No doubt there are principals in need of removal. No doubt there are some principals better than others. But the interlocking shuffle of 13 principals ends up making it appear as if all are equal. Swapping a principal with a proven record at one school for a principal with less-obvious gifts at another school is somehow going to improve both schools? Holmes has not explained that case well nor did the School Board press him sufficiently on it in ratifying his choices.
Parents at Williams Magnet and Western Hills made the case to keep popular principals at those elementary schools during special school board hearings last night. Holmes said he intended to give consideration to what he'd heard, but he added, "it's not an easy chore to move over 13 principals."
Will a school superintendent reverse himself on one or two changes when that would set off the necessity of at least several more changes? It would be contrary to the nature of the superintendent beast. And the School Board, though some members might harbor doubts about aspects of Holmes' plan, will be reluctant to meddle with his selection of school-level leaders, a matter in which the chief administrator is generally given great deference.
I'll be surprised if this bell is unrung. And somewhat more surprised if the district is a net winner from it all.
The League of United Latin American Citizens has decided to challenge the Little Rock School Board's recent redrawing of school board zone boundaries. The map diminished the influence of the district's growing Latino population to the advantage of three of the four black members of the Board, who voted together for the map 4-3.
An e-mail from the local LULAC leader, Terry Trevino-Richard, explains:
The League of United Latin American Citizens has appealed the new Little Rock School District school board zones to the Pulaski County Election Commission, a three-member group comprising two Democrats and one Republican.
UPDATE: However, the Election Commission says that the Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts are exempted by state law from review of zone boundaries by the county election commission and so it will not be considering new zones in either district.
LULAC, in a message from Terry Trevino-Richard, said the boundaries adopted by a racially divided School Board last week (the black majority favored the new map) didn't follow a rational reasoning but seemed designed primarily to address the personal desires of school board members, particularly Michael Nellums, whose boundary proposal was adopted. LULAC called the map an "arbitrary and covert attempt to minimize the represenation of Latino students and parents." It suggests it might take legal action if the new map is put in place.
LULAC had favored a plan that concentrated more of the district's growing Latino population in a single school board zone. The plan approved divided that population between two zones. It's unlikely a map could currently be drawn with majority Latino population, much less majority Latino voters, but a solid voting group could be influential in school board races, where turnout is often quite small.
Trevino-Richard's letter to county election officials follows. He told me later that he was talking with LULAC officials about the possibility of legal action, but no firm decision had been made.
The Little Rock School Board has been dickering for weeks over new maps for school board zones following the census. A prime concern of some board members has been preserving existing zones as much as possible for existing board members and not putting any two members in the same zone.
A new issue has arisen on account of the growing Latino population, particularly in Southwest Little Rock. That community is interested in maximizing its influence and has objected to a map favored by a couple of incumbents.
An e-mail on the subject from Terry Trevino-Richard, who's active in the League of United Latin American Citizens, has gone to board members about the concerns. It follows. It was addressed originally to Michael Nellums and Norma Johnson, but has since been copied to all Board members.
UPDATE: The zones are likely to be approved at a special board meeting Thursday night.
A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled this morning that the state must pay $69,972.66 to Little Rock School District lawyers and $149,417.50 to the lawyers for the Joshua Intervenors in appeals of lower court rulings in the long-running desegregation case.
Lawyers for the Joshua Intervenors were opposing the Pulaski County Special School District's appeal of the district court's partial denial for a declaration of unity status. LRSD lawyers were appealing the termination of state funding.
The Little Rock School District filed its motion today in federal court for a summary judgment that the state of Arkansas had broken the 1989 desegregation agrement by:
* Approving open enrollment charter schools in Pulaski County without court review.
* By failing to identify programs to deal with racial disparity in student performance.
* By abandoning monitoring responsibilities.
* By adopting a state transportation aid formula that penalizes Pulaski County.
* By retailiating in transportation formula, failure to pay attorney fees and by impossing accounting standards on the district it hasn't applied to others.
The state will respond by March 12 and Judge Price Marshall will hear arguments March 29.
This ought to be good for some legislative fulmination.
Yesterday came a measured ruling from Judge D. Price Marshall, who has inherited the aging legal dinosaur. He has allowed Pulaski charter schools to intervene, on narrow grounds, in the Little Rock School District's pleading that the state of Arkansas has broken its 1989 desegregation commitment by insufficient attention to segregation caused by creation of open enrollment charter schools in the county. The charters have been particularly damaging to the magnet and interdistrict transfer programs the state agreed to finance and encourage in settling the case in 1989.
Judge Marshall recognized the charters' obvious relevance. But he's not going to allow the charter schools to attempt to relitigate the 1989 desegregation settlement 22 years later. He will not allow them to attempt to undo racial enrollment goals established before the Republican-led Supreme Court decided the United States had become color-blind and race no longer was a permissible factor to consider in school assignment. Opening this litigation foray would have added years and years to the case. I'm sure the anti-LRSD crowd would have missed the irony of a huge increase in litigation prompted by people who love to complain about the federal lawsuit.
As I've said before, the Little Rock School District has much merit in its argument, particularly in the early days of charter school approval in Pulaski County. But this issue isn't all about race and I think a settlement could address money, school boundaries and charter concerns — with some give and take by all parties. Read on if you're a school wonk:
Sorry I didn't take a screen shot.
I was alerted last night to a post on the Little Rock School District Twitter account that suggested a Bible reading for the day — from Revelation, maybe? — and a link to a religious website. Sorry I didn't take a screen shot. I sent notes to Little Rock School District offices and to the Twitter account asking about the religious message — amid School Board notices and the like — and didn't get a response.
However, I notice this morning that the post has been removed. I'll try to follow up today on what school officials know about use of the account for proselytizing. Sounds like a hacker.
If anybody preserved a screen shot, I'd appreciate a copy.
UPDATE: School Board member Melanie Fox said she'd talked to Superintendent Morris Holmes about the episode. The preliminary thinking is that the system was hacked or someone simply obtained the password. "The first order of business is to shore up the system to make sure it doesn't happen again," she said.
The attorney general's office earlier was obliterated in oral arguments on the case.
State legislators hungering after the money — some $70 million a year — to shore up a pinched state budget will have to wait a bit longer. The payments have been made since a historic court-approved agreement between the state and school districts in 1989. The state is paying for years of fostering segregation in Pulaski County.
The appeals court noted that Judge Miller had ordered funding to halt even though the state had not requested it and the judge made no findings of fact to support the decision. It also said it had some sympathy for Miller's view that districts had an incentive not to comply if it meant continued state money. But it wrote: "Nevertheless, notice and a formal hearing are required before the court terminates a constitutional violator’s desegregation obligations."
If the state wants to end funding, there must be a formal hearing, the court emphasized. "We express no opinion on what the outcome of such a hearing should be. In the absence of these procedures, the portion of the district court’s order terminating the State’s funding obligations under the 1989 Settlement Agreement is vacated."
Might I add, again, that it is time for the state and school district to work out a phased-out end to the spending, perhaps with some state promises to follow the law and constitution and not directly encourage segregation within Pulaski County through charter schools that encourage racial and economic division. Said Attorney General Dustin McDaniel:
The State continues to move positively toward ending this litigation and taking the courts out of the classrooms of Pulaski County.
With the Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts now fully unitary, today’s decision reminds us that taxpayer-funded desegregation payments are not perpetual, nor should they be seen as such. Today, I renew a call to the parties in this case to come together for a meaningful discussion about what is best for the children of these school districts and the taxpayers of this State.
Gov. Mike Beebe's office said there was nothing surprising in the decision, though they were pleased at the speed with which it was delivered. "It will allow the state to proceed more quickly on the issues remanded back to district court," Matt DeCample said.
UPDATE: See the jump for a comment by Chris Heller, attorney for the Little Rock School District, who believes the opinion makes clear that the state will face a significant burden of proof in arguing for an end to magnet school and other interdistrict remedies for its wrongs.
Politics will get fierce. For example, the state could get out from under running the failing Pulaski school district by by busting it up between Little Rock and North Little Rock, with a separate Jacksonville district created as local people have long wanted.
Today's order was significant on two other fronts. It upholds denial of unitary status — or a finding of full desegregation — for the Pulaski County School District and reversed denial of unitary status for North Little Rock. NLR now joins Little Rock as fully desegregated in the eyes of the federal courts. (The Little Rock argument continues on whether the state has a lasting commitment to interdistrict magnet and transfer programs regardless.)
School elections. First, from this afternoon:
Note this: There's an extraordinary number of absentee ballots filed in Little Rock School District Zone 1, where Norma Johnson is the only candidate on the ballot, but a write-in candidate, Loretta Hendrix, also is running.
As of 5 p.m., 570 absentee ballots had been accepted by the county clerk for the entire county, 110 of them from Little Rock Zone 1. By contrast, in North Little Rock, where voters have a contested race in Zone 5, only 10 absentee ballots were cast.
The Election Commission said 144 people voted early in the county, 28 of them from Zone 1. In North Little Rock Zone 5, there were 25 early votes.
When the votes are counted, we'll know if an organized effort was afoot on absentees. But, in a race with a light vote, as I mentioned in a column recently, 100 absentee ballots could really make a difference. Hendrix is the daughter of City Director Erma Hendrix, so she might be expected to have some political acumen.
Actual voting continues until 7:30 p.m.
UPDATE: Norma Johnson won the Zone 1 LRSD early balloting 21-5. Still waiting for that absentee vote.
FWIW: All the early vote went FOR existing school tax millages. No increases were on the balllot and they don't change regardless.
UPDATE II: Looks like both sides got absentees out. With 10 of 14 precincts reporting, Johnson is leading Hendrix 68-43. Of that total, the absentees split 47-48 Johnson v. Hendrix.
In North Little Rock, incumbent Scott Teague is swamping Jimmy Ard, 124-24.
UPDATE III: I don't know why it is taking so long to count so few votes, but I'm calling it a night. The latest returns show incumbent Scott Teague running away with the NLR contested election and Norma Johnson, the only candidate on the ballot in Little Rock, winning 254-162 over write-in Loretta Hendrix, with an even split on absentee votes. The absentees accounted for about a quarter of the votes in the race, a high percentage, but turned out not to be determinative. Johnson got a 72-16 edge, or more than half of her margin, in Precinct 118, roughly between I-30 and Broadway south of I-630.
Several things arrived by e-mail worth mentioning:
* RICK PERRY'S TEXANISM: Get your Gene Lyons early here, courtesy of Salon, a good explanation of Cowboy Rick Perry.
* LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL NEWS: Here's the appellate brief by Chris Heller and Clay Fendley for the Little Rock School District in which they eat the lunch of the attorney general's office in reply to its motion to end state school desegregation funding without a hearing, without evidence, without arguments and without an answer to the city's contention that the state hasn't lived up to its end of the consent decree in attempting to stop segregation.
* LITTLE ROCK SALES TAX: On the jump is the full statement from Arkansas Community Organizations, which — on a shoestring budget with grassroots energy — mobilized strong opposition Tuesday to the Little Rock sales tax increase, a secretive, real estate-industry funded campaign that spent probably 25 times as much, but still lost in most of the city, save a criitical vote in what Orval Faubus once called the limousine liberal wards. Key quotes:
Those who will bear the greatest burden of this regressive tax for the most part voted against it. Those who are wealthier voted in large numbers for it. City Hall will soon collect $1 million in new revenue every week for the next ten years. ...
“More money to do the “same old, same old” on a bigger scale is not progress. The issues of fair representation in city government, sustainable growth, development that creates living wage jobs for Little Rock residents and many others will still need to be addressed. Addressing these issues will mean real progress.
“Finally, we call on our elected City Board of Directors and the Central Arkansas Technology Park Authority to make a commitment in writing that the Technology Park will not be built in any Little Rock residential area. Don’t tax us only to put us out of our homes.”
You can be sure the people who financed the tax increase do not want democratic representation, but a continuation of the blend of at-large city director seats that give the moneyed interests a hammerlock on city government.
Judge Price Marshall, newly in charge of the Pulaski County school desegregation case, made a bundle of rulings yesterday, mostly maintaining the status quo while the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals considers whether the previous presiding judge, Brian Miller, went too far in summarily calling an end to state desegregation payments. The question was not before Miller when he issued the ruling.
But I'd like to emphasize a key finding by Judge Marshall: That the state must produce information on students attracted to the open enrollment charter schools in Pulaski County. The Little Rock district argues that the schools have promoted segregation — which the state is legally bound not to do — by creaming already achieving students into the charter schools. The most successful of these schools have student bodies that are whiter and more economically advantaged than Little Rock schools and previous analysis has shown that they also are comprised of significant majorities of students already meeting educational goals in the schools they left.
The state, through the attorney general's office, has massively resisted providing data on the charter schools, a shabby continuation of state actions that landed it in this court action in the first place a half-century ago. It also continued a more recent pattern — now thankfully changed — of a most-favored status for charter schools, driven by money from Waltons and other of the state's most powerful families. For years, the state Board of Education gave no consideration to racial impact of charter school creation as it was legally obligated to do. One school, in Maumelle, that was founded on the solemn promise of reaching at-risk kids (read poor minorities) failed miserably at the task, becoming instead mostly a neighborhood flight school for white kids. The state not only wanted the fact-finding blocked, it wanted the whole question about charter schools dismissed.
Judge Marshall denied the state's resistance to examination of the issue. He said the school district and the intervenors for black children had presented ample arguments about "injury, causation and redressability" to keep the issue alive for judgment. The fact that the Little Rock district has been declared desegregated "does not undo the many ties that still bind LRSD to this case," he said. He set out a briefing schedule. He said the state must provide information about charter students, but protect individual identities. The Little Rock School District never wanted anything more than that. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel served only the special moneyed interests in fighting a full examination of the question.
Speaking of charter schools: Check this by a former Times-Picayune reporter on the interlocking web of charter school financiers, their motivations and more.
Superintendent Morris Holmes will hold an Open Mic discussion with parents and community tonight at Philander Smith College. The event runs 6 to 8 p.m. at the Kendall Center.
The school district says Holmes will take questions and listen to suggestions for ideas to improve the school district. It does not say whether there will be School Board members on board.
Loretta Hendrix, 62, a member of the Little Rock Historic District Commission and an "education strategist" with a background in curriculum development, has filed as a write-in candidate for Position 1 on the Little Rock School Board.
Hendrix, the daughter of City Director Erma Hendrix, said she filed because Katherine Mitchell, the long-time incumbent, had decided not to run for re-election. She said she thought Mitchell had done a good job, and wouldn't have had a reason to run against her.
Norma J. Johnson, 52, a state Highway and Transportation Department employee and mother of a Central High student, earlier filed for election in Zone 1.
Interested in the Little Rock School District fight against federal Judge Brian Miller's surprise order to end state funding of magnet school programs?
Here's the Little Rock School District appeal brief. It's a useful history of the state's repeated effort to 1) encourage segregation in Pulaski County and 2), in the years since the 1989 settlement, to get around its terms. The interdistrict remedies — magnet schools and interdistrict transfers for racial balance — were not contemplated to be ended by "unitary status" of the three districts (still unattained for Pulaski and North Little Rock), the brief notes. Heller notes pointedly, too, the state's duty to monitor and enforce efforts to end disparities in education. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel — and Judge Miller — made a lot of noise lately about the failure of the three districts to achieve this goal while standing largely silent on the state's failures.
In any case, Heller argues, the interdistrict remedies for state-sponsored segregation are separate matters from intradistrict issues.
The interdistrict remedy addresses state-imposed residential segregation by allowing LRSD’s African-American students to leave their one-race, neighborhood schools and to attend a truly desegregated LRSD magnet school or a majority-white PCSSD school via an M-to-M transfer. The districts’ intradistrict desegregation plans address past intentional discrimination against African- Americans by requiring the districts to implement certain policies and programs to ensure fairness and equity in the operation of the districts, including intradistrict student assignments.
Significantly, the Little Rock district argues that, should all three districts be unitary, it would not end the state's interdistrict obligations.
So what is the deal with this dude's personal life? Is there some kind of…
NB Trailer Home.....I respectfully differ with your assessment. I understand your statement but I don't…
People without anything to hide don't mind unreasonable search.
People that are only chanting…
A&E Feature / To-Do List / In Brief / Movie Reviews / Music Reviews / Theater Reviews / A&E News / Art Notes / Graham Gordy / Books / Media / Dining Reviews / Dining Guide / What's Cookin' / Calendar / The Televisionist / Movie Listings / Gallery Listings