by Max Brantley
Little Rock School Superintendent Roy Brooks should be getting a bill of particulars soon, perhaps today, on the School Board majority's belief that he should be fired. Meanwhile, his defense team continues its work. Here's a website (Robert Powers, 400 N. University is listed on web sources as the registrant, though there is no identifying sponsor on the website itself) answering some of the arguments aired so far for Brooks dismissal.
(UPDATE: I dropped Powers an e-mail and he called back. He's an asset manager with a child in high school who has some definite ideas about the school controversy but who says he's trying to maintain an even-handed source of complete information on some of the items of controversy.)
The website is still, to me anyway, a good example of why the board majority has made a tactical mistake in seeking to fire Brooks rather than simply buy out his contract. The process will be long, contentious, a blizzard of policy and semantic gyrations and prove little to those with fixed opinions on either side. It is clear enough that Brooks can't work with the current board majority. In most employment situations, particularly in a fire-at-will state like Arkansas, that's sufficient cause to end employment.
The website puts the best possible face on the shortcomings cited so far concerning Brooks. (Just as someone with a viewpoint more in line with Brooks' critics could be expected to produce equally one-sided arguments -- though more defensible in some cases -- on such things as a failure to get School Board approval this year for an expensive consulting contract and failure to consult with the School Board before seeking changes in state school law.)
No, this board and this superintendent can't get along. Only Brooks' leaving, or an election-produced change in current board membership, will change that. The great pending question is whether those who insist kids' welfare is their primary interest will burn the school down if they don't get their way. That seems to be their threat so far. In the meanwhile, Brooks' defense team seems intent on matching every perceived slight and divisive tactic with one of their own -- the central argument being that the more comfortable parts of town are victims of undue expense in the poor, black part of town.
The greatest irony is the continuing central theme that Roy Brooks is responsible for all improvement in the school district, including test scores, and classroom teachers are responsible for all the problems. "Dr." Brooks sure must be busy teaching all those classes every day.