School books never used, tossed in trash
Clark County, NV (KTNV) -- Boxes and boxes of books. Left sitting around a school for years. Never used. And then tossed in the trash.
Has Chief Investigator Darcy Spears uncovered another case of School District waste?
Or is this just how they do business?
You decide because you paid for it.
"Just one little school. 300 children. Small community. And plenty of waste."
So says Clark County School District Custodian Jim Nelson about the school he used to work at in Sandy Valley.
Nelson has a message for taxpayers and parents of CCSD students.
"Watch your wallet."
That's because of what he says he was ordered to throw in the garbage this summer.
"Throwing away brand new books that were never used. Math, science, other things."
Nelson was transferred away from Sandy Valley in September after six years at the school.
He's now a custodian at Sierra Vista High School here in town.
And, like other CCSD whistle-blowers we've talked to, he claims the transfer was retaliation after he exposed waste and other health and safety concerns.
"I'm driving 110 miles a day round-trip. With the price of fuel it's $60-70 a week. It hits me in the wallet on that one."
His case is under investigation by the Nevada Equal Rights Commission.
The day of the dumping, he took two photos. One of a cartload of boxes of books and another closeup of a box label showing what type of books were in one of the boxes.
"And there was at least three loads of this caliber thrown away."
He estimated about 36 boxes of books in all.
"They should have been utilized! They were brand new, never opened! No excuse! It's wasteful."
As you can see by the box label, at least one box of books dates back to 2007.
Principal Jerry Cornell has only been at Sandy Valley School since August 2010, but the books were tossed on his watch.
"They weren't textbooks, they were workbooks," Cornell told Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears.
Darcy: And is that every single one of those approximately 36 boxes?
Principal Cornell: Oh no, no, no, no.
He's only sure of what was in one box, because we showed him Jim Nelson's photo of the label.
That particular box of workbooks goes with certain math textbooks, some of which we saw in the school's textbook room. Cornell estimates the cost at about $40-50 per book.
Even so, he says there's no use for the workbooks.
Darcy: So if you're a conscientious administrator and you know you're getting books that you're not gonna use...
Principal Cornell: I wouldn't get them. Would not. Wouldn't bring them on campus.
Cornell says every school he's worked at as an administrator for the last 13 years has stockpiles of math workbooks.
"And they don't fit in our -- in the program -- in the curriculum that we're teaching today."
Darcy: And they didn't in 2008 or 2009 or 2010 or 2011?
Principal Cornell: No. 2007 is I think when we got those.
Apparently not all math workbooks are unusable. We found one sticking out of a student's backpack, obviously in use.
Cornell says if there were textbooks in the boxes that were trashed, they would have been outdated.
"Um, you know, schools are hoarders. Educators are hoarders. And we tend to keep things that we have just in case we might need it someday."
He admits some stuff you pay for just never gets used.
"Every school I've been at, I've stumbled across storerooms with things that people just forgot were there."
Like the room at the District's Academy for Individualized Studies High School. As Contact 13 exposed last May, there were hundreds of brand new books -- in boxes and wardrobe cabinets -- that were outdated, never used, and left behind when the school moved to a new campus.
Darcy: Do you think that anyone anywhere in this district can afford to let that happen?
Principal Cornell: I don't think anyone does it on purpose. It's the nature of education.
But it's something he says he strives to change.
Darcy: What do you think when you see, when you find boxes of stuff dated 2007 or 2008?
Principal Cornell: Makes me crazy!
Jim Nelson says paper and books weren't the only things laid to waste at Sandy Valley School.
"We had bookshelves and file cabinets and wardrobes sitting outside in the elements being rained on, sandstorms through them."
We saw that when touring the school with Principal Cornell.
Darcy: Are you worried at all that they're starting to rust?
Principal Cornell: No. Because we'll go through and we'll clean them up.
Cornell admits there isn't enough space here to store stuff. They keep extra desks and chairs in the gym, which itself is a tent.
His campus has tables re-purposed from one Las Vegas High School and football scoreboards from another.
But as for waste in the School District?
Darcy: Do you think it's an unavoidable situation?
Principal Cornell: Yes. Yes.
There's another kind of waste going on in Sandy Valley. The school has never had a recycling program. The District says distance makes it cost-prohibitive, but they're working on a solution.
We want to know what you think. Is waste in a school district our size unavoidable? Or should they be doing more to curb it? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how you feel.