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Friday, September 19, 2014, 11:18 a.m.
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Education Board OKs partnership with foundations

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was published August 14, 2014 at 10:47 a.m.

kathy-smith-senior-program-officer-of-the-walton-family-foundation-left-and-sherece-y-west-scantlebury-president-and-ceo-of-the-winthrop-rockefeller-foundation-address-the-state-board-of-education-thursday

Kathy Smith, senior program officer of the Walton Family Foundation, left, and Sherece Y. West-Scantlebury, president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, address the state Board of Education Thursday.

The state Board of Education on Thursday approved a partnership with two prestigious Arkansas foundations to develop a plan centered in improving academically distressed schools and school districts.

The board voted to approve a partnership with the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

Representatives from the two foundations appeared before the board, offering a broad rundown of how they intend to develop the comprehensive plan, called the ForwARd initiative. It was first presented to the board at its July meeting.

Sherece West-Scantlebury, president and chief executive officer of the Rockefeller Foundation, said the resources of the two philanthropic groups would be used to produce an "actionable, thoughtful, strategic plan" focused on improving the state's education system. Part of the plan for academically distressed schools and districts would be completed this winter with a final version completed next summer.

Developing it will be a process that includes "educators, parents, educational advocacy stakeholders, and policymakers," the Department of Education said in a statement.

"This is going to require boldness and bravery," West-Scantlebury told the board before the vote. "I really would love to see us be bold and brave and make the changes we say we want to see happen."

Education Board Chairman Sam Ledbetter, who said he was excited by the proposal, said it needs to be rooted in building local support.

"My hope is we focus like a laser on what we can do to support underperforming schools that we find in academic distress and that the approach goes beyond just the school building and into the community," he said. "... I have a lot of confidence in you guys that you can pull it off."

Read more about this story in Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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