The Little Rock School District Board voted unanimously Tuesday to begin contract negotiations with Jermall Wright to be the next LRSD superintendent. The vote followed a two-hour executive session.
Wright currently serves as superintendent of the Mississippi Achievement School District, which includes Yazoo City and Humphreys County Schools, where he’s dramatically improved the graduation rates. He previously was chief academic and accountability officer for the Birmingham, Alabama, Public School District.
Contributor Jim Ross wrote about Wright’s meetings in Little Rock last week. This bit in particular had me amen-ing frequently:
He quoted research on how we recruit and retain teachers. He believes we must create welcoming and collaborative schools where teachers are a part of the decision-making process and not just dictated to by administrators.
He also spoke on the serious challenge of accountability. He does not support punitive accountability but wants fairness. He spoke of buildings he’s worked in where some teachers went above and beyond their jobs while others were just skimming by. He acknowledged the emotional strain on those teachers giving 150%.
He understands the central role of the teachers. He said the biggest influence on a student is the teacher. He believes that all kids are helped in the same way. Pull-outs and extra time after school may have a place, but real transformation comes from core content where all students are getting grade-level instruction every day, Wright said. If kids are getting core content then “they should be able to pass any test,” he said.
On the subject of tests, Wright argued kids don’t need more of them. We’re not even using the testing data we have very well, he said. He then discussed data he had seen on Little Rock that showed kids are not getting an adequate daily dose of instruction time in many of our schools. The goal, he argued, should not be “growth,” but 100% of our kids performing at grade level.
He spoke of equity in schools. He argued that we help poor kids and affluent kids in the same way, by making sure they have what they need. He argued that every kid will not need the same thing and we have to stop assuming they do. We must intervene where needs are. Get the resources and money to the kids who need them.
If background checks and contract negotiations go smoothly, Adams said the board could take a vote on officially hiring Wright next week.
George “Eric” Thomas, a consultant with the University of Virginia Partnership for Leaders in Education, was the other finalist.
Wright is in line to replace Mike Poore, whose six years as superintendent make him the longest tenured LRSD superintendent in almost 50 years. Poore announced his retirement late last year.