THE race | Arkansas Blog

THE race

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The Zone 2 race for Little Rock School Board will decide how the state's largest school district is run. So I'm continuing to focus some extra space and attention on it.

Will the district be generally run according to the thinking of the current four-member majority, which undeniably is strongly influenced by John Walker and the LR Classroom Teachers Association? Will it be run by the white ruling gang, benovolent though they generally were, that has long ruled LRSD? Or could it be a blend, which would be the best outcome?

Michael Daugherty is the incumbent in Zone 2. He's been voting with the four-member majority that is about to complete the ouster of Supt. Roy Brooks (that's good). They've also been voting to support a continuing contractual deal with John Walker. (not so good.)

 We've asked questions of Daugherty. We've asked questions of Anna Swaim, an involved mother who holds promise as an honest broker of School District issues. Now we have answers to a Q&A from Michael Nellums, a middle school principal of a boys-only school in the Pulaski County School District, a resident of Broadmoor and another interesting candidate for Zone 2. Daugherty is black. Nellums is black. Swaim is white. The district is majority black. The current majority is all black and has been anti-Brooks and pro-union. There's a fourth candidate, gadfly Drew Pritt.

The Q&A with Nellums:

Q: Where did you grow up and attend high school? What is your age? Do you have children in Little Rock schools? What is your address?  

A: England, Arkansas; 45; no; I live in Broadmoor.
 
Q: Do you support collective bargaining for teachers? 

A: Within reason.

Q: Would you favor creation of single-sex schools in Little Rock ?

A: The jury is still out on it. Not enough data.  
 
Q: Did you support the buyout of Roy Brooks’ contract? Would you like to overturn that action as a School Board member? 

A: I wasn’t on the board at the time. A majority of the Board obviously did.   Personally, I don’t believe in paying people for not working. Since his last official day is sometime in August, and the election is in September, I’m 100% sure I won’t have a chance to overturn any action by the current board regarding Dr. Brooks.
 
Q: Do you think John Walker has played a positive role in the School District? What are your feelings about working with him as a School Board member?

A: Mr. Walker is a lawyer first. All lawyers litigate to earn a living, including those hired by the Board. He has brought attention to issues that could have and should have been addressed by the Board prior to his input. I think he has an outstanding legal mind, just like Gerry Spence. I’d work with him, just like any board member would work with any attorney.
 
Q: Would you explain the circumstances that led to consideration of non-renewal of your contract in the Pulaski School District ?

A: First, I’ve never been non-renewed. If you take just a little more time to research the issue, the non-renewal issue was not about terminating my contract; it was about moving all Middle School Principals to a different pay range.   According to State Statues, this required a new contract.   “Non-renewal in that instance meant giving all Middle School principals new contracts.”   The district voted to not follow the Superintendents recommendation for “Non-renewal.”   For the record, I suggest you research the Superintendents recommendations regarding all Middle School Principals during that specific period.   You’ll see that “we were all recommended for non-renewal.”    On behalf of all Middle school principals, I asked for the hearing to contest the recommendation that had not been fully explained to the Board, by the Human Resources Department.   Our position was then upheld by the Board.

Q: Would you explain the circumstances that led to your reported departure from membership in the AEA and NEA?

A: Sure. I have especially high standards for my teaching staff regarding their instruction, attendance, and their treatment of the students in our school.   I wouldn’t compromise those standards then, and I won’t today.   The local PACT group didn’t agree, and with a union organized effort by the Pulaski Association of Classroom teachers, my membership was revoked.   In the Level III grievance someone mentioned on your site, the school board of the Pulaski County Special School District overturned all the findings/complaints that led to that AEA hearing. Furthermore, they added that a letter of commendation be placed in my file. The elected leadership of the district, chosen by the voters agreed with me… period.    After due consideration, I chose “not to appeal” the AEA decision. It was important to feel vindicated, but more important to keep educating my kids.

Q: Do you think race of candidates will – or should – make a difference in elections for School Board?

A: It shouldn’t matter at all.   Kids are the most important factor in any school election.   School Boards are the only government authorized agencies elected solely for the benefit of kids.   You tell me, when all parents want is a good education for their children, should race really matter?
 

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