“Sentence first, verdict afterward.”
— the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland.

Is there a more apt metaphor for the Little Rock School District than Lewis Carroll’s work? I’ve used it before and it was never more evident than last night when the so-called community advisory board to the state-controlled Little Rock School District voted on Superintendent Michael Poore’s plan for school restructuring THEN opened the floor to public comment on the plan.

You can read the matter-of-fact details in the Democrat-Gazette. The board, which has no effective power and serves by appointment by state School Czar Johnny Key, mostly signed off on Poore’s plans, but withheld approval of his idea to restructure Hall High School to make it a logical place for students from the Forest Heights eStem middle school to move. The board thinks more needs to be done to enhance Hall. Coincidentally, state Board of Education member Diane Zook had warned Poore at a meeting last week to delay his Hall High plan because SHE had other ideas. More on the Izard County board member’s plan to usurp administrative control of the Little Rock public schools at the state Board of Education meeting tomorrow. The agenda has now been posted (I asked for this yesterday and got no response, but it reflects all Zook’s proposals.) But thare are no specifics on administrative or Hall High changes. So, again, the Board will consider proposals for which there’s been no advance public notice.

Deprived of comment before the decision, many who’d come to speak left, muttering oaths in at least one case. Sen. Joyce Elliott was among those in attendance and she wrote indignantly about it on Facebook. (And see also Ali Brady Noland.)

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Along with others, I put planned activities aside and attended the LRSD Community Advisory Board (CAB) meeting billed as a continuation of the last Thursday night’s meeting, which conflicted with the State Board of Education meeting—and happened during a torrential downpour. The CAB did not have enough members in attendance to constitute a quorum, so no action was taken at Thursday’s meeting.

Much to our surprise, the CAB’s plan was to vote on all the proposals for the future of LRSD then hear from the public, which Chair Jeff Wood forcefully told the audience they would, indeed, proceed before hearing from the public, and that’s exactly what they did. What kind of plan is that for public input? Clearly, the meeting tonight was a rubber stamp party for the CAB. Consequently, most of us walked out and left the CAB to its rubber stamping.

Why most of the people in LRSD are not outraged enough to raise their voices against what’s happening is beyond me. Is this okay with you? What is up? Do you not care? Those of us standing up to these atrocities need your help. Here are some reminders for why you should care even if for now you feel comfortably unaffected:

1. In January 2015, the state takeover was supposedly about 6 schools in academic distress (now 22 under state control). Apparently, that was an excuse to do much more. Three schools were closed and students were simply dispersed to other schools. We had meetings then that amounted to nothing. NOTHING.

2. Now with this new “Blueprint” plan for LRSD, the changes are even more far reaching. More schools closings (only south of I-630). More schools left empty in our neighborhoods with no clear idea or any idea at all in some cases about what will happen to those schools. Empty vessels in our neighborhoods. Okay for your neighborhood?

3. Schools are to be reconfigured to k-8 whether or not parents are ok with that.

4. The Blueprint applies to only one section of LRSD, yet it is called an LRSD plan. Any plan should be about the entire district, not one part of it. Any plan should be comprehensive, coherent, long-term and transparent. Everyone in LRSD has a right to know the entire plan and should be able to participate in the making of the entire plan. Not to do so further divides the district.

5. I feel certain there is a separate plan for the rest of the district, including rezoning. It’s just not being shared with the peon taxpayers of LRSD.

6. All of this is happening with NO democratically elected school board, and taxpayers of LRSD will pay the bills with NO representation, which was made clear that we can’t even expect an attempt at representation from the CAB.

Mayor-elect Frank Scott Jr. and leaders of the Little Rock business community such as the Little Rock Regional Chamber Commerce, the taxpayer-financed group that supported state takeover, are again urged to attend Thursday’s state Board meeting and ask for a return of democracy to the Little Rock School District.

Silence is complicity. Otherwise:

. . . “Let the jury consider their verdict,” the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first–verdict afterward.”

“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first!”

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

“I won’t!” said Alice.

“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.

Nobody moved.

“Who cares for you?” said Alice. (She had grown to her full size by this time.) “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”

Any Alices out there? Remember that until the Arkansas Times blew the whistle, Queen Zook’s plan was to get a vote last week on teacher-punishing agenda items without public notice.

I share Elliott’s feelings as expressed in a Twitter post last night.

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