprompters; roll graphics, sound- and video-bites; and otherwise man the control room, while a team of two anchors presents news, topical reports, weather and the allimportant lunch menu. “It’s oatmeal month,” declares co-anchor Morgan in a recent Super 6 News installment. Morgan’s co-anchor Seanna adds, “We celebrate National Oatmeal Month in January, because that’s when the most oatmeal is bought.” The segment comes complete with benign banter between anchors, segues and tosses, everything you’d expect from TV news. “Every day it’s a new script,” Korkow says. “Each team gets a week on a position, then they rotate, so they get to learn all the skills involved in creating a broadcast.” Learning digital production became possible in 2000, when a donation allowed Gilbert to build a theater that is unique among the district’s elementary schools. In addition to a 418-seat theater, the facility houses a dance studio — where members of Nevada Ballet Theatre teach dance lessons three mornings per week — and a fully equipped TV studio. “Getting the theater was a big change,” says Stacy Testo, Gilbert’s magnet theme coordinator, recalling the days when the Super

6 crew had to hold up cue cards made of poster board. “Now, we have a teleprompter, and a ChromaCube wall, and a switcher that does virtual sets … it’s just totally evolved.”

Biomedicine, Bridger

“OK, I’m going to start the class,” says biomedicine teacher Kurt Studer. “One… two… three.” It’s like he’s hypnotizing the 29 kids in the classroom. A hush falls over them, and Studer begins his demonstration of a gel electrophoresis experiment they’ll be doing themselves the following day. Yes, seventh graders at Bridger Middle School learn genetic engineering. (Attention humanities types: gel electrophoresis is a process in which researchers use a gel and an electric current to separate different chemicals, proteins or DNA strands.) Studer holds up a rectangular plastic thingy: “Here’s the gel. You pour it in and the next thing you do is stick your protein in. … You have six different protein solutions. They will separate out from each other. The one that goes the furthest has to be the what?” “The lightest,” a few kids offer. Studer: “Yes, the lightest. You have a tank in front of you. You’re going to stick your gel in

the tank. … What do I need next?” Kids: “A buffer.” Studer: “Yes, the buffer should be roughly an eighth of an inch. …” And so it goes, for about half an hour. Apart from the kid who has to keep jumping up and sitting down at Studer’s command to switch the lights off and on, the class is perfectly still, riveted by the details of the coming experiment. Studer, however, is all over the place. The picture-perfect science geek sporting a buzz cut, black-rimmed glasses and rolled-up sleeves darts between an overhead projector and the middle of the room, where he can hold up objects for more students to see. He passes things around. He shuffles papers. He’s obviously enjoying himself. A lot of hard work precedes the fun. There was literally no textbook for a middle school biomedicine class, so Studer had to develop his own curriculum. He spends his spare time reading scientific journals, attending symposia, doing whatever he can to stay on top of what’s coming next in the profession — all to better prepare the future doctors and scientists in his classes. It’s paying off. Later that day, Courtney Sunden, an eighth grader who specializes in biomedicine, explains that, based on conversations with friends in non-magnet

Left: “Student body” takes on new meaning in a biomedical class at Bridger. Below: Can these Bridger students’ robots do homework, too?

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schools, she believes Bridger is better because of how much the teachers care. “They’re willing to help if you want to go deeper into something,” she says. “They’ll stay after school to help you figure something out.” Sunden has applied only to high schools with magnet programs where she can continue her biomedicine studies. She wants to be a doctor someday. This is going exactly according to the district’s plan. “Career clusters” — groups of elementary, middle and high schools with magnet programs offering the same specialties — are designed to keep students coming back for more of what tickles their gray matter. “When we start with elementary magnet programs and we’re able to use a theme-based curriculum, it engages the students,” says Gross. “Our data shows that they maintain a high level of engagement as they move from elementary, to middle, to high school.” And a high level of engagement means good grades — for Courtney, for Bridger and for the school district.

Aerospace, Bridger

You know that expression, “It’s not rocket science”? Bridger students are doomed to be baffled by it their whole lives. See, they can learn rocket science in seventh grade. Today, Terence Wood’s fifth period is building air rockets. They’ll launch them by the end of the week, using bike pumps for power. Next, they’ll move on to rockets with engines. They’ll launch those after Spring Break. The class’s air rockets are built from kits, but, Wood adds proudly, “in Civil Air Patrol, we build our own.” Wood is referring to an after-school program he leads, a squadron of 33 cadets affiliated with Nellis Air Force Base. Like ROTC for pilots, Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary program of the U.S. Air Force. And Mr. Wood is actually Captain Wood, a retired Air Force pilot who, after teaching for more than two decades, went through special training to become a Civil Air Patrol officer. For a group that only meets once a week on Wednesdays, the Civil Air Patrol gets a lot done. The cadets present the colors at community meetings; participate in food drives and service-dog programs; and help with drug use prevention for at-risk youth. Yet they still find time to make an annual threeday study trip to San Diego, including a visit to the Aerospace Museum and an overnight stay on the USS Midway. Wood is quick to stress that Civil Air Patrol

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is not a club. “When we sold it to Bridger, we explained that it’s an extension of the academic day,” he says. “We have aerospace education. We teach leadership skills, military courtesy and ceremony. Since we’ve been in existence, we’ve won the Aerospace Excellence Award (given by the national Civil Air Patrol) every year.” But is it fun? “Yes!” shouts a girl in Wood’s class wearing combat fatigues. She’s in CAP, and today there’s “PT” (“physical training” in civilian-speak). Wood admits he does some recruiting in his classes, and it’s easy to spot the handful of Civil Air Patrol members by their camouflage. But ask Wood, Studer or Woytowish which of their students are in the magnet program (versus those who are at Bridger only because they’re zoned for it), and they aren’t sure. This is an accomplishment for a magnet program, according to Gross. See, magnet programs are special programs within larger public schools (except at the elementary level, where all classes and students are part of the magnet program). Kids have to apply and be accepted to attend middle and high school magnet programs, but anybody in the zone can attend the schools’ non-magnet classes. Seats in magnet programs are given through a weighted lottery system, and a certain number of seats are set aside for kids from the neighborhoods where schools are located. Nevertheless, in some cases, the “zone kids” are shut out of the themed programs. “School administrators work diligently to develop a master schedule that allows neighborhood students in that school to have access to magnet courses,” Gross says. At Bridger, where theme-based electives are filled with zone kids, the accessibility seems to be working.

Ms. Martinez’s first grade, Gilbert

It’s reading time in Katrina Martinez’s first grade class, but not everybody is lounging in the carpeted and pillowed area surrounded by bookcases. Two first graders, Niko and Gianna, are at a table writing in their Tiny Topics Notebooks. Gianna says, “We get to take it home every day, so if we have ideas, we can write them down and bring them back.” What kind of ideas she might write down, Gianna won’t say, but she proudly shows pictures she’s drawn of herself and her family and what may be their house. Or a beehive. It’s impossible to imagine any kid’s home being more inspirational than Martinez’s

classroom, a treasure trove of colorful graphics and three-dimensional objects — art supplies, books, toys spilling out of every square inch of space. It echoes the overall aesthetic of the school, whose halls are art galleries, its common space, a stage. Add to this an erratic schedule: Kids leave their homeroom once a day every day for their themed classes (called “specials”) — art, drama, library, movement and music; once a week they have two specials; three times a week, they have “explorations,” non-core specials such as yoga and poetry; some kids may also leave homeroom for dance or music lessons; and then, there are events, such as a recent surprise performance by a traveling troupe of British actors. You gotta wonder how anybody can focus. Just then, Martinez begins the transition from reading time to math. As the kids stand up, they giggle and jostle. “Let’s control our bodies,” the pixie-like teacher coos through her teardrop-shaped voice amplifier, which all Gilbert teachers wear during class time. The kids fall into a circle, suddenly chanting and moving in unison. “We feel with our bodies,” they say as they run flattened hands up their legs to their shoulders. “We share with our voice.” Two fingers go from the lips out to the center of the circle. “We imagine with our minds.” Hands to their temples. “We concentrate on the subject.” Their arms extend into the circle, hands flexed in a “stop” gesture. “We cooperate with each other.” Arms link around the circle. “Good,” Martinez beams. She’s just employed a focusing strategy from the Actor’s Toolbox, a method that integrates drama and pedagogical techniques. With everyone’s full attention, she teaches even and odd numbers by having the students arrange themselves in pairs around the room, then complete a math sentence about their group. Testo allows that it’s not the right environment for everyone. Parents come to tour the school, watch art-meets-education in action, and either love it — or don’t. “The majority of our kids thrive,” she says. “Of course, you occasionally come across a child that needs a more structured environment. For that child, there are plenty of other options.” But after a day behind the desks — and in front the teleprompters, among the scientific equipment and in the art-splashed hallways — at these magnet schools, you get the sense that these kids find them a very attractive option indeed.

Magnetic minds

Xavier Morgan

“It’s a privilege to be here.” Xavier Morgan is a seventh grader at the Academy of Math, Science and Technology at Jim Bridger Middle School and specializes in aviation. “Our aerospace program here will give me an advantage when I get to college. I want to be a fighter pilot in the military. Civil Air Patrol helps with that, for basic military training and for piloting.” And that entails much more than book learning. Morgan’s education took flight — literally. “I flew the simulator and in real planes, gliders and Cessnas. I took off from North Las Vegas, went out to Indian Springs, went out to Henderson and came back to North Las Vegas.” Note to worried parents: Yes, an instructor was with him on all flights. His last close call had nothing to do with flying, but was still a nail-biter. “It’s a privilege to be here,” he says of Bridger. “I was placed in the alternative pool. I was about to go to (Clifford O.) Findlay (Middle School). I had purchased my P.E. gear and everything when I finally got the call that I was accepted to Bridger.” Perfect landing. — H.K.

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How tough is Dwight JoneS The school district’s new chief has a reputation as a consensus-builder. Translation: Slow and methodical. But those in the know say: Don’t underestimate him BY T.R. Witcher Portraits by Christopher Smith

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But so far, in these early months of his tenure, funding has been the big imperative. The school district, in early April, tentatively approved a $1.8 billion budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year that would require some $407 million in cuts. More than 1,800 positions would be eliminated; staff would take pay cuts that add up to 8 percent. (But even those figures can change in either direction in the budgetary tug-of-wars that will surely mark the waning days of the 2011 Legislature.) Class sizes would increase. All this in a state already infamous for being one of the nation’s leaders in poor student performance. In short, Jones is expected to do more with a lot less. In laying the groundwork for guiding the school district through a tight budget and into the future, Jones seems to be telling stakeholders things they want to hear. Ralph Cadwallader, executive director of the Nevada Association of School Administrators, and a former school district associate superintendent, says he’s highly impressed with the new superintendent. At a meeting with school principals, Cadwallader noted that Jones’ approach was humble. “He said, ‘I need your help.’ That was an approach that resonated with the group.” (The Nevada Association of School Administrators is a 1,000-member professional development group, not a collective bargaining group.) In fact, by all appearances so far, Jones is a pleasant, well-spoken consensus-builder. Just the kind of even-tempered, mild-mannered adult the school district needs to steer a struggling ship. A Las Vegas Sun article noted Jones’ “contrition and humility” at a meeting of business and education leaders in late March. Though Jones hasn’t much advertised it himself, word is starting to trickle out about importing his reform methods from his previous post in Colorado — a “growth model” that zooms in on student progress rather than schools’ test scores. And the early buzz is promising. The question becomes whether Jones is tough enough to make that reform happen here in Clark County, where mediocre education seems to be an entrenched status quo. When I spoke with him, Jones noted, quite bluntly, what his job

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was. “I have been brought to CCSD to be a game-changer. Change will not happen overnight. It will not happen by luck. Rather, change will happen by design.” Maybe that’s a feel-good quote, but many agree that Jones is a lot more formidable than he may seem. “He’s a very strong person and people wouldn’t want to underestimate him,” says Peg Bacon, the former dean of education and current provost at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. “He’s a change agent wearing slippers instead of hobnail boots.” While Brent Husson, chairman of the Business and Education Alliance for the Children of Nevada, or BEACON, sees Jones as a consensusbuilder, he notes that his position allows him to be much more. “Maybe he’s so good he’ll never need to crack the whip,” Husson says. “I do know the superintendent’s position is authoritative enough that if you want to get something done, you can. It’s a dictatorship if you want it to be.”

Eyes wide open Jones came to Las Vegas with eyes wide open. I asked him if he knew what he was getting into, taking the reins of one of the largest school districts in the country at a time of tightening budgets. “What made me want to take the job is I think it’s a great opportunity for redesign and reforming a large urban school district,” he says. Of course, one of Jones’ first steps has been fairly prosaic — he’s commissioned a study (funded privately by the Lincy Foundation) to analyze the school district’s budget and look for ways to improve. From there, he may begin to push the kind of agenda that marked his tenure as the commissioner of education for the state of Colorado, the position he held before coming here. There, he championed a bill to overhaul the way teachers in that state are evaluated. The Colorado teacher evaluation bill, SB 191, linked half of a teacher’s evaluation to growth in student performance and tied it to tenure. In his white paper, Jones notes the bill “allows educators to be treated as are their professional colleagues in other fields; they will be evaluated with a variety of measures and will earn salary increases commensurate with the results achieved with their students.” He referred to this bill and another, one designed to give schools more freedom to try out new educational ideas, as “aggressive reform legislation.” These days, “reform” is often a synonym for a “blame the teachers” approach. While the Colorado chapter of the American Federation of Teachers supported the teacher effectiveness bill, the state’s chapter of the National Education Association opposed it. Mike Wetzel,

B o a r d m e e t i n g a n d D W IG H T J ONE S W I T H S T U D EN T S : M i c h e l e N e l s o n , CC S D P h oto g r a ph e r

January, Dwight Jones, the new superintendent of the Clark County School District, posted a white paper on the district website. He acknowledged funding the cash-strapped district would be a challenge but “the greater imperative is outlining the vision we want to achieve.”

Keeping up with the jones From far left: Jones at a district board meeting; the new chief has a laugh; Jones talks with students.

spokesman for the Colorado Education Association, says his group’s main opposition to 191 was that it was too focused on consequences and punishments for underperforming teachers and didn’t do enough to establish benchmarks for success. “It was all about the procedures of letting a teacher go. It didn’t say anything about why a teacher was let go. Do they need more training? Do they need more support?” After chiding Jones for backing SB 191, the union pulled its support of the district’s bid for a federal Race to the Top grant, which may have been a factor in Colorado being ultimately passed over for the $175 million grant. Still, Bacon says that Jones’ tenure in that state helped change the educational culture to focus more on student achievement, which to that point had not been a big priority. But, he says, “I don’t think teachers in his school district ever thought he was anti-teacher.”

Empower play Jones certainly positions himself as a big supporter of the empowerment model of schooling, which gives local administrators and teachers more autonomy in conducting their affairs. “We need to invest in our teachers and administrators and at the same time we have to up the level of accountability,” he says. “If we’re going to hold them more accountable, we have to give them more autonomy.” His relationship with the local union may ultimately hinge on whether

they feel his focus leans toward “autonomy” versus “accountability,” but Jones describes his relationship with the local teachers’ union as a good one. “If you look at empowerment schools, teachers’ unions are a tremendous upfront player,” says Jones. While he says there will be areas where the union and district disagree, he thinks the union is open to fundamental changes that have to happen, from decreasing the district’s dropout rate to making sure more kids can read at grade level. The Clark County Education Association, the county’s teachers’ union, supports empowerment schools as well, but Ruben Murillo, the union’s president, is cautious in describing the developing relationship. “It’s an interesting relationship right now. We’re trying to get to know each other right now. We’re trying to figure out how the pieces of the puzzle fit.” The union’s relationship with the last superintendent, Walt Ruffles, was collaborative and congenial. With Jones, it’s still too early to say. They agree on some things — “we agree that a lot of school reform has to occur and that we both have to be involved in order to make sure school reform occurs collaboratively,” Murillo says. But there are areas where early conversations are a “mixed pot” — Murillo opposes the lack of due process in the Colorado bill. “Everybody should have the ability to defend their ability to do the job.” Murillo says the union will have a better idea of its relationship with Jones over the next year. It remains to be seen whether Jones really cracks the whip here in Clark County. “He knows that there’s hard decisions that will have to be made,” says Cadwallader. “If he doesn’t get some concessions from his unions, there will be further layoffs. There are no ifs, ands or buts about that.” Ironically, Jones’ biggest challenge may end up being the very school board that brought him in. Karen Gray, education researcher with the Nevada Policy Research Institute, recalls a meeting in March where Jones told the board the budget needed to be cut and “the trustees spent an hour and a half telling him no — he needs to go after new revenue sources.”

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Gray says that may be the status quo Jones has to fight. “Jones has said that publicly, money is not the solution to our problem. He’s very public about that. That’s where I see his biggest obstacle. The board is saying your number one priority should be generating more revenue resources.”

Word as bond It always comes back to revenue, doesn’t it? This year’s budget debates notwithstanding, the situation at the Clark County School District has been urgent for some time. Over the last three years, the school has cut $370 million from its budget and eliminated 1,800 employees at all levels. Right now the district is facing cuts of between $250 million and $270 million. Those cuts appear to have ballooned to $400 million — something the district expected if it was able to successfully oppose Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposals to offset budget cuts by using $300 million from the district’s bond reserve — money the district is supposed to use to pay back bonds that funded capital construction projects. Jones wants to keep that bond money in place. He says there are still tremendous facility needs that may require issuing another bond in coming years. Further, in the boom years, the district grew to 310,000 students. Even in the bad economy, enrollment hasn’t changed. “The kids are still here. We still were overcrowded. Our enrollment hasn’t really dropped so much.” Going back to voters begging for a new bond might not sail. Voters would say, he suspects, “‘We voted for those funds to be used a certain way — and you couldn’t protect it.’ It puts us in a very difficult situation. To not use those funds creates a larger potential deficit, to use those funds creates long-term problems.” Moving forward, the district will have to squeeze out greater efficiencies, and Jones can already tick off a few ideas. “One has to do it with online and blended learning. Online kids learn quite well. Let’s say you have a calculus class, honors calculus, maybe 10 students — they could take it online, that could free up a teaching position,” he says. And technologies such as Rosetta Stone language programs could be used for online foreign language classes. They’re all interesting ideas. But until ideas become reality, people such as BEACON’s Husson are taking a wait-and-see attitude. “I’m skeptical of anybody who says, ‘I’m a reformer.’ We’ve seen a lot of well-intentioned people try and not get it. He does come across as pretty strong-willed. But I don’t know what that will mean.”

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Your guide to finding the right school in the valley — for kids, the college-bound and the career-minded You’ve seen the dreary headlines in the daily papers, proclaiming the coming cuts to education. You’ve read about the teacher rallies, the student gatherings. You’ve been pelted by indignant Tweets and Facebook posts lamenting the sad state of education in Southern Nevada. The icing on top: All this in an economy showing only faint signs of a turnaround. It’s not pretty. But nothing empowers like a little bit of information. As lawmakers fight over budget scraps and the school system braces for cuts, you might be wondering: What can I do? A lot. In fact, you can rewire your kids’ education — and maybe even fire up your own career prospects while you’re at it. Who said the school up the street is the only option? Here’s our guide to finding the right school for your child — or for you.

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{kids} You want an alternative — maybe even experimental — education that bucks the factory mindset of public school Consider a charter school. Who said every student learns best in a fluorescent-lit farm of front-facing desks and a teacher planted at the head of the class? Charter schools offer opportunities to shake things up. They’re alternative public schools sanctioned by local or state entities. From there, flexibility reigns. For example, Odyssey Charter Schools ( are hybrids that allow kids to learn on-site and online — ideal for, say, kids with harried sports or theater schedules. (Or kids whose parents want to keep closer tabs on ’em.) Other charter schools, such as the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy (www.agassiprep. org), are guided by core principles, such as taking on at-risk youth — with a budget boosted by grants, gifts and private donations.

More: Read about how charter schools are vetted in Nevada at the state Education Department website, — Andrew Kiraly

You’re a maverick dismayed by the state of public education who wants a guiding hand in what your kids are learning — and you’ve got the time to do it. Clear off the kitchen table and give homeschooling a shot. You’re in luck — Nevada is considered a homeschool-friendly state, for the ease with which you can remove your budding learners from school without attracting the suspicion of Child Protective Services. And if the thought of turning your living room into a classroom makes you want

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to write “Please kill me” 100 times on the chalkboard, never fear. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available, from websites created by parents in the homeschool trenches to MeetUp groups of every stripe (www., from conservative Christian homeschoolers to the Las Vegas Freethinkers homeschool network — yes, that’s actual humanist moms and dads taking Jesus-free charge of their kids’ evolution. Caveat: You’ll need a saint’s patience, a horse’s stamina and an elder’s wisdom — all for no money. In other words, you’ll need to be a teacher. More: Nevada Homeschool Network is a well-organized clearinghouse of homeschooling information at — A.K.

You want deep involvement in your child’s early education, but don’t want to raise a kid in an airtight, living-room test-tube. Translation: You want the benefits of homeschooling, but want her to have actual friends. Consider a parent co-op school. It’s like traditional one-room schoolhouse dosed on juiceboxes, with parents and teachers pooling their energy and their schedules to collectively teach the kids. Want to talk small class sizes? Depending on the number of people involved, you could have one teacher for every four or five students. And here, “school bureaucracy”

C o u r t e s y o f A n d r e A g a s s i C o l l e g e P r e pa r ato r y A ca d e m y

Caveat: The popularity of charter schools means your kid might be chosen (or not) by lottery if there are more applications than slots. And do your homework: A lot of charter schools in Nevada have failed — or even been shut down — sometimes under accusations of mismanagement, malfeasance and general flakiness.

From far left: Students at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy; Las Vegas Academy; students at Bishop Gorman.

La s V e g a s A ca d e m y : M i c h e l e N e l s o n , C C SD P h oto g r ap h e r ; Chemistry Class courtesy of bishop Gorman

name it. Does your son belt out hits better than the contestants on “American Idol”? Consider the Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Performing and Visual Arts (www. Does your daughter dream of trotting the globe as a United Nations translator? There’s Robert O. Gibson School Dual Language Immersion and Leadership Academy ( Specialties are as varied as the Clark County School District’s 24 magnet schools and technical academies.

means good-natured haggling over who’s picking up the Elmer’s Glue tab. This handson, it-takes-a-village model also has the advantage of bringing in parents from different backgrounds, professions and perspectives. For preschoolers and kindergarteners, the Kids’ Co-Op ( has been operating locally for more than 20 years, putting both certified teachers and dedicated parents in the classroom. More recently, Co-Op Elementary ( has begun offering its model to elementary-age students. Caveat: If you’re a stickler for structure, co-ops’ freeform approach that focuses on self-esteem and open-ended learning might put your control issues to the test. — A.K.

{Teens} Your child has a keen, specific interest you want to nurture. Consider a magnet school or technical academy. It used to be that budding high school nuclear physicists were relegated to tinkering in mom and dad’s garage in the wee hours. Now there are magnet schools and technical academies to nurture young, burgeoning brains. Originally conceived to prod schools to be more diverse, these are public schools with an extra helping of dance, chemistry, cooking — you

Caveat: Because these schools are public, attending won’t cost you a dime. However, their popularity makes for limited seats. If there are more kids than class space, a computer lottery picks the lucky students. And if you do get in, you may be looking at a longterm, cross-town commute. More: Get a comprehensive list of magnet schools and technical academies at the Clark County School District website at — A.K.

You want your kids to learn in a faith-enriched environment — with tighter code for dress and behavior. Consider a parochial school. It’s got to

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be a nail-biter to raise your children in strict accordance with your faith, only to pack them off to a public school where a million mini-Lady Gagas in half-shirts and glitter hot pants are sending completely different signals. If that’s the case, consider a religious school. Not the goddy type? No worries. If you’ve got the money, you don’t even necessarily even need to be a true believer; for instance, Faith Lutheran ( guarantees admission to academically qualified students in certain area congregations, but they also consider applications from the community at large (of course, your kids still have to attend chapel). But in other religious schools that also take applications from the wider community, you do get discounts for provable churchiness — such as at Bishop Gorman (, where it can get you a $1,400 discount on tuition.

You want a top-notch education with well-paid teachers and dedicated administrators — and you’re willing to pay for it. Consider a private school. If there was ever a definitive rebuff to the notion that per-pupil spending has little to do with educational outcomes, it’s the private school. Small class sizes! Devoted teachers! Sprawling campuses! Cutting-edge facilities! You pay for it! (Though old rich people also kick in with endowments and charitable donations.) But what you get is quite nice, particularly in Southern Nevada, whether it’s the Meadows School’s 100 percent college-placement record (www. or Alexander Dawson School’s crazy 8:1 pupil-teacher ratio ( Caveat: Eeew! Uniforms!

Caveat: Expense. If money is an object, you might want to consider squirreling a way the bucks to blow it all on college down the road. — A.K.

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More: Education Bug (www.nevada. has an exhaustive list of private schools in Clark County. — A.K.

Whether because of choice or circumstance, your kid is attending public school. Consider spicing up a traditional public education. Okay, time for a little pep talk. Who said the learning’s done when the final bell rings? Not vigilant parents who want to see their brood do their best no matter the circumstances. Remember that envy-inspiring, hyper-achieving, self-actualizing brainiac in high school who was the football team’s hero quarterback and president of the Chess Club and head tuba in the marching band? That can be your kid! In short, open your eyes to the smorgasbord of extracurricular goodness that lies in front of you. And don’t forget there are a raft of bonus programs for high school uber-students, such as the Alexander Dawson Foundation Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning ( Their program treats selected, high-achieving students to an intensive summer course held at the Alexander Dawson School that leans toward addressing a local or global problem. It’s replete with research and field trips, culminating in the creation of a public awareness campaign. Hey, beats spending the summer playing “Call of Duty.” — A.K.

{Adults} The economy stalled your career plans. Take a look at UNLV’s Continuing Education in the Division of Educational Outreach. Continuing ed is the crowbar to dislodge professionals (both budding and seasoned) from a rut. Say you’re a receptionist; you could get training to become a legal secretary. A legal secretary could become a certified paralegal. The division offers degree programs as well as professional certification and development. Certificate programs included in this summer’s catalog are forensic social work, human resources, maintenance management, payroll and professional wine/sommelier. Christopher Schearer, UNLV’s director of continuing education, says the best thing about the courses is the instructors: high-level professionals with years of experience in their fields. Caveat: Expect to work your butt off. Schearer warns that UNLV’s continuing education is not for those who expect to simply sign up, pay a lot of money and have a diploma at the end of the term. “We expect people to show up, do their homework, put in the required effort,” he says. Clear your calendar, and if you’re going through something demanding of your time (say, a close family member is ill), get through that first. More: Visit the official site at www.edoutreach. — Heidi Kyser

You have a trade, but the labor calls are few and far between. Find out if your union offers training. If apprentices are a dime a dozen, journeymen must be at least a dollar each. The local bartenders’, culinary workers’ and carpenters’ unions all offer training; in fact, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters’ largest U.S. training facility is located right here in Las Vegas: the 345,000 square foot International Training Center. Marc Lilly has been a bartender for more than a decade and currently slings drinks at Morton’s Steakhouse. He thought bartender training at the Local 165 might teach him a little more about wine, but not much else. Turns out, the training opened his eyes to volumes of knowledge about all things alcohol. “It was the most intense training I’ve ever done, as far as bartending goes. It reinvigorated my appreciation for what I do,” he says.

union training is designed for union members. If you shudder at the thought of paying dues, adhering to codes of conduct, following labor rules and showing up for labor calls, this might not be the best option for you. — H.K.

You want to fast-track your career in a highly specialized and/or technical field. Private school might be the thing for you. Although public institutions of higher learning have programs in fields such as graphic design,

they may not offer complete immersion. Or, they go deep into a subject … over a longer period of time. A more condensed approach can be found at the many private schools with adult education programs in Southern Nevada, such as ITT Technical Institute, Kaplan College and University of Phoenix. Some zoom in on one or two things — for instance, The Art Institutes (art), Le Cordon Bleu (culinary science) and Touro University (healthcare and education). Others have more choices, and almost all offer something between a certificate and a doctorate in a shorter period of time than traditional colleges and universities. wants them. St. Rose Dominican Hospitals wants them. The school district wants them. Nevada needs them.

And Nevada State College educates them.

Our students earn four-year degrees in public safety, nursing, education, business and biology. 70% of our alumni stay in the state, making careers with some of Nevada’s top employers. These are the employees we need, so our economy can diversify and thrive.

Part of the Solution.

Caveat: Although it’s not always exclusive, 1125 Nevada State Drive, Henderson, Nevada 89002 | 702.992.2000 |

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Caveat: For-profit, private schools can be expensive — many times more costly than their public counterparts, in some cases. Last fall, the U.S. Senate held hearings on why a large percentage of students attending for-profit colleges took out student loans they were subsequently unable to pay. That’s not to say they’re all out to make a buck (Touro, for instance, is nonprofit), but it’s best to do your homework before school’s in. — H.K.

You’re unemployed or underemployed, and need tools to improve your job prospects. tools. Director Rebecca Metty-Burns says students completing the Patient Care Dialysis Technician and Health Unit Coordinator programs have been especially successful in landing jobs lately. “This training changed my life,” says Derek Solis. “I was an accountant before, and I made more money, but I got laid off. In dialysis, I’m able to help people; the money is less important than that. I wouldn’t go back to accounting now even if I could.”

Caveat: These are non-credit classes created to provide entry-level career training, so don’t expect to walk out with a degree and walk into a management-level job. Not all programs culminate in certification, either; some prepare students for examinations or apprenticeships that, once completed, result in certification. More: Get an overview at workforce — H.K.

SMALV.COM 702.877.5199

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Courtesy of csn

Check out the College of Southern Nevada’s Division of Workforce and Economic Development. Maybe you got laid off after decades in the same position and suddenly found your computer knowledge was outdated. Maybe your entire field became obsolete. With programs such as Computer Skills for the Workplace, Bail Agent PreLicensing and Welding Training, CSN’s workforce division gives people handson exposure to immediately employable

CSN has programs to kick-start the careers of those looking for a job upgrade.


Division of


Go Back to Get Ahead‌ Now is the time to take charge of your future. The UNLV Division of Educational Outreach will work with you to create new opportunities through professional certification, skill enhancement, and personal enrichment. We also offer online academic credit courses so you can take a step toward a college degree. View your copy of the Continuing Education Catalog to find out what new opportunities are available to you. For more information call 895-3394, or visit to view The Catalog online.

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a r t s + e n t e r ta i n m e n t

T h e at e r Dance FA M I LY



There’s so much art at the Contemporary Arts Center’s 22nd Annual Juried Show, you should bring a pair of backup eyeballs for when your regular pair gets full. Located in the Arts Factory at 107 E. Charleston Blvd., the downtown arts stalwart showcases a range of national and international artists in every medium through June 18. Info:


“The showgirl is on fire” sounds like a discreet way of describing an indiscreet rash, but it’ll actually literally be true later this year when the “Lucky Lady Lucy” showgirl sculpture goes up in flames at Burning Man. Who’s building her? You are! As part of this community sculpture project that takes place 6 p.m. June 3 and 5 p.m. June 12 and 26 at downtown’s Boulder Plaza on Boulder Avenue at Main Street. Info: 582-5007


Remember how if you were eating out and you saw someone at the next table take a picture of their food, you used to be all like, Oh my God. Is this food okay? Is that guy with the Health Department? What’s happening? MY MIND IS MELTING! More or less. But these days you know it’s just a harmless food blogger. A bunch of local food critics — including fine Desert Companion contribs Brock Radke, John Curtas and Al Mancini — discuss the impact of the Internet on food in the “Edible Vegas: The Language of Food” panel 7 p.m. June 7 at the Clark County Library. Info:

The work of Eric Gecas is featured in the Contemporary Arts Center’s 22nd Annual Juried Show.


We’re pretty sure “craft beer” means lovingly made, small-batch brews, and not the act of drinking the fermented juice of macramé plant holders. But we’d totally try that. You can sample quality suds while hearing live music on two stages at the Brews and Blues Festival 4 p.m. June 4 at the Springs Preserve. Tickets $25-$30. Info:

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Experimental indie rock band Twin Brother calls their music “strange

and elusive,” but we’ll take a shot at nailing down their sound: Imagine a seashell filled with a miniaturized church choir, along with a few gangly, crooning hipsters toting honey-drizzled guitars. And maybe a calliope with Tourette’s thrown in. They’ll be performing songs off their quite fine new album, “Best Frenzy,” 4 p.m. June 4 at the Winchester Community Center. $7-$10. Info: 455-7340

Twin Brother

ART First Friday June 3, 6-10 p.m. The Arts District’s monthly cultural event features artists, music and more in a street festival atmosphere. $2 suggested donation. 384-0092,

Kreloff: Made in Las Vegas by Martin Kreloff Through June 3. Pop artist Kreloff’s colorful, powerfully-drawn samurai, celebrities and hard-edged portraits are well known to local art patrons. Winchester Cultural Center Gallery

Lucky Lady Lucy June 3, 6-10 p.m.; June 12 and 26, 5-8 p.m. The public is invited to participate in building a community sculpture creating a 20-foot figure of a Las Vegas showgirl — a temporary artwork to be made from thousands of playing cards and casino chips. Free. The Boulder Plaza Sculpture Park, Boulder Avenue at Main Street, 582-5007

Pueblo Indian Art: Ongoing Traditions Through June 3. The museum exhibit includes examples of both historic and contemporary traditions, including clothing, baskets, pottery and jewelry from Hopi, Zuni and Rio Grande Pueblo artists. $1-$2. Clark County Museum, 1830 S. Boulder Highway, 455-7955

Anticipation June 2-25. Photographers Ryan Reason and Jennifer Maupin showcase their work in this sultry exhibition that explores voyeurism, seduction and more. Sin City Gallery in the Arts Factory

The Other Side of Las Vegas by Abraham Abebe June 10-Aug. 5; reception June 10, 5:30 p.m.Emerging artist offers a local’s perspective on Las Vegas, finding beauty in the mundane or discarded: a parking lot, an vacant storefront, a street of tract housing. Winchester Cultural Center Gallery

Kaleidoscope: Visual Inspirations Through June 12. Mary Warner has taught at the College of Fine Arts for many years at UNLV. This exhibit showcases Warner’s work along with that of a variety of her former students’ work. Springs Preserve, Big Springs Gallery

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Hot Glass June 17-Aug. 18. In 2009, artist Stacey Neff’s exhibit explores the possibilities of glass as a sculptural medium. Charleston Heights Arts Center

Contemporary Arts Center’s 22nd Annual Juried Show Through June 18. This exhibition is a prominent showcase in Southern Nevada and highlights the work of national and international emerging artists in all media. Contemporary Arts Center in the Arts Factory

Classic Goodman: A History In Photographs Of Mayor Oscar B. Goodman Though June 30. Exhibit showcases photos of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman during his three terms in office. Free. Bridge Gallery

2011 Celebrating Life! Annual Fine Arts Exhibition Through June 30. Clark County residents age 50 or better are invited to enter their original works in this 11th annual juried event. Free. Charleston Heights Art Center, 229-6383

Asian Contemporary Art Exhibition Through June 19. Featuring painting, photography and works on paper from a selection of leading artists from China, Japan and Korea. CENTERpiece Gallery

Springs Preserve Photo Contest June 24-Oct 2. View award winners of the Springs Preserve’s annual photo contest, featuring professional, youth and amateur photographers. $4- $8. Springs Preserve, Big Springs Gallery

Great Basin Exteriors: A Photographic Survey Through July 10, by appointment. This exhibit examines loss, change and abandonment in the American West. Historic Fifth Street School Gallery, 401 S. Fourth St.

Favela incorporates humor and art history into this site-specific installation of sculptures in the public space of the Clark County Government Center Rotunda Gallery.

MUSIC Live Orchestral Screening of Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” June 3, 8 p.m. Henderson Pavilion The Henderson Symphony Orchestra provides the live accompaniment to Charlie Chaplin’s 1931 silent classic, “City Lights.” $10. Henderson Pavilion, 200 South Green Valley Parkway, 267-4849

Jazz In The Park Series: Sax Pack June 4, 7 p.m. Enjoy an evening of jazz under the night sky. Free. Clark County Government Center Amphitheater

Twin Brother CountyCenter Through July 22; artist reception June 2, 6 p.m. Emerging artist Justin

June 4, 4 p.m. Singers and guitarists Adam Grill and Sonny Saipale, bassist Niko Saipale and drummer

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Take a peek at what we can do for your event:

Expect the best.

Brian Scanlan make up a band that bills itself as experimental, indie and rock. $7-$10. Winchester Community Center

Hanni El Khatib June 5-7, 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. The multiinstrumentalist serves as singer, songwriter and producer for his one-man band that is part blues, part garage rock, part soul, part folk and part doo-wop. The Cosmopolitan

Pookie June 7, 14, 21, 28, 10 p.m. David Mahoney, who was given the nickname “Pookie” by his mother, started to explore music at a young age with keyboard, piano, guitar and leading up to turntables, synthesizers and computer production. The Cosmopolitan

Tim McGraw June 7, 8 p.m. The country superstar makes a stop at The Joint. $67.50$800. Hard Rock Hotel, 4455 Paradise Road, 745-3000

Young The Giant June 8-11, 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. Young the Giant’s five members Sameer Gadhia, Payam Doostzadeh, Jacob Tilley, Francois Comtois and Eric Cannata combine to produce a refreshing brand of sun-soaked indie rock. The Cosmopolitan

The Slidin’ Thru crew brings mobile eats downtown as part of Vegas StrEATs.

Eats on the streets If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. In big cities with thriving urban cultural centers — you know, the ones Vegas supposedly wants to grow up to be like — you will find a bangin’ street food scene. Our downtown is getting hip, and we have a growing army of inventive food trucks prowling the streets. It makes perfect sense that they come together. The first Vegas StrEATs festival was held in March. Besides hungry hipsters, the key players were the ambitious crew at Slidin’ Thru, pioneers of mobile eats in our town, and the forwardthinking management at the 70-year-old El Cortez Casino. A couple of trucks had some earlier success at First Fridays and with late-night East Fremont bar-crawlers, and they wanted to create something bigger. No one knew it would debut so big, with around 1,500 showing up for the first event. Now it goes down every second Saturday of the month in the corridor known as Jackie Gaughan Parkway, right across from the El Cortez valet on Sixth Street, complete with multiple tasty trucks, art and clothing vendors, and nonstop music from a chain of DJs. It’s significant because it’s such a perfect fit, but also because downtown is in need of culinary expansion and diversification if it is to grow into one of those thriving urban cultural centers. “I think Vegas StrEATs is huge for downtown Vegas,” says Alexandra Epstein, the young El Cortez executive who helped develop the event. “In my mind, it goes beyond just food. If (people) associate that they can come down here and have this great experience with food trucks and really cool hotels and great bars, that’s what we’re trying to do, change people’s perspectives.” Info: — Brock Radke

Paul McCartney: Up and Coming Tour June 10, 6:30 p.m.Up and Coming Tour will make its first U.S. stop in Las Vegas. $118.45-$286.65. MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. 891-1111

which performs traditional African songs and original compositions. $10-$12, Winchester Cultural Center

Reggae In The Desert June 11, 2 p.m.- 11 p.m. Las Vegas’ largest reggae festival showcases the music and the Caribbean lifestyle. $25-$60. Clark County Amphitheater, 500 South Grand Central Parkway, www.

Arielle Verinis June 12-14, 10 p.m., 12 a.m. Arielle Verinis’ rich vocals brings that classic soul sound back to the forefront of today’s current music. Free. The Cosmopolitan

Bhoutalow (Black Scorpion) June 12, 2 p.m. Master kora player Toumany Kouyate leads this group,

Las Vegas Brass Band June 12, 2 p.m. Summer concert by the Las Vegas Brass Band. $5. Clark County Library

The Symphonic Rock Show June 18, 8 p.m. Las Vegas classic rock cover band, Yellow Brick Road, partners with a 30-piece orchestra to produce an evening of symphonic rock. $10, Henderson Pavilion,

Clouded Vision Nikka Costa June 15-18, 10 p.m., 12 a.m. The daughter of famed arranger/producer Don Costa, R&B vocalist Nikka Costa performs. Free. The Cosmopolitan

June 19-21, 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. Clouded Vision performs its songs influenced by snowboarding, surf and skate culture. Free. The Cosmopolitan

Plena Libre in Concert

J Roddy Walston and the Business

June 17, 8 p.m. Plena Libre performs the music of Puerto Rico with a swinging rhythm section, horns, vocals and dance. $10-$15. Historic Fifth Street School

June 22-25, 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. A Baltimore rock band made up of J Roddy Walston, Billy Gordon, Logan Davis and Steve Colmus. Free. The Cosmopolitan

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300th Army Band Concert June 23, 7 p.m. Army Reserve soldiers from Bell, Calif., perform classical, patriotic, ska, rock and contemporary pieces. Free. East Las Vegas Community/Senior Center, 250 N. Eastern Ave., 229-1515

Fauré’s violin sonatas, the Mozart Violin Sonata in B Major, Erwin Schulhoff’s Sonata for Solo Violin and Sarah J. Ritch’s “Meditation.” $12-$10. Winchester Community Center

Royal Bangs June 30-July 3 from 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. Playing together since high school are frontman Ryan Schaefer, drummer Chris Rusk and guitarist Sam Stratton. Free. The Cosmopolitan

Rush: Time Machine

Cameron Rafati


June 24, 8 p.m.Canadian prog-rockers Rush revive their “Time Machine” tour. $64.65-$166.90. MGM Grand Garden Arena

June 26-29, 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. Cameron Rafati’s stage performance and powerful lyrics have quickly earned him recognition from LA’s own KCRW to the newest Unsigned Artist feature on MTV. The Cosmopolitan

Academy of Nevada Ballet Spring Concert 2011: La Fille Mal Gardée

Aurelien Fort Pederzoli violin recital June 25, 2 p.m. Featuring one of

Academy of Nevada Ballet Spring Concert 2011: Peter Rabbit


June 5, 1 p.m. Created by local talent and inspired by the timeless tale of the Adventures of Peter Rabbit. 15-$18. UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall

The Cosmopolitan 3708 Las Vegas Blvd., 6987000,

Academy of Nevada Ballet Spring Concert 2011: Tribute to Legends in Dance

CENTERpiece Gallery In CityCenter 3720 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 736-8790,

June 5, 5 p.m. The Dance Division will present “Tribute to Legends in Dance.” $15-$18. UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall

Charleston Heights Arts Center 800 S. Brush St., 229-6383

THEATER How I Became a Pirate

Clark County Government Center 500 Grand Central Parkway, 455-8239 College of Southern Nevada BackStage Theater, Nicholas J. Horn Theater, Recital Hall, 3200 E. Cheyenne Ave., North Las Vegas, 6515483, Historic Fifth Street School 401 S. Fourth St., 229-6469 House of Blues Inside Mandalay Bay 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Insurgo’s Bastard Theater 900 E. Karen Ave. D114, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District Centennial Hills, Clark County, Enterprise, Rainbow, Sahara West, Summerlin, Sunrise, West

June 4, 7 p.m. As part of its annual Spring Concert, the Academy’s PreProfessional Division will present this full-length ballet. $15-$18. UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall

“Second Embrace” by Ryan Reason The photography exhibit “Anticipation” explores seductive subjects at Sin City Gallery through June 25.

Charleston and Whitney libraries, 734-READ, www. MGM Grand Garden Arena In the MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S., The Orleans Showroom Inside The Orleans 4500 W. Tropicana Ave., Reed Whipple Cultural Center 821 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 229-1012 The Springs Preserve 333 S. Valley View Blvd.,

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822-7700, UNLV Artemus Ham Hall, Judy Bayley Theater, Beam Music Center Recital Hall, Barrick Museum Auditorium, Black Box Theater, Greenspun Hall Auditorium, Paul Harris Theater, Student Union Theatre. 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, 895-2787, Winchester Cultural Center 3130 S. McLeod Dr. 455-7340

June 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 7 p.m. Based on the popular picture book, the young hero is swept up on a wave of adventure with colorful pirates and lively music. $3-$10. Charleston Heights Arts Center

Killer Joe July 1, 2, 8, 9, 7:30 p.m.; July 3, 10, 2 p.m. To collect insurance money, the Smith family hires a hit man to kill their estranged matriarch. $10-$12. CSN’s BackStage Theatre

FESTIVALS AND FAMILY EVENTS 2nd Annual National Juneteenth Jazz, Spoken Word and Arts Grassroots Fest June 4, 10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. A family-oriented event with poetry, art and jazz. Free. West Las Vegas Library

Daddy, Daughter and Family Dance June 11, 6 p.m. Dads, daughters and the whole family can celebrate Father’s Day dancing the night away to the latest English and Span-

ish music. $3-$5. East Las Vegas Community/Senior Center, 250 N. Eastern Ave., 229-1515

Exploring Trees Inside and Out Exhibit June 11-Sept. 5. Take a walk through an enlarged tree trunk and through the veins of leaves and leave the exhibit with a new respect for trees. $4-$8. Springs Preserve, Origen Museum

Summer Camps for Kids June 13-Aug. 22. For 11 weeks, five daylong camps for ages 6 -12 will let kids get up close and personal with Gila monsters and other desert animals and take part in archaeology digs. $210-$230. Springs Preserve

Gran Tardeada de Verano June 18, 3 to 8 p.m. Event will feature a special exposition of beautiful Mexican folkloric costumes, mariachi music, folk dances and sales of traditional food. Free. East Las Vegas Community/Senior Center

Father’s Day Brunch at the Springs Cafe June 19, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Celebrate Dad with a special Father’s Day feast at the Springs Cafe by Wolfgang Puck. $12.50-$29.95. Springs Preserve

Our 2011 Season June 23 — October 22 A Midsummer Night’s Dream Richard III Romeo and Juliet The Music Man The Glass Menagerie Noises Off! The Winter’s Tale Dial M for Murder

ExploreArts June 20-24; June 27-July 1. At the Las Vegas Philharmonic Music & Fine Arts Camp, children ages 5 -12 experience different cultures through art, movement, music and literature. The Alexander Dawson School Campus. $325. 258-5438 ext. 221

LECTURES, READINGS AND PANELS The Poets’ Corner June 17, 7:30 p.m. Keith Brantley hosts established poets and open-microphone participants. For mature audiences. Free. West Las Vegas Arts Center, 947 W. Lake Mead Blvd., 229-4800

FUNDRAISERS Tee Up for Kids Charity Golf Tournament


June 2, 6:30 a.m. The Public Education Foundation’s 11th annual tournament. $300- $1,200. Spanish Trail Country Club, 5050 Spanish Trail Lane or

d e s e r t c o m pa n i o n . c o m 63


Educational paradise lost


My family’s journey through the public school system — gaining knowledge, yes, but losing fun by timothy pratt

When we arrived from Cali, Colombia

to live in Green Valley in 2001, my older son, Jesse, was only 4, and Dylan was due in seven months. Our life in schools was just beginning. That summer, we toured a nearby Montessori school. We were immediately attracted to its philosophy: small groups, learning at your own pace — ideal for Jesse’s entry into a whole new culture, including a new language. But we couldn’t afford it. Luckily, we wound up developing an arrangement in which my wife, Joana, would teach at the school. Two years later, we did the same at Imprints Day School. Her work made it financially possible for Jesse and then Dylan to launch their education in private schools. In hindsight, those years appear to be a Shangri-La, when my boys were happy to be learning and going to school. At Montessori, Jesse was one of 17 students with two teachers. Not speaking English wasn’t an issue. The Montessori system wrapped him in its caring, intimate world and, within months, he was spitting out sentences. Class included sharing something from home; he felt special about his background, bringing Andean hot chocolate made from scratch. He wrote poetry in his newfound tongue, a testament to how the Montessori method conquered the problem of learning English. Neither Montessori nor Imprints was heavy on grades or even tests. But there was no question my boys were learning — and having fun. At Imprints, little Dylan and growing Jesse took to the family atmosphere and the project-based, arts-centered curriculum. Most days began petting a shaggy dog named Sydney, splayed across the hallway. Jesse threw himself headlong into monthly plays based on different cultures, learning geography, science, English, even math. By the fourth grade, he knew more about global maps than some adults. Dylan also took quickly to reading and writing. Twice a year, dozens of families camped out in Imprints’ sprawling backyard. We were part of something bigger than a bricks-and-mortar school. But in the end, Shangri-La imploded. At Montessori, Jesse’s teachers left. So we did too. At Imprints, it turned out the fantasy

64 D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n J u n e 2 0 1 1

wasn’t well-financed. The parents, many of whom were professionals, tried to “save the school.” But they couldn’t. The last day we drove away, all of us cried. All that summer and into fall, a group of families from Imprints made a valiant attempt to rescue the best of what we had in a homeschooling project. But after two years, it folded too, a victim of the mismatch between ambition and time. Even before then, Jesse in particular was drawn to public school, a vast ocean of social connections. He also wanted to know exactly how smart he was, as measured by numbers, by tests. Would he do well? We enrolled him in the oldest magnet school in the valley. We got a waiver for Dylan to attend a school outside our zone with a bilingual curriculum and a warm, enthusiastic principal. At first, Jesse had some teachers who actually enjoyed their work. But by early seventh grade, schooling became a numbers game. Both of us got used to logging onto Parentlink (the site where teachers enter grades) to monitor his performance, like play-

ers in a fantasy football game. As for Dylan, his bilingual principal left and, with her, some of the programs for which she raised money — and the knowledge of two cultures that made the school special. Fortunately, his teachers are caring, but they’re often overwhelmed by bureaucracy and budget cuts. Both my boys bring home As and Bs. But neither has much fun anymore, except for seeing friends. Especially for Jesse, it’s become more about meeting requirements. The joy of reading, of asking questions or discovering the world, has steadily slipped away. What kind of future citizens does that create? Someone who knows how to succeed, but who’s uninformed about anything beyond what they need to know to get the job done. I hope someday they rediscover the joy of learning. But in this era of budgetary knife fights and No Child Left Behind accountability metrics, I doubt it. Timothy  Pratt  is a Las Vegas-based freelance journalist who also writes for Reuters and  PODER magazine.





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Desert Companion - June 2011  

Your guide to living in Southern Nevada.

Desert Companion - June 2011  

Your guide to living in Southern Nevada.