by Max Brantley
It took less than 10 minutes for the Little Rock School Board to go into executlive session this evening to consider Superintendent Roy Brooks' employment.
He made an opening statement. He said he did not want to resign or be bought out and, that if he was to be fired, he wanted a public hearing. He offered no apology for his many public slights or olive branch to board members, the black majority, bent on his ouster.
Brooks is black. The board minority that supports him is white. The board room is filled for the meeting. This meeting, unlike most special meetings, is being broadcast on Comcast Channel 4. I presume the superintendent made that decision. It's a good one.
The board was meeting without Brooks. A contingent from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, led by publisher Walter Hussman, was on hand to observe Brook's cashiering. He's been a favorite of the newspaper editorial page and support for him has received extensive news coverage, less than criticism of his management decisions by critics. Hussman was at Thursday night's aborted meeting, snapped in a Brian Chilson photo with the head of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, which was active in the school election on the side of losing candidates.The chamber took the rare step, in a school election, of sending out a union-bashing e-mail to rally members. The chamber's anti-union stance is widely credited with helping to motivate grassroots groups that elected candidates who favor Brooks' departure.
ALSO: On the jump is a letter to board president Katherine Mitchell on the controversy from ACORN. It should make interesting reading for some folks.
Letter from ACORN to Dr. Mitchell
Dear Dr. Mitchell:
We are writing you because we believe that the Little Rock School Board is faced with a crisis that will determine the direction of our educational system for years to come. Children from low-income and working class backgrounds form the majority of students in our district.
We believe that the Little Rock School District should offer a quality education to all students regardless of background. We also believe that the district must place a higher priority in meeting the needs of children from east, central and southwest Little Rock. Our school district must do everything possible to insure that all students have the chance to succeed and to become full and active participants in their community. Our city must grow together and not apart.
We are concerned that the current superintendent does not share our vision of how schools should work in our community. We are also concerned about the growing influence of many outside business interests over policies in the school district. These outside interests do not understand the barriers our children face in getting an adequate education. We need a superintendent who can bring the district together and develop policies that are “win-win” for both business interests and the majority of students in the district. We are concerned that our current superintendent is not up to this task.
We have read that the school board will be discussing Dr. Brooks’ contract with the district.
While Dr. Brooks seems to enjoy very good relations with the Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette , he has never made an attempt to visit with our organization to listen to the concerns of low- to moderate-income parents and to explore ways to work to address those concerns. Dr. Brooks did appear as a guest on our weekly radio program. We have not heard from him since.
The 2006 school elections should be seen as a referendum on the policies of the district under the leadership of Dr. Brooks and the former majority on the Board. In Zones 6 and 7 the people spoke loudly and clearly for change.
As you consider how to vote on Dr. Brooks’ contract, we hope that you will evaluate whether he is genuinely committed to meeting the educational needs of the majority of the students in the district. We are concerned that he is beholden to those special interests that do not understand the educational needs of our children.
We hope that you will take our concerns into consideration as you deliberate on this important matter.