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LRSD School Board Candidates: Ali Noland, Zone 5

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Why are you running for Little Rock School Board?

“This is a turning point for our school district and for our city, and it is time to rebuild public trust and public pride in our schools. I am a parent in this district, and as an attorney with a background in education law I think I have a lot to offer to be able to help our schools succeed and thrive across the city.”

What experience do you have working in public education?

“I attended public schools, I graduated from Hot Springs High School. My kids are now students in the Little Rock School District… while I am not a professional educator, I have worked in the area of education law serving as an Assistant Attorney General who advised the House and Senate education committees of the Arkansas General Assembly for several sessions.”

What are your main policy goals or things you want to change while in office?

“The first would be to regain full local control of our school district and end the continuing state restrictions on our school board. The second would be recruit and empower great teachers. Teachers are the heart and soul of our district, and I think that we need to do more to make sure that we are recruiting and retaining excellent teachers. Renew our district's commitment to equity… and finally, rebuild public trust and community pride in the decisions that are being made about our school district.”

How has the LRSD fared the past five years without a locally-elected school board? How would you re-introduce the concept of a school board?

“I think that we have seen a pretty significant erosion of public trust and public engagement in the decision-making around our school district. And so the first thing that we need to do is really take stock of what has happened and then create a process that will allow for full transparency and more public input in the decision-making process; things like providing child care at school board meetings, allowing people from the community to make comments via social media… there are things like that that we could do that would show that we really do want and value community input.”

Do you think the state takeover of the LRSD in 2015 was fair? What would you do to make sure that wouldn’t happen again?

“I would really prefer not to go backwards and re-litigate the issues surrounding the 2015 takeover. I have been very active in the movement to regain local control, I think it is absolutely essential that we have a locally elected board. And I think that, in order to ensure that it’s a success… we have to make sure that we are empowering parents, teachers and Little Rock residents to be part of the decision-making process so that we can end up ultimately with better policies and better decisions.”

What can and can’t you do as a LRSD school board member under the state guidelines? Are you worried the public’s expectations will be more than what you can actually do?

“The state has imposed what it calls ‘guardrails’ on the Little Rock School District and other restrictions on what the locally-elected board will be allowed to do as long as we are in what the state calls ‘Level 5 - Intensive Support’… I think that the Little Rock School District should be able to govern itself in the same way that other districts around the state can govern their own communities, their own schools. I do not think that that means that we should initially move forward with doing the things that are restricted. I think that those would require quite a bit of a community discussion.”

How will you handle any disagreements between board members or with the superintendent or the Department of Education?

“One thing I think will be very helpful is if the new board starts by setting clear goals and expectations for the district, for the superintendent, for the board members and for everyone involved. And so once we have those, we will be able to create an evaluation process, not just of schools or of teachers, but also of our own performance… and I think that will help guide us when differences of opinion arise.”