Thursday, October 1, 2015

Little Rock School District sets announcement; includes deal on building for West Little Rock middle school

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 12:15 PM

click to enlarge EYED FOR SCHOOL: Former Leisure Arts facility.
  • EYED FOR SCHOOL: Former Leisure Arts facility.

Little Rock School Superintendent Baker Kurrus
has scheduled an important announcement at 1 p.m. today.

Our sources indicate Kurrus will announce the district has put under contract the vacant Leisure Arts building on Ranch Drive off Highway 10 as the site of a middle school. Gary Newton, a lobbyist for Walton-financed education groups that push charter schools and other "reforms," has been lobbying the school district to buy the building.

The district has promised a middle school in western Little Rock and  bought land adjacent to Leisure Arts for the school, but finances have delayed a move — along with a plan for other planned facilities improvements, particularly a rebuilt McClellan High School in Southwest Little Rock. The elected Little Rock School Board had vowed to do the west and southwest improvements concurrently, but the school board no longer exists since the state took over the district in January. Kurrus was named to lead the district in May.

It reportedly isn't a certainty that the Leisure Arts will be converted to a school, but putting it under contract will allow a study of its use. 

Moving on the school addresses Newton's frequent threats that people were prepared to open new charter schools in the area if the Little Rock district didn't take action. Newton, with Walton help, started the Quest charter middle school in Chenal Valley last year, and the LISA Academy hopes to expand its middle and high school that already exists near Markham and I-430. Kurrus had said earlier that he didn't want to consider the middle school singularly, but as part of a districtwide strategy.

Benji Hardy will be on hand with questions.

UPDATE: Kurrus sent a letter to district employees about the announcement. 

Here it is.
It says the conditional purchase contract is for $11.5 million and is in the spirit of plans previously adopted by the board. He said state Education Commissioner Johnny Key was supportive. No doubt. Anything that's good for Newton and the Waltons is good for Key.

Kurrus noticed that the promise of concurrent movement on west and southwest projects was conditioned on a millage campaign that wouldn't likely succeed today, but the district needed to move forward. He said a planning process will begin now on the new high school, too, a process that could take four to five years to completion.

The contract on Leisure Arts will give the district 180 days to study the building's suitability for a school. Could it open as a school as early as next year? Parents of children at Roberts Elementary would like it, undoubtedly.

The letter doesn't identify source of the money, but Kurrus has said the district was accruing reserves and potentially could reap savings from bond refinancing.

Key later issued a statement:

"This announcement by Mr. Kurrus represents two significant milestones for the Little Rock School District. Having a modern education facility in southwest Little Rock that will provide 21st Century learning opportunities should create excitement for the students and families in that part of the city. At the same time, this agreement on the former Leisure Arts facility will allow us to determine the feasibility of converting this building to meet the educational needs of students in a rapidly growing part of the city. I fully support moving to the next steps of both of these initiatives."

State Rep. John Walker, a lawyer who's battled the district for years over segregation, wasn't happy at today's news. He said it caters to Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter Hussman, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, state Board of Education members Diane Zook and Vicki Saviers and predominantly white western Little Rock to the detriment of children in the rest of the city, particularly poor minority students. These and others figure in an argument by Walker that race discrimination is at the core of the state takeover of the distrct. It could yet appear in a new legal proceeding.

Coincidentally, a meeting is scheduled this evening at Pleasant Valley Church of Christ to rally western Little Rock people behind building more secondary schools in that part of town.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • Death Row inmates argue to keep stay of execution in place; urge 8th Circuit not to 'rush' analysis

    Early this morning, attorneys for nine Death Row inmates, filed an argument with the 8th United States Court of Appeals contesting the state's effort to override Judge Kristine Baker's order Saturday that halted executions scheduled this month.
    • Apr 17, 2017
  • Federal judge denies execution stay for Don Davis but larger stay continues

    Don Davis, who's been moved to the killing facility of the state prison for killing tonight at 7 p.m. if a stay of execution is lifted in another federal suit, sought a stay in another federal court Sunday, but the request was denied.
    • Apr 17, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • The plight of the refugees: Dark episodes in Arkansas

    Ernest Dumas reaches into history, some personal, for moments in Arkansas's view of refugees. It was brought to mind by the current crisis in Europe and the political divisions over whether the U.S. should respond to the needs of the displaced.
    • Sep 22, 2015
  • Medical marijuana backers: Health Department opposition 'disingenuous' and 'cruel'

    Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group behind the first medical marijuana initiative to qualify for the ballot, has responded sharply to yesterday's statement by the Arkansas Health Department that it opposes legal medical use of marijuana.
    • Jul 13, 2016
  • Democrats name new House minority leader

    Rep. Michael John Gray of Augusta has been elected leader of the House Democratic Caucus, the minority party. He succeeds Rep. Eddie Armstrong of North Little Rock. He's a farmer and small business owner.
    • Sep 25, 2015

Most Shared

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
  • Art bull

    "God, I hate art," my late friend The Doctor used to say.
  • Not justice

    The strongest, most enduring calls for the death penalty come from those who feel deeply the moral righteousness of "eye-for-an-eye" justice, or retribution. From the depths of pain and the heights of moral offense comes the cry, "The suffering you cause is the suffering you shall receive!" From the true moral insight that punishment should fit the crime, cool logic concludes, "Killers should be killed." Yet I say: retribution yes; death penalty no.
  • Judge Griffen writes about morality, Christian values and executions

    Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who blogs at Justice is a verb!, sends along a new post this morning.
  • The Ledell Lee execution thread

    Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville.

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Most Viewed

  • Lee's lawyer writes about executed man's last hours

    Lee Short, the lawyer for Ledell Lee, the man Arkansas put to death just before midnight last night, posted on Facebook the following letter of thanks for personal support and a bit about Lee's last hours, distributing his possessions and talking to family.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

Slideshows

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation