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EDUCATION NOTEBOOK: Career-academies model finds favor | Ex-ed lawyer now district's counsel | Suit over top job at district delayed

by Cynthia Howell | September 26, 2021 at 4:39 a.m.

Career-academies model finds favor

The Little Rock School Board passed a resolution Thursday pledging "to lend intensive support" to the Ford Next Generation Learning model of career academies that are being put in place not only in the district's traditional high schools but in public high schools throughout Pulaski County.

That support will be provided over the next five years to ensure that each high school carries out its academy plans with fidelity and that the countywide initiative known as the Academies of Central Arkansas will be successful.

School boards in the neighboring Pulaski County Special, North Little Rock and Jacksonville/North Pulaski school districts -- before the 2020 reestablishment of the Little Rock School Board -- previously adopted resolutions of support for the initiative that is in its third year of development.

The Academies of Central Arkansas is a collaborative multiyear effort by school districts, chambers of commerce and area businesses to meld core academics and career preparation.

As part of the model, this school year, 1,827 Little Rock high school freshmen are enrolled in Freshman Seminar, a course designed to prepare students for the academies, as well as success in high school, postsecondary education and careers.

Some of the career academies that are in different stages of development include agriculture business and innovation at West High School of Innovation, the performing arts at Parkview High School and health sciences at Hall High School.

Ex-ed lawyer now district's counsel

Mary Claire Hyatt, formerly an attorney for the Arkansas Department of Education, is the new general counsel for the Fayetteville School District.

"We are very happy to welcome Mary Claire Hyatt to our administrative team," Superintendent John L. Colbert said last week. "She comes to us with impressive credentials, especially in education law, and we are confident that she will be an excellent addition to our team."

At the state agency, much of Hyatt's work centered on evaluation of requests made by traditional school systems, charter school systems and charter school applicants on compliance with state laws and rules, and their requests for waivers of state rules and laws.

Hyatt earned her bachelor's degree in American Studies from Hendrix College and her law degree from the W.H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, graduating magna cum laude.

Before her service with the Arkansas Department of Education, Hyatt was an attorney for Legal Aid of Arkansas.

Hyatt is one of two attorneys to leave the state agency in recent weeks. Taylor Dugan resigned to move to North Carolina.

Suit over top job at district delayed

A jury trial has been rescheduled for the first week in January in a lawsuit filed by Pulaski County Special School District Assistant Superintendent Janice Warren against district leaders for failing to interview her for the superintendent's job in 2018.

The trial had been set for this month before U.S. District Judge Brian Miller.

Warren was serving as interim superintendent when the School Board conducted a search for a permanent leader. Warren applied but was not selected for an interview.

She argued that she was not interviewed for the top job because of sexual discrimination by board members and in retaliation for her disclosing that the district had deviated from its federal court-approved desegregation plan in regard to construction of the new Robinson Middle and Mills University Studies High schools.

U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. has since ruled that the Robinson construction is superior to that of Mills and that the district must enhance Mills, which is in a part of the district with a higher percentage of Black students and poor students than the Robinson Middle School area.

Warren was the district's interim superintendent in the 2017-18 school year after the School Board's July 2017 termination of then-Superintendent Jerry Guess for his refusal to fire the legal team that was representing the school district at the time. She is the district's assistant superintendent for equity and pupil services.

Educator in Texas accepts North Little Rock post

Torrye Hooper, a school support officer who supervises 13 principals for the Houston, Texas, public schools, has been named deputy superintendent in the North Little Rock School District

Hooper has more than 20 years of experience in education as a former teacher, district specialist, assistant principal, principal and supervisor. She has been recognized for overseeing double-digit growth in academic progress at multiple campuses under her leadership.

Hooper earned a doctorate in education from the University of Texas at Austin. She received bachelor's and master's degrees from Texas Southern University. She also earned Spanish language learner certifications while studying abroad in Costa Rica.

She began her career in education as a biology teacher in the Aldine Independent School District in Houston.

"Dr. Hooper has a track record of turning around schools and improving student outcomes," North Little Rock Superintendent Gregory J. Pilewski said recently. "I look forward to her leadership and the transformative change and improvement that she will bring to our district."

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