The comparison between charter schools and traditional public schools is a permanent topic in the business of education.
The discussion is particularly hot in Little Rock, where an academic achievement gap in the city’s school district has driven a proliferation of charter schools in recent years.
Adding to the debate last year, the Arkansas Department of Education voted to take control of the Little Rock School District, a school system that serves nearly 25,000 students.
Enter Michael Poore, who resigned recently after serving five years as superintendent at Bentonville. He will take charge of the LRSD on July 1, becoming the district’s 13th full-time superintendent in the last 30 years.
In accepting a job that will make his five years in Bentonville seem like child’s play, the hiring has, not surprisingly, caused a vocal backlash in central Arkansas.
Independent of which side of the politically and racially charged charter vs. public debate Poore may lean, he is replacing a popular figure in Baker Kurrus, a Little Rock attorney and businessman who knew the local landscape.
Kurrus, a former LRSD board member, was appointed to the job last year by ADE chairman Johnny Key. He was working on a one-year contract (which won’t be renewed after June 30), and in that time endeared himself to many of the district’s constituents.
Kurrus, by all accounts, was an organized, disciplined, motivational leader, possessing a skill set the LRSD sorely needed when it turned to Kurrus.
The ADE now believes the next step in the journey of closing the achievement gap and returning the LRSD to local control lies with Poore, who brings a more traditional academic pedigree.
One of the most difficult jobs in the country is overseeing a large, urban school district.
Poore is about to find out how difficult. It’s a high-risk, high-visibility job, and he’ll certainly be compensated well.
But except for the professional fulfilment that would come from accomplishing something where practically no one else has, there’s really no financial reward in leading the LRSD.