On Thursday, the Little Rock School Board held its first regular meeting since the two new board members who won the September elections — Joy Springer and Jim Ross — were sworn in. The new board elected officers, and also went into a lengthy, unexpected executive session to discuss an unspecified issue related to “demotion or discipline” of an employee.
The school board has three officers: President, Vice-President and Secretary. Greg Adams, who was president of the previous board, was chosen by the board to serve another term. That came as something of a surprise, since the leadership usually rotates — and because the recent election removed two board members who were Adams’ allies.
Dianne Curry first nominated C.E. McAdoo to serve as president. When there’s a split vote on the board, McAdoo and Adams are often on opposite sides. But McAdoo declined — and then himself nominated Adams. Tara Shephard seconded the motion, though she’s also not always voted the same way as Adams. Undeterred, Curry nominated Springer to be president, but the motion did not get a second.
Adams was approved on a 4-3 vote: Adams, McAdoo, Shephard and Leslie Fisken voted yes. Curry, Springer and Ross did not vote. In supporting Adams, McAdoo and Shephard seemed to be sending a message that despite their disagreements with Adams on some issues, they wanted to preserve some continuity from the previous board, which was more solidly behind Superintendent Dexter Suggs.
Adams welcomed the new board members and preached a message of unity, reminding everyone of the State Board of Education’s warnings of state takeover in the event the new board and Suggs are unable to make changes in the district quickly. It’s a pivotal time, he said, and success will require “7 plus 1 coming together.”
Springer and Ross were chosen as the new VP and Secretary, respectively, by two identical 5-2 votes of the board, in which Adams and Fisken both abstained. Adams and Fisken said they were abstaining because they felt it was important to draw officers from members who’d previously served on the board (neither made an alternative nomination, however).
Later in the meeting, Springer made a motion to go into executive session to discuss the possibility of demoting or disciplining an employee. The board retreated to a private room for about two hours. When the members finally emerged, Adams announced that no action was to be taken.
Still later in the meeting — it stretched until past midnight — the board engaged in a tense discussion of overhauling its program evaluation process.
Ross and Springer, along with other critics of Suggs, have long criticized the previous board for not demanding better, more accurate evaluations of the district’s various programs intended to boost student achievement. In the face of some procedural objections from Adams, no action was taken on the issue tonight and the board agreed to take up the issue at its next working meeting in early November.
Funding for education reporting provided by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.