Members of the Little Rock School District board running for election on September 16 responded to questions at a community forum at the Willie Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center Thursday night.
Incumbent Norma Jean Johnson is running against Joy Springer in the downtown area. Johnson told the crowd she wants to foster a more positive dialogue about the district to encourage families to stay, while looking for ways to cut wasteful spending.
“Programs are great, sometimes programs can be expensive. We have employees in the district that can be trained to do what the programs do and we can save money there because they’re in the district and they’re already employed,” said Johnson.
Joy Springer used to work for civil rights attorney John Walker. She said the board needs to do more to hold school district officials accountable.
“We are here trying to make sure that children learn, and if I am elected I believe I can provide the leadership skills to the board to help them better govern and regulate the educational services within the district,” said Springer.
Board members have said they will face significant challenges this fall. The district has six schools in distress and the state has the option of taking over the district.
Little Rock schools also face the loss of desegregation funding by the end of the 2017/2018 school year. At the same time, the district is considering needed facility repairs, totaling nearly half a billion dollars.
Jim Ross, a former school district teacher and now a history professor at UALR, is running against Jody Carreiro in West Little Rock.
In response to the question of how he would address the number of schools in distress, Ross told the crowd the school board hasn’t paid enough attention to the weakest schools.
“We are regenerating our schools. Let me tell you what that means, we’re moving the kids who are having trouble out to other schools, they’re all at Dunbar now. Go over and see them,” said Ross.
Carreiro said the school board is fixing the schools but this takes time.
“You can’t regenerate every school at one time. We took time and took a lot of effort to work on two schools. We’re going to be looking at one or two more every year to do something dramatic to try to make every school a school of quality,” he said.
The seven member board is responsible for setting the direction of the school district by creating policy. The board is also tasked with holding district leadership accountable.
Last fall, the zone 6 school board election drew a total of 410 registered voters.