by Max Brantley
Because a school board member wasn't present, the Little Rock School Board was unable to go into executive session Thursday evening at a special meeting believed called to consider Superintdent Roy Brooks' continued employment.
In a room filled to overflowing with partisans on both sides of the Brooks issue, Board President Katherine Mitchell asked to convene in executive session. The vote was split three-three on racial lines, with black members voting for the session and white members against. Charles Armstrong (in photo aftere he arrived late), the fourth black board member, wasn't present at the crucial moment. When the motion failed on a tie, Baker Kurrus moved for adjournment and Larry Berkley's second brought the meeting to a close. That brought a loud cheer (top photo) from the large contingent of white supporters of Brooks, the black superintendent. He's been a favorite of the business community and is particularly popular in neighborhoods with white majority schools. But he has been a harsh critic of the Classroom Teachers Association and civil rights lawyer John Walker. It is a majority black district and black voters have a number of issues with Brooks, including closure of schools in their neighborhoods.
Brooks and Board President Mitchell have been at odds since his arrival. He was dismissive of her when blacks were in the board minority, but they took a majority of seats in hotly contested September elections in which major business executives spent a large sum for a school election to back an anti-union slate. They lost two of the three races.
Armstrong arrived several minutes late. He said he'd been caught in rush hour traffic. The meeting was rescheduled for 5 p.m. Friday -- barring the unlikely emergence of a peacemaker.
SUGGESTION FOR FRIDAY: Get a bigger room so all who want to do so can attend. I think it would be to Superintendent Brooks' benefit to do this -- break with practice and arrange for the TV cameras to be on during the special meeting. Normally only regular meetings are televised.
Now that my photos are in from Brian Chilson, I see that Walter Hussman, Democrat-Gazette publisher, was monitoring the action. He declined to put his own children through LR public schools, but his newspaper has been busily telling the rest of us who did how to run them. First, he hates unions, it shows in the editorials regularly. He loves Brooks because Hussman cut a secret and improper unauthorized deal with him to start merit pay experiments in public schools. He's used his editorial page to laughably compare the angry, abusive mothers' group backing Brooks to the peace-making Women's Emergency Committe of the 1957 crisis. We can't wait to see what dishonest attack he's instructed for tomorrow. It won't be coverage of the source of money backing newspaper ads in his paper supporting Brooks or exploring the management missteps and questionable business practices Brooks has engaged in, you may be sure, But if 15 of the angry mommas call the district office, they'll cover it like the dew. The mastermind is shown at work below (left). The next photo is Teresa Gray, who's been a spokesman for the mother's group supporting Brooks.