The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) voted Wednesday, January 28 to take over the historic Little Rock School District (LRSD). The board voted 5 to 4 in favor of the takeover. ADE’s Academic Distress Committee voted to dissolve the LRSD school board, and appoint Dr. Dexter Suggs as interim superintendent of the nearly 25,000 student district. State Board Chairman Sam Ledbetter ensured the public, “Schools will still run tomorrow. Classes will still be taught.”
There are a total of 48 schools in LRSD. The takeover comes after six Little Rock schools were deemed to be in academic distress last October. The following schools were deemed to be in academic distress: Baseline Elementary School, Cloverdale Middle School, Henderson Middle School, Hall High School, J.A. Fair High School, and McClellan High School.
Following the meeting, Dr. Suggs issued a brief statement assuring parents and students that the focus would remain the same that all children receive a quality education. “We will continue to put children first, continue to move with a sense of urgency and continue to engage all sectors of the community. It will take all of us working together to transform the Little Rock School District,” he said.
It was a packed house in the ADE building as people patiently waited for the final decision from the state. Politicians, parents, students and members of the community addressed the committed. A group of Parkview and current and previous Hall students addressed the board in an effort to save the school district from the state’s hands.
“Looking at this board, there’s not a student representative. You don’t have a student council here to let you know what’s going on, on the ground in each and every classroom,” one Parkview student said.
Representative John Walker also addressed the board, specifically focusing on the achievement and expectation of students coming from lower income demographics. “In the end, we’re the ones on the ground, we’re the ones living day to day in these communities. I hope that when you look at them or me, that you don’t see a set up test scores or statistics. Think of the students that are working hard every day,” another Parkview student said.
Board Member Jay Barth proposed that the state have a partnership with the district and not take it over immediately. His proposal consisted of joint efforts and more time to assess growth in the district. Now, displaced school board members like Jim Ross were upset about outcome saying, “The democratic process was not respected.”
“We will balkanize this city, tear it apart like Detroit did. We will not stand down,” Ross said. “This is a tragedy in Little Rock. This is a tragedy for black children, it is a tragedy for Latino children, it’s a tragedy for poor children. What got protected today were the rich white schools. You need to report that as clearly as you can. Today Orval Faubus had a victory. We are going to keep fighting if it involves chaining ourselves to school doors.”
Suggs did meet with the Ledbetter after the meeting, they will determine what comes next. To keep up to date on the developments, visit lrsd.org or Hola-Arkansas.com