LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Little Rock School Board has been in office for 145 days. Since then, they’ve made great strides for the school district and have faced a handful of challenges.
Little Rock School District Superintendent Mike Poore is proud of how the school board has handled the pandemic.
“Giving our employees probably one of the most generous leave policies,” said Poore.
School Board President Vicki Hatter agrees.
“We gave our staff days to take off if they need to care for themselves or care for a family member,” said Hatter.
For Hatter, it’s also the pandemic that challenged the board, as they were stuck meeting behind computer screens until just recently.
“It takes away that personal touch, we can’t feel the room,” Hatter said.
For Poore, nine people in new, important roles comes with growing pains.
“Having them gel,” Poore said. “That’s not an easy thing.”
Long discussions sometimes get intense.
“That’s a bit of a challenge, but it also says how hard they’re working,” Poore said.
Hatter says some of the biggest goals moving forward are making sure the district is sustainable and stable, which includes getting out from under state control. She says that’s looking favorable.
For Poore, his big goals are increasing teacher salaries and addressing pandemic learning loss.
“We’re working on it with a really advanced set of summer school options, but we also know that in the Fall, we’re gonna have to do some things differently,” Poore said.
Both agree there’s still a lot for the board to learn, but say things are moving in the right direction.
The school board has done a lot since its inception in December.
Zone 5 School Board member Ali Noland posted a list of their accomplishments on a Facebook post:
- “Elected 3 current LRSD moms to lead the board
- Adopted the most generous COVID-leave policy in the state
- Helped oversee a highly successful vaccination plan through which every LRSD employee or contractor who chose to be vaccinated was able to receive their shots
- Passed a resolution urging the state not to require virtual learners to take standardized tests in person in the school buildings
- Passed a new policy giving teachers priority in being able to enroll their own children in the school where they teach
- Held intensive work sessions and special meetings on topics such as literacy, COVID-19, district enrollment trends, options for low-enrollment schools, board governance, community schools, district finances, and recruitment/marketing
- Approved a janitorial-services contract for J.A. Fair that allows the district to save money without a single employee losing their job
- Committed to support Hall, Parkview, and West High Schools for at least 3 years while we work on refining the magnet programs at each school, including developing a unified K-12 school that encompasses Forest Heights STEM Academy and Hall STEM Magnet High School
Volunteered a truly staggering amount of our own personal time, not just for the board’s marathon monthly meetings but also for numerous personnel hearings, board trainings, school tours, communicating with constituents, testifying before the legislature, reviewing hundreds of pages of documents each month, and attending district events and celebrations
- Remained focused on crafting and approving a balanced budget, which is a requirement for the district to exit state control
- Passed updates to the district’s policies regarding sexual harassment and recess/nutrition, and
Reviewed and discussed school-naming policies with the intent of developing a fair and transparent process to allow the community to weigh in on these issues.
- On top of that, individual board members have: Testified against a private-school voucher bill and for a bill that would limit the number of years that the state could exercise control over a public school district
- Organized a successful email campaign against two dangerous bills that would have prohibited our teachers from discussing challenging ideas related to race, gender, and class and Used our position to speak up in support of transgender students and against the gun violence that has so tragically impacted our community.”