State Education Officials Recommend Takeover Of Little Rock Schools

Jan 7, 2015

LRSD Superintendent Dexter Suggs spoke to State Board of Education members about his district's progress addressing schools in academic distress.
Credit Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Officials from the Arkansas Department of Education are recommending a state takeover of the Little Rock School District, while district leaders made the case Wednesday that they are taking steps to correct problems. It was the first in a series of meeting taking place this week.

Currently six Little Rock schools are categorized as being in academic distress. The state can take over the district if any school is in academic distress.

Superintendent Dexter Suggs, along with principals of the six schools, defended the progress of the district. Suggs asked for more time to change the culture of Little Rock schools.

“In order to move forward in the manner described to you in our improvement plan presented to you all in October, we will require focus and a true plan to execute  to fidelity. And this can only happen with support from leadership at all levels,” said Suggs.

Board of Education members questioned Suggs, who is in his second year on the job, about the district’s multi- year history of failed academic achievement.  Diane Zook asked why leadership took so long to become proactive about student’s failing achievement scores.

“This level of concern and get busy was not taken the first year your children in your building were below proficient, the second year, the third year, the fourth year,” said Zook.  

Dr. Richard Wilde from the Arkansas Department of Education presented findings of an evaluation of the district’s progress, saying that a new sense of urgency on the part of district leadership has led to a poorly focused, overextended response which is ineffective for creating real change in school culture. Wilde recommended the board approve a state takeover of the district.

We’re not critical of the innovations. Everything they are doing again is research-based. We’re not critical of the sense of urgency. Everything they are doing is research-based. The only thing that is not research-based is the way they are doing it,” said Wilde.  

The board will meet again Thursday morning to discuss the LRSD’s progress addressing academic distress and the possibility of a state takeover of the district.