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					LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICT 810 WEST MARKHAM STREET LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS MINUTES SPECIAL BOARD MEETING January 17, 2007
The Board of Directors of the Little Rock School District held a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 17, 2007, in the Boardroom of the Administration Building, 810 West Markham Street, Little Rock, Arkansas. President Katherine Mitchell presided.

MEMBERS PRESENT:
Katherine Mitchell Charles Armstrong Melanie Fox Larry Berkley Dianne Curry Baker Kurrus

MEMBERS ABSENT:
Robert M. Daugherty

ALSO PRESENT: Roy G. Brooks, Superintendent of Schools Beverly Griffin, Recorder of Minutes I. CALL TO ORDER / ROLL CALL

Dr. Mitchell called the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. Six members of the board were present at roll call; Dr. Daugherty was absent. II. PURPOSE OF THE MEETING

Dr. Mitchell opened the meeting by stating the purpose: to review a discussion held at the Office of Desegregation Monitoring on Tuesday, January 16, 2007, which included Attorney Chris Heller, Attorney John Walker, Board President Katherine Mitchell, and monitors from ODM. Dr. Mitchell provided a written report of items discussed at that meeting for the board’s review.

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Mr. Heller addressed the board regarding the compliance remedy of 2004 which resulted in the hearing now scheduled for the weekends of January 20 – 21, and January 27 – 28. Regarding the notes provided to board members by Dr. Mitchell, Mr. Heller stated that it would be the responsibility of the board to agree to items proposed by Mr. Walker outside the realm of the federal court hearing, and that although all of the items presented were important, none of them were related to the remaining issue before the court - - that of program monitoring. Mr. Walker stated his belief that the LRSD had not complied with the court’s order of 2004: “What was promised has not been delivered.” He encouraged the board to withdraw their request for unitary status, and to reorganize their relationship with the Planning, Research and Evaluation office in order to receive information directly on the issues regarding narrowing the achievement gap. He stated that the programs implemented in the district which were intended to narrow the gap have not been effective and that the achievement gap had widened. Mr. Heller reminded the board that the remaining issue before the court was not related to the achievement disparity or about narrowing the achievement gap. The court found previously that we are unitary in all areas with the exception of program assessment. He emphasized that remaining under court supervision ould not remedy the achievement disparity. Mr. Walker questioned whether the district administration could be trusted to implement directives in good faith without the supervision of the court and stated emphatically that the benefit of staying in court provided a way of making the administration accountable for implementation of programs to address disparities. He asked the board to ensure that the administration is held accountable for remediation of the achievement gap. Board members were given an opportunity to ask questions of Attorneys Walker and Heller. Mrs. Fox asked Mr. Walker about the timing of his current request to delay the hearing. She noted previous directions from the Judge to bring concerns or questions to the court as soon as they arise. She also asked about the impact of state funding on the magnet programs. Mr. Heller reminded the board that it is the responsibility of the court to return local school operations to the local community once the requirements of the court order have been met. The Pulaski County Special School District has not yet been found unitary in the area of student assignment; the Little Rock and North Little Rock districts have been found unitary in this area. All three districts have found the magnet school programming to be beneficial to maintaining desegregated schools, and continuation of the magnet programs will be up to the local school districts whether federal court supervision continues or not. In addition, state funding for magnet programs is an issue that will continue to be before the state legislature. Mr. Walker disagreed with this response and suggested that the State of Arkansas will discontinue funding the magnet programs once the districts are found to be unitary.

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Ms. Curry asked Mr. Heller to discuss the “pro’s and con’s” of getting out of court. A written summary had been provided for the board’s review. Again, Mr. Heller stated that it is the local school board’s responsibility to make sure that district administrators follow court orders and that it is Judge Wilson’s responsibility to assess whether that has been done. Mr. Berkley stated that the LRSD had been supervised by the federal court system for many years, and that if indeed Mr. Walker’s argument were true - - that we had not met the requirement to reduce the achievement disparity - - that issue would still be before the court. He reminded the board that the only remaining issue is whether the district has embedded an assessment process to insure that the programs implemented are effective in meeting the needs of underachieving students. Mr. Berkley continued by saying that the Judge, board members, administrators, and members of the community, want the same thing . . . to provide additional assistance to the children who need it the most. He asked Mr. Walker and board members to allow the district to use the funds that we spend on court supervision to direct student instruction. Mr. Kurrus referred to the list of suggestions provided by Dr. Mitchell, and stated that all of the items on the list could be accomplished regardless of whether we are under court supervision, with the majority being “things that we have done, supported, or would support.” He continued by saying the antagonism between the parties is fruitless, especially in light of the fact that everyone wants improved student achievement. He questioned Mr. Walker’s reasons for wanting the district to remain under court supervision and stated that he wouldn’t make a motion for a continuance, nor would he support anything that would prevent the district from letting the court make the ultimate decision. Dr. Mitchell asked Mr. Heller to address her concerns regarding how the district will appear in court in light of recent internal problems within the PRE department. Mr. Heller responded by saying that he didn’t believe the Judge would base his decision on our internal problems, but would make his decision by remaining focused on the only issue before the court - - that of whether we have deeply embedded a comprehensive evaluation process. Mr. Heller continued by reminding the board that the evaluation process was adopted by the board and presented to the court for approval. The Joshua Intervenors did not object to the process at that time, nor have they filed objections since that time. He continued by reviewing the evaluation process which includes an annual adoption by the board of an evaluation agenda to facilitate future evaluations. In addition, a data warehouse is being developed to ensure that PRE staff and other evaluators will have access to accurate data when they need it. Mr. Heller reminded the board that they approved a resolution in November which stated intent to continue to evaluate programs annually and in good faith. Evaluations and assessments will continue after release from federal court supervision. In response to questions from Mr. Walker regarding development of school portfolios, Mr. Heller reported that Judge Wilson had never ordered school portfolios to be implemented in the LRSD. He reported that the decision to use portfolios had merit, and that district staff had begun the process of establishing a portfolio system. In addition, district administrators

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had stated intent to put in place school portfolios regardless of whether they were required by the court because it is a useful process to assist in making data-driven decisions. Mr. Walker stated that monitors from the Office of Desegregation Monitoring and Dr. Karen DeJarnette would testify that they don’t believe a process for evaluating the district’s programs have been “deeply embedded.” He asked what proof exists that there is a process in place. Mr. Armstrong called for the board to join efforts as a community and to become color blind. He stated “we should forget about the color of our skin and make our decisions based on what is best for all the children in Little Rock.” Ms. Curry asked if it was possible to ask Judge Wilson for a continuance if for no other reason than to allow the new board members additional time to review information they had recently received. Mr. Heller responded that it would be possible to ask for a brief continuance but that he didn’t believe the Judge would look favorably on the request. The fact that the hearings were scheduled on the weekend was an indication that the Judge believed it was important to bring the matter to a close as soon as possible. Mr. Walker objected to asking for a “brief” delay, suggesting that no less than a year was needed. Ms. Curry made a motion to have the attorneys file a joint motion between all parties involved to ask the judge for a continuance to allow time to pool efforts and come together as a community and agree to the issues before the court. Mr. Armstrong seconded the motion. Discussion continued. Mr. Berkley expressed concerns regarding Mr. Walker’s expectations compared to the district’s obligations under the court order. He objected to committing in federal court to things that we can’t guarantee. Mr. Kurrus agreed, and further expressed a willingness and desire to renew the board’s commitment, but would not support broadening or limiting the obligations that the court has previously imposed. Mr. Heller emphasized his previous statement - - “it will be up to the judge to decide the length of the continuance.” He stated that it isn’t within our authority to tell Judge Wilson how long we wish to continue, and that whether we are in litigation or released from supervision, it will remain the continuing responsibility of the board to improve the education of the students in the district. He asked the board for direction regarding their reasons for asking for a continuance. Mr. Kurrus stated that the parties had been antagonistic for years and that a declaration of unitary status would provide a window of opportunity to put the antagonism behind and to work together in the best interest of all children in the school district. He agreed with comments made by Mr. Armstrong. Mr. Berkley agreed and expressed his desire to do what is in the best interest of all students in the community. He noted that the district has an obligation to the state regarding efforts to seek unitary status and to prove good faith in complying with our commitment. “We have been diligent in our efforts to become unitary.”

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On the motion made previously by Ms. Curry, the vote was 5-1, with Ms. Fox casting the “no” vote. EXECUTIVE SESSION Ms. Fox made a motion to convene an executive session to discuss a personnel issue. Mr. Berkley seconded the motion, and the board went into closed session at 7:30 p.m. The board returned from executive session at 8:12 p.m. and reported that no action was taken. ADJOURNMENT There being no further business before the board, Ms. Fox moved to adjourn at 8:12 p.m. Ms. Curry seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.

APPROVED: 01-25-07_

Originals Signed by: Katherine P. Mitchell, President Melanie Fox, Secretary

As reported earlier in these minutes, an addendum is attached which consists of notes taken by Dr. Katherine Mitchell and provided to members of the board prior to this meeting.

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ADDENDUM TO THE MINUTES Notes from Dr. Katherine Mitchell, Board President

Board Members,
The following suggestions and statements are the results of the meeting yesterday (Tuesday, January 16, 2007) with ODM, Joshua Interveners, and Chris Heller: - PRE should have sufficient staff with the ability to act independently to avoid threats - PRE should report directly to the board through a committee that concerns itself with the work of the PRE Department to keep the board fully aware of PRE activities - Higher priority should be given to embedding the curricula with program that are successful - The district should have identifiable criteria beyond the state measures to determine student achievement - A remediation goal should be set for principals and teachers to work achieve as an indicator of success (an example is the non-white students should achieve 80% of what white students achieve in this district) - PRE must have some input in any decisions relative to the data warehouse - Data warehouse should be accessible to PRE staff - PRE needs to be involved in all program evaluations (the Public Education Foundation should not be involved) - Program evaluations should continue for the next 4-5 years and a person should be hired to perform step 2 evaluations with the next 2 years - The Board should establish a requirement that all programs will evaluate annually - The Board should eliminate the concept of site-based management (new hires should be done at the central office to discourage the hiring of people who do not want to teach all children, regardless of their social, economic status, and ethnicity - School improvement plans should include upgrading school facilities - Evaluations should be understood by teachers, parents, and other stakeholders - The board, administration and PRE staff should review and identify programs that address deficiencies of poor children - There should be a restraint placed on new programs unless that address the identified problems and replace those that do not work - Evaluate and review discipline ratio of white and black students regarding the suspensions and expulsions as well as absentees from pre-school through high school - There should be expertise in classroom observations to determine quality of instruction and determine students who are not doing well - Studies should be made of item response rate on bench mark tests (identify most frequently missed items and share information with teachers) - Study families who do not enroll their children in pre-k - Study and compare year around curriculum to curriculum framework - Make a decision about what the district can do about teacher absenteeism - Document the training of teachers on data interpretation and use - Hire a compliance officer who will report directly to the board

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These statements are from the notes I took during the meeting. Hopefully, I have included everything. If I missed something, I am sure Mr. Heller will mention it this evening at the special board meeting. I will see you at 5:30 PM. Thanks Katherine


				
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