It’s a new day. The leaves are turning. The air is crisp. The Razorbacks are… The air is crisp.
And the Little Rock School District now has 1/3 new leaders and significantly shifted loyalties.
In a comparatively strong voter turnout for a school election run-off, incumbent Dianne Curry was re-elected over challenger Tanya Dixon, 333 to 262.
In Ms. Curry’s first two elections, she was supported by part-time legislator and full-time Joshua intervenor John Walker. This time she wasn’t.
Apparently, Mr. Walker also backed newly elected Michael (Pete) Peterson, until he didn’t, switching his support to Laveta Wills-Hale.
I’ve heard the towering former Metropolitan Career Technical Center principal and Henderson State Reddie Hall of Famer was a bit too “strong to the hoop” for Mr. Walker’s tastes.
Let’s hope Mr. Peterson will capitalize on his experience and convince his fellow board members that academics and athletics are not either/or, but complementary in educating the whole student, providing accountability, generating school spirit, and building community pride. Little Rock can, and should again, be the state’s leader in success on and off the fields and courts. One need look no further than Dr. Fitz Hill and his Arkansas Baptist College Miracle to see the value of athletics and strong extra-curricular offerings in building excellence in education.
But back to the election. The most interesting aspect of the latest races was the head-to-head match-ups pitting Little Rock Education Association-endorsed candidates against those supported by Mr. Walker. The results? LREA – 2 for 2. Mr. Walker – 0 for 2. Zone 3’s Leslie Fisken was unopposed.
Mr. Walker, no doubt, will continue to attempt to assert his influence with individual members and the collective board. But for the first time in many years, at least five of the seven members of the Little Rock School Board got there without him. That bodes well for what should be a national superintendent search.
In the spirit of a fresh start, here are some individual and collective wishes for the board and its members:
Zone 1 – Norma Jean Johnson
Independence. If you want a millage increase for facilities, reject further desegregation payments from the state and show Little Rock voters than you can lead without the court and be good stewards of their investment.
Zone 2 – Michael Nellums
Compete with Excellence. The second best high school in Arkansas (U.S. News & World Report) educates 48% of the Helena-West Helena school age population, has an AP participation rate of 91%, and is 96% minority. Field trip?
Zone 3 – Leslie Fisken
Forever Fresh Eyes. Just because it’s always been done that way doesn’t mean it should always be done that way.
Zone 4 – Greg Adams
A New Middle School. Your race is next, and 3/7 of our population deserves the proximate public education afforded to 4/7.
Zone 5 – Jody Carreiro (President)
See Zone 4.
Zone 6 – Michael (Pete) Peterson
Immediacy. Excellence can’t wait for School Improvement: Years 7, 8, 9…. Use every resource to make sure all children read and perform at grade level by the end of third grade, or we’ve likely lost them.
Zone 7 – Dianne Curry
Recruit, Retain, Reward Excellent Teachers. And remove or retire bad ones instead of reassigning. Raise starting teacher salaries from 71st in Arkansas to Top Ten to attract our state’s best and brightest.
In all that you do, put students first. Nothing else matters.
And if you get an individual or collective FOI from a lawyer who is a party to a lawsuit that involves the district, post the request at www.lrsd.org. The public and the court have a right to know who is demanding a right to know, what he’s asking, and how often.