Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned
Discussion of Additional Information Needed for March 31, 2016 Review of Charter SchoolsLater in the morning, the Education Department sent notice to media abut the dropping of the agenda items on rescission votes at the request of the board member who'd requested them — Williamson.
In response to the comments from the State Department of Education and one of my fellow State Board members, I wanted to clarify that I did not request a meeting of the State Board in advance of our full hearing on the four charter proposals we voted to review last week. Instead, yesterday, I replied to an email from the Department asking for information any Board member felt was needed to make a more thoughtful decision at that hearing. This informal request process was one that we have used the entire time I have been on the State Board. Indeed, I’ve asked for information regarding matters before the State Board on any number of occasions.The civic advisory committee that serves the Little Rock School District, now in state receivership, also weighed in:
Thursday morning, I received a call saying that a special Board meeting needed to be scheduled for the State Board to vote on whether such materials should be requested. When the agenda for the meeting was published, I was surprised to see the motions to rescind the votes from last week. Moreover, I am particularly frustrated by the statements today because they state that I “wanted to meet” on the topic in advance of the full hearing. I simply wanted more information so that we could all make a thoughtful decision on a matter that promises to significantly impact the public education offered in Little Rock and, therefore, the city as a whole. I am glad that such a healthy majority on the State Board recognized the seriousness of this decision through their votes to review last week. While as a State Board member, I make decisions impacting education across the state, I admit that I am particularly conscious of the impact of such decisions on my home city that I care about so deeply. This is an important moment for Little Rock.
To Members of the Arkansas State Board of Education (SBE),Other members of the committee also have written the Board, including Dr. Anika Whitfield, who said she hoped the state Board didn't plan to drop an "atomic bomb" on the Little Rock District.
On behalf of the Civic Advisory Committee (CAC) of the Little Rock School District (LRSD), we implore you to continue with plans for a hearing for proposed charter school expansions in the LRSD. No matter the outcome of your eventual vote, we believe that a hearing to fully consider the ramifications of this decision—whatever it may be—is justified by the number of students who will be affected for years to come.This is far from a routine decision, especially in the context of the LRSD being under state control and relying heavily on the SBE for guidance and support. Whenever an issue is especially contentious, as is this one, the potential to accept the outcome and move on to future collaboration is heavily dependent on the perceived fairness of the process, and so we appeal to your sense of fairness to allow a hearing so that those who will be impacted by this decision may communicate their concerns to you in a public and transparent manner. While we have worked faithfully this school year to engage our community and overcome mistrust and disengagement, a reversal of the plan for a public hearing will exacerbate the doubts we have encountered about the integrity of public education governance in the LRSD. All public school students need us to minimize division and maximize collaboration, and decisions made without opportunity for public debate sows more doubts and divisions among those who continue to care about public education.
We do not understand the benefit for the LRSD and its students to reverse course and rescind plans for a public hearing. Instead, we believe a hearing benefits both outcome and community perception as it demonstrates thoughtful consideration of all relevant points of view and complexities involved in this decision. Please do justice on this issue and to the community and students served by faithfully and thoughtfully considering your decision with your original plan for a public hearing.
Dionne Jackson and Greg Adams
LRSD Civic Advisory Committee
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