SURPRISE: Brooks remains | Arkansas Blog

SURPRISE: Brooks remains

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So much for confident predictions.

The Little Rock School Board met in executive session for about 2 and half hours Friday night on Superintendent Roy Brooks. When they emerged about 7:45 p.m., Board President Katherine Mitchell said no action had been taken.

That prompted a whoop of joy from a large crowd of white parents who had turned out to oppose Brooks' expected ouster by the four-member black board majority. (A mixed crowd was on hand to back Brooks' ouster. It made no demonstration.)

The expected didn't happen.

The Times' Jennifer Barnett Reed was at the meeting. See her report on the update. Brooks' continued employment does not signal, we'd guess, an end to debate. If it means the start of a true collaborative process aimed at fully involving all elements of the community and board in all decisons -- and an end to Brooks' policy free-lancing with select power brokers -- that would be good news.

But for now, the status quo, at least in terms of employment, prevails.

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As we mentioned earlier, Brooks (shown chatting during the private session with Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman) spoke briefly before the private session began. He said he did not want a buyout, but wanted to continue to work as superintendent and that he wanted a public hearing should the board decide to fire him. There was no response before the executive session began.

If this does signal an effort for a workout of the split between Brooks and black board members, a parliamentary maneuver Thursday night might have saved his job. It was widely believed that the four black members -- Mitchell, Dianne Curry, Charles Armstrong and Michael Daugherty -- were prepared to fire Brooks Thursday night. But Armstrong was caught in traffic and not present when the motion was made for executive session. Board member Baker Kurrus moved for adjournment and said the motion could not be debated. Larry Berkley seconded then both left the room, leaving the meeting  in some confusion and ultimate adjournment just as Armstrong arrived. Since then, some research of Roberts Rules of Order and the district's own policy suggests the meeting could have continued under Mitchell's leadership as long as a quorum was present. Also, she was not given the customary time to ask if any business remained before adjournment and, of course, it did. That's just trivia now.

Tonight's decision clearly means four votes didn't exist for action. That returns attention to Curry. She was elected by strong support from grassroots groups -- including Acorn (see its letter on the jump of our earlier post) -- who were unhappy about a number of Brooks' decisions, including but not limited to his animus toward the Classroom Teachers Association. But business leaders have courted her heavily. And she may have been moved further toward that camp when she was harshly criticized by some of her election supporters when she left a board meeting several weeks ago at which, as tonight, a private meeting was held at which Brooks' future was discussed. That night also, there was no public vote. Curry apparently didn't join the other three black members that night.

UPDATE: The black members left quickly and quietly after adjournment. Mitchell gave no statement. The white members similarly were tight-lipped. There was one report, unconfirmed, that the board had advice from a lawyer in the meeting. Was the lack of action rooted in legal reasons? That's only our speculation. A question also arose about whether Brooks might legally be entitled to a public hearing before dismissal. That's a requirement of a teacher's contract, but it's not immediately so clear as it applies to the superintendent.

Brooks made no comment. He distributed the statement he read at the start of the meeting. It said he'd worked to the best of his abilities for the district. He said a buyout would be better spent on children and he would continue to work to make it a high-achieving urban district.

Baker Kurrus also distributed a prepared statement. He wrote it before yesterday's special meeting. It said the district was on the verge of "meltdown" and he invoked other major cities where districts failed when they lost tthe vestiges of integration Little Rock enjoys. Little Rock will be in the same shape, "if we do not stop the madness." The question, he said, is whether "blacks want to work together with whites or are blacks ready to go it alone."

I agree with Baker on these points. But I think we also need to ask if the outspoken white mothers -- and Roy Brooks -- are willing to work respectfully, openly and on an equal footing with the black board majority. That is the root of the majority's unhappiness.

 

 

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