Benji Hardy is going to reflect more fully on this later, but I wanted to mention that the incoming Little Rock school superintendent, Mike Poore,
finished a hectic week of meeting Little Rock people with more than an hour chat with the Arkansas Times
Friday afternoon before returning to Bentonville.
Lindsey and I discussed this at some length on the week's podcast
. There, I gave him an A on our pop quiz. Maybe I should have made it an A-.
His explanation of his decision not to back an explicit non-discrimination policy in the district fell short of satisfying me. He explained that — with a board and community split into combative positions on the topic — he was encouraged when a supporter of the policy polled board members and got a commitment against discrimination from each. He believed that was sufficient protection to operate without a rule. The Little Rock District has such a rule, by the way.
Poore doesn't believe discrimination is a problem in the district and he says, ringingly, that he doesn't believe in discrimination himself. I have no reason to doubt his sincerity or that of most of the members of the Bentonville School Board
(there's at least one, perhaps two, obvious question marks to my way of thinking.) But words are empty if a school principal takes action against an employee on account of sexual orientation or a coach treats a student unfairly on account of gender identity or one student bullies another. Then, you need a rule.
Poore did say that Bentonville has transgender students and there's never been a problem about restroom use. (I mention this hesitantly, given the political climate in Benton County, home of Bart Hester and them.)
Poore is smart, amiable and clearly knows his school administration stuff. It'll be a year at least before we can assess his judgment in Little Rock, though the record in Bentonville seems sound. You don't have to demonize Mike Poore to remain angry about what Education Commissioner Johnny Key
did to Baker Kurrus
nor to fear for preserving a real public school district in Little Rock when Key, the governor and the Waltons are intent on creating ever more charter schools to cream higher income students. Key is also prepared to rudely eject those (e.g. Kurrus) who think this isn't a good idea. (Seven days after Kurrus' testimony against charter school expansion he'd been given notice of his firing/termination/non-retention and Key had offered the job to Poore, who'd expressed interest in it a year ago before Kurrus was picked.)
Poore passed a one-question test Dexter Suggs
and Roy Brooks,
two recent ignominious superintendents,
failed in talks with me. I asked him if he planned to meet with state Rep. John Walker
, the civil rights lawyer who's been litigating against the district for a half-century. He said he'd already talked with him briefly twice in his legislative rounds but planned to meet with him at greater length.
Poore said he believes in talking to everybody. Even the Arkansas Times
and John Walker. Can't hurt.