Supporters of the Little Rock School District joined kids in walking in for the start of classes today. It’s part of ongoing efforts to regain control of the district from the state of Arkansas, so far reluctant to let go after five years of generally poor oversight without an elected school board.
UPDATE FROM LINDSEY:
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I went to the walk-in at Pulaski Heights Elementary, where my kids go to school.
Charles Zook, who’s become a leader in the movement for Little Rock to regain control of its schools, spoke to the dozens of parents and students gathered. He said he’d attended Pulaski Heights Middle School and had grown up next door to longtime LRSD educators Kris and Mac Huffman, whose daughters, Courtney Gasper and Kelly Navin, now teach at Pulaski Heights Elementary. Zook, a substitute teacher who’s married to a longtime LRSD educator, is the son of Randy Zook, head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, and step-son of
Diane Zook, chairwoman of the State Board of Education. Both have been frequent critics of the LRSD and active proponents of charter schools. At PHE, Charles Zook talked about the broader effort to harm the LRSD:
“There are powerful forces actively working to undermine this district,” he said. “Their mouths say one thing, but their actions say that they were not sent here to fix it. Each time Johnny Key closes a school, my heart breaks for that community. Each time the State Board approves a new charter school, I wonder how many more are coming and how much more damage this will do to our district. Each time the wholly unqualified Johnny Key further denigrates experienced teachers, my blood boils. But we mustn’t lose hope or give up because that is exactly what the LRSD destroyers are counting on.”
Zook said the continued public engagement was key to preserving the LRSD.
“We must never lose sight of just how important strong public institutions are to a free, inclusive and democratic society. This can feel like a big responsibility, and make no mistake, it is. Future generations are counting on us and our beloved schools will never make it if we give up.”
Ali Noland, a PHE parent and another leader in the movement, told the crowd how proud she’d been of the LRSD community.
“Press coverage has portrayed this as negativity and division and shouting, but what I’ve seen is more people becoming engaged, becoming interested and going to meetings and supporting our schools than we have seen in years or maybe ever. I’m really, really hopeful about what this means going forward.”
She said there’s been a lot of talk about making the LRSD a “world-class” school district. She said the district already has world-class educators and students. “What we need is world-class support. We need the state, we need the community, we need the business community, the faith community … to get more involved in our schools.”
She encouraged community members to sign up to be a volunteer in LRSD schools and suggested that people sign up to be readers at the VIPS Jane Mendel Reading Day on Tuesday, Nov. 19.