Little Rock School Board Boldly Ushers in New Generation of Leadership, Excellence

Last night (March 5th), the Little Rock School Board wisely reflected the community consensus and chose Dr. Dexter Suggs as its new superintendent. The vote, upon a motion by Jody Carreiro (Zone 5), was six to one, with Greg Adams (Zone 4), Tommy Branch (Zone 6), Carreiro, Dianne Curry (Zone 7), Leslie Fisken (Zone 3) and Norma Johnson (Zone 1) voting “Yes,” and Michael Nellums (Zone 2), the only “No.”

Even with Dr. Suggs’ overwhelming community support, another candidate was widely viewed as inevitable because of his apparent backing by Dr. Nellums and Rep. John Walker, attorney for the Joshua Intervenors. Further, the board’s own history contributed to the perception that it was this candidate’s to lose.

But lose he (and they) did. In a resounding defeat of business as usual, the Little Rock School Board boldly ushered in a new generation of leadership and excellence. As a result, Dr. Suggs’ selection immediately galvanized disparate community groups – parents, business, teachers, citizens, empowering him to be student-focused from day one.

It’s now up to the community to rally behind this leader, this board, and this district to ensure excellence for all students in Little Rock, no matter their zip code or economic status.

There are/were many champions in this victory, but I must single out the leadership of parents Jim Ross (A Better LRSD), Barclay Key, and Arkansas Learns Members Kellyann Thornton (Middle School Initiative) and Jennifer Stephens. For the past ten days, we were at every public/media session and every parent interview with every candidate, culminating in last night’s board meeting. Even more than their attendance, their mobilization, research and activism informed and engaged hundreds, if not thousands, who were unable to be at the public interviews.

Even though some conspiratorially tried to lump us all of one mind, these were five distinct individuals with vastly different notions of means to a singularly common end – excellent education for all students.

Arkansas Learns will remain diligent in illuminating deficiencies and offering solutions regarding excellence in education at the local and state levels. We will also illuminate excellence whenever and wherever we find it. Last night, the Little Rock School Board demonstrated such excellence by putting the interests of students over the self-interests of adults.

Please, individually or collectively, thank our elected representatives (emails below) who voted for Dr. Suggs and encourage them to empower him with the tools and latitude he needs to make this district a national model for excellence.

Little Rock is a better place with a brighter future because of last night’s vote.

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