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The Arkansas Board of Education on Thursday postponed decisions until next week on proposals to waive employee protection laws in both the Little Rock and Pine Bluff school districts, both of which operate under state control.

The reasons for tabling the possible waivers of the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act and the Public Employee Fair Hearing Act in the two districts varied.

In the case of the Little Rock district, Superintendent Mike Poore had to leave the Education Board meeting late Thursday afternoon for another commitment before the Education Board could fully cover the issue.

In the case of the Pine Bluff district, the proposed waiver was not on the agenda for the Education Board’s meeting. When it was proposed by Mike Hernandez, superintendent of the state office for coordinated support and service, Education Board members balked. They concluded that in the interest of doing business in a way that is transparent to the public, the matter should be voted on later.

Board Chairman Jay Barth of Little Rock compared the proposal — which came up as part of a quarterly report on the district — to “hiding the football.” He called it “deeply problematic” and said that acting on it Thursday would set a bad precedent.

The Education Board has the authority to waive the school employee protection laws in districts that are classified by the state as being “Level 5 - in need of intensive support,” which is the case for both the Little Rock and Pine Bluff school systems.

Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key had said in October that he would seek a waiver of the protection laws in Little Rock schools that had earned state letter grades of Ds and Fs. Such a waiver would ease and quicken the ability of district leaders to rid the district of who they deemed as ineffective or ineffective employees.

Education Board member Diane Zook of Melbourne said Thursday that she will make a series of motions regarding the operation of the Little Rock district at next week’s special meeting. Those will include applying the waiver of employment protection laws to all employees in the Little Rock district, including administrators and principals.

The board meeting on the Little Rock and Pine Bluff matters will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, at the Arch Ford Education Building, 4 Capitol Mall, Little Rock.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.


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