The state Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday to interview candidates for seats on the community advisory board of the Little Rock School District, currently under state control.
A community advisory board has some limited role in advising state Education Commissioner Johnny Key, the nominal “school board” of the district. It was taken over on account of low scores on standardized tests in six of the district’s 48 schools. A grassroots movement to regain local control has begun, but no timetable has been put forward on when there’s any possibility of that occurring.
Little Rock’s situation is complicated by politics. Legislation originating from the Walton Family Foundation was barely beaten in 2015 that would have allowed the total takeover of the district for management by private companies — essentially charterizing of the entire district. Key and Gov. Asa Hutchinson were supportive, as they are of all charter school and “choice” initatives backed by the Waltons and other wealthy Republicans.
UPDATED: Note I overlooked a former Board member, Greg Adams, on the original post.
Hutchinson appointees now control the state Board of Education, so it’s well to watch for politics in the selection of advisory board members. The applicants for the jobs include three former school board members — Tommy Branch, Norma Johnson and three higher-profile former members sometimes on opposite sides of district divisions — former Board president Greg Adams; Joy Springer, who works for state Rep. John Walker’s law firm, and Melanie Fox, who was involved in the hotly contested race in which state Rep. Clarke Tucker defeated Republican Stacy Hurst for a House seat. Fox supported Hurst and the race included Little Rock School District skulduggery in which Hurst put out misleading information about Tucker’s pre-schooler’s assignment. When Fox didn’t seek re-election, she supported Leslie Fisken to succeed her. Fisken is now a $70,000-a-year executive assistant to Gov. Hutchinson.
The applicants for the seats:
ZONE 1: Chauncey Holloman, Gabe Holmstrom, Norma Johnson, Barclay Key and Joy Springer.
ZONE 2: Maria Chavarria-Garcia and Robert Webb
ZONE 3: Christopher Burks, Chandle Carpenter, Melanie Fox, Tippi McCullough.
ZONE 4: John Adams, John Thomas Adams, Mac Bell, Mark Fortune, Eugene Levy, Margarret Muse, Jeremy Owah and Jeff Wood.
ZONE 5: Tommy Branch, Larry Clark, Barry Vuletich and John Wilkerson.
ZONE 6: Derick Brooks, Van Golden, Anthony Hampton, Dr. Jessie Hargrove, Bruce Hill.
ZONE 7: Henry Brooks IV, Soreya DeGonzalez, Dianna Harshfield, Kandi Hughes, Kenyon Lowe Sr., Freddie Scott.
Race is a factor. When the board was disbanded, four of its seven members were black — Zones 1, 2, 6 and 7. A pending lawsuit by John Walker alleges race played a role in the state takeover of the district, particularly the majority white business community’s unhappiness with the black-majority board. The district student enrollment is about 65 percent black and about 14 % (or one-seventh) Latino.
This link will take you to a state Education Department page with links about the process as well as link to individual resumes of each applicant.