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