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Little Rock Education Association and community members filled up the First United Methodist Church on Center Street for a meeting Sunday about Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key's decision to ask for concessions on teacher employment protections in 22 schools that received D and F ratings.

Such a waiver would make it easier and quicker to fire employees identified as performing poorly in the affected schools.

The meeting filled the church, and people were forced to stand outside because the crowd exceeded the building's fire-code capacity. The media were not allowed to attend or to enter the building after the meeting concluded.

Teresa Knapp Gordon, education association president, contacted an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter through the union's Facebook page and said the group didn't vote on anything on Sunday because it wasn't an association meeting.

She said a news conference will be held at 7:30 a.m. today at King Elementary School at 905 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Leron McAdoo told a Democrat-Gazette reporter that he spoke at the event, and even though he was a teacher in the Little Rock School District, he said he was speaking as a parent, not an educator.

"I spoke to the fact that I believe in education and I believe that educators are the ones who change the world," McAdoo said. "I learned from this meeting that those that came in as community members were just as disappointed as I was with the decisions made in regards to the Little Rock School District."

The purpose of the meeting was to "ensure we have the commitment to solidarity from them," and "to work on a plan of action," the association previously said in a news release.

Last week, Key rejected a tentative agreement that was reached Oct. 3 by teams representing the school district and the LREA union.

The Little Rock School District has been controlled by the state since 2015 because of low test scores in six schools at that time.

Acting as the school board in the state-controlled school system of 23,368 students and 40 campuses, Key directed district Superintendent Mike Poore to add a provision to any agreement with the union stating support from both parties for a waiver of the Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal Act and the Public School Employee Fair Hearing Act in the district's D- and F-rated schools. Key said he would ask the state Board of Education to approve the waiver next month. He cited insufficient academic progress as the reason.

Under Act 930 of 2017, the state Board of Education has the authority to waive laws regarding teacher dismissal for school districts that have been placed in the Level 5 -- Intensive Support category.

"We have been asked as educators, staff, students, families and community supporters to give and give -- and have done so in good faith," the program for Sunday's meeting states. "In return we have been met with more disrespect. Four years from the time our district was stolen from the Little Rock community, our students and schools are seeing a decline in academic outcomes (primarily in schools south of I-630), more schools are being threatened for closure (primarily south of I-630) and Commissioner Key now demands that educators give up their dignity and right to a fair contract, and grant him the right to fire teachers without cause."

The program called for people to unite for the fight for high-quality education for all students and families.

"Why is this waiver needed?" a program from the Pulaski Heights Elementary PTA stated. "Does Key plan for mass firings? Key knows that the Little Rock Education Association can't accept his unreasonable proposal. He's hoping to use these reckless demands to force an end to the district's contract with the LREA, effectively dooming the union."

McAdoo said community members want to take action because their votes have been negated by state control.

"I hope people will support education as they fight those who seek to destroy it," McAdoo said.

Ryan Davis, a parent of a child in the Little Rock School District, said teachers are an important and vital resource and that they deserve due process.

"When they undercut teachers, they undercut our students," Davis said. "We can't fall asleep at the wheel because when we do, then an unjustified state takeover happens."

Liz Morris, an art teacher at Jefferson Elementary, said she wasn't able to go inside the church because it was at capacity, but she waited outside the doors holding a sign that read, "Leadership is not about the next election, it's about the next generation."

"I believe the stronger our district, the better our city," Morris said.

Organizers wearing shirts that stated "Return LRSD to local control" and "LR schools = Local Control" could be heard saying, "what a turnout," and "amazing" as they left church.

"I believe when we get local control, I think things will be better because we will have an accountable mechanism," McAdoo said.

Metro on 10/29/2018

Print Headline: State's moves in Little Rock School District criticized at gathering

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Archived Comments

  • WGT
    October 29, 2018 at 7:03 a.m.

    Do you see what is happening? Rhetorical question for the educators. This meeting is another step to fiscally starve the school district, preventing government funding through designed failure(s) to continue to lay a foundation for charter school formulas to flourish.

  • PopMom
    October 29, 2018 at 7:16 a.m.

    The kids deserve better than D and F rated schools. There has to be a mechanism for hiring better teachers and administrators. Many school districts give principals the power to fire. If the school keeps on failing, the principal gets fired. There is no excuse for D and F rated schools. We need to give the good teachers raises and the bad ones the ax. Not all teachers are fabulous.

  • Jfish
    October 29, 2018 at 8 a.m.

    Look at your property tax bill that was due about two weeks ago and see how much is going to the LRSD. As you will see, money is not the issue. The State needs to maintain control and make major changes or it will be the status quo.

  • Yavs
    October 29, 2018 at 9:37 a.m.

    JFISH, can you explain why state control is a good thing? LRSD had 6 failing schools when the state took control in 2015 and now has 22. In three years, the state has certainly done a bang-up job for the children of Little Rock.

  • purplebouquet
    October 29, 2018 at 10:17 a.m.

    Rather than laying 100% of the blame at the teachers, we need objective assessments why the children are failing. Undoubtedly, some teachers are bad and some school buildings are in dire need of repairs. But factors unrelated to teacher qualifications and school conditions also play a role. What are the absentee and tardy rates of students? Is standard English spoken at school? What trauma situations are the students experiencing outside the classroom? The best qualified teacher and the most modern facility can't teach a student who is missing school regularly, who falls asleep in class, who has no quiet corner at home to study or do homework. But we're unwilling to acknowledge those factors and devise solutions. Much easier to turn teachers into our whipping boys.

  • RBear
    October 29, 2018 at 11:31 a.m.

    PurpleBoquet excellent perspective on matters. That's why I say a dialogue on the matter is crucial to create positive change. Top down change never works effective and neither does bottom up. Along with that is a need to introduce and examine best practices from other teaching environments to see what would make sense with LRSD.
    ...
    Key is under the gun for not producing any meaningful results since taking over. I'm sure he's getting pressure from many fronts and he should be getting pressure. The tactic he's choosing to select is typical of disengaged management who don't have much to show for their time in management. Maybe it's time to replace Key as head of the district and move in someone or a group who can serve more effectively.
    ..
    With regards to funding, I'm curious how many have actually looked at the 2018-2019 LRSD Budget Pack. In that year, LRSD will have to make up a hole of about $37M resulting from the final payment of the desegregation settlement. Debt will have to continue to be paid. Other expenses will continue to grow. Teacher salaries and benefits will drop. To go a step further, LRSD hasn't produced a detailed budget for transparency in at least two years, since Poore came on board.
    ...
    My guess is that politics is involved in keeping Key in control as he's a good puppet director. But he's not that good of a education administrator.

  • PopMom
    October 29, 2018 at 11:43 a.m.

    It is the job of administrators and teachers to report to authorities when children are missing school or are being neglected or abused. I am sure that some of the teachers are high quality. Yet, these schools overall have serious problems. Why are they passing kids who cannot read and write?
    The status quo is unacceptable. Many schools in this country do a good job of educating children with similar demographics. It's time to bring in some fresh blood. You cannot turn a school system around in three years, and you can't do it without firing some people and hiring others. This is a twenty year project. The most important thing is to get the kids reading, writing, and working math problems.

  • Jfish
    October 29, 2018 at 12:04 p.m.

    Yavs, I am pretty sure that the rebellion from within has driven the numbers up, so I suppose qualitatively, LRSD has gone from very bad to very very very bad. Overall it is status quo, very bad. Popmom pretty much summed it up, and I will add that parental involvement also has to factor into the equation. Schools are not a babysitting service, they can do half the work but the other half is dependent upon the parents and communities.

  • Knuckleball1
    October 29, 2018 at 12:05 p.m.

    First Johnny Key is a joke and should have been been put in charge of the Dept. of Education. His Henchman (Michael Poore) is not any better. Baker Kurrus was moving things in the right direction to improve the Little Rock School System, that did not make Johnny Key happy so he replaced him. Key is for Charter Schools and will do everything in his power to keep them moving forward.

    Yes, there are teachers that need to be fired in every school district in the state. This approach by Key is to run the Little Rock District further into the ground. The district needs someone that has a vested interest in moving things forward, Poore is a terrible hired gun that could care less and is only interested in a pay check and following orders from his puppet master.

    I don't have a dog in this hunt but it is not hard to see what is going on and it stinks.

  • 0boxerssuddenlinknet
    October 29, 2018 at 2:39 p.m.

    did they actually propose to fire a teacher "without cause" ? what are the reasons a school fails ? My granddaughter goes to high school in Mtn Home which has a "B" rating she was able to travel and tour washington D.C during her Jr year civic class and spent a month in europe this last summer with her German class and during both jr and sr years taking AP classes and one college english course. what does a small school district like Mtn Home have that Little Rock does not ? It's certainly not money.

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