by Max Brantley
We are parents and grandparents of children in the Little Rock School District (LRSD), concerned community members who grew up in the Little Rock public schools, and citizens who have been active in school board elections and volunteer activities for our children. We live in neighborhoods unfamiliar to Johnny Key and Michael Poore. Our public schools, like our neighborhoods, have seen tragedy and struggle AND amazing successes and a long history of triumph over adversity. We opposed the state takeover of our school district. We have disagreed with Superintendent Kurrus on several issues, but we also believe that he is a person of integrity and commitment. We are shocked and angered at the sudden announcement by Commissioner Key that he will end Baker Kurrus’s service as the superintendent of the LRSD.
We believe that Commissioner Key and Governor Hutchinson have done great harm to students, teachers and Little Rock community members by discontinuing Mr. Kurrus’s contract and appointing Michael Poore as the new superintendent of Little Rock schools. This action is disruptive and destabilizing. We call for an immediate reversal of this decision and a quick transition to control of our school district by the citizens of Little Rock.
The state takeover of the LRSD was a mistake that will lead to a bleak future for the Little Rock public schools. The people most harmed will be those living in neighborhoods south of I-630. The demographics of the Bentonville school district stand in stark contrast to those of the LRSD. More than three-fourths of the students in the LRSD are classified as low-income while a quarter of Bentonville's students are low-income. The overwhelming majority of LRSD students are Black and Latino while three quarters of Bentonville's students are white. We have no confidence in Michael Poore’s ability to work effectively in the Little Rock district. The broad based opposition to Mr. Key’s decision will make it even more difficult for Mr. Poore to function as superintendent.
The state takeover was never really about student achievement. The state Board of Education has never made public a clear plan to improve education for those students who are struggling. The events of the past two months should give Little Rock residents a clear vision of the chaotic future that lies before us under the state takeover.