The 'new' LRSD; you'll take what we say and you'll like it | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The 'new' LRSD; you'll take what we say and you'll like it

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 9:45 AM

IN THE BEGINNING: Bettye Caldwell with kids in the Kramer Project, later relocated at Rockefeller school with an infants' program now scheduled for the scrap heap.
  • IN THE BEGINNING: Bettye Caldwell with kids in the Kramer Project, later relocated at Rockefeller school with an infants' program now scheduled for the scrap heap.
Some additional information has surfaced about Interim Little Rock Superintendent Dexter Suggs' plans to reorganize the Rockefeller and Baseline elementary schools.

That information has NOT come from either the Little Rock School District or the state Education Department, though I sent FOI requests last night for this material and repeated those requests again this morning. To date, only the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has been favored with details by Suggs, unaccountably left in charge of the "failed" school district he led while the School Board was abolished by the state Board of Education. New info:

* Suggs has now scheduled a meeting with Rockefeller parents at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, a meeting that, until today, he'd refused to schedule with parents despite repeated requests. 36 hours notice isn't much, but it's better than nothing.

* A copy of Suggs' plan for Rockefeller — NOT provided by public officials who've claimed they had no documents responsive to my requests about school leadership and reorganization — shows some elements not mentioned in the Democrat-Gazette account this morning.

1) All of Rockefeller will be closed this summer to prepare to turn it into a school devoted solely to early childhood education, not pre-K and elementary grades. This gives parents planning to participate in the summer program six weeks to find an alternative.

2) The school district intends to close Rockefeller's pioneering infant-two-year-old program, established as the Kramer Project decades ago by Bettye Caldwell, one of the most famous  names in early childhood education.  It was moved from the old Kramer school when the new Rockefeller elementary was built and the early childhood program, including for infants, was a hallmark of the school from the beginning. That will toss 40-50  families with children aged infant to three out of a current service. The district says it is too expensive. It is a shame not to continue this project, given professionals' belief that education at the very earliest age is extremely valuable. The program should be expanded, not eliminated. This will throw more families into confusion at a late hour. It could well mean the loss of still more families the district can ill afford to lose. That program has attracted and kept many families in the district over the years.

Dexter Suggs is no Bettye Caldwell.

UPDATE: Shortly after writing this and making yet another complaint about the district's failure to supply requested information, I got Suggs' plans for Rockefeller and Baseline. I have so far received no response to my question of why I was told no documents existed relative to changes in school leadership. Suggs will meet with Baseline staff today.

PS: Having skimmed the Baseline plan I come to one conclusion. Suggs did not write it. I've asked who did. Education Department? Walton-financed reformers at the University of Arkansas? I've FOI'ed any input he's received on this document, jam-packed with educationese.

UPDATE: As to authorship, district spokeswoman Pam Smith says:

Regarding the writing of the plan for Baseline, a committee that includes the literacy, elementary education, ESL, early childhood, grants and human resources departments worked with Dr. Suggs to develop the plan – coordinated by same staff person/team who successfully spearheaded the reconfigurations of Forest Heights STEM and Geyer Springs Gifted and Talented academies.

Again. If that's so, how can it be that so many FOI requests for discussions about reorganizations plans produced not a single document by or to Sugg from any of these people?

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