LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- On Monday, Little Rock superintendent Baker Kurrus spoke to the public for the first time since learning he would not return for a second year at LRSD.
Little Rock parents and teachers have appealed to the city, to the Civic Advisory Committee, the State Board of Education and to the Governor himself to no avail. Monday, the group turned to their elected officials; again asking for help.
#Standup4LR says their fight is so much more than reinstating Superintendent Baker Kurrus.
Fifteen legislators from across Arkansas heard the desperate pleas for help from Little Rock parents and teachers Monday night.
"For the first time in my life, I feel like my rights as a parent are being taken away. I feel like Little Rock School District has become a sharecropper, and our teachers, parents, and students are working in the fields,” said LRSD Parent, Tony Orr.
For the first time since his unexpected release, they also heard from outgoing Superintendent, Baker Kurrus.
"As for this job, I didn't fight for this job. I won't fight to keep this job. But I will fight for our school district. So that's exactly where I am; looking for opportunity,” explained Kurrus, who added that he doesn’t want to work for someone, who doesn’t want him working for them.
In the weeks since it was announced that Kurrus is out, parents and teachers have begged for him to be reinstated. But with a new Super named and no comment from Commissioner Johnny Key, Standup for LR has turned to local control.
"People I talk to, who teach in a room every day, who meet those kids every day, say morale is low. They don't know what's going to happen. They don't know what decisions are going to come down the pipe,” said a LRSD parent and teacher to the crowded room. He, and many other teachers, say their issue is instability.
The state takeover was supposed to stabilize the school system, but instead has left them with three superintendents in the last 12 months.
"What frightens the employees is, I don't know that we can tell anyone at this moment that Little Rock Schools are where they want to be because none of us feel like we are standing on firm-ground,” added a representative for the educators.
The recent expansion of Little Rock Charter Schools are also adding to the group's anxiety; saying Kurrus' contract was not renewed because he fought against that expansion.
"He did what any responsible school leader should do to defend us, and sadly, I believe, he knew that by choosing to do the right thing for parents, students and teachers, he was assuring that his contract would not be renewed,” said Nathalie Massanelli, a veteran teacher at LRSD.
Other parents, frustrated that Commissioner Key, hired the new Super, Michael Poore, without consulting the community or Civic Advisory Panel.
"Our school district is not a poor relation that needs a savior from the north to come and save us,” said another parent.
Many accused Key of not having LRSD's best interest at heart. Kurrus and Key were both called to testify before the hearing, but Key did not attend and hasn't responded to any of the public's comments.
"Please replace Johnny Key immediately, with a Commissioner that has actual experience with education. We do not trust Johnny Key to do what is best for all the children of LRSD, and the rest of the state. He has proven time and again that he is inept and ignorant, and not on the side of a diverse and equitable public education,” said a teacher at Henderson Middle, one of the City’s ‘distressed’ schools.
While Little Rock parents and teachers were defending their schools, LRSD's incoming Superintendent, Michael Poore, was defending Bentonville schools' 2015 report cards released by the state.
No Bentonville schools got an A, eight schools got a B, nine got a C, one got a D, and none got an F.
Nine of its schools got a lower letter grade than the year before, eight had the same grade, and one school had a higher grade than in 2014.
In Little Rock, where Poore will soon be Superintendent, one school got an A, eight schools got a B, fifteen schools got a C, seventeen schools got a D, and none got an F.
Eight Little Rock schools got a lower grade than in 2014, twenty one schools got the same score, and 12 schools got a better grade than the year before.
Wednesday, Stand Up for LR will stage a walk-in at Henderson Middle and Rockefeller Elementary. And Thursday, they'll host a teach-in to hear from educators at St. Mark's Church.