by Max Brantley
Campaign reports were due today in races for Little Rock School Board. The reports are usually so piddling that they rarely rate a second glance.
But this year, there’s a hotly contested race for the Zone 3 seat on the board. The race for that open seat pits lawyer Carol Roddy, who has the backing of the Little Rock Classroom Teachers, against Melanie Fox, who’s been active at the Forest Park School and a member of the board of the Little Rock Public Education Foundation.
The candidates themselves have been nuanced on the issue, but merit pay is a hot topic in the race. Roddy says she’s open to it, but suggests the board hasn’t brought teachers into the process and she’s been critical of a system tied strictly to test scores. Fox says she’s open to it, but also wants to hear what teachers have to say. She makes a point of saying she was not on the foundation board when it served as a conduit for money sent secretly in support of merit pay by Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman. His money started an experimental plan that was begun without public notice or review by the school board and then expanded in a similarly secretive fashion.
Contributions tend to support the perception that Roddy is more friendly to the teachers organization and Fox more friendly to the those who dislike the Classroom Teachers Association.
An uncommonly large amount has been raised for an unpaid and often thankless job. In reports filed Tuesday, Fox said she had raised $32,695 and spent $16,258. Roddy reported raising $10,711 and said she has spent nearly all of it, $9,461. If money talks, Fox will dominate the discussion the final week of the campaign.
Roddy’s contributions, mostly in the $100 range, include several from Little Rock school teachers, state Reps. Sam Ledbetter and Jay Bradford; Central Arkansas Library System director Bobby Roberts, and Rich Nagle, director of the Arkanas Education Association Her biggest contributions include $500 from James Allred, who’s retired; $2,000 from the Little Rock Classroom Teachers Association, and $500 from Grainger Ledbetter, director of the CTA.
Fox’s husband Jeff is an executive at Alltel and more than $17,000 of her money came from her family and those of other Alltel or Windstream executives, including $1,000 from Randy and Judy Wilbourn; $2,000 from John Ebner; $4,000 from Rick and Ann Massey; $4,000 from Scott and DeDe Ford; and $2,000 from Joe T. Ford. A number of Stephens Inc. executives, including Curt Bradbury, appear on the list, as do a number of Fox’s neighbors in Prospect Terrace. Her other big contributions include $1,000 each from contractor William Clark, builder Wayne Moore and U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins, and $1,000 from the Progress Political Action Committee, whose officers are Rett Tucker and Gary Smith.