by Max Brantley
The state Board of Education today approved the Little Rock School District's request to convert the lagging Cloverdale Middle School to a charter with an aerospace technology theme.
The Board also approved two of three expansions proposed by the eStem charter schools at Third and Louisiana in downtown Little Rock. It turned down an expansion in elementary grades.
The Board voted 7-0 in favor of allowing expansions of the middle and high schools. The high school, now grades 9 and 10 with 190 students, will add an 11th grade next year and a 12th grade the year after. Friday's action will permit up to 500 students in the high school, which is to move across Third Street to the old Federal Reserve building conditioned on an acceptable lease. The middle school, grades 5-8, is currently capped at 396 students. It was allowed to increase to 500 students.
The Board voted 4-3, however, against expanding the elementary school capacity from 360 to 495 students. John Bacon, who leads eStem, said some board members said the school needed to show more data to support the expansion. The school is currently on a watch list for lack of sufficient progress in literacy scores of African-American and economically disadvantaged students. The nos were Toyce Newtwon, Sam Ledbetter, Alice Mahony and Ben Mays. Jim Cooper, Sherry Burrow and Brenda Gullett voted for the expansion. New Board member Vicki Saviers, who was a leader at eStem, is out of town this week and did not vote.
Bacon said the decision likely means the elementary expansion can't happen next year. It was a disappointment, he said, but the school will move forward.
More details on the meeting here from the Education Department's blog. I'm happy to see word there of Director Tom Kimbrell's move to a better process to evaluate and review charter applications, as he'd indicated to me he intended to do.