LRSD School Board Candidates: Michael Sanders, Zone 3
Why are you running for Little Rock School Board?
“I’ve always been concerned about the district and an active participant volunteering, but now I'm at a point where I'm concerned to the point of action… I think now it’s the right time, the right mix for me to share my expertise, my knowledge, my connections, my work experience, life experiences to help bring the Little Rock School District back to the top of the state.”
“I have a wife that teaches in the district… we currently have two sons who are in the district right now, and so I graduated from Little Rock School District, went to school there all my life.”
What experience do you have working in public education?
“I've been a community liaison before, where I had to go to the schools and check grades and have a good working relationship with counselors, teachers, principals. [I] worked for the state Department of Human Services Division of Youth Services where we partnered with local districts around the state.”
“I work for the City of Little Rock Department of Community Programs where we do a lot of partnering, because we often operate a lot of after school-time programming, summer youth employment, and so we utilize and partner and collaborate with the district on a number of projects.”
What are your main policy goals or things you want to change while in office?
“The biggest thing is to bridge the gap between the district, the city, the faith-based organizations, the parents, teachers and business community and bring that together to focus on improving the district and taking the district to that next level.”
“But then also… help the district set the vision for the upcoming years, and map a plan of action that will improve the district yearly; whether being in staff development, infrastructure development, making sure that we're reaching the… hard-to-reach families.”
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 the district is doing a lot of great things… and then just bringing, you know, all of the negativity that the district has had in the past, the negativity in terms of scores, the A and F-grade schools, but I guess capitalizing on the, right now, the focus that’s on the district… in the past there may or may not have been certain agendas, but making the Little Rock School District and the students the top priority, making that be the agenda.”
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 think the intent, you know, was not very clear why they took over. But the fact that they took over I think, it may have been something negative, but I think now what it has done, maybe unintentionally, is brought a focus to the district whereas in the past years there was no focus on the district.”
“I believe in coming in, assessing where we are right now and then setting either a three year, five year, or 10 year plan.”
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?
“There's limited restrictions in terms of the decision-making process or what we can or cannot approve. We're at a good start to even have it be at the point of electing a local school board. I think that the advocates have done an excellent job in getting us to this point, but now we have to make sure that we don't drop the ball.”
How will you handle any disagreements between board members or with the superintendent or the Department of Education?
“A position on the school board would maximize my full potential because I have prided on myself as being genuine, being a listener and then being a problem solver as well. And so I would do just that, I would be myself.”
“Educated minds come together for one purpose. We could come to a happy medium or a compromise and come to the right decision, especially as it relates to affecting the lives of our young people.”