The failing Little Rock 'school board': A blogger takes aim | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The failing Little Rock 'school board': A blogger takes aim

Posted By on Sun, Mar 17, 2019 at 9:58 AM

LRSD LEADERSHIIP: Johnny Key (left) is the 'school board.' Mike Poore is superintendent. - ORCHESTRATING CHANGE
  • Orchestrating Change
  • LRSD LEADERSHIIP: Johnny Key (left) is the 'school board.' Mike Poore is superintendent.

Interesting reading here from Elizabeth Lyon-Ballay, a blogger who's become a thorn in the side of the education establishment with Freedom of Information Act-powered inquiries into, among others, school standards waivers and the high-handed tactics of the likes of the Haas Hall Academy charter school. Today's targets: Education Commissioner Johnny Key, as the Little Rock "school board" under state receivership, and aspects of the district itself.

Key parts of a sprawling post:

* The unannounced resignation in January of a district administrator — Karen James, director of early childhood programs — who'd been recommended for firing over use of a district credit card.

* Questions about "administrative bloat" in district expenditures.

* The failure of the Little Rock School District to improve — if standardized test scores are the judge — under 4.5 years of Key's control.

* Results of a teacher survey on attitude about administrators.

* Discipline at Henderson Middle School, under leadership of new principal Yaa Appiah-McNulty (her husband is Dr. Charles McNulty, superintendent of Pulaski County Special School District). Teachers have complained about an inability to discipline students at the school. The principal apparently admonished teachers for meeting about the issue. That led to a formal grievance against her. Meanwhile, out-of-school suspensions are high, despite a professed higher interest in "positive" behavior intervention. The article suggests the statistics received under FOI requests aren't reliable because of possible deletions of records from the school database. The article notes in passing that the state database includes no accountability measures for data submitted by any districts.

The article lays the various problems at the feet of leadership and vested interests.

Right now, ALL of the responsibility lies with Johnny Key. Because of the SBoE’s decision to remove LRSD from local control in 2015, Johnny Key has been Little Rock’s school board for four years. Johnny Key is responsible for ensuring that Little Rock school employees follow the law. Johnny Key is responsible for ensuring that Little Rock schools report their data accurately. And Johnny Key is responsible for making sure the ADE evaluates Johnny Key’s work in LRSD effectively.

Johnny Key is LRSD’s judge, jury, and executioner — and Johnny Key has no academic or professional experience in education. Governor Asa Hutchinson appointed Johnny Key, and Senator Alan Clark changed the law to allow an unqualified person like Key to accept the appointment. These three men and their financial backers put us in this position, but we are the ones who are going to fix it.

It’s time to follow the advice Diane Ravitch recently gave to the Little Rock pastor who asked her what we can do to fix public education in Arkansas:
“My advice: civil disobedience. Mass protests. Marches. Demonstrations. Chain yourselves to the schoolhouse doors. Nothing else will work. The greatest enemy is complacency, apathy, hopelessness. Faced with the unlimited power of a family [the Waltons] that owns the state government, it is easy to feel hopelessness. But resistance is the only path. The other way, the status quo, is servitude.”
A real school board would meet in public and answer questions about matters such as these. Taxpayers of the Little Rock School District get little opportunity to question Johnny Key.

PS: Lyon-Ballay drew some national attention the other day with this extensive scorecard of Arkansas players in the Walton-powered "school choice" movement.

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