LRSD School Board Candidates: Ryan Davis, Zone 7

Oct 19, 2020

Credit Facebook

Why are you running for the Little Rock School Board?

“I’m running for equity’s sake. I’m running because I feel like the Little Rock School District has been under ineffective leadership for the past five years. I’m running because the majority, nearly all of the time I was a student in the Little Rock School District, we were under federal court receivership. What that meant mostly was trying to keep white and affluent families in the district, to the neglecting of the children of the working and working poor. And so, I think that, and I hope not to sound too lofty, but I think there is a reckoning to be had around the priorities of our school district.”

What education experience do you have?

"I taught for six non-consecutive years, mostly near Chicago. Outside of receiving what I think was a world-class education in the Little Rock Schools, at the point that I was teaching and I was a fourth generation teacher, we determined at a family reunion that the combined teaching years in the people in my family could easily reach past 600 years altogether. My education experience comes from that of a person with a deep abiding respect for educating as a profession and from a very short amount of time in the teaching profession." 

Did you and/or your children attend public school?

"I did. I went to Gibbs and then right across the yard to Dunbar and then to Central High School. My girls are currently all enrolled virtually at Gibbs." 

What are your main goals/policy points that you want change if you were to be elected?

"I think generally speaking and in a broad way, we have to, and the COVID-19 pandemic has really brought this to bear, we have to look at access to resources across the board in all of our schools. Because we can’t rightfully say that we’re running a singular school district if we have schools, if we have children who don’t have equitable access to the resources thereof. So that is a goal in a very broad way. Also, I’d like to understand better the process by which vendors are vetted and received to work with the school district and how minority vendors can be connected to that process." 

How have Little Rock School District Schools fared without a school board these past five years?

"To use a hackneyed term, the proof is in the pudding. If we began to be under state control five years ago with six of our 48 schools proving to them to be F-schools and there are more F schools now than when they took it over, I think that is certainly a glaringly obvious problem. And beyond that, the lack of transparency embodied by the state board of education, by Secretary of Education Johnny Key has been more than unfortunate and it is part and parcel why there’s been so much turmoil in our school district over the past five years." 

Since there has been five year without a school board, how do you reintroduce that concept back into the community?

"The community’s been aware of and fighting for just that, so I don’t think that it’ll be a foreign concept to folks in the community. But I do think that a newly elected board is not necessarily a panacea. Those who are elected to the board have to be held to the same and perhaps a higher standard than the folks who’ve been controlling the district for five years. Because ostensibly at least, the folks who are running now are running out of a concern for a lack of democratic processes and the lack of transparency again, and so we have to be standard bearers of good governance.”

Do you think the state takeover of the Little Rock School District in 2015 was fair?

"No it was not fair and it was justified. I’m not here to suggest that the Little Rock School District was perfect pre the state takeover, but what was put forth by the state in its effort to take over the school district was very flimsy. We’re talking again, six of what was 48 schools before they began to close down schools. The result of the takeover has been an expansion of charter schools in the city of Little Rock. It has meant the closing down of several neighborhood schools in the city of Little Rock and it has meant a pulled pack or a pull away from the recognition of the [Little Rock Education Association] and those things in and of themselves have been destabilizing." 

What would you do to avoid a state takeover?

"We have to look at whatever the standard that the state is putting forth and then we have to bring to bear some resources and some thinking that will help us avoid a state takeover. I think the state takeover itself was really kind of capricious. I mean it really happened unjustifiably and I saw that to say it could quite possible happen again. And so I think that there are some compromises to be had, I mean not between necessarily the state board of education, but between the community and those who represent them on the school board. We’ll have to wait and see." 

Do you feel you will have to build trust educators, with parents as this next step starts?

"Absolutely. I would not necessarily blame folks for being without trust in some ways." 

And are you worried that expectations will be more than what you think you can actually do as a school board?

"I’m eternally optimistic, so I can really just say kind of a flat no to that. But I think realistically speaking there are quite possible some expectations out there that we has human beings may not realistically able to do or to deal with and I expect that that might be one of those things. But I think in an environment where there’s transparency, where we’re not gas lighting people, where people feel like they have an actual and a real investment in what goes on inside of the individual schools and in the district in general that we can work with each other to accomplish those things quickly and incrementally." 

Under the new state board, there are some limitations…with those limitations, do you feel that those limitations are really going to impact the power of the board and what they can accomplish?

"You know I question the legality of those limitations because a duly elected schoolboard and in any other part of the state has fiduciary and personnel responsibilities. I’ll just go on record and say I defy an executive appointee to tell a duly elected body what they can do in terms of the personnel and the finances of a district over which they have elected leadership." 

How will you handle any disagreements?

"I do a lot of church work so I know disagreement and I think disagreement can be constructive. I think a lot of times we avoid tension for the sake of avoiding tension. But I think tension can, as Dr. King said, be creative and we have to take the opportunities that are created by tension to work together. There are some things that are untenable, but there are so many other things on which we have to have some compromise. There are some things about which we can’t compromise, especially if we’re really having a discussion about equity, but there are several things I’m sure about which we would need to come to some compromise." 

What are some things in your opinion that shouldn’t be compromised?

"I don’t think the process by which we make sure all schools have equal access or equitable access to resources, I don’t think that can be compromised. I know that there are potential candidates who would purport to just rep resent certain parts of the city and thus advocating only for those parts of the city and that’s really a wrongheaded approach…I would not compromise, personally, on recognizing the right of teachers and other personnel to bargain in a collective way. I would not compromise on anything that would compromise the health and or the safety of children, faculty and staff in our schools and also wouldn’t compromise in any ways that would disadvantage the eastern and the southern parts of our city to the advantage any other part of the city."