Healing Little Rock’s Broken Spirit

I tend to keep a low profile and try to be a peacemaker. But as I stated before the Senate Education Committee in April, this mother also has plenty of anger to spread around. I have watched almost every state and local meeting, read every report and news story, listened carefully to people on all sides, and testified and provided comments to the State Board of Education, the state legislature, and the Community Advisory Board on a range of issues affecting the Little Rock School District over the past five years. The lack of trust in the state, the city, and the district has created a level of chronic stress in teachers and families that is now affecting the children we all agree we want to help. The toxic political environment and infighting by allies have had a direct impact on my own health and family. And now I am at a loss about what help to offer, besides hope for healing.

So here is where my heart is today:

LRSD educators who feel you have no choice but to strike today: I support you.

LRSD educators who feel you have no choice but to work today: I support you.

LRSD parents who choose to keep your children home from school today: I support you.

LRSD parents who choose to send your children to school today or feel you have no choice not to: I support you. It does not mean you do not support teachers too.

Parents and educators who feel you have had no choice but to leave LRSD and do whatever is best for you or your child: I support you. It does not mean you do not support LRSD teachers and students too.

This community has been put in an impossible situation. How we treat one another now in front of children will determine our fate.

May the broken spirits of our schools and community be healed.

Muddling through to magic

As I reach the midpoint of my life and career, I have been reflecting on what I really want to do with whatever time I have left. After nearly 20 years of battle in the education and political arenas, I am as committed to serving schools and students as ever — but I needed a new way of being. So I have taken a leap of faith to launch new ventures of my own, my way.

First and foremost, I am a writer. That means I have to find the space and courage to finally sit down and write. I have had a book rattling around in my head for the past four years, and it is time to set it free.

I also will use this space to share my thoughts and resources about how we can help children find joy in learning and become lifelong learners, loving neighbors, and good citizens. Although I am a policy wonk by training, I have become more concerned about how we repair the broken spirits of our students, our teachers and caregivers, our schools, and our communities. How do we help people love to learn — and learn to love? This feels like the heart of the hardest work before us. I hope you will stick around to help figure it out.

My second venture is helping schools and organizations get the resources and leadership they need to ensure all children, teachers, families, and communities can thrive. I am specializing in things I do best and enjoy most, for people and organizations that inspire me: grant writing, communications, research and policy analysis, advocacy, and creative education projects and partnerships. If you know someone who needs expertise in these areas, please keep me in mind.

We’ll see what sticks and blooms. Perhaps the most useful thing I learned in my doctoral program was Charles Lindblom’s policy implementation theory known as “muddling through,” which really just means making things up as you go. Sometimes you just have to leap, then tweak. Rinse and repeat. I’m trying to get comfortable with that.

Thank you for your interest and support. I look forward to seeing how this space and my work will evolve in the weeks and years to come. đź§ˇ