LRSD School Board Candidates: Tommy Branch, Zone 3
Why are you running for Little Rock School Board?
“I'm running to help better the City of Little Rock through education, and giving our kids a better… providing them with a better educational system. I have a daughter, so I want to make sure she has a great opportunity to be successful.”
What experience do you have working in public education?
“I’ve not worked in public education but I was a program administrator and also a program manager... with the Division of Youth Services where I had the opportunity to work closely with our educational system and the juvenile system. As well as being on the Little Rock School Board formerly in the past so that warranted me a little bit of experience by doing that… when they took over the school district I was put on one of the boards to help shape and bring innovative ideas to get the Little Rock School Board back.”
“I... went to J.A. Fair [High School], that's where I graduated from, as well as my daughter goes to David O. Dodd Elementary which is in Zone 3, so that's really I'm passionate about that because she’s in one of the schools in the zone that I'm running for.”
What are your main policy goals or things you want to change while in office?
“We know that the Little Rock School District has already started planning things that will help us be on the right track, and that’s better testing of developing, trying to bring up a gap in between kids that can't keep up to the ones that are already over-achieving, trying to find a middle ground with... standardized testing, being able to get them the tools that they need to be successful.”
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 hated when it got taken over, let me say that, but some would say that it needed to be and some would say that it didn’t need to be. But I just want to be somebody that would bridge that gap in trying to find a happy medium where we can all agree to disagree to move forward… putting a comprehensive plan together as well as putting people together that want to see it go forward.”
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 came off the board right before it got taken over. I think that [there] could have been some things that we could’ve put in place so it wouldn’t have gotten taken over... but to not get it taken over again I think we have to have a really, really concrete plan on moving forward, and I think the district has already moved, started putting things in place so that we don't get in this position again.”
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 can say that I would be fighting to work for our constituents in the whole school system to make sure that we get the school district back in local control. Whether that happens tomorrow, or maybe a year down the line… but how we do that, that’s another thing. Because it does one thing to get it back, but then it does another thing to get it back and then get it taken again one or two years down the line. So I want comprehensive plans in place, great policies that’s going to ensure that we don’t get in this same situation again.”
How will you handle any disagreements between board members or with the superintendent or the Department of Education?
“I think you build relationships with people, and you agree to disagree. And listen, that’s the number one thing is listening to what the concerns are, what works, what [doesn’t] work… I think everybody wants the same thing. I think we want to help educate kids and move kids in the future to be successful. How we go about that, that can be in question. But I want to make sure that we agree to disagree and move forward at the best interest of our kids.”