LRSD School Board Candidates: Norma Jean Johnson, Zone 7
Why are you running for Little Rock School Board?
“I have a wealth of experience, abilities and skills and resources that I strongly believe can help the Little Rock School District, and that includes every student, nobody excluded… teachers, staff, cafeteria workers, custodians, everybody. So I feel like I can really make a big difference.”
What experience do you have working in public education?
“I have a masters in adult [education] and I do a lot of volunteer work… I’ve volunteered at every school my son has ever been in, from first grade all the way up to 12th grade. I’ve taught Sunday school in church, and most of my experience comes from volunteering.”
“I am a product of the Little Rock School District as well as 95% of my family, and I promise you we all turned out okay.”
What are your main policy goals or things you want to change while in office?
“I don't necessarily think I need to change a lot of things, I think some things are just going to be the way they are… I think what we have, we can take it and we probably can make it work.”
“I think that we have a lot of work to do as far as teacher unions and staff and facilities, I think that's going to be probably priority… I know the students are going to always be at the top of the list but without the staff we won’t have the students, so we have to make sure everybody's on the same page.”
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, for the last five years, people did what they were going to do. Right now it's going to be new to a lot of people and I strongly believe that you do need some experience on the school board, because it’s probably going to take a minute for everybody to get on board to really understand what’s going on and how it works.”
“It's going to be hard at first. It may be a little struggle because everybody’s got their own ways of doing things, their own ideas they want to see happen in their zone. But that's where the conversation comes in, that's where we sit down and we talk about it. We talk about it, we prioritize, we work with each other.”
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 don't think I could say it was fair, it wasn’t fair… there may be some things that we felt like they shouldn't have done, but I really don't want to focus on that. I want to focus on the future and I want to focus on the group getting together and doing things together… at that point and was the time to stand up. That was the time to do that, so now we're on to something new and I think we should focus on that and just try to make the future look better.”
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?
“I don't think we have any jurisdiction over hiring and firing the superintendent, and I'm thinking some things that we may want to vote on could be vetoed… I think that through conversation and negotiations or whatever we have to do, and we feel strongly that it’s something that should be done, I don't think we’ll really have a problem. I think it’s all in how you present something.”
How will you handle any disagreements between board members or with the superintendent or the Department of Education?
“You have to do your research, and there’s a lot of things that go into that. And then once you do your research you have to study it, and once you study it then you sit down and you talk about it… and believe me, everybody’s not going to be happy, but it's okay if you talked about it… but the majority always rules.”