Suggs Responds To Rockefeller Parents, Says "No Knowledge" Of FOIA Requests Or Lawsuit

Apr 16, 2015

Interim School Superintendent Dexter Suggs met Wednesday with several hundred parents at a community meeting  at Rockefeller Elementary and Early Childhood School in Little Rock to discuss the district’s plans to move older children out of the school to focus entirely on Pre-K by next year.

Many parents shared concerns about changing schools under such a short timeframe, including worries about access to transportation and after school programs. Dr. Miriam Thomas expressed the often repeated sentiment that Rockefeller students love their teachers and the school is doing well as is.

“Not right now, okay? Because, these students are growing, and you want the growth to still grow. The parents are here. You want that, you want that involvement. So, y’all look at some other school. Don’t look at Rockefeller, just say Rockefeller’s doing a fine job,” said Thomas.

Dr. Suggs told the crowd he was listening to their concerns and would schedule meetings with parents to get their input before finalizing the proposal in three weeks.

“We have to do a better job as far as communication. You know, communication is everything, so we have to do a better job.”

Bill Kopsky, president of the Parent Teacher Association of the Early Childhood School at Rockefeller, said the group was given only one day’s notice that Suggs would hold the meeting, after weeks of asking.

“One of the frustrating things for us is we’ve been asking him to have this meeting when we knew that they were thinking about something because we wanted to have some input into what that something might be and they refused and they only agreed to the meeting after putting forward this proposal and having it catch on fire the way it has,” he said.

Others in the district have expressed concern that Suggs is not responsive or transparent enough. Attorney and Blue Hog Report blog author Matt Campbell filed a suit on behalf of Teresa Knapp-Gordon earlier this week.

Campbell said Gordon, a librarian at Jefferson Elementary School, was under investigation for conducting a reading program without district approval. She requested a copy of her personnel file under the Freedom of Information Act and did not receive it.

“When somebody requests records about themselves, the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act is really straightforward. It says, you know, not withstanding any of the exceptions to disclosure, a person always has the right to obtain their own personnel and employee evaluation records,” said Campbell.

Suggs said he has no knowledge of the case, although a series of email exchanges forwarded to KUAR by Campbell, show his administrative assistant acknowledged receipt of the requests.

KUAR: “Ms. Napp-Gordon filed a lawsuit yesterday about…”

SUGGS: “That, I have no... I have no knowledge of any lawsuit.”

KUAR: “I have the emails, so I could show them to you.”

SUGGS: “You have got the emails?”

KUAR: “Well, I have emails I understand were forwarded to you as FOIA requests.”

SUGGS: “I haven’t seen them ma’am.”

Credit Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

Leadership of the Little Rock School District is working to cut costs before it loses $40 million in annual desegregation funding by 2017. The district, which was taken over by the state in January, must also address its six schools in academic distress.