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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Former senator and LR school board member John Riggs thinks state takeover a solution for schools

Posted By on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 at 2:37 PM

click to enlarge 'ONE WAY OUT': Former LR School Board president John Riggs IV thinks a state takeover is the solution to impasses in the school district.
  • 'ONE WAY OUT': Former LR School Board president John Riggs IV thinks a state takeover is the solution to impasses in the school district.
My column on the situation in the Little Rock School District — and a discussion of the possibility of state takeover — has stirred a fair amount of talk, at least in relative terms.

I've posted on the blog already — and it will appear in print this week — School Board President Greg Adams' more hopeful view of the situation in the district.

Today, I heard from John Riggs IV, president of Riggs Tractor Co. and a former state senator and Little Rock School Board president. 

Thanks for your column on LR schools. There are quite a few people who are stalwart supporters of LRSD who see only one way out—-state takeover. Although I greatly appreciate Greg Adams’ response, I see no urgency on the part of the school board. Attached are talking points I developed for a speech in SWLR. I just can’t believe that there is no outcry over the horrible educational conditions.

Here are Riggs' unedited notes.
The notes — and they are not a speech — provide a number of specifics on familiar topics, including low-performing schools and a failure to move more aggressively to reduce costs with the coming loss of state desegregation support. By Riggs' figuring, the district may eventually have to pare some 500 jobs, but so far has increased expenses.

Riggs says a millage is needed for construction, a hard pull though not necessarily impossible.

Can a millage pass? Yes, look to NLRSD. Record rise in millage rates, highest in state. It takes a great superintendent, engaged school board that is respected, community institutions behind the schools. NLRSD promised new schools but a more efficient system (consolidated schools). New millage passed by a large majority.

What's to blame?

Failure of governance. When as the last time we had anything but a 4-3 vote on anything of substance? Lack of support for Superintendent by board. Failure of citizens to be engaged. No righteous indignation, no anger no demand for change within school community. A large part of our populations is used to poor performance and has come to expect it. School board elections need to be moved to November to get more people involved.

Solution?

Grass roots conversation about what we want for our children—led by an honest broker and including all stakeholders but not relying on the usual suspects.

State takeover inevitable on the current trajectory. Better to do it now verses three more wasted years. PCSSD success story under Jerry Guess and only one boss instead of seven.

I offer this only as one more voice in the same conversation. More people need to be engaged.

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