by Max Brantley
Dr. Katherine Mitchell, president of the Little Rock School Board, says she plans to speak as scheduled at the Political Animals Club/Library brown bag talk at noon Wednesday at the Darragh Center Auditorium.
School Board member Melanie Fox happened to mention to me today that she'll be in attendance, too. She's hopeful -- as I am -- to hear some thoughts from Mitchell on planning for an interim superintendent and a process to select a new permanent superintendent. I heard independently over the weekend that a biracial and non-aligned group of prominent people in the community have had at least one private meeting to talk about ways to promote better communication on school issues in general and the leadership issue in particular.
Let us hope. Such discussions would be more productive than the current-dirt digging on Mitchell and other opponents of Superintendent Roy Brooks. But that process isn't likely to end soon, given the request for a criminal investigation into money Mitchell received from the state Education Department to teach summer courses for alternative teacher licensure on the campus of her employer, Philander Smith College. The money was processed through the LRSD, as Superintendent Brooks knew it would be when he signed a lengthy proposal that mentioned Mitchell would be among the teachers of the course in a joint program offered by several institutions. On that reed, however, enemies of Mitchell have mounted a full-scale assault. Intent would seem to be a factor in assessing her actions. As would the full disclosure of her involvement from the outset. As would the fact that many others in the school district would seem to have had some shared responsibility in the matter. As would the fact that the course was taught as promised. The prosecutor will weigh all this after the sheriff's office has investigated.
Some of the points I"ve made happen to be among the things Mitchell notes herself in a prepared statement on the issue, which grew from work of a Mitchell enemy reported Friday and Saturday by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. You can read her statement here in full. It indicates she won't be talking further publicly about it while it's under criminal investigation.
I wrote yesterday about this and posted the underlying document for Mitchell's 2005 work, for which she was paid $4,800. I am told that a similar document exists for the $1,600 worth of work Mitchell did in 2004, but I don't have a copy. This still leaves a question about Mitchell's failure to report income for the summer work -- either from the state or LRSD -- on her annual statement of financial interest for 2005. A complaint has been made to the state Ethics Commission on this. (By way of useful comparison: Mike Huckabee failed to report $43,000 in income from his political campaign for rental of a personal airplane in 1994. The Ethics Commission found he had erred by omitting the money and asked him to amend his report.)