MICHAEL POORE: A busy day in Little Rock.
I just had a nice telephone chat with Mike Poore,
the Bentonville school superintendent who's been chosen to be the new Little Rock school superintendent
effective July 1.
He was in Little Rock today for a round of meetings with, among others, legislators, chamber of commerce people and fired superintendent Baker Kurrus,
back from a vacation. He said he and Kurrus met one-on-one for two hours. He said it was too early to say if Kurrus would have a formal or informal district role in the weeks and months ahead — that the decision would be Kurrus'. He also took a tour to see Little Rock schools. He didn't cross paths with the demonstrators outside the Education Department late this afternoon. They were calling for reinstatement of Kurrus, return of local control and a moratorium on charter school expansion.
Poore had dinner last night with the Democrat-Gazette columnist John Brummett. His only other on-the-record interview since his selection last week was with Democrat-Gazette reporter Cynthia Howell for an interview that appeared in the Sunday newspaper.
We hope to have a meeting Friday, along with Benji Hardy. I did impose on his good nature with a few opinions and questions for about a half-hour.
Key among the points that I was able to raise: He wasn't ready to say, because he said he didn't have the data Kurrus collected, to give a yes or no answer on whether he'd have opposed the charter school expansions that Kurrus opposed, an act that preceded his firing. Nor was he ready to make a commitment in any direction on the inevitable future requests for still more charter school seats in Little Rock.
He did say he felt charter schools should meet the same accountability standards that public schools meet. He did say that he felt that this had not always been the case in state regulation of charter schools. (Agreed.) He said that, though he wasn't an out-front participant, he joined the Northwest Arkansas superintendents' group in the critical opposition the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators presented to defeat the Walton-backed legislation that would have allowed private corporation-operation of the Little Rock schools.
He said he'd like to have a full discussion of the issue I've raised previously about his opposition to Bentonville School Board adoption of a nondiscrimination policy for employees that included LGBT protection. So that's to come.
He says he's always willing to keep talking to anyone — even me after a good dose of my overbearing nature.
He walks into a difficult school district and a situation complicated by mismanagement by a partisan, agenda-driven education commissioner who is, incidentally, not qualified for the job except by waiver of old rules. Poore scores points for being willing to try.
PS — My column this week is about the indelible Walton fingerprints
on everything the state does relative to Little Rock schools.