State Board Of Education Votes To Take Over Little Rock Schools

Jan 28, 2015

State Board of Education member Jay Barth (second from left in background) lost a compromise for the school district's continued existence on a 4-4 vote when Chair Sam Ledbetter declined to break the tie.
Credit Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

By a 5-4 vote, the Arkansas State Board of Education Wednesday approved a state takeover of the Little Rock School District. It came after an impassioned five hour meeting, that included comments from parents, students, state lawmakers and school officials overwhelmingly opposed to the takeover. 

Little Rock Superintendent Dexter Suggs, who has only been on the job a year and a half, asked the board for time to make changes, saying progress was being made. 

Superintendent Dexter Suggs speaks to the state Board of Education Wednesday, saying progress is being made.
Credit Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

"There are some excellent examples of what real academic success looks like in the Little Rock School District. However, to bring those levels of success to scale will demand that we rethink the old models and frameworks and abandon the status quo," Suggs said. "We must reinvent how the Little Rock School District operates and educates its students."

District attorney Chris Heller also spoke, telling the board it did not have the authority for a takeover, noting the district as a whole had not been declared in academic distress. Six schools were given the designation after fewer than half of their students scored at proficient levels on state tests.

The plan approved by the state calls for the Little Rock School Board to be dissolved immediately and Superintendent Suggs to remain on an interim basis. An advisory committee of citizens will also be appointed.

Greg Adams, who has served as Little Rock School Board President, suggested afterward he doesn’t believe there will be a legal challenge.

"We have not had discussions besides what we’ve had in public in the past about what the board would be doing there. Personally, I don’t support being a part of any kind of legal suit. I think that now the decision has been made and that to make into a legal battle would be taking away from what we need to be doing for the kids," Adams said.

The six struggling schools are: Baseline Elementary, Cloverdale Middle, Henderson Middle, Hall High, J.A. Fair High and McClellan High.