RUNNING FOR SCHOOL BOARD: Ali Noland with her children and husband, Ross.

Ali Noland, a LRSD parent-advocate who emerged as a leader in the fight for local control last year, has announced her candidacy for Little Rock School Board.

A new, nine-person board will be elected in November. Education Secretary Johnny Key approved new election boundaries last month. The new board will not be able to fire the superintendent, recognize the teachers union or engage in litigation, and as long as the district remains under the state’s Level 5 intensive support designation, the State Board has the power to intervene in the LRSD however and whenever it wants.

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I’m biased — Noland is a frequent contributor to the Arkansas Times, a friend and a fellow PTA board member — but I think she’s just about everything one could want in a school board candidate. She shows up everywhere. She’s an attorney and incredibly fluent in complex policy areas. She’s politically gifted; in meetings last year, she regularly gave powerful and cogent impromptu public comment. She often advocates for more and better avenues for public input. She regularly writes and talks about issues of equity and the health of the entire district. She also led the successful grassroots push to expand recess in elementary and middle schools in Arkansas.

From her release:

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LITTLE ROCK, AR — On Monday, March 8, Little Rock Attorney and parent-advocate Ali Noland announced that she will seek a position on the soon-to-be elected Board of Directors for the Little Rock School District. Noland is the mother of two young children in the district, and she has been a leader in the fight to regain local control of the Little Rock School District after more than five years of state takeover. She will be running to represent the zone that encompasses Little Rock’s Heights and Hillcrest neighborhoods.

“I believe in the power and promise of public education,” Noland said. “Public schools and good teachers shaped who I am, and I know how transformative excellent public schools can be for a community. But it is going to require all of us to get involved and be part of the solution. We have to elect board members who are deeply invested in the success of the district, and we have to acknowledge that real change isn’t possible unless we put in the work and make some difficult choices.”

Last legislative session, Noland successfully led a grassroots effort to pass legislation ensuring that all Arkansas elementary students receive an age-appropriate amount of recess time each day. The bill passed unanimously based on overwhelming support from parents, teachers, and students across the state. More recently, Noland has advocated for Little Rock School District parents and teachers at many recent State Board of Education meetings, arguing that it is time for the State to trust the people of Little Rock to govern their own schools.

“Local control will work if families are empowered to make important decisions about their children’s education,” Noland said. She outlined several ideas for increasing community engagement at school-board meetings, including making those meeting more child-friendly so that parents can attend without having to spend money on childcare, encouraging district personnel and board members to attend neighborhood- association meetings and other community events to inform the public about issues facing the district, and allowing people to submit questions and comments via social media if they cannot attend a school-board meeting in person.

Noland is an attorney with education-law experience that she says will help in governing a large and complex school district. In addition to a law degree from the University of Arkansas, she has an LL.M. degree in constitutional and civil rights law from American University in Washington, D.C. As an Assistant Attorney General, she worked on the long-running Little Rock school-desegregation case and helped advise the House and Senate Education Committees. She also served on Mayor Frank Scott’s Transition Team for Education focusing specifically on the issue of chronic absenteeism and tardiness.

Noland and her husband Ross are raising their two children in Hillcrest, where they serve on the Board of Stewards of Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church. Noland also serves on the boards for Pulaski County Imagination Library and Volunteers in Public Schools (ViPS) and she volunteers weekly as a mentor and tutor at Wakefield Elementary in Southwest Little Rock.

“I plan to use my campaign to get people involved in our schools. I want families to feel a sense of pride about being a part of the Little Rock School District. I think the people of Little Rock are ready to support our public schools; they just need leaders who can capture the community’s current energy and use it to build sustainable community engagement going forward.”

Noland stated that those interested in her campaign could learn more and donate at alinoland.com.