by Max Brantley
I mentioned that lawyer John Walker was prepared to stir the Little Rock School District pot a little more.
Part of it falls in the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished category. School Board member Baker Kurrus informed the school board this week that he was surprised to learn a real estate agent working for the district had approached a company in which he has an interest about buying land for a potential west Little Rock middle school. Kurrus said he preferred to develop the land for other uses (it's near a residential subdivision he's been developing) and that he wouldn't take any part in the discussion. No decision has been made on building such a school yet. Walker is convinced something nefarious is afoot. It requires a deep conspiratorial bent to assume as much. Kurrus, in the current political climate, is in no position to work any special deals. He's part of the board minority in nearly all votes and Walker has strong influence over how the majority votes. But Walker accuses Kurrus of "self-dealing" in working for construction of new schools in western Little Rock.
Apart from the question posed to Kurrus about his real estate activities (he worked in the search for a site for an elementary school now in planning for Cantrell Road), Walker has raised broader questions about district real estate activities. He has filed an FOI for all records held by the real estate company in relation to the district over the last seven years. Whatever else he may find, the record will show the district hasn't built a school west of University Avenue in, what, 30 years? So much for the white WLR ruling clique.
It is not clear from my discussion with Walker yesterday that he believes any further school seats should be built in western Little Rock, including the elementary school on Cantrell Road. Walker believes inner city students, most of them black, have been ill-served by School Board decisions on school closures in recent years. He also believes, in a touch of irony, that white board members have been working to end the school desegregation case and with that bring an end to magnet schools and interdistrict transfers. This, he says, builds a case for more school construction in the predominantly white west. The irony is that supporters of magnet schools believe Walker is bent on destroying the successful magnet schools, notably Central High.
Here are the documents Walker sent this week. You'll be hearing more.
All this said, Walker is certainly entitled to examine the records on all work done by a private contractor for the district. And no one should fight any such disclosure. The only way to put suspicions to rest are full disclosure and open discussions.