Little Rock School Superintendent Michael Poore has distributed this letter addressing supposed rumors that a coming proposal for new school boundaries might include a change in status for Central High School, such as loss of magnet status or reduction of its broad program of advanced placement courses.
Not true, he said.
I’ve not heard those rumors. It is NOT a rumor that the Walton-paid charter school lobbyist and Little Rock District school critic Gary Newton has long assailed the current attendance zones for Central and its huge enrollment Central’s success in an inner-city neighborhood and high production of National Merit scholars (matching the cumulative number of every other school — public and private and charter — in the county), science fair winners, NCTE winners and other academic stars and its lure for top students from all over tend to detract from the narrative of a “failing” school district that its critics love.
The Central attendance zone was drawn decades ago to open it to western neighborhoods, though the magnet designation, unrelated to the neighborhood, has probably been more important in its student body growth. The boundaries will change, likely in significant ways.
Making Hall a magnet might renew neighborhood interest, and thus create competition for Central, at what was once the city’s premier high school. Johnny Key, the education czar and Waltonite, is committed to creating a high school in upper-income, majority-white Northwest Little Rock (and so apparently is Poore). That might bring new people into the district. It might also impact Central.
So. Rumors? I haven’t heard them. But it’s not a rumor that change is coming and it could impact a historic beacon that symbolizes so much — both good and ill — about Little Rock schools past, present and future.
Routine disclosure: My children graduated from Central, which is the high school closest to our home. It happens that it wasn’t the first choice of my son. The number of white Little Rock males accepted annually then to his preference, Parkview, was so small that his application didn’t win the lottery to attend.