State Board of Education Chairwoman Diane Zook finished her term on the board today. That’s sure to be cause for celebration among supporters of traditional public education and the Little Rock School District. Zook, who was appointed in 2013 by Gov. Mike Beebe and is married to Arkansas Chamber of Commerce head Randy Zook, was a reliable advocate for charter schools and a frequent and aggressive critic of the LRSD.
Charisse Dean will succeed Zook as board chairwoman. Hutchinson has not yet named Zook’s successor.
At the end of the meeting, Education Secretary Johnny Key emphasized that the state was planning to have onsite education in Arkansas in the fall. He said many decisions would be made at the district level. “What’s feasible in one district may not be feasible in another district,” he said. The education department and the health department will work together closely to determine what’s safe and practical, he said.
The education department has posted several documents on its Arkansas Ready for Learning webpage, which I haven’t gotten to read closely.
The meeting also marked the first meeting for Adrienne Woods, who was appointed to fill Chad Pekron’s position. Woods, 33, of Rogers is a lawyer and was an unsuccessful legislative candidate earlier this year. Pekron, also lawyer, resigned his position after he got a new job with Walmart that he said required frequent travel. The Hutchinson administration only officially announced Woods appointment while the meeting was happening. From her State Board bio, Woods does not appear to have any background in public education. She was home schooled. She was a past associate at the Asa Hutchinson Law Group and now owns FreeRide Studio in Bentonville. She and her husband have three small children.
The meeting also marked the end of Little Rock Central High teacher Stacey McAdoo’s tenure as Arkansas Teacher of the Year. The teacher of the year’s position on the board is nonvoting position, but McAdoo was often a powerful voice defending the LRSD against Zook and others. At the end of the meeting, she described her tenure as “a year for fighting for change” and showed a picture of her marching in a Black Lives Matter educators’ rally last week. She said being on the board amid the fight for the return to local control of the LRSD was “traumatic” and also described racism she’d experienced as teacher of the year: a white teacher cornering her at an event and demanding to know what her qualifications were for being named teacher of the year; a retired teacher confusing her with waitstaff at an event.
McAdoo said this in the tribute video to Zook: “Good job at accomplishing all you set out to do. You’ve been very, very effective at it. I’m sure your constituents are going to miss your advocacy.”
Board member Brett Williamson said he appreciated Zook being prepared for meetings even when he wasn’t. He also thanked her for bringing back the pledge of allegiance to the board meetings and hoped that prayer would follow.
Mike Hernandez, deputy commissioner for the department of education, presented the latest exit criteria for the LRSD to the board. Predictably, Zook and board member Sarah Moore thought the new plan wasn’t focused enough on students (read: test scores and other quantitative benchmarks aren’t included).
Moore asked if the board was being asked to approve the new criteria. Hernandez said by rule and statute the exit plan was something the department creates and officially approves. He said the exit plan remains in draft form while the state submits input.