Friday, May 8, 2015

Superintendent Kurrus says no reconfiguration for Rockefeller Elementary

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2015 at 5:30 AM

click to enlarge CHARM OFFENSIVE: Superintendent Baker Kurrus (right) and Associate Superintendent Marvin Burton juggle kids, parents and teachers at Rockefeller. - BENJI HARDY
  • CHARM OFFENSIVE: Superintendent Baker Kurrus (right) and Associate Superintendent Marvin Burton juggle kids, parents and teachers at Rockefeller.

Thursday evening's Rockefeller Elementary PTA meeting with new Little Rock School District Superintendent Baker Kurrus and Associate Superintendent Marvin Burton marked a striking shift in district public relations. Parents and teachers applauding the administrators' announcement that a planned reorganization of the elementary school and its Early Childhood Center would not be proceeding after all.

That plan, which was created under the auspices of former superintendent Dexter Suggs, was met with alarm by parents and staff last month, who said they'd not been consulted before it was abruptly announced in the Democrat-Gazette. Suggs later backed off some elements of the proposal.

"Long story short, we will not be going forward with any plans to reconfigure Rockefeller," Burton said, to cheers and applause.

"At all?" one teacher asked. "No ma'am," Burton replied. "Why try to fix something that's not broken?" He said the district should instead seek "enhancements" for the school's successes, and emphasized that the LRSD needs input from parents.

Kurrus went a step further: "I want to apologize to you on behalf of the Little Rock School District." He said that the district should never have "surprised" Rockefeller parents with a reorganization plan drafted with no evident consultation with parents, teachers and others in the community. "Not to cast aspersions, but ... that was wrong," he added.

The two administrators then took questions from the audience for the remainder of the hour. The shared stage time seemed intentional, with Burton and Kurrus taking turns in addressing the crowd.

It'll be interesting to see if the partnership dynamic between the two administrators continues in the coming months. Burton, who was interim superintendent for two brief weeks between Suggs' resignation and Kurrus' hiring, was seen by many as a potential candidate for the top job himself. Kurrus, a Little Rock businessman and lawyer, lacks the background in teaching and educational administration normally required of a superintendent, which meant his appointment required a waiver of state rules regarding such qualifications. In hiring him on Tuesday, Education Commissioner Johnny Key made it clear that Kurrus is the person in charge of the district. But if he truly draws on the experience of existing administrators in something approaching a partnership role, that could go a long way towards salving concerns about Kurrus' lack of experience in education.

If this was intended to be the first volley in Kurrus' attempts to win public support for his fledgling leadership of the LRSD, it's got to be considered a win. (Just look at this headline from THV 11.) But many parents and teachers last night expressed their optimism in more cautious and measured terms. Although it's true that the change in tone from Kurrus' predecessor is refreshing, to put it mildly, the new superintendent offered few concrete answers about the direction of the district writ large. Of course, his tenure only began two days ago.

Otis Hogan, the father of a kindergartener and a fourth grader at Rockefeller, asked about the rumored closure of other schools on the east or south side of Little Rock. He noted that what happens at neighboring elementaries inevitably affects Rockefeller as well, since displaced students increase the class sizes at the schools where they land. Burton said that the district's goal was to increase student enrollment as a whole so that such closures wouldn't be necessary. "We want to fill all of our schools," he said.

After the meeting, Hogan said that he is "very excited they're going to leave [Rockefeller] as it is ... it's a relief." Of Kurrus, he said, "I like what he's saying ... he's not an individual who's just looking for the next job." But Hogan said he also was less than enthusiastic about the state takeover of the LRSD and had little confidence in the state Education Department's stewardship. 

"I don't think they have a good track record at all," Hogan said.

Sabrenna Lee, a mother whose twin sons attend the Early Childhood Center, said she would have placed her 2-year-olds in a private daycare if Rockefeller had closed its doors to kids younger than 3, as Suggs had planned. Now, they'll stay in Rockefeller.

Lee said she has several older children, one of which graduated from Hall several years ago. Another recently graduated from eSTEM, a charter school, and two others attend school there now. She said she and her family chose the charter over the LRSD mostly because of concerns over class size.

It's an open question where their younger siblings will go to school, tough. Lee gestured to the twin boys in the stroller. "Will these guys maintain in LRSD? That depends."

Tags: , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store


Speaking of...


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

Readers also liked…

  • Tom Cotton suggests Dick Cheney as House speaker

    Yes. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton told Politico he'd like to see Dick Cheny as House speaker.
    • Oct 12, 2015
  • Trump immigration protest at LR: Quick and fierce

    It was not even 24 hours ago that Sophia Said, director of the Interfaith Center; City Director Kathy Webb and others decided to organize a protest today of Donald Trump's executive order that has left people from Muslim countries languishing in airports or unable to come to the US at all — people with visas, green cards,a  post-doc graduate student en route to Harvard, Google employees abroad, families. I got the message today before noon; others didn't find out until it was going on. But however folks found out, they turned out in huge numbers, more than thousand men, women and children, on the grounds of the state Capitol to listen to speakers from all faiths and many countries.
    • Jan 29, 2017
  • Polling reported in Democratic Senate primary; includes Bill Halter

    A friend reports an interesting automated poll Thursday night, relating to one announced and perhaps another potential Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.
    • Nov 7, 2015

Most Shared

  • Trump unfit

    Even as an oligarch, President Trump turns out to be breathtakingly incompetent. Is there any reason to suppose he's even loyal to the United States? Does he even understand the concept? Trump is loyal to Trump, and to his absurdly swollen ego. Nothing and nobody else.
  • You want tort reform? Try this.

    The nursing home industry and the chamber of commerce finally defeated the trial lawyers in the 2017 legislature. The Republican-dominated body approved a constitutional amendment for voters in 2018 that they'll depict as close to motherhood in goodness.
  • Goodbye, Mr. Trump

    It is hard to escape the feeling that the fortunes of President Trump and the country took a decisive, and for Trump a fatal, turn May 9-10, when the president fired the director of the FBI over its investigation of Russian efforts to swing the presidential election to him and the very next day shared top-secret intelligence with Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting closed except to a Kremlin press aide toting electronic gear to capture the intimate session for Russians but not Americans.
  • Raw feelings in the Arkansas Justice Building over workload, pay

    Strained relations between the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Arkansas Court of Appeals broke into public view this week. I expect more to come.

Visit Arkansas

New Entrance and North Forest to debut with Chihuly exhibit opening at Crystal Bridges

New Entrance and North Forest to debut with Chihuly exhibit opening at Crystal Bridges

Dual Chihuly exhibit opening also brings culmination of year-plus forest project

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments




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