Outgoing Little Rock School District Superintendent Baker Kurrus bid farewell to the State Board of Education Thursday, while touting testing evidence of academic improvement.
The district’s first and second graders increased national percentile ranking on the Iowa Assessment by 15.79 percent in the first grade and 13.95 in the second.
“Look at those math scores," said Kurrus. "It's even more dramatic when you look at second grade math," he said. "We broke the 50 percentile,” he added, about the district's national math percentile rank of 54.
Kurrus told the board that’s proof of his staff's impact.
"I'm so proud of this team. And this is just hard work. It's just old fashioned, sticking to your knitting, every day,” he said.
Education Commissioner Johnny Key decided in April not to renew Kurrus’s contract for another year. Instead Key tapped Bentonville’s Superintendent Michael Poore for the job. After his announcement of the change, Key said Poore had a stronger background in pedagogy and academics than Kurrus, a former businessman.
Poore will begin a transitional role as superintendent on the 13th. Kurrus assured board members that he plans to stay involved in the district in some way, saying, "I have skin in the game."
Democratic State Senator Joyce Elliot of Little Rock attended the meeting and applauded district leadership, along with the disbanded elected school board, and urged a quick return to local control of the district.
"We need to hurry and make sure this school district is back in the hands of the folks who are paying the taxes," she said.
"We are probably going to be in danger of losing some of that great support we had if we don't do something pretty soon," she said, citing that 87.5 percent of district schools were passing academic benchmarks at the time of the takeover in 2015.
The state Board of Education will meet later in the month to speak with applicants to a newly forming LRSD Civic Advisory Board. Commissioner Key will have final say on the selection process.