Writing this blog makes me very sympathetic to reporters. I can't imagine how many times a year, even a month,mhf they go hear a boring speech and think - what a waste of my time. That is how I felt today after going to listen to Little Rock School Board President Katherine Mitchell speak at the Political Animals Club at the downtown library.
The room was full for sure, so no doubt there is still interest in the controversies surrounding the Little Rock School Board. Of course what everyone wanted to hear was what she had to say about allegations that she wrongfully, even criminally, accepted payments from the Little Rock School District in 2004 and 2005. She gave a long, boring, yet plausible explanation how the money came from a grant but the checks were written by the LRSD. She blamed the person administering the grant and Dr. Brooks for any errors and claimed that he should have know the payments were illegal if that was the case. Mitchell insinuated that any problems with her payments should have been addressed two years ago instead of now. I swear she called the county prosecutor "Prostitutor Jegley" but I might have not heard her correctly. Her basic defense was that LRSD only disbursed the grant money. I guess if they take in federal money and disburse it - then the recipient is merely getting federal money - I don't think so. She wouldn't take any questions on this topic on advice of her attorney apparently.
Mitchell gave a a brief overview of what she saw as Dr. Roy Brooks shortcomings. She said, and we have heard this all before, that within weeks of being hired he began plans to lay off employees. Her main complaint seemed to be that the most of the employees that were being let go were black. She said that black employees "lost" $918,000 in salary and while white employees only lost $28,000. She claimed that these employees were necessary to assist in student achievement and that test scores have suffered because these employees were no longer in the classrooms. She seemed upset that Brooks had hired a consulting form that including one of his former employers who suggested this change.
I could repeat the whole talk she gave but it was so lackluster and full of fluff, I won't do that to you. Some or her more interesting points were that she wanted to define who she is instead of the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette.
Mitchell then launched into a long list of issues that she thinks the school district needs to improve.
She repeated the statement that "this is a democracy and in a democracy the majority rules." I find that an interesting attitude because of course, even a majority can't take away the minority's rights without due process - something she doesn't seem to favor.
She said the school board needs to be more responsive and they haven't always listened to parent's and teachers needs like they should. She actually said "the children are our future." Not very much disagreement in the crowd on that one.
Some more interesting comments were that the board had always had disagreements and that some of them were not even on speaking terms.
There was some discussion about how to get black students into AP classes. According to Mitchell, one middle school principal had plans to get rid of regular level classes and have all AP. Of course, that a sure way to define yourself into victory. Call me crazy but it seams to me that would just really mean turning AP classes into regular classes - but I'm not the one with the doctorate in education obviously.
Mitchell said that she personally did not believe that the school district had achieved unified status as was found by the federal courts. I assume that means she thinks we need to be back in the federal court system - which is a scary thought after all this time to get out of federal oversight.
Lots of talk - few answers. I really didn't hear her mention one specific program that was working or not working - just that we need more of the former and less of the latter. As I said, lots of fluff.