Pulaski school board sets special meeting on lawyer | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pulaski school board sets special meeting on lawyer

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 12:48 PM

The Pulaski County School Board will have a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. today to consider a single item of business — continued representation of the district by Allen Roberts' law firm.

Roberts' participation in a potential settlement of the Pulaski County's sole remaining role in desegregation litigation has become a flash point because of his perceived willingness to work with John Walker, attorney for black families in the long-running litigation.

As I mentioned earlier, his participation in a joint motion to delay a trial of a separate Little Rock School District civil rights suit over facilities brought the issue to a boil. The motion talks of an expedited 60-day effort to conclude remaining issues in separate Pulaski litigation. Should that day arrive, the state Board of Education could discuss realigning school boundaries in Pulaski County.

There's resistance to that idea, particularly in majority white areas that fear being lumped into majority black school districts (think Chenal Valley in the Pulaski District and the Little Rock School District.)

Guess told me this morning he'd talked individually with every school board member before last week's joint motion and emphasized the benefits of a lawsuit settlement while also mentioning that it could put boundary issues in play later. He asaid he'd received some indication that board members were getting advice that it would be better to stay under federal court supervision than conclude the lawsuit and operate independently. That's unbelievable to me, but a representation of the fear that many have in getting involved in a decision in which John Walker played a role. 60 years after the school crisis it's still about race in Pulaski County schools.

Fears of boundary changes are likely overhyped because of changing federal law. Busing for racial balance is over. Neighborhoods with mostly white schools amid mostly white residential areas are going to remain that way, without fear of court intervention under prevailing court precedent.

Guess said Linda Remele, the Board president, requested the special meeting, which requires three of seven board members in agreement.

The sole question is the employment of Roberts, who was hired by Guess and serves at his discretion. If the Board says it no longer wants Roberts as a representative, then Guess will have a decision on whether to follow the Board's wishes or choose to ignore it. "I don't know what I'll decide," said Guess, who came to Little Rock from Camden, where Roberts practices. Should Guess choose to ignore the directive, one might expect repercussions. As he said earlier, if he and Roberts have lost confidence from the Board they are prepared to depart.

Pulaski was long represented by Sam Jones in desegregation matters.

More than ever, it appears today that any speedy resolution of the Pulaski school case in 60 days is a pipe dream. I'd guess more likely would be a request from the Little Rock School District and others to withdraw the request for the continuance of that case before Judge Price Marshall and a movement of the Little Rock case to trial in September. If there's no quick settlement of the remaining issues in the Pulaski case, that litigation will continue — against, as ever, John Walker.

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