by Max Brantley
I visited your website and read the comments coming from individuals who were either anti-public schools or not from the Pulaski County Area. I don’t want to comment on what they said as much as I want to comment on what you had written prior.
You noted the three dissenting board members made references to a process by stating, “The three no votes -- Melanie Fox, Baker Kurrus and Larry Berkley -- all said they were objecting to the process, not Watson.” Let’s examine that for a moment. What is the process? Who decides what process is to be used? And when does a certain process become necessary?
First, there is no established process for hiring a superintendent. Previous boards have done it any way they have wanted. Second, since there is no established method for hiring a superintendent who gets to decide the method to be used and how many votes will it take to approve the methodology? A 7-0 vote, a 6-1 vote, a 5-2 vote, or a 4-3 vote? In my opinion either of these is acceptable as long as the majority of the board accepts it. Lastly, it would be naïve of anyone to think we would hire someone for the interim superintendent’s position without giving him or her the full consideration for the permanent job.
The Little Rock School District has been placed on year one of student improvement which will require an innovative approach from someone with fresh and new ideas that work to move us forward. We have several key positions to be filled and most qualified applicants will not apply under an interim because they are uncertain of the positions when a permanent superintendent is hired. He/she may want to bring his/her own staff. And we are entering a time when we have to compete heavily against new private, as well as, new charter schools for students and resources. We cannot afford to wait for things to get better or hope these entities will go away. I can't imagine any coach waiting until after the game is over to send in his/her best player. That would be an exercise in futility.
It appears the ritual some of the people in the community and on the board would have Dr. Watson undergo could be analogous to a couple dating in which the guy tells the girl, “I want you to stay faithful to me and not date anyone else but I need to date other people for a while. And once I’m finished, then we can be a couple.”
For this board member, I looked at all the qualities and abilities I wanted in a superintendent and found them in Dr. Watson. She has worked for the Little Rock School District for more than two decades and has occupied numerous leadership positions within the district. She has the educational knowledge and background that makes her ideal for the job. She has occupied the interim position for almost eight months, which means a good deal of her work is measurable. She is not a seasoned politician as many of our previous superintendents have been. She has and continues to show the same level of respect for board and community members who support her in her position, as well as, those who do not. And finally, she has been a resident of Pulaski County as long as I can remember. This is her home and where she has decided to stay. How can you beat that given this school district’s past experiences?
Finally, there were references made regarding Dr. Watson’s ability to be the forerunner in a competitive field if the selection process was opened up using a national search. Why is it that we feel anything from outside Arkansas has to be better than what we have here at home? Why do we get offended when people refer to us as dumb Arkies or as George H. Bush called us, in his campaign against Bill Clinton, “The lowest of the low.”
At some point we have to think better of ourselves. We have to embrace the fact that we are unique in our abilities and that we are just as competitive and capable as any state in this nation and on this planet. Arkansas produces some of the best and brightest people in this country and many come from humble backgrounds. I am tired of putting the fate of our children and employees in the hands of self-righteous strangers who do not have their best interest at heart.
I was proud to make the motion to hire Dr. Watson. Prouder that she is an Arkansan. And mighty damned thankful she has agreed to work with us.
Robert M. Daugherty