Sandoval Column: Moving Nevada forward by striving for excellence at all levels

It's no secret that I have made economic development, education reform, and responsible state government the cornerstones of my administration. Every decision I make is grounded in these priorities. I'm pleased to continually be able to point to progress - not just within state agencies, but at all levels of government.

Recent actions by the Nevada Commission on Economic Development approved abatements that will help produce over 600 jobs. This action, taken in one meeting, set a record among recent activity, according to commission staff. From a powdered milk facility in Fallon to manufacturing jobs in Reno and Las Vegas, jobs are being added to our economy. These jobs were all created through coordination with local governments, with the private sector leading the way. Sector specialists are joining our team, each one focused on a potential area of job growth and each with unique experience that helps distinguish Nevada as a leader among the states. Step by step, we are getting Nevada working again.

This month we gained the national reputation and expertise of Dr. James Guthrie as Nevada's State Superintendent of Public Instruction. I am counting on Dr. Guthrie's wealth of national experience to set a new standard at the Nevada Department of Education and take our reform efforts to new heights. I am already impressed by his leadership and enthusiasm for moving Nevada forward in new and innovative ways. Among many ongoing initiatives like literacy and school choice, we are focusing on closing the achievement gap, expanding the professionalism of teachers and administrators, and modernizing the state education agency.

Fortunately, that same leadership is evidenced in our local school districts. Washoe County Superintendent of Schools Health Morrison was recently recognized as the nation's Superintendent of the Year. And right here in Carson City, Superintendent Richard Stokes and the local School Board have established a five-year strategic plan, Empower Carson City 2017. Grounded in the belief that the community empowers tomorrow's innovators, leaders and thinkers, this plan focuses on engaged parents and guardians - perhaps the most critical element in student success. Carson City has also stressed the importance of health and wellness among our young people, as well as excellence among professional educators.

Clark County Superintendent Dwight Jones has pioneered a School Performance Framework (SPF) that is raising the bar on accountability. By stating in a clear way that is easily understandable to parents and the rest of the public, the SPF provides a window into each school building that makes it possible to see which schools are performing well, which schools are on the right path but are in need of better guidance and support, and which schools may be candidates for turnaround.

In higher education, Chancellor Dan Klaich has offered a new view of the allocation formula that directs dollars to all our institutions. He is also working with college and university presidents to align activities with our economic development initiatives and the work being done by K-12 superintendents throughout our state.

I am encouraged by the conversation and commitment that goes along with these efforts. Nevada's education leaders are also on the move and they have my full support. My commitment to avoid further cuts to education as we prepare for the next legislative session is an expression of that support, and I look forward to working with educators at all levels as we continue to press for the reforms that make a difference in the lives of students.

To provide the kind of support needed by our public schools and businesses seeking to relocate or expand, we are changing the way state government manages your money. At a recent meeting here in Carson City, my staff rolled out the new Priorities and Performance Based Budget. This new tool provides additional transparency and accountability by clearly articulating 56 objectives the budget must address, and 148 benchmarks by which we can judge success. I want to commend the agency heads who are working to build the next budget, and I look forward to working with the Legislature to make better use of the Priorities and Performance Based Budget in the years to come.

While Nevada was challenged more than any other state by the national economic downturn, virtually every indicator we are tracking now shows signs of improvement. We are emerging from the Great Recession, but there is still a long way to go. Too many of our friends, family members, and neighbors are unemployed or struggling to hold on to their homes. At the same time, leaders at every level of our state are taking the necessary steps to ensure the recovery is sustainable. I remain optimistic about the future of the Nevada family, and I believe our state and local governments, school districts, higher education system, and local businesses all have a role to play in ensuring that Nevada's best days are yet to come.

• Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval can be reached through his website


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