Education Commissioner Johnny Key told the state Board of Education yesterday his choices for the community advisory board that will provide some input into operation of the Little Rock School District while in state control. The political bent was predictably apparent for a Republican appointee with past devotion to the school agenda of the Walton Family Foundation and other backers of so-called “reform.”
Board member Jay Barth said he regretted that Key put a former Little Rock School Board member on the panel, rather than having an entirely fresh start. It was predicted here from the beginning, however, that Key would choose Melanie Fox for Zone 3 and ignore for other seats three other former board members, particularly Joy Springer and Greg Adams, who valiantly tried to improve the district while retaining democratic control. They opposed the district takeover, which I suspect Fox supported.
Fox was a diligent and hard-working board member, but she was frequently at odds with the old School Board’s black majority and particularly with John Walker, the civil rights lawyer. When she chose not to run again, she pushed Leslie Fisken as her successor. Fisken was an even more ardent foe of the black majority that fought the school takeover and even now is suing over it. She now works on Asa Hutchinson’s staff. She and Fox were also enmeshed in Republican Stacy Hurst’s unsuccessful race for state legislature against Clarke Tucker, a race that became nasty when school district student information’s used in an unsuccessful attempt to discredit Tucker. Fox can be expected to be a Key ally.
Another notable pick by Key was Frederick Scott for Zone 7. He’s an officer in the national charter school management corporation that runs the Little Rock Prep Academy, just given approval to move from the poor area it was designed to serve into affluent western Little Rock, despite poor academic results and continuing financial questions. Looking for further clues that Key is pushing the Walton Family Foundation agenda to take over the entire Little Rock School District with private operators, as intended by a 2015 bill Key and Hutchinson backed? Putting a charter school executive on the board is circumstantial evidence.
* ZONE 1: Chauncey Holloman is a small business development coordinator for the city of Little Rock.
• ZONE 2: Maria Chavarria-Garcia. A former Spanish-language newspaper publisher, her resume says she’s f executive director of Education, Economic Opportunity and Healthy Futures.
• ZONE 4: Jeff Wood is a lawyer. His references include Asa Hutchinson’s chief financial aide, Duncan Baird, and Sarah Huckabee, daughter of the former governor and an advisor to Donald Trump. His work experience includes a stint as an aide to Gov. Mike Huckabee.
* ZONE 5: Larry Clark, a systems programmer for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and director of a life skills program for youth at Temple Baptist Church.
• ZONE 6: Anthony Hampton, who works for City Connections and is a minister of outreach for The City of Grace.
Unless I miss my count, the board has four black members, two whites (Fox and Wood) and one Latina, even more reflective of district diversity than the previous 4-3 black/white board.
I’ve given links to each member’s resume, but this link gives you full bios on all the applicants for the seats, including those chosen.