by Max Brantley
State Education Director Tom Kimbrell has ordered state takeover of the Mineral Springs-Saratoga School District, including dissolving of the school board, because of money problems.
Arkansas Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell today exercised his authority under state law to dissolve the school board of the Mineral Springs School District.
The action was taken to immediately move toward stabilizing the finances and management of the troubled district in Howard County. The district is facing a severe budget deficit and does not have sufficient cash flow to finish the district’s fiscal year.
"This action was necessary to keep Mineral Springs public schools operating and serving students despite the district's extreme financial difficulties," Dr. Kimbrell said. “Our number one concern is the education of the students in this community. For the future of the district, students and the staff, state action had to be taken now.”
Dr. Kimbrell and other key ADE staff arrived in Mineral Springs this morning to inform acting superintendent, Bill Blackwood, of the changes in district governance. Blackwood has agreed to stay on board until Kimbrell appoints a new superintendent.
Steps have been taken to secure school records and to ensure district operations will continue uninterrupted.
The State Board placed the district in fiscal distress in December, 2012. Under the Omnibus Quality Education Act of 2003, the education commissioner has authority to exercise a state takeover of districts in fiscal distress that don't adequately address their problems.
You might recall the district had its previous superintendent suspended last fall after the Education Department discovered it was operating a phantom high school at Saratoga. The district in Howard County has about 500 students. Blackwood came out of retirement this school year to act as interim for the district, which recently accepted 11 teacher resignations because of money troubles.