A state committee’s recommendation to change the location of Arkansas Governor’s School to Arkansas Tech University this summer after 38 years at Hendrix College is drawing protests.

We’d mentioned an early protest from Sen. Jason Rapert. But others have concerns about a reshaping of the program. Typical was a Facebook comment by a Central High art teacher, Jason McCann, who’s taught at Governor’s School, now a four-week residential program for bright students. He wrote:


Earlier this week I expressed displeasure over Arkansas Governor’s School possibly being moved to Arkansas Tech. Those concerns were based largely on logistical issues that students would endure on a larger sprawling campus. Unfortunately, after the ATU Governor’s School proposal was released today it’s far worse than I feared. It seems that they intend to create a program befitting a technical institute. If approved by the State Board of Education it would throw out 39 years of critical thinking curriculum that has made AGS one of the most celebrated Governor’s Schools in the nation. Here is the proposal...it’s many things, but it’s not Governor’s school. It’s as if they set out to create the opposite of Governor’s School. I wouldn’t send my child to this program. Please contact the State Board.

Here also, by way of comparison, the Hendrix proposal, which finished second in grading if tallied by number of committee members who preferred Tech, but not in cumulative points, the latter in part thanks to a very low score for Tech by Ken Yang, a former Governor’s School participant and lobbyist for the Family Council.

In a cover letter for the school’s application, Tech president Robin Bowen wrote:


We are aware that the host site has been the same since inception of Arkansas Governor’s School, and while we hold a strong respect for tradition, we also see the value in a fresh perspective, infused with a focus on utilizing technology and project-based learning where the arts and humanities meet game design, cybersecurity and engineering in a rich and enriching curriculum.

A tech-heavy institute is not the AGS of yore, occasionally controversial over the years for its challenges of students’ thinking by exposure to sometimes edgy topics. Republican Rep. Mark Lowery had promised changes were coming after one criticism arose about the liberals at AGS and now a committee appointed by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson‘s man at the Education Department, Johnny Key, may have gotten the job done.

It’s too early for me to judge, though the Tech proposal appears to be a  departure from the past. It just so happens that it seems to fit with the governor’s tech emphasis. I wish my mother-in-law, Martha Bass, were alive for some guidance. As a gifted education specialist at the state Education Department, she was in on the founding of the school and in her annual supervision weathered the attacks by the Religious Right on curriculum, speakers and films to which students were exposed. But she was as fair-minded as she was brilliant. I wish I had her evaluation here. My kids went to AGS and it was a transformative experience for them. I attended a pioneer residential program in Louisiana in the 1960s and retain a whole lot more from class discussions, creative writing and music than from the scientific end of things. But that’s me.


The state Board has the final say. Governor’s School alums have rallied before. The meeting is Sept. 13.

Here’s the review committee and the scores they awarded. The state Education Department initially released the score sheet, but didn’t reveal scores of individual members. I made a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain those numbers, which are given here for ATU and Hendrix.  UCA, which finished well back.

Andrea Allen (Jonesboro) Attended the AEGIS program, Fulbright School of Public Affairs. Hendrix 89, ATU 82

Darren Waddles (Mountain View) EAST teacher, Mountain View. (He’s also a Republican county committeeman.) ATU 97, Hendrix 88


Ken Yang (Bryant) AGS Alum. Hendrix 97, ATU 58

Dr. Wayne Fawcett (Paris) Faculty member at AGS from 1987 to 1997, Area III, current superintendent at Paris. Hendrix 93.5, ATU 86.

Lenett Thrasher (Greenbrier) Teacher Center Coordinator (Arch Ford). ATU 95, Hendrix 92.

Barbara Warren (Pine Bluff) Attended Governor’s School in 1988 and attended Hendrix 1989-1991 Current Dollarway Superintendent. ATU 88, Hendrix 81

John Ponder (DeQueen) DeQueen Mena Educational Cooperative Director. ATU 99, Hendrix 98

Jason Williamson (Star City) High School Principal. ATU 98, Hendrix 95.

Michelle Johnson (Hot Spgs) Henderson STEM director, former Gifted and Talented educator. ATU 93, Hendrix 93.

Donna Hutchinson (Bella Vista) Former state legislator, served on the education committee, familiar with the AGS. (Also the governor’s ex-sister-in-law.) Hendrix 97, ATU 96.

Dr. Curtis Cunningham (Siloam Springs) Advisory Council for the Education of Gifted
and Talented Children, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, John Brown University. ATU 96, Hendrix 86


Heather Holaway Program Director for the NWA Learning Center. AGS Alum. ATU 99, Hendrix 95.

David Larson (Conway) Retired from Hendrix AGS teaching staff for three years during
the early-mid 1980s. Two grandchildren are alumni, a third is attending this summer. Hendrix 99, ATU 91.

In total scoring, it was Hendrix, 1203.5; ATU, 1178 and UCA, with seven members favoring ATU, five favoring Hendrix and one tie. As a result, another vote was held of the committee and that produced 9-4 vote for ATU, with Johnson, a tie voter originally, and Hutchinson shifting to ATU.