by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Board of Education has a full agenda today, including whether to continue permitting for a couple of charter school with academic and financial problems, as well as a charter school expansion plan.
UPDATE: The meeting produced a couple of major decisions — removal of leadership at the Dollarway School District and non-renewal of the charter of Dreamland Academy in Little Rock.
* DOLLARWAY: The Board voted to remove the superintendent, Bettye Wright, and school board for failure to correct accreditation problems. The district's schools are low performing, in addition to other problems.
* LITTLE ROCK PREP ACADEMY: The charter school, which serves mostly minority children from low-income families in the central city, won permission for a new location for a middle school on University Avenue just south of Asher Avenue (sharing a former retail building with a church).
* DREAMLAND ACADEMY: The Board declined to renew the charter for the 300-student charter school on Geyer Springs. Its scores are near the bottom in the state, but deficiencies were noted operationally as well. The school pleaded that it started with the most at-risk students and had done well given the difficulties it faced. But Education Director Tom Kimbrell said an audit by outsiders of the school had been "troubling." School Director Brendly Clark said the children were safe and the school had never wavered from its mission of serving children who'd been below adequate performance. "They are now making progress," she said. The Board voted without dissent not to renew the charter, which expires June 30.
* COVENANT KEEPERS COLLEGE PREPARATORY CHARTER SCHOOL: The Board is reviewing the school following a critical audit. The school was cited for several financial shortcomings, including interest payment, at 7 percent, to an insider for a loan to the school. A school official said this was an honest mistake made in the course of attempting to correct problems. The school is getting help, Arkansas officials said, and Education Director Tom Kimbrell recommended probation for the one year remaining on the school's charter as opposed to more drastic action. Dr. Ben Mays, Board chair, said he was amazed school leader Valerie Tatum was unaware of the ethics prohibition of self-dealing. Ultimately, the board took Kimbrell's recommendation and voted for probation. There was some sentiment on the board that new leadership was needed at the school, but it was outside the board's authority to force it.
PS — The Education Board should have encouraged Covenant Keepers to spend less time proselytizing on its Facebook page.
More details on action today at the Ed. Dept.'s blog.