Despite their best efforts to bully and coerce, Jordan Frizzell of Star City Schools isn’t backing down. It’s heroic.
Jordan Frizzell, superintendent of Star City Schools, likes some parts of The LEARNS Act, other parts, not so much. He has been upfront about the pros and cons of LEARNS for a while now. I asked Frizzell how he feels about Governor Sanders and Senator Breanne Davis’ political effort to silence his public opposition. “It’s just unbelievable, really. It’s shocking to me they would reach this far,” he said.
The Sanders administration hopes to make Jordan Frizzell The LEARNS Act’s political fall guy. The message the governor is sending is clear: publicly oppose her policies and you will be silenced.
And Sanders’ army of arm-twisters have been effective; we’ve heard from multiple public school administrators (who wish to remain anonymous) that they are afraid to speak out against any portion of The LEARNS Act. These administrators, many of whom are in rural districts, are worried about the future of their schools.
But their community members will not hear about this worry from their own school leaders, because coercion from the highest levels of our state government has silenced the truth-tellers. Frizzell, however, is the exception. He is very aware of the threat the Sanders administration poses to his future, but he remains resolute in speaking out against LEARNS.
Jordan Frizzell is a homegrown Star City boy. Not only did he graduate as a Star City Bulldog, but he also taught as a business and computer science teacher in the district. He also served as assistant principal and later director of student services before becoming Star City’s superintendent.
“I was born and raised here. I went to school here. My parents live here, my wife’s parents live here… This is our home. This is our community, and I’ve never lived anywhere else but here. I’m truly invested in this community.”
It’s quite a political risk for the Sanders team, a state senator, and dark money lobbyists to publicly coerce a hometown son of southeast Arkansas. To be clear, Frizzell did not break any district policy when he allowed leave for two employees to attend Sen. Education Committee. Both employees went to committee per an invitation from AEA. It is well within the superintendent’s authority to allow professional leave for employees’ educational benefit. Star City teachers did not attend a candidate event or lobby for/against a ballot initiative. Rather, educators wanted to communicate with their elected leaders, who are beholden to the public, about the dangers LEARNS poses to Star City Schools. These actions are not political to Frizzell. “It is the opposite of political. Teachers were fighting for their public schools. If that’s not educational, I don’t know what is.”
Frizzell’s motivation in speaking out is to ensure community members understand what’s at stake if LEARNS passes. We imagine most people in Star City, as in every other district in Arkansas, are not reading 144 pages of legislative education policy (understandably). Frizzell recognizes it is his role as superintendent to talk with community members about the bill’s threat to their schools. “Parts of the bill could be detrimental to small schools, in my opinion… and I feel like I have just a big enough voice in my community to get the word out. If I’m quiet, nothing will get done.”
Jordan Frizzell’s commitment to truth telling is heroic — like David vs. Goliath — and is inspirational to those tirelessly fighting for the future of our public schools. Despite intimidation efforts from the governor’s office and top elected officials, Frizzell refuses to be silenced. “Everything I’ve said has been positive and about fighting for our small schools, teachers, staff, and community… I’m not interested in the politics behind this. Nearly 75% of the people in this community voted for Sarah Sanders. This is not about ‘right’ or ‘left.’”
What it is about is standing up for our public schools.