I was right when I wrote in the "meet the press" line last night that Little Rock School District Superintendent Linda Watson didn't have the votes for a contract extension beyond next year, but that the situation could change.
Here's the significance of last night's 4-3 vote not to extend her contract. Katherine Mitchell has always been firmly in Watson's camp. But Diane Curry and Micheal Daugherty, both of whom voted for one-year extensions, have been on a number of occasions in the group questioning a lack of progress and responsiveness in the administration. Curry, particularly, was an important swing vote. It is hard at this point to see her vote for additional time as superintendent turning the other way, unless Watson presents obstacles to the coming implementation of the strategic plan.
That puts Charles Armstrong with the deciding vote on Watson's future. He's part of the black majority that rose to power with teachers union help. (Curry couldn't have won without the union labor.) Watson has assiduously courted the teachers union leadership. But Armstrong has also been independent. We shall see.
Whatever the politics, the internal board communications point to continuing dissatisfaction with leadership. That dissatisfaction led, as I've written several times before, to earlier decisions not to extend Watson's contract as is customarily done for Arkansas superintendents.
For example, see this note from School Board member Jody Carreiro
Thank you. This has been troubling me for a few days. I was behind in my news reading and had a couple of people ask about the accredidation. So when I read that and found out we had two campuses on probation I was concerned. So I did some research on the ADE web site and found that we have 12 campuses cited. So my reasearch led me to more questions than answers.
1. I realize many citations are little things but where is a list of the 12 citations.
2. for probation, I understand you have been cited for 2 years on the same issue. Is that correct? what was the issue for the two campuses?
3. Has there been a change in the rules that caused more citations this year? (I just saw Ms. Fox's email that looks like the same question she asked)
4. I noticed a couple of schools appealed their citations, did we have any to appeal?
5. There appears to be district citations also, but I can't tell if we were cited as a district. Were we and for what cause?
6. We must have received something about this well before the meeting last week if some schools appealed. Then why did the board read about this in the paper or just now get this email? This seems to be important.
7. What steps are being taken to correct the two probation campuses?
8. What steps are being taken to correct citations and prevent future ones?
By the way, Mr. Hartz email did not seem to answer any of these questions.
Jody B. Carreiro
Little Rock School Board, Zone 5
Carreiro's note was in response to these earlier communications in which Watson brought up accreditation issues and punted explanation to another staff member.
Some of you may have seen the article in the paper regarding school accreditation. Two schools in the district were placed on probation because one school had too many students assigned to a teacher. The other school was placed on probation because at semester, a teacher taught a class that was not in his/her certification area. Several schools were cited because teachers were on ALPs or have provisional licenses. Please read the information below from Mr. Hartz.
David Hartz explained:
Schools are cited for a number of reasons. For example, anyone on an ALP will get a cite for the school as way to track the completion of the ALP. We are granted a waiver from ADE for the teacher who is under the ALP.
If a teacher is on a provisional license the school receives a cite.
I will bring you the actual document to show how it is listed.
Board member Melanie Fox wasn't satisfied with this explanation either. She wrote:
Thank you for the information. Why are these more frequent than the last few years? In 2007-08 there were no cited or probationary issues then last year we had 2 probationary and 4 cited and this year we have 2 probationary and 12 cited as well as the district office being cited. By the way, why was the district office cited? What can the district do prevent this?
The superintendent responded:
Mr. Hartz explained that we have more teachers on ALP's and provisional licenses. We also have a central office administrator on an ALP. Some of the ALPs are in critical need areas and are tracked over a three year period by the ADE. It may be difficult at this time to prevent as we need teachers in critical need areas. However, the principals need to monitor more carefully student/teacher numbers and licenses. In June, Mr. Hartz conducted in-service regarding HQT and the proper use of the course catalog.
We will also work with the associate superintendents in an effort to monitor the schools' master schedules.
The district has shown some test score improvement. But it hasn't streamlined the central office and Watson's commitment to radical change, as envisioned in the strategic plan, remains a question mark. Now, too, the question mark hovers over the Board's resolve to demand follow-through.