The state Board of Education
reviewed the Pulaski County Special School District's
situation this morning and decided to keep it in fiscal distress status and thus under state control. Jerry Guess has been serving as interim superintendent of the district since June 2011.
The district has cut costs and built a fund balance, but it also faces soon a loss of a part of its tax base with the separation of the Jacksonville area for a new school district. The state has not yet completed a full review of its current fiscal situation, but under the law the board had to act this month. If the review is positive, the board could reconsider whether to lift the designation.
This continues to leave Pulaski County without an elected school board. A citizens advisory board will remain in place.
The Helena-West Helena School District also was retained in the fiscal distress category, though its advisory board had contended the district's financial situation had improved sufficiently for autonomous operation.
The Board also voted today to return the Lee County School District
back to local control after a board is elected. It had been in academic distress, but eked over the proficiency rate in the last found of testing.
UPDATE: The Board voted 6-2 not to review its charter authorizing panel's decision to extend the charter for the Academics Plus
school in Maumelle for three years, over the objections of the Pulaski County School District. Pulaski spokesmen repeated the oft-cited findings about Academics Plus that it has never lived up to its 2000 promise to be the top college-prep high school in Arkansas and have a particular focus on disadvantaged children. Figures show that 80 percent of its students aren't qualified for college algebra and that its scores on standardized tests don't deviate from the expected outcomes from an overwhelmingly white middle class student body. Test scores show that students who enter as third graders show little improvement as they progress through grades. The school said more recent testing did show improvement in performance.
UPDATE II: The Board voted to review the charter renewal granted the Arkansas Virtual Academy, which has shown some poor test performance since a huge enrollment cap increase — from 500 to 3,000 — allowed by special language added to legislation by then-Sen. Johnny Key, soon to be head of the Education Department.