- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A Little Rock School Board member says the school board is “dysfunctional” and a former member has called for the state to take over the district.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/1tJQhA6 ) that board member Leslie Fisken said in a letter to state Education Board member Vicki Saviers that the board is “dysfunctional … rude, inconsiderate, patronizing, and insulting” toward Superintendent Dexter Suggs and that it has micro-managed the district’s administration.

Saviers is chair of the state board’s Special Committee on Academic Distress, which is to meet Wednesday to discuss the district’s plans to improve six schools labeled by the state as academically distressed.

Fisken said Sunday that if the state board finds the district’s proposals insufficient, it could take control of the district.

“It may be the best thing for the students,” Fisken said.

Riggs, who is a former state senator, said in a guest column for the newspaper on Sunday that the district is not working for the students and that the state should take control.

“A state takeover gives you so many more options in trying to craft the best solution to some of these entrenched problems we’ve got in our school district,” Riggs said. “It would de-politicize the whole system, and then it’s all about the kids.”

Jim Ross, who was elected to the Little Rock board in September, said the state should give the board a chance to make improvements.

“We of course hope the state won’t take over,” Ross said. “We’re a brand-new board with brand-new people and brand-new ideas. This whole narrative that’s been floating around about us being dysfunctional is a very strange thing to say. It’s too soon to tell if we’re dysfunctional.”

Fisken was viewing the situation “through a lens of despair,” Ross said.

“If you view these things through a lens of hope, things will look different - it will look like a board striving toward change and due process for everyone,” he said. “We’re passionate people, that’s something you have to keep in mind.”

Suggs, the superintendent, declined to comment.

Once the state takes over a district, the local, elected school board is dissolved and there is no longer local control. There are currently three districts under state control: Pulaski County Special School District, Helena-West Helena School District and Lee County School District.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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