Meeting set on Little Rock schools | Arkansas Blog

Friday, May 1, 2015

Meeting set on Little Rock schools

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 3:10 PM


A notice from Arkansas Community Organizations indicates the continuing ferment in the Little Rock School District over the state takeover and the lack, so far, of much action by the state in the intervening three months to begin a turnaround in schools in need of assistance.

The constructive firing of Interim Superintendent Dexter Suggs removed one impediment. But the May 1 deadline for notice of non-renewal has passed, meaning most school district employees — good or bad — will have a contract to work next year. That limits the possibilities for savings and removal of dead wood. Suggs did give notice to 64 administrative employees, but some of them must be retained, even with different titles, such as Marvin Burton, who's now acting as superintendent.

The state Education Department is studying a long-term replacement for Suggs as superintendent. We've mentioned before several possibilities — ranging from a proven current superintendent who might take on a challenge, such as Jim Rollins in Springdale; a proven workout superintendent, such as Jerry Guess, who's currently running the state's trusteeship of the Pulaski District, or perhaps someone from outside the education hierarchy, such as businessman Baker Kurrus, who served for more than a decade on the Little Rock School Board and has headed a financial group appointed by the state that is working to right the district's money situation. Education Commissioner Johnny Key will make the call, as the "school board" of the district. But he'll certainly consult with Gov. Hutchinson on the decision. When? Don't know.

And speaking of Little Rock schools, Dr. Anika Whitfield, who's serving on the citizens advisory committee named to help communication between people and the district and the state, has written state officials about a lack of clarity in the process. She's been promised a response by at least one member of the state Board of Education, Diane Zook.

To the Members of the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Department of Education,

As you all are aware, the LRSD Civic Advisory Committee met last Tuesday in the LRSD Board Room for the first time. One of our concerns is that we have not been given any clear direction as to what our purpose is as a committee and our flow of communication between and with you as the current governing board of the LRSD. It would be very helpful to receive some direction directly from you as to what our purpose, objectives, goals, and timelines are to meet these objectives and goals.

During last weeks meeting, none of these answers were available to us.

Mr. Key tried to explain to us what he understood our role to be and stated that we were to work together with the information we had been provided (and will be provided) to assist you in helping the schools that were placed on academic distressed based on the 2012-2013 academic year test results improve and to help restore a local governing body to our public school district.
And, Mr. Key reminded us that your vote to overtake the LRSD based on academic distress of six schools (much less than 50 % of the LRSD) was unprecedented and agreed that there is a lot of uncertainty and unfamiliarity as to how to proceed.

It was my suggestion, and I believe that of many if not most others serving, that we ask the Board of Directors to reinstate the most recently elected LRSD Board of Directors and allow our committee to serve as a liason between the LRSD Board of Directors, the people (parents, teachers, students, concerned citizens) we are being asked to represent from our perspective zones, philanthropic organizations, schools, student body, and the ADE Board of Directors.

From the discussions and questions presented on last Tuesday by those who were chosen to serve on this committee, it is evident that we are united in trying to do whatever we have the ability to do to help develop action plans that serve the greatest stakeholders in any school system, the students, that incorporates those who help govern the system (elected Board of Directors, administrators), those who administrate the plans of action in the classrooms and in our opinion, should be one of the key groups that help determine what educational tools are needed for their individual classes and their schools (the teachers).

We need your help to restore the LRSD so that we can effectively, succinctly, deliberately improve the public educational system in Little Rock so that our students will be able to become successful and be able to equitably compete with their peers in other cities, states, and countries.

I believe that our Elected Board of Directors must first be re-instated, that our current interim Superintendent should become the Superintendent of Schools (if he so desires) and that you allow us to serve in an advisory or liaison capacity as stated above.

We are almost at the close of our 2014-15 school year, going into the fourth month of the state take-over, and nothing has been established, no plans have been proposed to restore the LRSD, no actions have been take to improve individual student outcomes, and nothing has been done to steer the LRSD in a more positive and healthy direction.

I suggest we start together now. All we need is for you to restore power to our very capable leadership in the LRSD by rescinding your vote to take over the LRSD re-instating the most recently elected LRSD Board of Directors, and Marvin Burton appointing as the new Superintendent of Schools.

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