Voices of Courage: Dr. Tom Kimbrell

AR Commissioner of Education Dr. Tom Kimbrell knows about teaching. He was a science teacher for 4 years. Then, he served as Superintendent of Paragould District and North Little Rock District for another 15 years. As the Commissioner of Education, his mission is to ensure that students in Arkansas have effective teachers in the classroom. This morning, he joined us on the bus tour. This is what he had to say:


Click here for an accessible version of the video.

71 Comments

  1. I understand the law if the school is not preforming to par, but this school is exceeding all requirements and shouldn’t be punished because it’s enrollment is low. Weiner School Works!!! Leave it alone.

  2. My parents moved me to one of Arkansas’s fine small school districts at the age of 5 specifically for a quality, more personal education. I graduated from Cave City High School in 1989, graduated from UCA with a BBA in 1993 and have been an independent dealer consultant in the auto industry for over 13 years. As a product of what was at that time one of Arkansas’s small rural schools I know the benefit of smaller classrooms. The teachers are able to know their students, assist with personal limitations and encourage students to excel beyond the expectations of a state mandated curriculum. I have seen the stats on the Weiner School District. The citizens of that town believe in their school system and believe in the capability of the students that are excelling within the walls of their school. Weiner School Works!! Please show all those behind this great initiative that true grit, putting passion for a cause into action and believing in what is RIGHT is the greatest reward of our great America and this State by saying YES TO WEINER SCHOOL SYSTEM!!

  3. When you read all these comments it makes you think that the students at Weiner aren’t the ones receiving a less than quality education. It’s possibly the appointed ADE board and higher ups in our state government. Common sense and responsibility tell you that once you see a mistake has been made you don’t just walk off and leave it. You fix it! Maybe the answer as to why this has happened to a proven quality education facility is the lack of those two qualities. Just a thought!

  4. I attended Weiner school as well as my 5 siblings. Although I did not graduate from Weiner, I can attest to the fact that Weiner has a GREAT school system and a great atmosphere for learning and growing. Raving basketball fans and a great team of players also help to make Weiner a fun and exciting school. PLEASE KEEP THIS TREASURE FOR THE FUTURE GENERATIONS OF CHILDREN ATTENDING WEINER SCHOOL DISTRICT!!!

  5. Dr. Kimbrell: I certainly hope you are reading these comments, many of which are very articulate, grammatically correct, filled with facts, and WRITTEN BY ADULTS EDUCATED IN THE NO LONGER EXISTING WEINER SCHOOL DISTRICT. THANK YOU ADE AND GOV. MIKE BEEBE.

    What is being done in the state of Arkansas to our children and rural communities via the ADE and elected officials is insidious, indecent, immoral, IGNORANT and obscene. You didn’t argue the ignorance of Act 60 with me when you attended a board meeting at Weiner earlier in the year. Just the opposite. You agreed with me and said that’s why WE fought it so hard. Your reaction was very telling. You see, you weren’t a state bureaucrat when Act 60 passed, as you are now. To hear you talking now, no one would ever realize that you were once on the opposite side of the fence concerning this bad law.

    As for what works, there is no doubt or question about that. Weiner School District, as well as many other small successful districts, have shown everyone who cares to look exactly what works. We have done the impossible – that’s our “crime”. We have provided an excellent education to our students, done it with less state money ($1,600 less PER STUDENT than the district that annexed us last year), kept money in the bank by staying under budget, have more technology in our system than the #1 school in the state. How many more facts do you need? You have all of the academic results in your department at the state PROVING that the Weiner School District (and others like it) WORK EXCELLENTLY.

    It is time for the elected and appointed officials in the state of Arkansas to step up and admit that we are going the wrong direction. EVERYONE KNOWS THIS IS TRUE. I pray for the day that we have the officials in these positions that have the courage and integrity to stand up and ABOLISH our bad education laws. What we need is some of that old-fashioned, out-dated DOING WHAT IS RIGHT. But, I don’t think we’ll see that until we place some different people in the positions of power that can accomplish it.

    WE WON’T STOP FIGHTING. WE WON’T GIVE UP. THAT’S NOT IN OUR MAKE UP. IT IS IN OUR DNA TO FIGHT FOR WHAT IS RIGHT AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT WE WILL DO UNTIL WE SEE THE NECESSARY CHANGES TO OUR LAWS.

    SMALL SCHOOLS WITH LOCAL CONTROL SUCCEED – NOT JUST WORK!! WEINER SCHOOL SUCCEEDS AND EXCELS!!!!!!

  6. What works are small classrooms where teachers can spend time make sure all the students are learning at their own pace. What doesn’t work is sending kids to bigger schools where teachers have more students than they need. Many times these students get lost in the wave of larger schools. Weiner is a small school that works and Weiner is the top rated school district in Poinsett county. Weiner is doing what works. Instead of closing the doors of the #1 school in the district, the state should be looking at Weiner and trying to imitate the success it had.

  7. By closing small schools in rural areas, solely on the basis on enrollment numbers, the quality of education for the entire state is at risk. The only achievement of Act 60 is that it supposedly brought the Lakeview court case to an end and it keeps Arkansas ranked at the bottom of the nation in education. Can’t we strive to do better than 49th? The only argument anyone, the governor, state attorney general, state board of education, can seem to come up with in support of Act 60 is that if anything is changed, it will end up back in court. Well, that’s not a good enough argument. And numbers aren’t a good enough reason to close high quality, effective, lucrative schools who happen to be in smaller communities. How are those test scores at the large schools looking? Not so good, it seems.

  8. I graduated from Weiner in 1961. My mother, two sisters, three nieces, one nephew, three great-nephews and two great-nieces graduated from Weiner. When I came back for my great-nieces graduations, I was so impressed by the work done by the educators at Weiner to get all the students scholarships to various colleges and universities in the area. This kind of dedication to the students is not found in large schools in large cities.

    I had to leave Arkansas to get a job. I believe this is what is happening all around. Small farms need help keeping their children on the farms and able to make a living for their families. Arkansas is a rural state and I wish someone would explain this to the Arkansas School Board. Governor Beebe should know this as his listed home-town is as small as you can get and still have a name. As of this date, Poinsett County only has 4 School Districts left after the closing of Lepanto, Tyronza (consolidated) and Weiner. I hope the rest of the state schools are taking a good look at what is happening for they may be next. I was glad to see the entry from Bay because they may be next to be closed and have to go to Jonesboro.

    I lived in Virginia for 40 years but opted to move back to Arksnsas when I retired from 30 years Civil Service on the Naval Base in Norfolk. I wish I had known then that Arkansas was being forced back to the dark ages.

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  9. It’s a problem when politicians tout they are supporting rural communities but don’t know the first thing about us. Where I grew up, when you came across a problem, you didn’t wring your hands and say that nothing can be done about it and go on your way… you rolled up your sleeves and FIXED THE PROBLEM! If the State of Arkansas has laws that are detrimental to a vast group of its citizens, then those laws need to be addressed. Just admit mistakes were made and clean up the mess that’s become Arkansas’ educational system. If it’s not the mess I describe, then why are we still at the bottom of the proverbial barrel?? Over-crowding schools, bussing kids from one district to another resulting in WAY TOO LONG bus rides, hampering student extra-curricular involvement, parental involvement, and costing the taxpayer WAY more in incentives, new construction, and transportation has been the result of current policy. I’m sorry but trying to persuade the public how consolidation is a money saver just won’t fly anymore. I can show you lots of studies which followed up on school consolidations that came to the conclusion the idea a substantial savings resulted, was unfounded by their findings. For example, the annexation of Weiner and Harrisburg School Districts into one district saved the salary of one superintendent and one secretary. Weigh that against the 2.6 million the Harrisburg district receives just for taking Weiner in. You do the math!

    In the county with the “worst” college graduation rate in the state, closing a school that has a graduation rate of 96% and most years 100% which prepares college-bound students and has the parental and community support that Weiner boasts, just makes no sense! See verification below.

    Officials with the Arkansas State University Delta Center for Economic Development met recently with local mayors, county officials and a state legislator about plans to support the program.
    The county is a part of a project sponsored by the Delta Center and the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas called “Powering Rural Development.”
    During the meeting officials were presented a report detailing the demographics, strengths and weaknesses of Poinsett County.

    The report projects possible population losses of around 5 percent over the next four years. The report shows a wide range on per capita income, from $14,094 in Marked Tree to $27,223 in Weiner, for 2009.

    The report also shows that the county has an above-average percentage of high school graduates compared to state and national figures.

    However, the report provides conflicted information on college and other post-secondary work.

    “Persons with a 2-year degree or more are significantly below the statewide and national averages,” according to the report. “The towns of Fisher, Weiner, and Waldenburg represent the highest percentage of persons with a bachelor’s degree, and Weiner leads the category of persons with a graduate degree.” This is in the entire county…

    The towns of Fisher, Waldenburg, and Weiner make up the Weiner School District in Poinsett County. Or I should say, the “former” school district.

    It’s sad that closing THIS school makes perfect sense to the Arkansas Board of Education.

  10. Mr. Kimbrell,
    We are a family of six. Everyone in my family except me is a graduate of Weiner. All my children are now adults that are well rounded and well educted thanks to their Weiner School background. People want to know what is happening to “RURAL AMERICA.” The answer is we are closing the rural schools and parents want to move closer to the schools their children are required to attend. Please end the lost of “RURAL AMERICA” by stopping the injustice of closing our schools.

  11. Dear Mr. Kimbrell! Small schools work better than the kids geting “lost in the shuffle’ of over crowded classrooms, and too long of busrides! more individualized attention and individualized encouragement are the best option for our school children! keep WEiner alive! along with the other small school districts that show such excellent statistics.

  12. Dear Mr. Kimbrell,

    Please help us in Arkanas who wish to live, work, shop and go to school in our rural communities.
    Please help us show our state government that these huge tracks of lands stretching for miles and miles are better off inhabited than deserted.
    Please help our government and legislators understand that if we choose to live in a community or in the country that we, as taxpayers, expect our children to be educated in the same community.
    No argument that the state has given me about the arbitrary consolidation number has made any sense.
    A childs, health, safety and well-being should be foremost in the minds of the state and educators and all of these things are diminished when children are bused to another community.
    A small school is able to give more individual attention which helps form good character in students.
    I have gone to both a large school and a small school(Weiner) and I would much rather be a person in a small school than a number in a large school. And believe it or not, I learn more when I’m feel like a person in a small school.
    Closing a school that is not fiscally distressed, making the grade academically should not be closed because their “number” is up. It wasn’t by accident that Weiner school has so capably created such a formidable school. It has taken a lot of work and dedication on the part of the community of Weiner to have such a stellar school district. That same community of taxpayers should have a voice in the future of their own school. I would think that they would in America, land of the free.
    I hope that you will stand with us in Arkansas and Weiner and help us save our rural communities, which also include schools.

  13. Our rural schools are sadly becoming Arkansas’ vanishing treasures. I graduated from Rural Special as did my parents and my children. It’s one of those places “where everyone knows your name.” But its not just the multi-generational families that come to love the place. The new students are embraced and become part of a tight-knit group that some refer to as one big family. Teachers care about the students’ academic performance and their well-being. We are an Act 60 school and were annexed to the Mountain View School District in 2004. The loss of local control of our school has been a hard blow for a community that revolves around the school. Fortunately, our K-12 school with about 220 students has remained open, but I identify with one blogger who described the feeling of “eternal uncertainty.” This small farming community never voted down a millage in its 60+ year history, demonstrating its dedication to education of its students. Community and school expectations are high for our students and it shows in their academic performance. Last year our 3rd grade was 3rd in Arkansas in Literacy and 6th grade was 4th in Math and 5th in Literacy. Our 11th grade placed 8th in Arkansas in End of Course Literacy. What makes this success possible, particularly in a high-poverty community such as ours, is the smallness of the setting which enables students to thrive. Our receiving school district is much larger and has a good school with good scores, but less poverty. We are 20 miles and a couple of mountain ranges apart. Our community hopes that our school is allowed to continue doing what it does best…turning out good students that are ready to be good citizens. THIS is what works!

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