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      Superintendent defends new reading program for LRSD

      LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -- With quite a bit ofbacklash from parents in the Little Rock School District over a change in thedistrict's reading program, superintendent Dr. Dexter Suggs spoke for the firsttime about the upcoming change on Thursday.

      The "Reading Recovery,"program, a system used for about 20 years in the district, will be wiped out.

      A new reading initiativeset to start for the 2014 fall academic year will completely revamp the way LRSDteaches reading.

      Although he wasn'tplanning to tell details of the district's new approach to literacy until alater board meeting, Suggs said after so much exposure he felt it wasappropriate to do so Thursday morning.

      "Currently we'reonly providing service for 13 of our 30 schools, so it's critical that we finda way to provide services needed for all of our students because literacy isextremely important," Suggs said during a press conference at the Little RockSchool District office.

      According to Suggs, sixtimes the students will receive critical teaching under the new plan, asopposed to "Reading Recovery."

      The new plan maps out onereading teacher for each of its 30 elementary schools, but current teachers inthe "Reading Recover," program will have to apply for those spots.

      "We're changing thejob description. Once you change the job description, you just can'tautomatically insert people into a particular role without giving everyone anequal opportunity to pursue that particular position," Suggs said aboutretaining the teachers.

      The overall makeup ofmoving away from the program that LRSD has used for about two decades has drawnmajor scrutiny from community members, with a petition nearing the 1,500signatures mark.

      "Someone told me wehad 1,500 petition signatures. I sort of laughed because we can't get 1,500people to come out and vote in the school board election, but it's funny we canget 1,500 people to vote on a petition," Suggs laughed when asked about thepetition.

      Parents are expected to give their opinionson the literacy change during Thursday night's school board meeting.