The stench rises on sale of Garland school to Waltons UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Friday, August 11, 2017

The stench rises on sale of Garland school to Waltons UPDATE

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 12:15 PM

click to enlarge SECRET SALE: The LRSD's Garland school.
  • SECRET SALE: The LRSD's Garland school.

The Little Rock School District never advertised the old Garland school was for sale and took no other bids before agreeing to sell it to a Walton Family Foundation affiliate this month.

I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the district for the paper trail of the sale of the former school, recently used for administrative offices, for $425,000 to KLS Leasing. It is a real estate arm the foundation has used to buy other school buildings in Little Rock for use as charter schools. Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who serves as school board of the district in state trusteeship, is the final authority on the sale. It's unclear if or when he'll take action. He's said he intends to have no public meetings or comment about it. Superintendent Mike Poore also refuses to discuss it.

My entire response to an FOI request:

 * A link to a copy of a so-called "minutes" from a so-called "school board" meeting Aug. 25, 2016. There was no public meeting. This merely shows that Key approved Poore's recommendation that the Garland building be declared excess real property and sold.

* A link to a copy of the so-called agenda of another so-called "school board" meeting Wednesday, Aug. 9 which includes attachments of an offer and acceptance agreement signed Aug. 3 by the LRSD and the Walton affiliate.

That's it. The minutes can be found if you know where to look on the LRSD website, but they might as well be secret in terms of public knowledge. There is no evidence of an advertisement for bids. There was nothing "responsive" to my request for any other bids. I have asked if there are any notes, emails, letters, text messages or any other evidence of communication between anyone at LRSD and anyone at the Walton Foundation, such as arranging a visit to the building. Did they appear Aug. 3 and buy it sight unseen from surprised and pleased LRSD officials?

To the best of my knowledge the LRSD never announced publicly it was disposing of Garland, as it did some other operating schools. The Waltons found out. I also was provided no information about appraisals of the building by the district or any internal communications about the adequacy of the offer.

Please: This deal did not appear out of the blue. It was pre-cooked. It's shameful handling of the business of a district supported by tax dollars paid by voters who no longer have a say in district operation and who've been specifically excluded from Johnny Key's decision-making. Key and Poore are operating in bad faith. It's that simple. It also seems clear that the LRSD is headed to oblivion as an operating public school district.  Existing charter schools are authorized for thousands of seats, 6,000 in eStem and LISA Academy alone. Three more applications are pending, sure to be approved by the charter friendly Board of Education, for another 1,500 or so.

A request for other LRSD surplus property seems in order. Who knows? Maybe they have a plan to sell Central High to the Waltons, too.

UPDATE: I should have included some quotes given to us previously by Mike Poore.

During the failed millage campaign:

"I don't believe we want to enhance the number of charter seats [in Little Rock] right now."

Hmmm. Something must have changed between now and then?

Also, from an interview shortly after he was hired:, when he was asked if he could envision opposing a charter school expansion proposal:

"Sure, I could envision that," he replied. "You go look at the applications for the charter schools, and it’s a cookie cutter and many times poorly done. That should be held to a much higher standard. And accountability of poor performing charters also needs to be there."
Kiss the LRSD goodbye.

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