Little Rock school board establishes millage campaign steering committee | Arkansas Blog

Friday, August 29, 2014

Little Rock school board establishes millage campaign steering committee

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 5:07 PM

click to enlarge TOUGH SELL: Can the school board convince Little Rock voters to approve a millage increase? - BENJI HARDY
  • Benji Hardy
  • TOUGH SELL: Can the school board convince Little Rock voters to approve a millage increase?
Earlier today, Max wrote about the Little Rock School Board’s acceptance of a master plan for facilities improvement in the LR school district. I’m going to add a few notes of my own from the meeting.

As Max said, the cost of overhauling and expanding school buildings as outlined in the plan runs to about half a billion dollars. That will pay for a lot of improvements, including enough new or renovated classroom space to do away with the trailers (“portables” in report-jargon) that have become commonplace expansion classrooms in many schools. It will also require getting the voters of Little Rock to approve a millage increase, which the school board acknowledges will be a steep climb.

Greg Adams, the board president, acknowledged in his remarks that the district “is in a different situation” than when he began his tenure four years ago. Several schools are in academic distress, which raises the specter of a state takeover of the LRSD. The end of desegregation payments from the state is going to blow a hole in the district’s budget in the coming years. But despite the existing budget worries, the facilities study demands action, Adams said, because competition from charters, private schools and school choice puts new pressure on the LRSD to improve its building infrastructure.

“We cannot be a competitor in this marketplace if we don’t do that,” said Adams

To that end, the board took two votes, both unanimous. The first was to accept the master plan, although the plan contains multiple scenarios, not a single course of action. It leaves final decisions up to the school board (more on that in a second). The second vote was to establish a steering committee to plan the inevitable millage campaign. Superintendent Dexter Suggs said the steering committee would "develop the big picture as far as this millage is concerned" and asked for each board member to appoint at least two representatives from their zone to serve on the committee (the exact number and role of those reps is to be determined). At the insistence of board member Dianne Curry, participation of the PTA and the Little Rock Education Association is also built into the steering committee.

As for the plan itself, it calls for facilities upgrades in every building in the district, but the big controversy is about closing schools and opening new ones. Communities in east Little Rock and downtown have been worried about two rumored closures, Carver Magnet Elementary and Rockefeller Elementary. In Southwest, the plan strongly recommends replacing McClellan High School with a new high school campus in another location, and moving Cloverdale Middle School (which is apparently suffering from structural problems) to a remodeled version of a portion of the old McClellan building. It also recommends building a new middle school in West Little Rock.

Parents of Carver students who showed up at the meeting in force to oppose the closure of their school were placated by the board's statements. The master plan does suggest the board "consider the repurposing" of the two schools from elementary to strictly pre-K, in light of declining population on that side of the city. But while Suggs didn't outright oppose the proposition to convert to pre-K — he said the decision is ultimately the board's — he also said that "it's no secret that Carver is one of our higher performing schools...and you do not close one of our higher performing schools."

It's important to realize, said board member Jody Carreiro, that accepting the facility plan doesn't set its recommendations in stone. He compared it to "getting an energy audit done on your home": the plan identifies problems that need to be fixed and suggests a course of action. Actually executing that is a different story; it will require "calling a family meeting to discuss the energy audit," he said. 

That analogy won’t win points for eloquence, but it mostly satisfied Michele Easter, vice president of the PTA at Carver. She said she was mostly satisfied by Suggs remarks and “relieved to hear the clarification” that the master plan is itself still somewhat fluid. Her 10-year-old son currently attends Carver, and she’s had at least one child at the school for a decade now.

Easter, who is white, emphasized that Carver is indeed a model school in terms of both performance and diversity. Its below-capacity enrollment numbers are only the product of racial equity rules governing student transfers, she said, and urged that Carver be allowed to bring more black students into the school.

“There’s a waiting list of about 100 kids to get into Carver,” Easter said, "and they're all minority students."

Support for education reporting provided by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

  • Senate bill imperils rural health care, hospital leaders warn

    In the four years since Arkansas chose to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Harris Medical Center in Newport has seen its “bad debt” — bills left unpaid by patients — cut in half. Eight percent of the 133-bed hospital’s patients fell into the bad debt category in 2013, the year before Arkansas created the hybrid Medicaid expansion program known as the private option (later rebranded by Governor Hutchinson as “Arkansas Works”). Today, that figure is 4 percent, according to Harris Medical Center CEO Darrin Caldwell.
    • Jul 13, 2017
  • Beyond repeal of Obamacare

    The proposed Medicaid cuts in the new U.S. Senate bill could impact coverage for 400,000 Arkansas children.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Study: Arkansas tops nation for percentage of rural children on Medicaid

    Almost two-thirds of children in Arkansas’s small towns and rural areas receive health care coverage through Medicaid, according to a report released Wednesday by researchers at Georgetown University and the University of North Carolina — the highest percentage of any state in the nation.
    • Jun 7, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Jason Rapert vs. Wikipedia

    Sen. Jason Rapert against the world: Wikipedia edition.
    • Jan 23, 2016
  • The two cities of Little Rock: East/west, black/white

    The Little Rock City Board illustrated this week a community divided over public schools, another blow to the Little Rock School District and another illustration of the need for ward elections to the board.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • Auditor Lea caught not telling the truth

    State Auditor Andrea Lea, who began her tenure in statewide office with a degree of competence unseen in some other Republican counterparts (think Treasurer Dennis Milligan particularly), is becoming more deeply mired in a political scandal.
    • Mar 4, 2016

Most Shared

  • 'Cemetery angel' Ruth Coker Burks featured in new short film

    Ruth Coker Burks, the AIDS caregiver and activist memorably profiled by David Koon as the cemetery angel in Arkansas Times in 2015, is now the subject of a short film made by actress Rose McGowan.
  • Buyer remorse

    Out here in flyover country, you can't hardly go by the feed store without running into a reporter doing one of those Wisdom of the Heartland stories.
  • Not Whitewater

    Just think: If Democrats had turned out 78,000 more votes in three states in November, people could be reveling today in the prospect of impeaching and convicting President Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, as some Republican lawmakers had promised to try to do if she won.
  • Head-shaking

    Another edition of so-much-bad-news-so-little space.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

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