CIS of Nevada names Debbie Palacios, accomplished education leader and a former director with CCSD, Southern Nevada Executive Director

Superintendent Jara, others, offer congratulations to Palacios and recognize retiring Southern Nevada executive director, Cheri Ward, for her decade of service to the nonprofit. Tami Hance-Lehr, CEO and State Director for Communities In Schools of Nevada (CIS), announces the appointment of Debbie Palacios to executive director for the organization’s Southern Nevada affiliate.

Palacios brings to the job nearly two decades of experience in the education sector, starting as a teacher with the Clark County School District (CCSD) in 2005. She also held various positions with CCSD, including English language learning specialist and Title I facilitator, prior to taking her most recent position of director of Family and Community Engagement Services (FACES) in 2019.

“I am excited to join CIS of Nevada as the Southern Nevada affiliate executive director,” said Palacios. “As a first-generation U.S. citizen and daughter of Peruvian immigrants, I know first-hand how invaluable it is to have the right support system, especially when the odds aren’t always stacked in your favor. My parents taught me the importance of education from a young age, so pursuing a career in this industry came naturally for me. I look forward to applying my education background in my new role with CIS and am honored to be a part of an organization that makes such a life-changing, positive impact on thousands of students in the valley.”

As Southern Nevada affiliate executive director, Palacios oversees all aspects of the organization’s efforts in Clark County, which serves 60,000 students in 53 K-12 high poverty CCSD schools – that’s one in four Title I schools. In this position, Palacios’ responsibilities include development and fundraising, finances, programming, community relations and practicing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to continue meeting CIS’ mission of surrounding students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

The selection of Palacios as CIS Southern Nevada affiliate executive director is lauded by CCSD Superintendent Jesus F. Jara. “Debbie always exudes nothing but grace, passion and commitment to doing everything she can to help our students succeed and realize their learning potential. The vision of CCSD’s FACES, for which she previously served as director, is that all schools, families and communities will be partners in education, ensuring success for all children. Because of this and Debbie’s wholehearted belief that the collective impact is greater than the individual parts, I am confident she will transition seamlessly into her new role with CIS. I look forward to continuing to work with Debbie and wish her continued success.”

Palacios replaces Cheri Ward, former Southern Nevada affiliate executive director, who recently retired after serving for 11 years. Ward will support an effective leadership transition by serving as a senior consult with CIS on a part-time basis.

“When you think about the people who have laid the foundation for Communities In Schools to flourish, you think of Elaine Wynn and Congresswoman Susie Lee — and now, as Cheri transitions from executive director to a senior consultant, we add Cheri Ward to that esteemed roster,” said Tami Hance-Lehr, CEO and state director for CIS of Nevada. “Upon selecting the new executive director for our Southern Nevada affiliate, it was clear that we needed someone who would build upon Cheri’s legacy of people-first leadership. In Debbie Palacios, we have an enthusiastic, compassionate, and visionary leader who is committed to ensuring every Title I school in the Clark County School District has a Communities In Schools site coordinator championing student success. We know Debbie is going to be ‘all in for kids’ as she leads our team in Southern Nevada.”

Ward has achieved countless milestones with CIS, including:

  • The creation and launch of Power Within, the organization’s annual initiative that celebrates CIS’ case-managed students, site coordinators and community partners for their outstanding work performed over the past school year. CIS celebrated its 9th annual Power Within this past May.
  • Scaling the CIS model by becoming an established vendor of Title I wraparound services with the Clark County School District. The ratification of a contract by the School Board of Trustees in spring of 2014 led to a more diversified and sustainable funding model enabling the evidence-based dropout prevention organization to effect more systemic change.
  • Hiring two alumni of the CIS program, in July of 2019, to serve as site coordinators, embodying the true value of the mission of the organization: ensuring students stay in school and achieve in life.

“Stepping down from my role with CIS, an organization that I so deeply care about, is bittersweet, but I’m excited to see what the next chapter has in store for me,” said Ward. “When you’ve been with an organization for as long as I have, the mission effortlessly becomes part of the fabric of your everyday life. I have seen and helped CIS evolve and grow over the years, but one of the greatest parts of my career has been the pleasure of working with such genuine and committed people, including leadership, our wonderful site coordinators, community partners and our generous donors who support our mission.”