Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

TOP STORY >> Parents say keep school

Leader staff writer

Warren Dupree Elementary School has one of the highest literacy and math proficiency rates among district schools, patrons told Pulaski County Special School District administrators and board members Tuesday night.

Dupree is among those schools targeted for possible closure or reconfiguration as Pulaski County Special School District officials work to cuts costs in accordance with the fiscal distress improvement plan approved by the state’s Education Department this week.
A second Dupree meeting is slated for at 6 p.m. Monday.

That’s why more than 100 parents, grandparents, students and other patrons packed the school cafeteria on Tuesday night, intent upon keeping their school open.

That’s about twice the number of parents who attended similar meetings at Scott and Homer Adkins elementary schools in November.
The closures and reconfigurations should save the district about $600,000 a year.

The district is considering elementary schools with enrollment of 300 or less.

Five local elementary schools are among the nine under consideration for closure. They are Adkins, Arnold Drive, Dupree, Harris and Tolleson elementary schools.

School board president Pam Roberts told the group that the board could decide the fates of the schools being considered for closure at its monthly meeting on Dec. 13, but Interim Superintendent James Sharpe has said that no decision would be made until after thorough examination.

Roberts and board members Carol Burgett and Rev. James Bolden III joined Sharpe on the stage at Tuesday’s meeting.
Eddie Bunch, who pastors a Carlisle Church but lives in the district, presented a slide show bolstering the school’s claim to academic proficiency and other attributes. According to benchmark tests, two thirds of the students are at least proficient in literature and more than half in math. Compared to many other schools, those scores are stellar.

The average daily attendance at Dupree is about 295, but students have been shipped off to Clinton Elementary in Sherwood, he said.
“Give us back our kids from Clinton,” said Kathy Price, a parent. “I feel like Jacksonville’s being picked on.”

One mother said her 8-year-old has special needs and is at his third elementary school, but the first where he gets the extra attention he actually needs. “What are y’all going to do with my baby?” she asked.

Another woman tearfully said, “My husband and I are foster parents. We have six or eight kids at a time, including an autistic child. I have kids who have already lost everything they had.”

“You’re trying to treat our students as a business decision,” said one mother.
Many parents praised Shyrel Rose, the principal, for her care and attention. One grandmother told the officials that approximately 700 new homes were planned or under construction nearby, many of them certain to have elementary-aged children.

Parents complained about the late notification of the meeting. The district sent out its announcement Friday. In addition to Tuesday evening’s meeting at Dupree, district officials and some board members have met twice with patrons of Homer Adkins and Scott elementary schools.

According to its fiscal distress improvement plan, approved last week by the state’s Education Department, the district will close or reconfigure two elementary schools from a list of those with low enrollment, according to Sharpe.

One advantage of closing Dupree would be the relative ease of transporting its students to neighboring schools. District officials have said they would take transportation costs into account while determining which schools to close.