State Board of Education's Diane Zook to move to reshape LRSD | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, December 13, 2018

State Board of Education's Diane Zook to move to reshape LRSD

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 6:13 PM

click to enlarge ZOOK: Wide-ranging plans. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • ZOOK: Wide-ranging plans.

State Board of Education member Diane Zook disclosed her wide-ranging plan to micromanage the Little Rock School District at a State Board meeting on Thursday. She sounds like she wants to be LRSD superintendent.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Arkansas Times revealed on Monday that Zook, a long critic of the district, planned to move to waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act and had worked with the Department of Education to hide that plan from public scrutiny by not including it in the Board agenda.

But after Board chair Jay Barth erupted when a similar proposal was made regarding the Pine Bluff School District, the board agreed to delay consideration on waivers for both the Pine Bluff and Little Rock districts until 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 20.

Zook said the Board hadn't moved quickly enough to ensure that the LRSD improve.

"We started in the process of looking at intervening under one governor and then we had another. We started under one commissioner and now we have another. We started under one superintendent and now we have another."

She said the Board had been hands-off during those changes to allow those leaders time to get their bearings. She said that was, in retrospect, a mistake.

To get the LRSD on the right track, at next week's meeting, Zook said she would move to ...

*Waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act for ALL LRSD staff, including teachers, classified staff and administrators.

*"Reorganize" the LRSD's administrative office. During an adjournment, Zook could be heard telling a parent that she was more concerned about administrators than teachers.

*Consider reconstituting Hall High School. She mentioned changing it to a STEM school in the mold of Forrest Heights STEM or a conversion charter school.

*Ask that the finance department at the Department of Education do a complete analysis of the district. She said she "consistently gets reports from teachers that some schools get less money and some teachers get less money. I want us to look at that."

*Ask the Department of Education to do a thorough analysis of the LRSD's special education programs, especially its procedures related to identifying and working with students with dyslexia.

*Add a West Little Rock high school, at least incrementally, adjacent to Pinnacle View Middle School. 

*Adopt a new reading curriculum.

Zook said she was encouraged by Little Rock's election of a new mayor who wants to bring the community together. She said if some of the changes she mentioned were made, "Everyone will get a quality education and hopefully choose the Little Rock School District over other options. ... Maybe people in the charters would come back."

She discouraged LRSD Superintendent Michael Poore from moving forward on the district's so-called "Community Blueprint," to substantially alter facility plans, including closing some schools, combining others and changing school assignments. The implication was that her ideas would make some of the district's moot. Poore had to leave the State Board meeting before hearing Zook's full plans to attend a community meeting to discuss the Blueprint.

This post has been updated.

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