Five year anniversary of the state taking control of LRSD brings mixed emotions

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Monday marked five years since the state took over the Little Rock School District. 

A lot has happened since January 28, 2015 from a new Superintendent, to schools closing, to a teacher strike. 

Monday night, Grassroots Arkansas gathered outside of the Governor’s Mansion, fighting for the same thing they’ve been battling with the past five years. 

The group has played a major role when it comes to the last five years of LRSD’s story.

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Anika Whitfield, Grassroots Arkansas Co-Chair, said they are still calling for full local control. 

“It’s been abusive, it’s been traumatic and it’s time to free us,” she said. 

The Arkansas Board of Education assumed control of the 23,000 student school system because six of its 48 schools were categorized as academically distressed for low math and reading scores.

Michael Poore, LRSD Superintendent, said the district has grown in several different ways. 

“I think we’ve come a long ways in a lot of different aspects,” he said. 

Michael Poore came in as Superintendent, schools were shut down, the millage was defeated, the Little Rock Education Association lost its bargaining rights, teachers went on strike, and recently, a new reconstitution plan has been adopted.

Whitfield said it has been traumatizing for students and parents for far too long.

“Everyday for the past five years, students in the LRSD have been in mourning. Parents have been in mourning,” she said. 

Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key and Superintendent Michael Poore said Monday was a day for reflection of all the positives that have come out of this takeover. 

“Really, we could look at today as accomplishments and celebrations,” Key said. 

“You certainly look at the things that are yet to be done, but you also need to kind of give some consideration to some celebrations,” Poore said. 

Key and Poore both highlighted improvements in academic performance, facility upgrades, and brand new schools. 

“Is there more work that could’ve been done? Absolutely. There always is. But, I feel really good about the position of the district ready to move forward into the future,” Key said. 

The community will get the chance to elect a school board in November. Until then, Key said they’ll still be around to make sure there is stability in the district and all restrictions will be lifted once LRSD meets the exit criteria for level five.

“We’ve seen in the history of districts that were returned to local control, that if there’s not stability at the outset, stability in leadership, that it can create problems,” he said. 

Poore said the only way this can happen is if everyone works together. 

“If we do that, we’re going to get out of level five. I don’t think I could’ve said that two years ago,” he said. 

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Teresa Gordon, president of the Little Rock Education Association, confirmed that everyone should be expecting new action from LRSD’s staff. 

She wouldn’t give any indication of what, when, or where, but just to be ready.