By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said on Nevada Newsmakers last week that she pleaded with Gov. Steve Sisolak not to close the state’s public schools during the Covid pandemic of 2020, but the governor did not want to hear her advice.
“I asked the governor not to close them,” Goodman said about the state’s school system. “And he had called a few of us in leadership positions before he was making the announcement to the public, that he was closing the school system. And I said to him on that call, ‘Please don’t do that. You can’t imagine the far-reaching effects of this.’ And he said, ‘If I wanted your opinion, I would have asked for it.’
“I thought, OK, then it (school system) was closed down,” said Goodman, who in 1984 founded The Meadows, a private, college-prep school, serving kindergarten through 12th-grade students in the Summerlin area.
In March of 2020, Sisolak announced Nevada schools would be closed for about three weeks but later said schools would remain closed for in-person instruction for the remainder of that school year. Some states and nations followed similar plans, although others kept schools open with some of those requiring masks to be worn.
Sisolak, currently running for re-election against Republican Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, was criticized by some parents and conservatives for closing schools and non-essential business during the pandemic.
Yet a 2020 poll published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal months after Sisolak’s schools decision named him as the person Nevadans trusted most to manage the pandemic.
Goodman, however, said closing schools in 2020 has harmed the state’s public school system. Nevada has been consistently listed at or near the bottom of national rankings for at least two decades before the pandemic, records show.
“Psychologically, the ability to talk to people, the whole social nuance, to say nothing of the enormity of the loss of education was just so tragic to do that,” she said. “How do you bring them back?”
The Covid pandemic is considered the largest disruption of worldwide learning in history, according to United Nations reports, impacting 1.6 billion learners in 190 nations. In Nevada, research showed students who live in poverty suffered the most from the lost school time.
A study from Yale University backed up that point, showing that pandemic-related school closures severely hampered academic progress of children from low-income neighborhoods while having no significantly detrimental effects on students from wealthy communities.
The struggles of the Nevada school system, where each of the state’s 17 counties has its own school district, were apparent before the closures, Goodman said.
“All of our kids were behind to begin with, children in every grade level,” Goodman said. “And now they are another year-and-a-half behind from they were before, which is why we are ranked now as far down as 50th.”
The decision has hurt the state’s economy and job market, Goodman said.
“And of course, we have the enormity of the enrollment we deal with plus all of the time we have lost, I think, another 10,000 or 15,000 that have moved away,” she said. “And you can’t develop economically, which I have been speaking to for 37 years, unless you have a high-quality public school system.
“People are not going to move businesses here with employees who have children,” Goodman continued. “And so people need to listen to the people who have some knowledge, because they have done it.”
If Sisolak is re-elected, Goodman will strive to be on good terms with him.
“I can work with anybody,” she said. “I really know I can and that’s the way I have spent my life.
“I think there is good in everybody,” Goodman continued. “So one may have certain qualities, where they are going to help the city and help the community and others have other qualities.
“I can’t say I would agree with the decisions that have been made because I can see further down the road, even way back at closing the city down,” she added. “I could see way ahead of what was going to be coming.”
Goodman said she won’t be making any political endorsements for the Nov. 8 midterms, even in the race for state treasurer that features Republican Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore against incumbent Democrat Zach Conine.
“I don’t make endorsements, only for the fact that I’ve never had,” she said, before catching herself in mid-sentence.
“Actually that’s not true. I have endorsed people, one was Joe Heck, when he was running, I guess, for Congress … and I was told by Congresswoman (Dina) Titus, ‘Oh you’re not supposed to endorse people. That (Heck endorsement) was one and then (I endorsed) a gentleman who sits now as the Ward 1 councilman, Brian Knudsen, because I knew his passion.
“But other than that, I don’t endorse,” Goodman said. “This is a vote of the people. They are responsible for making those choices and in my opinion, for making them for the good or the bad.”
Goodman in the dark on city-hall clash
Goodman also said she has never seen any recording of the alleged January 2021 hallway scuffle between Fiore and fellow councilwoman Victoria Seaman.
Journalists at the Review-Journal requested the footage of the altercation at City Hall through the federal Freedom of Information Act but never received it. Eventually, city officials said the footage had been deleted.
Seaman filed a lawsuit in September against Fiore, accusing her of assault and battery. Seaman also named the City of Las Vegas as a defendant, accusing city officials of conspiracy to hide and destroy evidence of the alleged assault.
“Much like everything in the political world today, everything has two sides and they (Seaman and Fiore) are very firm and I have not seen the film. I never saw the film,” Goodman said.
Goodman said she learned of the recording of the incident “only after everything came to be.”
She also did not know cameras were placed in areas where the public is not usually allowed.
“I didn’t even know we had cameras where they were and where they still remain in city hall, other than public areas,” she said. “Then it dawned on me, do they have cameras in the restrooms? Why are the cameras where they are?”
She also learned cameras in City Hall are programmed to erase footage after a certain time span.
“Like most cameras in homes or businesses, after a certain amount of days, they are programmed always to record over them,” she said. “You could not afford, possibly, to keep all the recordings. So it is a matter of cost savings and everything else.”
Without any recording of the incident, Goodman said: “At this point, it is just hearsay, from one side or another,’ later adding: “I thought it was just sad.”