Something's up in Little Rock School District, but what? | Arkansas Blog

Monday, April 13, 2015

Something's up in Little Rock School District, but what?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 1:05 PM

click to enlarge realignment.jpg

Jim Ross, once a member of the School Board of the now defunct Little Rock School District, which is in state receivership, noted my mention of a lack of information from Interim Superintendent Dexter Suggs on personnel plans for the district, declared a total failure by state Education Commissioner Johnny Key.

Ross said he'd been submitting FOI requests, too. He submitted requests for documents — organization charts, draft plans, notes memos — generated by multiple employees of Little Rock and the state Education Department. He got next-to-nothing: Only a PowerPoint chart of a coming reorganization plan.

Ross comments:

So if I understand this, the Arkansas State Department of Education and the leadership of the Little Rock School District, have no plan for reorganizing our schools, no draft plans, they have had no meetings, or shared emails on a reorganization plan. So, either they have lied in their FOIA or they do not know what they are doing. If folks do not wake up soon, there will not be a LRSD. 

Ross said he had learned that Suggs had scheduled another meeting today with one of the school employees his administration has been harassing for holding summer enrichment programs — literacy, computers, — for kids. No word yet what that's about.

But here's what the PowerPoint said about coming organization plans: The six schools of the district's 48 that are judged in academic distresss will report directly to Suggs. (And, who, pray tell, did they answer to before?) I can't help but note — after the hosannahs from some last week about Suggs' compilation of administrative job cuts that his new organization plan includes some new administrative jobs.

From the PowerPoint:

Why organizational changes are necessary?

• To effectively utilize staff in order to achieve efficiency and have the least impact on the classroom and student services

• To better align administrative functions to support the best educational outcomes

• To streamline operations in order to reduce expenses

Effective utilization of staff will allow the LRSD to achieve efficiency and have the least impact on the classroom and student services by:

• Reducing/realigning administrative positions to better prioritize resources in the classroom
• Reorganizing administrative functions to aid in producing the best educational outcomes
• New K-12 Academic Zones with specific school clusters
• Schools with academic distress labels will report directly to the Superintendent
• Streamlined operations will allow a reduction in expenses
• The schools in the Superintendent’s Academic Zone will report directly to the Superintendent
• A Chief Improvement Officer will be assigned to each K-12 Academic Zone
• There will be three (3) Chief Academic Improvement Officers who will provide oversight and support to principals of assigned academic zone schools in order to achieve the best educational outcome for each student

Developing a K-12 academic zone system creates a student-centered focus and supports better academic outcomes for every student at every grade level

New academic zones with specific school clusters

• Academic Zones 1 and 2 will include schools with the ADE grade letter designations A, B and C
• Academic Zone 3 will include most schools with the ADE grade letter designations D and F
• Superintendent’s Academic Zone will include the six (6) schools with academic distress designations
• New Organizational Chart forthcoming

I'll say again what I said tongue in cheek the other day in introducing the state Education Department employee, Deborah Coffman, who will be implementing Commissioner Key's wishes for the Little Rock School District. Suggs' PowerPoint sounds like what critics of the Little Rock School District have always liked to call "educanto" or school jargon bureaucratese. I've heard from several that making that reference in regard to Coffman was unfair and that she is a dedicated educator. I have no reason to doubt that. But she does work for Key. He's kept an inept puppet, Suggs, in place. He favored a law to privatize the school district. He's declared the entire district a failure on account of test scores at six of its 48 schools. The Department machinery has long been helpful to forces that do ill to the district (charter schools) and unhelpful repeatedly to the Little Rock School District. 

The failure to do much of anything in the months since the supposedly urgent takeover was approved doesn't inspire confidence. Nor does allowing Suggs to conduct a witch hunt against teachers and principals with demonstrated records of commitment to kids.

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