LISA Academy, the publicly financed west Little Rock charter school recently cleared for expansion despite opposition from Little Rock school superintendent Baker Kurrus, has hit mailboxes in Little Rock with a recruiting message, partially shown above. We were interested because some friends in some parts of town got the mail and some elsewhere didn’t.
We inquired about the targeting of the effort. The school spent $17,295 to mail 69,975 pieces of mail. Here’s how the mailing was distributed, according to a response from Atnan Ekin, LISA’s superintendent.
743 in 72201 — Downtown
12,173 in 72205 — Hillcrest and Baptist Hospital area
5,620 in 72207 — Heights / Cammack
6,827 in 72210 — West of I- 430 and south of Colonel Glenn
11,211 in 72211 — West of I-430 along both sides of Chenal
5,219 in 72212 — West of I-430, including Pleasant Valley
11,865 in 72113 — Maumelle
10,579 in 72223 — Chenal Valley, between Kanis and Highway 10
5,738 in 72227 — Robinwood and River Ridge to Rodney Parham.
You’ll notice no mail was sent in 72202, 72204 or 72209, heavily black and Latino parts of town, mostly with lower income housing.
When I noted the concentration on affluent and majority white areas, Atnan Ekin replied:
LISA Academy does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, income, national origin, gender, or disability in its programs, services, or activities as required by the State and Federal laws.
He said the school was growing in diversity each year and was more diverse than many schools in the state. He compiled figures that altered the way the state reports numbers. His comparison placed Asians under a category the state doesn’t use — “minority” — to come up with a total minority number, rather than splitting the numbers among Asian and Hispanic groups as the state does. The school was founded by a Turkish charter school movement and includes many students of Turkish background in its student body.
According to state data for 2015-16, LISA Academy is 37 percent black, compared with 65 percent in the Little Rock School District. Its percentage of students qualifying by lower family income for a free or reduced price lunch is 43.48 percent, compared with 80.9 percent in the Little Rock School District. These numbers have increased at LISA from the school’s beginning. The targeted recruitment doesn’t seem designed to improve those numbers, however. LISA this year is also 32 percent white, 12 percent Asian, 16 percent Hispanic and 41 students are two or more races, Native American or Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
The recent state-approved expansion allows LISA to expand from 1,500 to 2,100 students, with a new elementary school at Chenal Parkway and Bowman Road, in the heart of the 72211 and 72223 ZIP codes.
The Little Rock School District has objected to the existence of LISA from its beginning because it was taking students from the district — disprortionately white and higher income — without offering programs not already available in the district.