Preface

This project grew out of a simple conviction that the University could and should help the community address one of its biggest problems The community told the University during the UALR 2000 planning process in 1994-95 that in a list of the community's biggest problems, the public schools were at or near the top of the list.

A university includes people with expertise in many fields, and the approach taken for this study was to assemble a multi-disciplinary team of faculty who would bring diverse and relevant knowledge and experience to the subject and who would call on additional faculty and staff for assistance as needed. The acknowledgments which follow show that a number of our University colleagues provided valuable assistance during the course of the study, which spanned the calendar year 1996.

Three decisions should be reported and explained.

First, it was decided at the beginning of our work that this report would be prepared for the people of the community. Our strong conviction has been that nothing short of communitywide action could make a decisive difference. Accordingly, our goal has been to inform and equip the community as a whole to make decisions about the future of Little Rock's public schools, not to advance the point of view of one party or another involved in school issues. No one paid the University to carry out this project. Given the controversial nature of the subject matter, the Task Force's independence from interested parties has been helpful. We have not had to prepare a report acceptable to a particular patron nor have we been obliged to prepare a consensus document that would pass muster before representatives of multiple community interests. We have been free to offer whatever information, analysis, and options we believed would be most useful in advancing communitywide understanding.

Perhaps it is obvious, but it probably should be said that this report to the community is the work of scholars but it is not aimed at a scholarly audience. Therefore, it is lightly footnoted; and, hopefully, its language and style are more suited for the broader audience to which it is directed than they might be for an academic audience.

Second, we considered conducting a study that included all three public school districts in Pulaski County--the North Little Rock School District, the Pulaski County Special School District, and the Little Rock School District. We concluded very early, however, that such a project would become larger than we could complete in a reasonable period of time. Therefore, we decided to limit our attention to the Little Rock School District. The other two districts are equally deserving of attention, but including them would have tripled the project in many respects. The Little Rock School District has historically been the most pivotal of the three. What happens to it often affects the other two districts. Hopefully a significant amount of this report is relevant to all three school districts. Indeed, given the similarity of school problems in metropolitan areas, a significant amount of this report should be relevant to scores of school districts across the nation.

Third, how does one document the value and importance of the Little Rock public schools? One could point to the quality of teachers, the number of national merit finalists and semifinalists, the achievements of students revealed in other ways, or the impact of the school district's payroll on the local economy. However, there is another way to make the point: profiles of people whose accomplishments show what motivation and a good public school education can mean. This report, therefore, includes brief biographies of four graduates of the Little Rock public schools. Of the four profiles, two are white and two are African-American, two are women and two are men. Literally thousands of such profiles could have been written about graduates of the public schools of Little Rock, all illustrating in human terms the value and importance of the schools.

In the course of our work we sought and received help from a number of University colleagues, from school district employees, from citizens in the community, and others. We want to acknowledge this help and publicly express our gratitude to them. Our only concern in this public acknowledgment is that, given the large number of people who assisted us, it is probably inevitable that we shall omit the name of someone who deserves to be included here.

Colleagues in the UALR Department of History provided help on Chapter Two, "Essential History." Dr. Charles Bolton, Professor of History prepared an essay for the Task Force, "Segregation and Desegregation: A Brief History of the Little Rock School District." Dr. Johanna Lewis, Associate Professor of History, and a number of her graduate students provided the Task Force with a time-line of significant events in the history of the LRSD. The students were Laura Miller, Jo Ellen Maack, Pablo Caballero, Wendy Scott, and Stacey Craig. Dr. Lewis, Jo Ellen Maack, and Laura Miller provided the profiles of four LRSD graduates that are printed in this report.

Dr. Thomas A. Teeter, Professor and Associate Dean, UALR College of Education, interviewed all living former superintendents of the LRSD at the request of the Task Force. His interviews were important sources of Chapter Seven, "Overwhelming Complexity." Not only do we acknowledge Dr. Teeter's contributions but we also express appreciation to the former superintendents who consented to be interviewed by Dr. Teeter: Dr. Paul Fair, Dr. Paul Masem, Dr. Ed Kelly, Dr. George Cannon, Dr. Ruth Steele, Dr. Mac Bernd, and to former interim superintendents Dr. Winston Simpson and Vance Jones, whom Dr. Teeter also interviewed. (Superintendent Henry Williams and interim superintendent Estelle Matthis were interviewed in an earlier phase of the project and were not included in Dr. Teeter's interviews.)

Our colleagues in the Department of Criminal Justice--Drs. Charles Chastain, Mary Parker, Jeff Walker and Janet Wilson-- provided data, analysis, and advice in connection with Chapter Ten, "Safety and Discipline." Dr. Walker and Dr. Wilson prepared a background paper for the Task Force entitled, "Violence Within the Little Rock School District," April 2, 1996. Dr. Walker also met with the Task Force to discuss safety and discipline issues during a Task Force retreat.

Chief Louie Caudell, Sergeant Al Dawson and Sergeant Phil Wilson of the Little Rock Police Department were prompt in providing police statistics in connection with the public schools as well as in helping us understand data and school-related safety issues.

Our colleagues in the UALR Institute of Government, directed by Dr. Roby Robertson, helped in developing, conducting, and reporting all of our surveys--of the community as a whole, of African-American households, of teachers, and of principals. We particularly express appreciation to Denise Cobb, Robin Wilson, and Cindy Boland for their survey-related work.

We express special appreciation to the 467 LRSD teachers and the 26 LRSD principals who completed and returned our mail surveys. They gave us an earful!

The following members of the LRSD central office staff assisted us in our efforts to secure information we needed: Beverly Griffin, Ed Jackson, Mark Milhollen, Ken Savage, Sue Ellen Van, and Dr. Linda Watson.

Colleagues in the UALR Institute of Economic Advancement, directed by Dr. Ashvin Vibhakar, helped us secure economic and demographic data as well as produce the map of Pulaski County showing the three public school districts. Specifically we thank Sarah Breshears, Jerry Bell, Janice Cook, Laurie Banks-Montminy and Phyllis Smith.

Mr. Rodolfo S. Bernardo, Principal, Allen Classical/Traditional Academy, Dayton, Ohio, granted us two telephone interviews and provided data on his school's character education program, the subject of Chapter Eleven.

The following persons met with the full Task Force and shared their views on school-related issues: Dr. Anne V. Allen, Ann Brown, Dr. Linda Dorn, Jo Evelyn Elston, Marian Jackson, Bob Morgan, Linda Pondexter, Pat Price, Dr. Don Roberts, Dr. David M. Steiner, John Walker, Gene Wilhoit, and Dr. Henry Williams.

A large number of people were interviewed by one or two members of the Task Force or met with a subgroup of the Task Force. This group included the following:

Annie Abrams, Dr. Vic Anderson, Hon. Jim Argue, Hon. Michael Booker, Thomas M. Carpenter, Dale Charles, David Cockroft, Don Crary, Hon. Jim Dailey, Tom Dalton, Dr. Charles Donaldson, Michael Dougherty, Sarah Facen, Brady Gadberry, Pat Gee, Jack Gilbert, Dr. Michael Gilbert, Debbie Glasgow, Margaret Gremillion,

Bill Hamilton, Jim Hathaway, Chris Heller, Dr. Rick Henderson, Dorsey Jackson, Baker Kurrus, Mike Lowery, Judy Magness, Frank Martin, Estelle Matthis, Jim McKenzie, Dr. Katherine Mitchell, Betty Mitchell, John Riggs, Rev. William Robinson, Skip Rutherford, Herbert Scott, Fred Smith, Bennie Smith, Don Smith, Dr. Tom E. C. Smith, Rev. Hezekiah Stewart, Sue Strickland, Rett Tucker, Hon. F. G. (Buddy) Villines, Dr. Samuel Wofford and Shirley Wofford.

In UALR's Ottenheimer Library we thank Interim Director Kathy Sanders, staff members Carol Holsted, Cheri Kendrick, Dennice Alexander, Jowa Islam, Lavoris Williams, and student assistants James Rogers, Volkan Varlik, Paul Evans, Younes Boutou, Saravanan Maniam, Valoree Moore, Tammy Nash. They were resourceful in helping locate and secure journal articles, books, old newspaper stories, bibliographic citations, and other items we needed from time to time.

Early in our work Dale Nicholson of KATV Channel 7 provided us a copy of Channel 7's Survey of Little Rock School District Parents conducted in February, 1996.

The Phi Delta Kappan conducts an annual national survey on school issues and grants to others free use of its survey questions. We included four Phi Delta Kappan questions in our own surveys.

Staff members in the Office of the Provost devoted many hours to preparing the manuscript. Emma McCoy and Carmen Mosley had primary responsibility for word processing the numerous chapter drafts, tables, and figures. Eileen Anderson and Dr. JoAnne Matson proofed sections of the report and assisted in other ways. Jo Jones helped keep the Task Force and its materials organized, made arrangements for all meetings and all visitors, and generally served as administrative assistant for the project.

The document itself was prepared and produced by the UALR Office of Communications under the leadership of Cindy Lawson, Director. Bonnie Halstead was responsibile for the cover design and page formatting, and Keith Martin was responsible for document production. Hugh Esters provided graphics advice.

Finally, we express appreciation to Chancellor Charles E. Hathaway for taking the risk of commissioning the study and seeing it to a conclusion. His interest and support were evident throughout the project.

Every person named above has made a contribution to our work that we gratefully acknowledge. We, however, are responsible for any errors of fact or judgment found in the report.

						Joel E. Anderson
						David L. Briscoe
						Gary D. Chamberlin
						Priscilla Nellum Davis
						W. Dent Gitchel
						Jim Lynch
						Angela M. Sewall
						Andy Terry
						Dianne D. Wood

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